Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2013, $361,948)
Under Category 1 of the Field-Initiated Research and Evaluation solicitation, OJJDP will support applicants to conduct scientifically rigorous research studies and evaluations with an emphasis on understanding the ways in which child and adolescent development influences factors leading to juvenile delinquency and juvenile justice system contact, and whether juvenile justice responses to youth are developmentally appropriate and effective.
State juvenile justice agencies routinely place youth in facilities far from their homes and families. Long distances and juvenile justice policies limit the opportunities for visits and hinder family contacts with incarcerated youth. Youth development theory suggests that regular opportunities to visit with family may be of great importance to incarcerated youth. However, there has been little empirical investigation of the relationship between visits with family members and outcomes for young people in the juvenile justice system. Further, there has been no research that examines whether policy changes could impact on the number of visits young people receive.
The Vera Institute of Justice (Vera), in partnership with Indiana's Department of Correction, Division of Youth Services (DYS), proposes to conduct a two-year study on the impact of family visitation on both in-custody and reentry outcomes for youth in DYS placements. The three-phased study will examine the implementation of enhanced visitation policies in DYS, the impact of visits on the behavioral and educational outcomes of youth in custody, and the impact of visits on recidivism. In addition to analyzing administrative data, Vera will interview youth, their families, and DYS staff. DYS is well suited for this study in three key ways: (1) Indiana has a unified corrections system, allowing for easier data tracking of youth who move into the adult corrections system; (2) DYS is one of the few juvenile agencies to track visitation data electronically; and (3) in 2012, DYS made significant policy changes designed to expand opportunities for visitation.
To conduct the study, Vera has assembled a multi-disciplinary research team with substantive expertise in juvenile justice, adolescent development, reentry, and family support, and research expertise in combining quantitative and qualitative methods. To ensure that the study has a broad impact on practice, policy, and research, Vera will produce policy briefs on each phase of the study, in addition to a final report. Vera will also share findings and policy recommendations through conference presentations. This study will have clear policy implications for the many state agencies and family advocacy and support groups eager to learn how best to support juveniles in correctional settings.