Section 6: Reentry
3 Hours

Lecture Topic TOPIC: REENTRY

Part I: Common Reentry and Aftercare Challenges

Use SlideUse Slides #3–7: Over–Reliance on the Most Secure Placements
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Over–Reliance on the Most Restrictive Placements

Approximately 100,000 youthful offenders of all types are in residential and institutional facilities on any given day across the nation.1 These facilities include detention centers, shelters, reception and diagnostic centers, group homes, halfway houses, boot camps, and long term juvenile correctional facilities. Approximately the same number of juveniles are released back into our communities from these kinds facilities every year.2 That’s pretty significant, isn’t it?

And we know that these placement numbers rose pretty significantly throughout the 1990s, with increases of more than 40 percent from 1991 to 1999.3

It’s interesting, however, that this trend began to change in the late 1990s and into the new millennium. After the number of juvenile delinquents in residential and institutional facilities across the nation peaked in 1999, it decreased by 11 percent between 1999 to 2003.4 And between 2000 and 2002, there was a 7 percent decrease, with declines in 36 of the 50 states during that two year period.5

It has been suggested that a reduction in juvenile arrests may explain the recent decrease in the number of youth in custody.6 Nationwide, the juvenile arrest rate peaked in 1996—as the number of juveniles in residential and institutional placement was also increasing markedly—and has declined fairly steadily since then.7

What do we know about the number of juvenile sex offenders in residential and institutional placements? Well, it’s very interesting that while the overall number of youthful offenders of all types in such placements has declined in recent years, the number of juvenile sex offenders has increased substantially.8 Between 1997 and 2003, there was a 34 percent rise in the number of juvenile sex offenders in these placements.9 In 2003, approximately 8 percent—or about 8,000—of the juvenile offenders in residential and institutional facilities across the nation were sex offenders.10

These increases are particularly interesting in light of the survey data shared during the treatment section of this training, which indicates that most (72 percent) of the nation’s specialized treatment programs for these youth are actually community–based.11 So in many jurisdictions, there are significant community treatment options and capacity, but year–to–year, we’re removing larger and larger numbers of these juveniles from the community. You’ll recall that about 20,000 youthful sex offenders were provided treatment during the year that the survey was completed and although the residential programs accounted for only 28 percent of the total number of offense–specific treatment programs, nearly half of the 20,000 youth were treated in them!12

So as we look across the nation and at these interesting numbers, there seems to be a tendency in many states and jurisdictions to over–rely on the most restrictive residential and institutional facilities for juveniles who commit sex offenses. As a result, they’re not always placed in the least restrictive setting that promotes community safety and addresses their risk and needs, as the juvenile justice system is intended to do.

Why is this over–reliance on placements for these youth a significant issue?

Use SlideUse Slide #8: Tendency to Over–Rely on Residential and Institutional Placements

Well, because we know that not all of these youth will necessarily benefit from them. As was mentioned earlier during this training, a high risk, high need youthful sex offender (for example, a youngster who has severe behavioral disturbances, demonstrates significant patterns of sexual deviance, lives in a very unstable home environment, and has significant treatment needs) may be most appropriately served in a residential or institutional program. And if a youth suffers from severe mental health problems that make him a danger to himself or others, placement in an inpatient psychiatric setting may be necessary.

On the other hand, youthful sex offenders who are more stable, have fairly structured home environments with concerned, supportive, and engaged parents or caregivers, and have been assessed not to be high risk, may be much more appropriate for—and benefit from—a less restrictive management option. In fact, a residential or institutional placement might actually make a youth like this worse, especially if they’re exposed over a lengthy period of time to other, much more delinquent youth.13

Indeed, there is no strong or particularly compelling evidence to suggest that the costly practice of placing youth in residential programs or institutional facilities results in substantial reductions in recidivism for any of them.14 Research actually indicates that interventions that are provided in a youth’s natural environment in the community are more likely to result in positive outcomes than those provided in residential or institutional settings.15

So the critical point here is that not all juvenile sex offenders who are placed in residential or institutional facilities need to be there—and our outcomes don’t get any better (and may, in fact, get worse) as a result of our decisions to place increasing numbers of youth in restrictive institutional and residential settings.

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