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2014 Knowledge Brief: Perceptions and Outcomes in Adolescent Confinement

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

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While the content of programming in juvenile facilities has been the subject of much study, there has been less work on the broader “institutional environment” and its effect on outcomes. Significantly, adolescents themselves are seldom asked about their perceptions of their time in confinement—especially in ways that are measurable, consistent, and designed to connect their perceptions to subsequent behavior.

The Pathways to Desistance study, which followed more than 1,350 juvenile offenders for 7 years, provided an opportunity to do this. The researchers found that the adolescents’ assessments of specific aspects of the environment, as well as their overall assessment, were associated with subsequent outcomes such as self-reported offending, rearrest, or return to confinement. The findings confirm that individually focused programming and systematic planning for release can make a difference for these adolescents and the communities in which they will live.


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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.