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Research Questions

  1. Are California's Juvenile Justice Crime Prevention Act programs improving juveniles' rates of successful completion of probation in Los Angeles County?
  2. Are the programs improving juvenile arrest rates in the county?
  3. Are they improving rates of juvenile probation violations in the county?
  4. Are they improving rates of juvenile incarceration in the county?
  5. Are they improving juveniles' rates of successful completion of restitution orders in the county?
  6. Are they improving juveniles' rates of successful completion of community-service orders in the county?
  7. Are they improving results on county-specified supplemental outcome measures?

California's Juvenile Justice Crime Prevention Act was designed to provide a stable funding source for juvenile programs that have been proven effective in curbing crime among at-risk and young offenders. It provides funds to counties to add evidence-based programs and services for juvenile probationers identified with higher needs for special services than those received by routine probationers, at-risk youth who have not entered the probation system but who live or attend school in areas of high crime or who have other factors that potentially predispose them to criminal activities, and youth in juvenile halls and camps. The Corrections Standards Authority is required to submit annual reports to the California state legislature measuring the program's success for six outcome measures: (1) successful completion of probation, (2) arrests, (3) probation violations, (4) incarcerations, (5) successful completion of restitution, and (6) successful completion of community service. Each county can also measure supplemental outcomes. Results reflect the continuing collaboration between the evaluators and the Los Angeles County Probation Department to modify programs based on the integration of evaluation findings and effective juvenile justice practices. Differences in outcomes between program participants and comparison-group youth are relatively small, although county-developed supplemental outcomes tend to be more favorable than state-mandated big six outcomes.

Key Findings

Youth in Several Programs Had Improved Rates of Completion of Probation

  • Youth in the Enhanced School- and Community-Based Services initiative and its School-Based Probation Supervision for High-School Probationers, School-Based Probation Supervision for Middle-School Probationers, and Inside-Out Writers programs and in the Gender-Specific Community (including Young Women at Risk) program had significantly higher rates of completion of probation than comparison-group youth.

Results for Arrest Rates Were Mixed

  • Youth in the Enhanced Services to High-Risk/High-Need Youth initiative and in the School-Based Probation Supervision for At-Risk Middle-School Youth and Mental Health Screening, Assessment, and Treatment programs had higher arrest rates than those in the comparison groups.
  • Follow-up arrest rates were significantly lower than baseline rates for After-School Enrichment and Supervision youth.

Results for Probation Violation Were Mixed

  • Youth in the Enhanced Services to High-Risk/High-Need Youth initiative and in the School-Based Probation Supervision for High-School Probationers program had higher rates of probation violation than those in the comparison groups.
  • Youth in the Enhanced School- and Community-Based Services initiative and in its School-Based Probation Supervision for Middle-School Probationers and Inside-Out Writers programs had significantly lower rates of probation violation than comparison-group youth.

Results for Incarceration Rates Were Mixed

  • Comparison-group youth were significantly more likely than those in the Enhanced Mental Health Services initiative or the School-Based Probation Supervision for Middle-School Probationers program to be incarcerated.
  • Youth in the Enhanced Services to High-Risk/High-Need Youth and Enhanced School- and Community-Based Services initiatives and the latter initiative's School-Based Probation Supervision for High-School Probationers programs had higher rates of incarceration than those in the comparison group.

Youth in All Three Initiatives Complete Restitution at Higher Rates Than Comparison-Group Youth, Though One Program Performed Better Last Year Than This Year

  • Youth in the School-Based Probation Supervision for High-School Probationers; Mental Health Screening, Assessment, and Treatment; Inside-Out Writers; and Gender-Specific Community (including Young Women at Risk) programs had significantly better outcomes than comparison-group youth.
  • The fiscal year 2009–2010 Youth Substance Abuse Intervention cohort had a significantly higher rate of completion of restitution than the fiscal year 2010–2011 cohort.

Results for Community Service Were Positive

  • Youth in the Enhanced School- and Community-Based Services initiative and the School-Based Probation Supervision for High-School Probationers program had significantly higher rates of community-service completion than comparison-group youth.

Supplemental Outcomes Were Positive

  • Supplemental outcomes for all three programs in the Enhanced Mental Health Services initiative that qualified for statistical testing were significantly improved in the six months after program entry compared with the six months before entering the program.
  • The relevant supplemental outcomes for Gender-Specific Community and High Risk/High Needs participants were significantly improved in the six months after entering the program compared with the six months before entering.
  • For the programs that used educational measures as supplemental outcomes for the Enhanced School- and Community-Based Services initiative, school attendance improved significantly in the term following program entry as compared with the previous term, and there were significant reductions in school suspensions and expulsions. All other supplemental outcomes that had enough successful outcomes to allow statistical testing showed significant improvement, except for special incident reports in the Inside-Out Writers program, in which there was no significant difference in rates between the two periods measured.
  • School attendance, in particular, improved markedly for those programs that used attendance as a supplemental outcome measure. For these programs, school suspensions and expulsions were likely to decrease as well.

This research was prepared for the Los Angeles County Probation Department and was conducted within the Safety and Justice Program within RAND Infrastructure, Safety, and Environment (ISE).

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