Additional Resources:

Practice Profile

Treatment in Secure Corrections for Serious Juvenile Offenders

Evidence Ratings for Outcomes:

Effective - One Meta-Analysis Crime & Delinquency - Multiple crime/offense types
Effective - One Meta-Analysis Crime & Delinquency - Serious recidivism

Practice Description

Practice Goals
Interventions targeting serious (violent and chronic) juvenile offenders sentenced to serve time in secure corrections aim to decrease recidivism rates when juveniles are released and return to the community. These interventions can include psychological approaches, social and educational methods, and environmental conditions, all of which support the learning of prosocial attitudes and behaviors.
Target Population
A juvenile is generally defined as a young person aged 12 to 21 years old. Serious juvenile offenders include violent offenders and chronic offenders. Violent juvenile offenders are juveniles who have committed offenses in which someone has been hurt or seriously injured and requires medical attention. Violent offenses include murder, voluntary manslaughter, kidnapping, assault, robbery, endangerment, and arson. Chronic juvenile offenders are juveniles who have three or more previous legal adjudications.
Practice Components
There are a number of different types of treatment that may be available to juvenile offenders in secure corrections. The treatment types include behavioral, cognitive–behavioral, cognitive, education, and nonbehavioral.
Behavioral treatment is based on learning theories, which hold that criminal conduct is learned. Behavioral treatment employs learning mechanisms to reverse the learning process, aiming to teach individuals to replace their criminal tendencies with socially admissible behavior. All staff is involved in the delivery of behavioral treatment programs and the programs are typically led by a small group of experts. Behavioral treatment programs include token economy programs and behavior modification strategies.
Cognitive–behavioral treatment focuses on teaching offenders skills that will help with their interaction with other people, such as prosocial values. The main elements include 1) an evaluation of the subject’s deficits in cognitive and interaction skills; 2) treatment that is applied in small groups for several weekly sessions; and 3) strategies such as interpersonal cognitive problem solving, social skills training, anger control, critical reasoning, values development, negotiation abilities, and creative thinking. Cognitive–behavioral programs are the most commonly used treatment programs with all kinds of offenders.
Cognitive treatment, based on the cognitive–behavioral model, stresses cognitive reframing through the control of cognitive distortions, automatic thought, and self-instructions. Cognitive treatment centers more on the cognitive part of cognitive–behavioral treatment.
Education treatment is based on the belief that by increasing the educational attainment of individuals through schooling programs, recidivism will decrease.
Nonbehavioral treatment is grounded in the belief that offenders commit crimes as a result of emotional distress. The treatment is aimed at treating individuals’ underlying psychological issues through therapies, such as psychological therapy, with the hope that this will lead to a reduction or disappearance of criminal behavior.

Meta-Analysis Outcomes

top border
Effective - One Meta-Analysis Crime & Delinquency - Multiple crime/offense types
To determine the impact of treatment on general recidivism rates, Garrido and Morales (2007) examined 30 comparisons, between treatment groups and control groups, which used intent-to-treat data. The authors found a significant odds ratio of 1.307 in favor of the treatment group, meaning that chronic and violent juvenile offenders who received treatment in secure corrections had lower recidivism rates than comparison group juveniles who did not receive treatment.
Effective - One Meta-Analysis Crime & Delinquency - Serious recidivism
Garrido and Morales (2007) examined 15 comparisons, looking at serious recidivism (which included reincarceration or reinstitutionalization) of juvenile offenders. The authors calculated a significant odds ratio of 1.354, meaning the treatment provided in secure confinement significantly reduced the serious recidivism of chronic and violent juvenile offenders.
bottom border

Meta-Analysis Methodology

top border
Meta-Analysis Snapshot
 Literature Coverage DatesNumber of StudiesNumber of Study Participants
Meta-Analysis 11970 - 2003176658

