Avon Park Youth Academy (APYA), opened in 1998, was a secure-custody residential facility managed by Florida’s Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ). The APYA was considered the largest medium-security facility in the state, with a capacity of 200. Youths lived in 12 fully equipped duplexes on a former Air Force base and were responsible for maintaining their households, yards, and the appearance of the campus. APYA provided specialized, remedial education and intensive vocational training to moderate-risk youth. The goals of APYA were to 1) provide education and job training, and 2) improve life and community living skills to facilitate self-sufficiency and a prosocial lifestyle. An enhanced reentry component STREET Smart (Success, Transition Assistance, Reduce Recidivism, Employment, Education, Training), was added to the residential program to provide community support and educational and vocational services to APYA participants on a voluntary basis after their release to the community.
APYA was designed to serve moderate-risk (as determined by the court) male youths 16 years and older. Youths admitted to APYA were viewed as candidates for independent living situations upon successfully completing the program. To be eligible for APYA, youths must have met several other criteria: 1) had an IQ of 70 or above; 2) had a need for and interest in vocational training; 3) was not diagnosed with a significant mental health or substance use disorder; 4) was not prescribed psychotropic medication; 5) did not have a history of escape, absconding, or aggressive behavior; and 6) did not have a significant medical condition or physical disability.
The residential aspect of APYA was made up of two components (educational and vocational) to equip youth with “real world” work experience. The educational component of APYA was the Second Chance School, which operated under the direction of the Polk County Public School District. The objectives were for each youth at the school to attain a vocational certificate and a high school diploma or equivalent. The curriculum included comprehensive pre-vocational, vocational, and academic remediation services. Services were individualized, performance-based, and included pre- and post-assessment, computer literacy training, and special education services.
The vocational training component of APYA was the Home Builders Institute (HBI), which provided youths with the opportunity to practice skills learned during supervised community service, on-the-job training, and paid employment in plumbing, electrical work, carpentry, building and apartment maintenance, and landscaping. Approximately 80 percent of the day was spent on developing employable skills and vocational trades. To be certified in a specific trade, the participant had to have logged a total of 870 work hours in that trade. Additional training in culinary arts, desktop publishing, flooring, masonry, horticulture, auto maintenance, and auto detailing was available.
The STREET Smart (SS) component provided wraparound services from the beginning of a youth’s entry into APYA through 12 months after release. SS was designed to sustain the services offered at APYA by providing individualized transition services such as employment searches, job contacts, housing support, transportation support, mental health/substance use services, and educational placement. The SS program placed special emphasis on the use of incentives such as gift certificates to restaurants, movie passes, and electronic gifts. The program provided a vehicle for a youth’s seamless movement from residential placement to living and working in the community. SS transition specialists served as links between APYA staff and SS community specialists. Transition specialists worked with youths throughout their residential placement to enhance their skills training, provide transition planning and preparation, and introduce them to their community specialists. In addition to the needs assessments and performance plans completed by APYA staff, SS staff also completed needs assessments for youths at several points in the program: upon entry to APYA, prior to a transitional home visit, and 10 days prior to a youth’s release from APYA. Community specialists maintained relationships with the youths’ families, employers, juvenile justice staff, local workforce boards, school-to-work partnerships, and community service organizations.
Arrested for Any Offense
The National Council on Crime and Delinquency (2009) found no significant differences between the Avon Park Youth Academy STREET Smart participants and the control group in the percent of youths arrested, after 3 years.
Arrested for a Felony
There were no significant differences between the groups in the percent of youths arrested for a felony, after 3 years.
There were no significant differences between the groups in the percent of youths employed, after 3years.
Average Number of Quarters Employed
There were no significant differences between the groups in the average number of quarters employed, after 3 years.
APYA STREET Smart participants were significantly more likely than the control group to obtain a degree 2 years post-release, but information regarding degree attainment after 3 years was not available.
Higher Education Enrollment
The groups did not significantly differ in terms of higher education enrollment after 3 years. However, there was a small effect in the wrong direction, favoring the control group.
The National Council on Crime and Delinquency (2009) evaluated the STREET Smart (SS) component of the Avon Park Youth Academy (APYA) using a randomized controlled trial, implemented from June 2002 to February 2003. The evaluation measured the effects of the program on recidivism, education, and employment. Youths committed to secure care in Florida were prescreened into a random assignment pool based on their assessed risk level (as determined by the court) and presenting behaviors such as mental health and substance use. From this pool, youths were either randomly assigned to the experimental group and placed at the APYA facility or to the control group and placed in one of 49 different Florida Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) options designated for moderate-risk youths, which was consistent with the regular assignment process or business as usual. Analysis indicated no statistically significant pre-assignment differences between the groups. A total of 714 youths were randomly assigned. There were slight differences between groups on the age of their first arrest and their ethnicity, but there were no statistically significant differences post-random assignment.
