Matching Kids to Programs: Using Program Performance Information to Improve Juvenile Court disposition Decisions

Philip W. Harris, Temple University
Kimberly Glassman, Temple University
Peter R. Jones, Temple University

The juvenile court disposition decision has been the subject of study largely with regard to investigations of racial discrimination or in terms of how specific categories of offenders are treated. It has not been examined in terms of its effectiveness in matching youths to programs that fit their needs. From a correctional perspective, the concept of differential treatment or responsivity has a long history of research and acceptance. That is, it is known that all youths do not respond to the same program in the same way and that responsivity is. This view has been applied to programming decisions but not to judicial decisions. This paper reports on a study of one court's attempt to match youths to programs, using nine years of program outcome data as well as information about program target populations. The information on program performance did not supplant other information; it was added to information already known to the court. This innovation was pilot tested in one probation district of a large metropolitan area, in order to determine if improvements could be achieved in program completion, recidivism and decision maker confidence in the disposition decision.

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Updated 05/20/2006