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2014 Issue Brief: Aftercare Services are Key to Positive Community Adjustment

Published Dec 8, 2014, Models for Change Resource Center Partnership

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For young offenders who, for public safety reasons, cannot remain in the community, placement is still more than mere punishment. It is also an opportunity to provide services that address problem behaviors such as substance use, and to provide educational support or build vocational skills—in other words, to pave the way to positive development and a successful life. But the impact of these services depends on how effectively they are continued and built on when the youth returns to the community.

Four lessons have emerged from recent studies: 

  • Institutional placement is a repeated and disruptive event for serious adolescent offenders. Almost all youth will return to the community, where they will need ongoing support—including effective aftercare plans and services— to succeed in the long run. 
  • Planning for re-entry should be a goal of services from the first day of placement forward.
  •  Probation supervision and community-based services are both critical in the period right after an institutional stay. They reduce the chances of re-arrest and increase engagement in work and school. 
  • Major factors in a successful transition are involvement in developmentally appropriate activities, mainly school and work. Working too much without school involvement, though, is related to more offending.


Juvenile justice systems should ensure that: 

  • Re-entry planning begins as soon as a youth enters placement. 
  • The planning links the youth’s institutional and community experience. 
  • Planning addresses the multiple, critical factors in a successful transition.

The Pathways to Desistance study is a multi-site, longitudinal study of serious adolescent offenders as they transition from adolescence into early adulthood. It is funded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation in partnership with federal and state agencies and other foundations. For more information, contact Carol Schubert at, or visit the Pathways website, 


Supported by

Models for Change was a juvenile justice systems reform initiative supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, website operated by Justice Policy Institute.