Explaining Juvenile Diversion Service Provision Through Program and Offender Characteristics: An Application of the Risk-Needs-Responsivity Model

Justin S. Campbell, University of Northern Colorado
Michael J. Hogan, University of Northern Colorado

Research on the effectiveness of correctional treatment indicates that the effectiveness of treatment interventions depends to a large extent on matching specific offenders with the appropriate number and type of services. Specifically, the "risk-needs-responsivity" model (Andrews et al., 1990) proposes that higher risk offenders tend to benefit more from treatment interventions (risk), that interventions should address offender-specific criminogenic factors that are subject to change (needs), and that interventions must be appropriate to the specific offender (responsivity) in order to be effective. Further, there is an increasing consensus that the answer to the question of "what works" in correctional treatment may depend on particular offender populations and justice settings. The present study applies a component of the risk-needs-responsivity model to a sample of 5865 juvenile offenders who participated in 34 system diversion programs in Colorado in fiscal year 1998-99. According to the model, higher-risk offenders should be assigned to more comprehensive programs, and should receive a larger number of treatment services. To determine if juvenile offenders in Colorado are being served based on this model, we hypothesize a structural equation model in which offender risk factors affect the number of services received both directly and indirectly through needs-based characteristics of the specific program to which they are assigned. Additional analysis is performed on race- and gender-based subsamples to see if there is variation in program assignment and interventions based on these characteristics. Based on findings, recommendations for improving the delivery of diversion services are presented.

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Updated 05/20/2006