February 2004

Grant Results

SUMMARY

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.

Funding
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) provided $238,481 in support for this project.

 See Grant Detail & Contact Information
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THE PROBLEM

Despite evidence that delinquency prevention can reduce crime and criminal justice expenditures, communities often lack the resources to invest in these costly activities.

To address this barrier, the state of Oregon, in 1997, authorized funding for the Deschutes County Community Youth Investment Program (the program), a six-year demonstration program to finance local prevention programs for high-risk youth and families. Under the program, the state reimbursed Deschutes County for every delinquent youth it treated locally in short term, residential programs rather than in longer term, more expensive state programs. Deschutes County reinvested the savings in a portfolio of three prevention programs.

To build a case for continued funding of the program and its replication in other communities, the state needed an evaluation of its longer term costs and benefits. Greenwood and Associates, under the direction of Dr. Peter Greenwood, had expertise in cost analysis of adolescent treatment programs.

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RWJF STRATEGY

Although juvenile delinquency is not a grantmaking priority for RWJF, this project related to RWJF's interest in initiatives that explore the intersection between criminal behavior and substance abuse.

In the late 1990s, Deschutes County received national attention as one of the most innovative reforms in juvenile justice because of its creative financing strategy, its focus on the whole community, and its support for youths' re-entry into the community and restitution through community service.

RWJF was interested in evaluating the program because these strategies, if proven effective, might be integrated into Reclaiming Futures®, a national program launched in 2001 to promote systems reform in juvenile justice and substance abuse treatment.

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THE PROJECT

The purpose of the evaluation of the program was to determine whether Deschutes' investment in prevention reduced delinquency and violence among local youth, thereby reducing the overall costs of crime and criminal justice expenditure.

The objectives were to describe the program in detail, assess its preliminary outcomes and impacts, and analyze the costs and benefits to the state, local government, and the community at large.

The researchers estimated the effectiveness of the program's residential component by comparing follow-up data on relapse into crime (recidivism) for 72 participating youths with those for 64 similar youths placed in state facilities. They estimated the effectiveness of the program's early prevention by comparing it to similar programs identified as promising or proven in Blueprints for Violence Prevention, an inventory of rigorously evaluated models for violence prevention published in 1998 by the University of Colorado.

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CONCLUSIONS

In a report to RWJF, the Project Director came to the following conclusions about the relative costs and benefits of the residential treatment and prevention components of the program:

  • The program's residential treatment component was less costly than state incarceration. By reducing the average length of stay in treatment by half (from 8.3 to 4.3 months), the program trimmed approximately $17,500 from the state's average cost of $65,866 per incarcerated youth, a 27 percent savings.
  • Rates for relapse into crime for youth participating in the program were slightly higher than for youth in state custody. Among participating youth, 67 percent reoffended and returned to custody one year after release compared with 58 percent of state incarcerated youth. Because of the small sample size and differences between youth in the program and state programs, the results are not statistically significant.
  • Participating youths increased the immediate risk of additional crime to the community because of the possibly higher crime relapse rate combined with their shorter period of confinement. Researchers' estimates of the costs to taxpayers of the additional crime ranged from $140,000 (assuming that recidivism rates for the program and state youths are essentially the same) to $831,000 (assuming the difference in recidivism rates is real and youth participating in the program continue committing offenses at a higher rate over an extended period.)
  • Effective prevention programs can offset the costs of additional crime. The most effective prevention models, such as those in Blueprints, can produce savings in future criminal justice costs of as much as $10 for every $1 invested, enough to offset even the higher estimates of additional crime costs.
  • The likely effectiveness of Deschutes County's prevention portfolio in reducing future crime was unclear because none of the programs were based on proven models. The three approaches under the program resembled but did not reproduce proven or promising prevention models. Ready Set Go resembled the proven David Olds nurse home visitation model, First Steps for Success; the kindergarten screening program, resembled the proven Incredible Years; and Family Trax, a program for parents of high risk youth, was similar to Iowa Strengthening Families, identified as promising in Blueprints. None of the three approaches was similar enough to the Blueprint models to allow the research team to predict whether the program could produce similar levels of savings.
  • Participating youth benefit the community through increased community service. Participating youth averaged 162 hours of community service while in custody compared to only 13 hours for state incarcerated youth.

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. The researchers recommended that Deschutes County shift its prevention programs to proven models, from Blueprints.
  • Ensure that programs for chronic offenders are evaluated. State and local governments should devote more attention to measuring and improving programs for chronic delinquents, who can impose large costs on the criminal justice system.
  • Pursue effective alternatives to incarceration. Residential treatment absorbs the majority of funding for juvenile delinquency prevention and intervention, but evidence-based programs conducted in the home or community can be more beneficial to delinquent youths.
  • Be flexible in adapting to new evidence. In the rapidly changing field of juvenile justice reform, practitioners cannot select one or two program models and expect them to remain the best choices for an extended period of time.

Communications

Greenwood and Associates produced 200 copies of the evaluation report, The Deschutes County Community Youth Investment Program: An Experiment in Delinquency Prevention Financing, and disseminated it to Deschutes County officials and to practitioners in the juvenile justice fields.

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AFTER THE GRANT

The state of Oregon ended its support for the program in June 2003, but Deschutes County is continuing to fund the residential treatment program (now called Wellspring) and a portfolio of prevention programs based more closely on Blueprint models.

In October 2003, the research team presented the evaluation report at a community forum attended by ninety representatives of county, state and local government, the community, and delinquency prevention programs. The project director presented his findings at workshops on youth violence sponsored by the Casey Journalism Center and at the annual meeting of the American Society of Criminology.

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GRANT DETAILS & CONTACT INFORMATION

Project

Evaluating a Program to Treat Nonviolent, Substance-Abusing Youthful Offenders

Grantee

Greenwood & Associates (Malibu,  CA)

  • Amount: $ 238,481
    Dates: February 2002 to July 2003
    ID#:  044660

Contact

Peter W. Greenwood
(818) 889-0405
pwgreenwood@earthlink.net

Web Site

http://www.greenwoodassociates.org

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BIBLIOGRAPHY

(Current as of date of this report; as provided by grantee organization; not verified by RWJF; items not available from RWJF.)

Reports

Greenwood PW, Caulkins JP, Wong JS and Cicchetti S. The Deschutes County Community Youth Investment Program: An Experiment in Delinquency Prevention Financing. Malibu, Calif.: Greenwood & Associates, Inc., 2003.

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Report prepared by: Jayme Hannay
Reviewed by: Janet Heroux
Reviewed by: Molly McKaughan
Program Officer: Katherine Kraft