Section 6: Reentry
3 Hours

Lecture Topic TOPIC: REENTRY

Part II: Potential Solutions

Use SlideUse Slide #14: Potential Solutions
Use SlideUse Slide #15: Reasons for Over-Reliance

Over–Reliance on the Most Restrictive Placements

Reasons for the Over–Reliance

When considering the ways to reduce the juvenile justice system’s over–reliance on the most restrictive and costly placements, and its current tendency to put these sexually abusive youth into settings that are more restrictive than what’s necessary to promote community safety and address their risk and needs, it’s helpful to consider why we depend so much on these placements in the first place. And why it’s so easy for a juvenile sex offender to end up in a residential or institutional program, even if he doesn’t need to be there.

Why do you think that this strong tendency to remove these kids from the community exists? What drives it?

(ALLOW FOR AUDIENCE RESPONSES.)

Well, there have been a number of reasons put forth about this, including:

Strategies to Reduce Over–Reliance

Use SlideUse Slide #16: Strategies to Reduce OverReliance

Based on these explanations for the over–reliance on the most restrictive placements, how might we work to increase our utilization of other options?

Fortunately, there are a number of things that can be done.

Assessment–Driven Decisionmaking at the Point of Disposition or Sentencing  

During a previous section of this training, we covered a number of assessment approaches and specialized tools that can be used early on in the juvenile justice process (prior to disposition or sentencing) to evaluate in a comprehensive way the risk and needs of these juveniles and their families so that appropriate decisions can be made by juvenile and family court judges regarding how to mange and where to place them. Ideally, judges rely on information from specialized and comprehensive pre–sentence investigations (PSIs) or pre–disposition reports (PDRs), and psychosexual evaluations to guide their decisionmaking.

As we’ve discussed, residential and institutional programming should be reserved for those youthful sexual abusers who are determined to be higher risk and who have greater needs. In the absence of a high quality PSI or PDR, and a complete psychosexual evaluation, the juvenile and family courts may be inclined to use more restrictive placements for these youth, especially in light of the fairly high stakes associated with these cases. If information about risk and need is not available and clear, judges may determine that a more restrictive placement is better—and safer.

Building Community Capacity

High quality PSIs or PDRs and psychosexual evaluations are probably not going to be very helpful in guiding sentencing or disposition decisionmaking if there are no—or only very limited—community–based options for youthful sex offenders (such as alternative living and day treatment programs, and specialized or intensive supervision). That is, if the only viable management options for these youth are restrictive placements, comprehensive assessment data will not be helpful in matching programming to risk level and severity and significance of need.

Recognizing that they are cheaper than more restrictive placements and that they are critical in the successful management of many youthful sex offenders, some jurisdictions have begun to prioritize and support the creation of specialized community–based management options. For example, we’ve seen a proliferation of specialized juvenile sex offender supervision caseloads in jurisdictions across the country to address the unique needs of and the risks posed by these youth in the community. As discussed in the supervision section of this training, these caseloads are usually managed by seasoned, specially trained supervision officers who have an interest in working with this sub–population of youthful offenders. In places where community–based treatment options are very limited, mental health providers sometimes seek—at the request of juvenile justice system actors—specialized training, knowledge, and experience regarding offense–specific treatment interventions so that they can begin to provide the kinds of out–patient clinical services to these youth that are known to be associated with positive outcomes.

Raising Awareness and Increasing Confidence through Specialized Training and Education

Juvenile and Family Court Judges and Prosecutors

Even with an excellent PSI or PDR and an excellent psychosexual evaluation prior to disposition or sentencing, and even if there is an appropriate community–based option available for a juvenile sex offender that is capable of managing the risk level and addressing the needs that are present, the youth may still end up in residential care or institutional custody if the juvenile or family court judge and the prosecutor don’t understand that the youth can be managed safely in a less restrictive setting and that there is a program with the capacity to do this.

Jurisdictions are, therefore, recognizing that specialized training for judges and prosecutors regarding these youth—and the management strategies and interventions that have been found to reduce recidivism and to promote community safety—is very important.27 In addition, judges and prosecutors can benefit from information and knowledge regarding the programs that exist in their communities, and the management approaches and strategies that they use.28 This may increase their confidence in these services as viable alternatives to residential or institutional custody in some cases.

The Community

As has been mentioned during this training already, the presence of adult and juvenile sex offenders can increase community members’ concerns regarding public safety, and mandatory sex offender registration and notification statutes in some states now include juveniles, which has made them more visible than ever in our communities. As a result, fears about—and resistance to—the presence of these youth have increased over time. An unfortunate result may be an increase in communities’ hostility towards these youth and their family members, as well as towards the agencies and individuals who are working with them. This, in turn, may reduce the likelihood that community–based management strategies will be used. In other words, particularly strong resistance on the part of the public to the community–based treatment and supervision of these youth may decrease the likelihood that juvenile justice system actors will utilize less restrictive alternatives.

While the public’s fears about some of these youth may be well–founded, it may also be driven by a lack of information or misinformation about these juveniles’ risk levels and recidivism rates, and the promise of certain types of management strategies. In addition, as is the case with judges and others, community members may lack confidence in the juvenile justice system.

Therefore, in some jurisdictions, those who are responsible for working with sex offenders have begun to recognize that the community is a critical partner in successful reentry and aftercare efforts related to sex offenders, and have started to engage community members about this issue and develop partnerships with them.29

These jurisdictions have discovered that communities are more likely to be supportive when their concerns are heard and respected, when accurate information about youthful sex offenders and management approaches is provided, and when they are given opportunities to ask questions and raise concerns.30

By proactively educating and partnering with the public, professionals involved in this work can actually enhance juvenile sex offender management efforts, as informed and knowledgeable members of the community are more likely to support and endorse strategies that are known to work, such as the provision of community–based programming and services to some juvenile sex offenders.31

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