Youths Referred to the Juvenile Justice System: What Are Their Needs and Is There a Gap Between Needs and Services?

William R. Kelly, University of Texas
Tammy Macy, University of Texas - Austin
Daniel P. Mears, The Urban Institute

Many experts have noted the importance of risk and need factors in developing prevention and intervention strategies for juvenile offenders. However, few jurisdictions collect information about the risk/need profile of known youthful offenders or whether their needs are being met. Using referral data collected in Texas, we estimate the prevalence of mental health, substance abuse, educational, and family-related needs for youths referred to seven juvenile probation departments (representing 21% of referrals statewide). Analyses indicate that the most prevalent criminogenic needs of juvenile referrals are: problems associated with parental supervision, school behavior, school attendance, parental/family problems, disposition/self image, and substance abuse. Additional analyses suggest that substantial gaps exist between the number of juveniles needing and receiving programs and services.

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Updated 05/20/2006