The Multnomah County Department of Community Justice Juvenile Services Division is responsible for approximately 360 youth on formal and informal community supervision and operates the Donald E. Long Juvenile Detention Facility. The Juvenile Crime Prevention Initiative is a statewide effort to prevent juvenile crime by targeting best practice services to high-risk youth, ages 10–17. Data about youth receiving Multnomah County Juvenile Crime Prevention (JCP) services was needed to assess young people’s risk indicators, protective indicators, and mental health indicators; and to help target resources and deliver services.
Primary Research Question
- Do JCP programs and services help reduce youth risk factors and increase their protective factors?
- Do JCP programs and services help decrease juvenile recidivism and/or the rate of first offenses for the non-offender population?
The evaluation uses a performance measurement approach. Youth were assessed at point of contact through juvenile departments or community agencies. Youth receiving services were reassessed at six-month intervals after the start of the program and at program completion. Arrest data were matched to assessment data every two years.
Youth ages 9 to 18 were assessed from July 2011 through June 2013. Forty-six percent of youth who received JCP services reduced their risk score (decreased risk indicators and/or increased protective indicators); 10 percent of participants’ scores did not change. Young people who received JCP program services most frequently saw decreases in two risk indicators: behavior that harms others and aggressive behavior at school. Youth receiving JCP services most often saw increases in two protective indicators: having an adult other than a parent they can talk to and significant attachment/commitment to school.
Among young people with at least one criminal referral in the year before their JCP initial assessment, 56 percent did not have a subsequent criminal referral in the following year. Among youth with matched assessments who had no criminal referrals in the year before first receiving JCP services, 56 percent had improved JCP scores. Of youth with matched assessments who had at least one criminal referral in the year prior to JCP services, 36% had improved JCP scores. Youth who received JCP services and had the highest risk scores had lower recidivism rates than expected.
Without intervention, at-risk youth are likely to continue to accumulate additional risk over time. On average, Multnomah County youth participating in JCP services lack three of six protective indicators. These factors are worth exploring, as they reduce the risk of reoffending, increase resilience, and provide a buffer for the risks a young person already has. Engaging youth in extracurricular activities, for example, can provide multiple benefits, including the possibility of connecting them with positive peers, another protective factor. Negative peers are notable risks for this group of youth, so focusing on finding positive friends could be particularly beneficial. Referral to behavioral health-care supports is critical, given that 47 percent of participants’ families have a history of reported child abuse/neglect or domestic violence.