On any given day, there are more than 37,500 juvenile offenders in residential placement across the country. Nearly all of these youth eventually will return to their communities. Their ability to live productive and crime-free lives often depends on continuing their education, preparing for future employment, and accessing appropriate social services.
However, young people encounter many challenges when they return to their communities from residential placement. While national recidivism rates are not available, a review of state studies found that rearrest rates for youth within 1 year of release averaged 55 percent, while reincarceration and reconfinement rates averaged 24 percent.
Many states and localities lack the data infrastructure to collect and effectively apply information that is critical to monitoring and improving their reentry practices and, in turn, achieving better outcomes for youth. The multiple agencies responsible for helping youth reintegrate into their communities often use disparate data systems and different terminology, and often do not share information.
Recognizing the need to more effectively measure what works in reentry, in fiscal year 2015 OJJDP selected the Performance-based Standards Learning Institute (PbS) to develop a framework of recommended performance measures for reentry areas that are key to reducing reoffending and improving youth outcomes, including education, housing, employment, health and well-being, and youth connectedness to the community. The framework also gauges the effectiveness of agencies’ internal operations in areas such as assessment and screening and case management. In addition, PbS developed a youth survey that gathers first-hand information from youth about their experiences, skills, and opportunities. Underpinning the entire framework is a set of principles for fairness, agency accountability, family engagement, and cross-agency collaboration.
“The key to improving data at the national level is to improve data at the local agency level. The data must be meaningful and useful to the local agencies for improvements to be sustainable.”
—Kim Godfrey Lovett, Executive Director
Performance-based Standards Learning
At the same time, OJJDP invested in improving juvenile justice data more broadly through the Juvenile Justice Model Data Project. The National Center for Juvenile Justice (NCJJ), the research arm of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, developed measures to monitor trends, assess the effectiveness of juvenile justice systems, and increase data consistency across states and localities.
Working collaboratively, each project produced a comprehensive list of juvenile justice measures and data elements and various strategies to use the information to improve long-term juvenile justice outcomes. Building on that work, OJJDP recently launched a training and technical assistance project to increase agencies’ capacity to collect, analyze, and report juvenile reentry data. PbS and NCJJ were selected to integrate the measures identified by the two prior projects and work intensively with selected agencies to build their reentry data capacity.
For the first cohort of intensive technical assistance sites, OJJDP and PbS selected three jurisdictions—the Connecticut Judicial Branch Court Support Services Division; Iowa Department of Human Rights, Division of Criminal and Juvenile Justice Planning; and Travis County Juvenile Probation Department in Texas. The agencies were selected because they have demonstrated a clear commitment to improving their juvenile reentry data capacity and they showed readiness based on their existing reentry work.
In November and December 2020, PbS and NCJJ conducted a comprehensive assessment of each of the three agencies’ current reentry data capacity. This will be followed by the development of a customized plan and up to 12 months of intensive, tailored training and technical assistance to improve the agencies’ ability to collect, report, and analyze reentry data. A team of PbS and NCJJ staff will coach agency leaders in best practices to use the reentry measures to improve their programs, services, and operations. PbS is reviewing additional applications and will select a second cohort of up to three additional agencies to receive intensive technical assistance beginning in early 2021.
“Through this demonstration project, we’re testing the belief that, if we invest in making sure we get the right kids to the right services that are implemented in the right way, we’re going to get positive outcomes and recidivism reduced,” said Ms. Godfrey Lovett. “We need to figure out what we can do better so that kids succeed. And that’s where the data comes in.”
View a February 2020 PbS and NCJJ webinar that highlights OJJDP’s recent work to improve the collection, analysis, and reporting of reentry and other juvenile justice data.
Access a recording of PbS’s April 2020 Virtual Institute, which provides the most recent, comprehensive, and research-grounded information about data to effectively measure and monitor reentry practices and services.
View and download OJJDP’s Reentry Starts Here: A Guide for Youth in Long-Term Juvenile Corrections and Treatment Programs.
View and download OJJDP’s fact sheet Juvenile Reentry.
Visit OJJDP’s Model Programs Guide to learn about evidence-based reentry programs and view the Juvenile Reentry Programs I [Implementation]-Guide.