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A systematic review of selected interventions to reduce juvenile re-offending

What do we want to know?

The review question specified by the Ministry of Justice was: Do criminal justice/ correctional services interventions for juvenile offenders lead to a reduction in offending (including frequency and severity of offending)?

Who wants to know and why?

Policymakers and practitioners need valid reliable evidence about potentially effective interventions that may reduce the rate of re-offending. The research literature on juvenile offending is voluminous, reflecting the persistent nature of public concern on this issue. However the relevant research literature is largely disorganised and widely distributed in different media and across different countries. There is therefore a need for systematic reviews of research, in order to produce systematic transparent summaries of the research evidence that can be used as an aid to policy making.

What did we find?

The search for the period 1998-2007 identified 10,433 studies for screening. After screening 26 papers reporting 29 studies were included in the in-depth review of pre-sentencing interventions. The interventions (i.e. what was done to or for the offender) in these studies were grouped into two distinct categories:

  • Pre-sentencing or diversion interventions - 17 studies reported in 14 papers. This type of intervention takes place after an offender has been found guilty of an offence (this may include a guilty plea) but before they formally enter into the criminal justice system for sentencing, hence the pre-sentencing label.
  • Post–sentencing interventions - 12 studies in 12 papers. Interventions in this category take place either as a direct part of a sentence or after a sentence has been passed.

What are the implications?

Further implication for policy and practice may be relevant for intervention in the ‘Positive effects consistent evidence’ category. However some caution is required as the number of studies is small and effect sizes within a range that could be due to measurement error. Furthermore all the studies in this category were undertaken in the USA and therefore possible differences in socio-cultural, economic and criminal justice systems will need to be taken into consideration when assessing the applicability of these results in a UK context. The results obtained from these interventions will need to compared to those from other interventions for juvenile offenders that have been the subject of systematic reviews.

It is argued that the results of this review demonstrate that the ‘personal skills training plus’ interventions reduce the risk of re-offending in first time / non-serious offenders when compared to a standard diversion intervention comprising of warning and monitoring.

It is argued that the results of this review demonstrate that ‘community based family residential placements’ reduce the risk of re-offending in female offenders compared to standard ‘residential placements’.

It is argued that the interventions in the ’promising results’ category should be priorities for further high quality evaluations.

These evaluations should be conducted high quality experimental (preferably randomised) study designs. Evaluators should be required to report in full the detail of the experimental and control group interventions. Careful consideration will be needed to help give priority to important study design factors such as ensuring intervention and control groups are comparable.

How did we get these results?

The potentially relevant studies identified by the searching process were screened against a set of exclusion criteria designed to facilitate the systematic selection of only the relevant high quality studies (see Appendix 3 for the selection criteria).

The quality of the selected studies were rated using the Maryland Scientific Measurement Scale (Farrington et al 2002) and the Home Office Quality Assessment (Harper and Chitty 2004) tool to create at Weight of Evidence (WoE) rating. Synthesis investigated the pattern of results in the primary studies by type of intervention, type of recidivism measure and quality of study.

This review is funded by the UK Ministry of Justice, contract number SRG/06/002.

The EPPI-Centre reference number for this report is 2008R.
This report should be cited as: Newman M, Vigurs C, Perry A, Hallam G, Schertler E, Johnson M, Wall R (2012) A systematic review of selected interventions to reduce juvenile re-offending. Report. In: Research Evidence in Education Library. London: EPPI-Centre, Social Science Research Unit, Institute of Education, University of London.

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