Of the 369 youths assigned to the experimental group (APYA/SS), nine never entered the program—three fled, three faced new charges, and three were committed to adult jail/prison, leaving a total of 360. Of the APYA participants,44.4 percent were white, 40.8 percent were African American, 13.6 percent were Hispanic, and 1.1 percent were other. Nearly 90 percent were aged 16 (42.2 percent) or 17 (47.2 percent) at the time of admission. All experimental group youths who entered APYA exited the facility by May 2005, with an average length of stay at 269 days; most were aged 17 (43.9 percent) or 18 (41.7 percent) at the time of their release. Of the experimental group, 301 youths (83.6 percent) transitioned to the SS reentry component and by March 2006, 183 youths successfully completed the SS program. The average length of stay was 340 days.
The control group participants received business-as-usual services and were placed in 49 different moderate-risk facilities, including academies (44.3 percent), wilderness programs (22.9 percent), boot camps (6.1 percent), halfway houses (24.9 percent), and other specialized programs (1.8 percent). Depending on the nature of the program, youths in these facilities had limited access to the community. While the programs varied by geographical location, program type, and primary approach, they shared the following features: an array of vocational, educational, and treatment services, and mandatory onsite supervision. The average length of stay for youths in the control group was 257 days.
Data for this study was drawn from the APYA/SS program, as well as Florida’s Juvenile Justice Information System, Department of Law Enforcement, Department of Education (DOE), and Department of Correction. All participants reached the 36-month follow-up threshold by May 2008.
Recidivism was measured by the total number of arrests (misdemeanor, felony, violent, and drug) and commitments. Educational achievement was measured by completion of a high school diploma or equivalent while in custody, cumulative educational achievement (both while in secure care and in the 2 years post-release), and higher education enrollment. Employment was measured by the percentage of youths employed (quarterly), the average number of quarters employed, and average earnings.
Statistical analysis included bivariate analyses to examine education outcomes and both bivariate and multivariate regression analyses to examine the effect of APYA placement on employment and recidivism outcomes. Multivariate models controlled for age, ethnicity, and criminal history risk factors, including age at first arrest, prior commitments, prior adjudications, and prior arrests.
The experimental and control groups participated in secure custody programs between June 26, 2002 and May 3, 2005 (i.e., over 3 fiscal years: FY02–03, FY03–04, and FY04–05). Cost analysis suggests that the APYA program ranked seventh in cost per release ($24,765), when compared with 14 of the 49 possible control group facilities with the highest number of participants (The Riverside facility was ranked number one at $36,170, and the Panther facility ranked last at $12,410)(National Council on Crime and Delinquency 2009).
Evidence-Base (Studies Reviewed)
These sources were used in the development of the program profile:Study 1
National Council on Crime and Delinquency. 2009. In Search of Evidence-Based Practice in Juvenile Corrections: An Evaluation of Florida's Avon Park Youth Academy and STREET Smart Program.
Oakland, Calif.: National Council on Crime and Delinquency.https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/ojjdp/grants/228804.pdf
These sources were used in the development of the program profile:
Avon Park Youth Academy. No Date. Avon Park Youth Academy Demo.
Avon, Park, FL: Avon Park Youth Academy.http://criminology.fsu.edu/wp-content/uploads/Avon-Park-Youth-Academy-Demo.pdf
MacGillivray, Lois. 2002. Youth Offender Demonstration Project Technical Assistance
. Washington, D.C.: Research and Evaluation Associates, Inc.
Morgenthau, John, and Kevin Roberts. 2002. “A Hammer and Nail Approach to Rebuilding Young Lives: Florida's Avon Park Youth Academy and STREET Smart.” Corrections Today
Following are CrimeSolutions.gov-rated practices that are related to this program:Juvenile Reentry Programs
This practice consists of reintegrative programs and services designed to prepare juvenile offenders, who were placed out of their homes, for reentry into the community. The overall goal is to reduce the recidivism rate of juvenile offenders released from out-of-home placements. The practice is rated Promising. There was a statistically significant decrease in the recidivism rates of juveniles who participated in the reentry programs, compared with juveniles in the comparison groups.Evidence Ratings for Outcomes:
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