Meta-Analysis 1
Garrido and Morales (2007) conducted a meta-analysis to examine the effectiveness of treatment programs implemented in secure corrections designed to decrease the recidivism of serious (chronic and violent) juvenile offenders (12–21 years old). A comprehensive search of the literature was conducted to identify eligible studies. To be included, the studies had to be experimental or quasi-experimental designs with control or comparison groups. The studies also had to include measures of recidivism, which were measured by official records obtained from the police or courts that involved any kind of new offense with any kind of court response.  Program participants had to be juveniles (male or female) in secure correctional facilities, between 12 and 21 years old, either under the adult or juvenile justice system jurisdictions, and characterized as serious (chronic or violent) delinquents.
Violent delinquents were those who had committed violent offenses. Studies were included if more than half of the sample had committed or had a history of offenses such as murder (and attempted murder), kidnapping, assault (including aggravated assault), robbery (including armed robbery), voluntary manslaughter, endangerment, and arson of an occupied building. Chronic delinquents were those who had three or more previous legal adjudications. Studies were included if more than half of the sample had three or more prior adjudications. Studies were also included if less than half of the sample were violent delinquents, but the combination of chronic and violent delinquents was higher than 50 percent.
The comprehensive search yielded 17 eligible research reports. From those 17 reports, 30 comparisons between treatment and control groups were examined. The reports included over 6,600 juveniles, with an average age of 16 years, across all of the study samples. Six of the reports were experimental design studies and 11 were quasi-experimental designs. The majority of the reports (13) took place in the United States, three took place in England, and one took place in Canada. The majority of studies (14) included male participants, two studies included female participants, and one study included male and female participants. Most of the studies (9) included only violent delinquents, two studies included only chronic delinquents, and six studies included a mix of violent and chronic delinquents.
The primary outcome measures of interest were general recidivism and serious recidivism. General recidivism included subsequent offending behaviors, as measured by official records obtained from the police or adult/juvenile justice courts, which involved any kind of new offense with any kind of court response. Serious recidivism included any new official serious offenses that caused a new commitment to a secure facility (such as reincarceration or reinstitutionalization).
The calculated effect size metric was the odds ratio. An odds ratio was calculated for the last follow-up period reported for each comparison. The random-effects model was used for calculations.
bottom border


top border
There is no cost information available for this practice.
bottom border

Evidence-Base (Meta-Analyses Reviewed)

top border
These sources were used in the development of the practice profile:

Meta-Analysis 1

Garrido, Vicente, and Luz Anyela Morales Quinto. 2007. “Serious (Violent or Chronic) Juvenile Offenders: A Systematic Review of Treatment Effectiveness in Secure Corrections.” Campbell Systematic Reviews 7.
bottom border

Related Programs

top border
Following are programs that are related to this practice:

Multisystemic Therapy–Family Integrated Transitions (MST–FIT) Promising - One study
The program provides integrated individual and family services to juvenile offenders who have co-occurring mental health and chemical dependency disorders during their transition from incarceration back into the community. The program is rated Promising. Results showed the intervention had a significant effect on felony recidivism at 36 months postrelease. However, it did not appear to have a significant effect on overall recidivism (misdemeanor or felony).

Mendota Juvenile Treatment Center Promising - More than one study
A residential facility that provides mental health treatment to serious and violent juvenile offenders in secured correctional institutions. The program is rated Promising. Overall, the studies evaluating the program showed treatment had a significant impact on measures of felony and violent felony offenses, but did not impact misdemeanor offenses.

Project BUILD Effective - One study
A violence prevention curriculum designed to assist youths in a detention center to overcome obstacles such as gangs, violence, crime, and substance abuse. The program is rated Effective. Youths who participated in the program had significantly lower rates of recidivism compared to nonparticipants.

Violent Offender Treatment Program (VOTP) Promising - One study
This treatment program aims to reduce recidivism among youths convicted of violent offenses and capital crimes (such as murder) in one southern state. The program offers six months of intensive, therapeutic treatment to juveniles in a residential facility before they are released. The program is rated Promising. Results showed a statistically significant difference in reduced recidivism rates for juveniles who participated in the program, compared with those who did not participate.
bottom border

Practice Snapshot

Age: 12 - 21

Gender: Both

Targeted Population: Serious/Violent Offender

Settings: Correctional

Practice Type: Cognitive Behavioral Treatment, Group Therapy, Individual Therapy, Therapeutic Communities, Violence Prevention

Unit of Analysis: Persons