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Program Profile: Violent Offender Treatment Program (VOTP)

Evidence Rating: Promising - One study Promising - One study

Date: This profile was posted on September 05, 2017

Program Summary

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.

Program Description

Program Goals
The Violent Offender Treatment Program (VOTP) was developed in the 1980s with the goal of reducing recidivism among juveniles who have committed violent offenses. VOTP offers 6 months of intensive, therapeutic treatment to juveniles before they are released from a Youth Services Agency (YSA) residential facility. VOTP includes components such as a therapeutic philosophy that focuses on cognitive restructuring, a lengthy duration and intense dosage of treatment, and a target population of high-risk juveniles who have committed serious and violent offenses.
Target Population/Eligibility
Juveniles are eligible based on the severity of the commitment offenses. Priority for treatment is given to juveniles who are convicted of capital crimes (such as murder) or of other crimes with a deadly weapon or deadly force. A juvenile must also have functioned productively for an average of 2 to 4 years in the YSA facility before being eligible for VOTP treatment.
Youths in the program have received blended sentences. Under blended sentencing, juveniles will begin serving their sentences in juvenile correctional facilities and can serve the remainder of their sentences under parole supervision if they successfully complete the VOTP. Alternatively, juveniles may serve the remainder of their sentences in adult prison if they fail to complete the program.
Program Components
VOTP typically has 30 to 36 juvenile male and female participants who are separated into eight or nine different groups of the same gender. The groups live together in cottages separate from the general population. Each group meets on average for two to three times a week for 4 hours over 5 to 6 months. VOTP participants undergo a series of intensive therapy sessions each week.
At some point during these therapy sessions, each participant is responsible for describing their familial and delinquency history. The familial history portion usually requires about two to three, 5-hour sessions per student to tell his or her story. During these sessions, juvenile participants relay their life experiences. Participants also must describe their delinquent histories, which requires them to recount what they have done to others that may have led to their current circumstances.
A feature of the VOTP treatment is the role playing portion in which a juvenile must reenact a traumatic incident from the past. In these sessions, the youth reenacts the scene as the perpetrator while other participants and/or the psychologist running the session assume the role of the victim. After this reenactment, the roles are switched: the juvenile assumes the role of the victim, and other participants become the perpetrators. The aim of this part of the program is to generate intensive levels of empathy from the juveniles.
Key Personnel
Each therapy session is anchored by credentialed psychological personnel, including a clinical psychologist and a licensed counseling psychologist.

Evaluation Outcomes

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Study 1
After a 3-year follow up, Haerle (2016) found that the Violent Offender Treatment Program (VOTP) significantly reduced participants’ odds of recidivism, compared with the comparison group. Specifically, the VOTP treatment was shown to decrease the odds of recidivism by approximately 9 percent for treatment group juveniles.
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Evaluation Methodology

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Study 1
Haerle (2014) used a quasi-experimental study to evaluate the impact of the Violent Offender Treatment Program (VOTP), which was offered by the Youth Services Agency (YSA) in a southern state. The study compared recidivism rates among VOTP participants with those who did not receive any VOTP treatment.
In this study sample, only incarcerated male juveniles were included because of the low number of female VOTP participants. The treatment group (n = 277) included juveniles who had received therapy through VOTP since the program’s inception (1987 through 2007). The comparison group included incarcerated juveniles who did not receive VOTP during the same period (n =1,169); although the comparison group participants were in need of therapeutic treatment, they were unable to receive the treatment due to space limitations, institutional behavior, or because their current offense made them equally eligible for sex offender treatment offered by the YSA.
Juveniles in the VOTP treatment group were, on average, 15 years of age at commitment and 19 years of age at release. The treatment group was 41 percent African American, 38 percent Hispanic, 15 percent white, and 5.4 percent other race/ethnicity. Approximately 71 percent of the VOTP treatment group was convicted of homicide-related crimes. For the comparison group, juveniles were, on average, 15 years of age at commitment and 19 years of age at release. The comparison group was 41.9 percent Hispanic, 30.4 percent African American, 26.4 percent white, and 1.3 percent other  race/ethnicity. Approximately 21.1 percent of comparison group juveniles were convicted of homicide-related crimes. The treatment group consisted of a significantly higher proportion of African Americans and other races; whites represented a significantly lower proportion of the treatment group. The study subsequently used propensity score matching procedures to ensure that the treatment and comparison groups were comparable at baseline. However, the study did not provide the baseline characteristics of the treatment and comparison groups after matching them.

Recidivism was defined as any rearrest for any offense committed during the 3-year follow-up period. The study used multivariate analysis to examine the effect of VOTP on the recidivism outcome.

The study also compared VOTP participants who received weak versus strong doses of treatment. A weak dose is defined by less than or equal to 4.5 months; a strong dose is defined by more than 4.5 months of treatment.
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There is no cost information available for this program.
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Other Information

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The study found that a strong dose of VOTP treatment (defined as a youth receiving more than 4.5 months of treatment) was more likely to reduce recidivism by 12.4 percent, compared with no VOTP treatment. Conversely, the study found that those who received a weak dose of VOTP (defined as a youth receiving less than or equal to 4.5 months) were more likely to recidivate, compared with those who received no treatment. Finally, the study found that a strong dose of treatment reduced the odds of recidivism by 23.6 percent, compared with a weak dose (Haerle 2016).
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Evidence-Base (Studies Reviewed)

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These sources were used in the development of the program profile:

Study 1
Haerle, Darin R. 2016. “Dosage Matters: Impact of a Violent Offender Treatment Program on Juvenile Recidivism.” Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice 14(1):3–25.

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Related Practices

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Following are practices that are related to this program:

Treatment in Secure Corrections for Serious Juvenile Offenders
This practice includes interventions targeting serious (violent and chronic) juvenile offenders sentenced to serve time in secure corrections. The overall goal is to decrease recidivism rates when juveniles are released and return to the community. The practice is rated Effective for reducing general recidivism and serious recidivism of violent and chronic juvenile offenders.

Evidence Ratings for Outcomes:
Effective - One Meta-Analysis Crime & Delinquency - Multiple crime/offense types
Effective - One Meta-Analysis Crime & Delinquency - Serious recidivism
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Program Snapshot

Age: 18 - 19

Gender: Male

Race/Ethnicity: Black, White, Other

Setting (Delivery): Correctional

Program Type: Aftercare/Reentry, Cognitive Behavioral Treatment, Group Therapy, Individual Therapy, Probation/Parole Services, Violence Prevention

Targeted Population: Serious/Violent Offender, Prisoners

Current Program Status: Active

Listed by Other Directories: Model Programs Guide

Darin Haerle
Assistant Professor
California State University, Chico
400 West First Street
Chico CA 95929
Phone: 530.898.6154