Oregon Demonstration Program Finds Local Treatment and Prevention Efforts More Effective Than Incarceration of At-Risk Youths

Evaluating a program to treat nonviolent, substance-abusing youthful offenders

In 1997, the Oregon State legislature established the Deschutes County Community Youth Investment Program, a six-year demonstration program designed to increase investment in community-based delinquency prevention programs by shifting funds from costly state incarceration programs.

From 2002 to 2003, the consulting firm of Greenwood and Associates conducted an evaluation and cost benefit analysis of the two components of the program:

  • Residential treatment program.
  • Portfolio of prevention programs for high-risk youth and families.

Key Conclusions

  • The project director's conclusions about the relative costs and benefits of the residential treatment and prevention components of the program include:

    • The program's residential treatment component was less costly than state incarceration.
    • Rates for relapse into crime for youth participating in the program were slightly higher than for youth in state custody.
    • Effective prevention programs can offset the costs of additional crime.

Key Recommendations

  • The researchers recommended that Deschutes County and other communities consider adopting a model similar to the program with the following improvements:

    • Invest prevention money in cost-effective and proven models.
    • Ensure that programs for chronic offenders are evaluated.
    • Pursue effective alternatives to incarceration.
    • Be flexible in adapting to new evidence.

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