Implementing Evidence-Based Juvenile Justice Reforms

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Author(s): The Urban Institute

  • Jeanette Hussemann
  • Akiva Liberman

Published: May 18, 2017

Report Intro/Brief:
"At the end of 2012, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) launched the Juvenile Justice Reform and Reinvestment Initiative (JJRRI) in three demonstration sites in Delaware, Iowa, and Milwaukee County, Wisconsin. The goal of JJRRI was to bring evidence and best practices to bear on juvenile justice operations. This was done through the use of empirically based risk and needs assessment, the development of dispositional matrices that provide evidence-based recommendations concerning dispositional options, and the implementation of the Standardized Program Evaluation Protocol (SPEP™) rating system to assess and guide improvements in the programs delivered to juvenile justice youth. Together, these tools were intended to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of the use of juvenile justice resources.

Concurrent with the implementation of JJRRI, the Urban Institute conducted a process and outcome evaluation of the initiative. The goals of the evaluation included understanding how the implementation of JJRRI improved the quality and effectiveness of juvenile justice programming at demonstration sites. Two prior reports focused specifically on the implementation and attempt to validate the SPEP™ system for rating program effectiveness, which was a major component of JJRRI (Liberman and Hussemann 2016, 2017). This report provides an overview of JJRRI and implementation components at the three demonstration sites, including progress made, challenges encountered, and the sustainability of reforms.

Findings are based on data collected between 2012 and 2015. Data collection included annual visits to each site with technical assistance (TA) providers, observation of on-site trainings, and in-depth telephone interviews with stakeholders to monitor progress and assess stakeholder perspectives. Interviews were conducted with a diverse set of juvenile justice stakeholders at each site, including administrators, program providers, court workers, contractors, data managers, and JJRRI program managers and support staff. Additional information was collected via a review of written reports and narratives provided by the JJRRI sites, as well as participation in regular calls with the sites, funders, and TA providers.

This report describes the implementation of JJRRI at the three demonstration sites. The first section briefly discusses key components of JJRRI, and the second section discusses how implementation of the components proceeded in the JJRRI demonstration sites. The third section concludes with a discussion of the overall challenges and benefits to the initiative."