Most experts indicated that there was limited evidence on the effectiveness and cost benefits of reentry programs, such as aftercare—programs that assist juvenile offenders in returning to their communities during the reentry process—and substance abuse programs, such as drug courts—specialized courts that provide programs for substance-abusing juveniles and their families.This GAO report was prepared to give more specific guidance to juvenile justice practitioners about "practices that have been evaluated and have been shown to be effective," but focusing on addiction for juveniles, according to GAO, doesn't work any better nationally than does substance abuse treatment at TYC. By contrast:
The majority of the juvenile justice reentry and substance abuse experts GAO interviewed cited evidence that shows cognitive behavioral therapy—programs that help individuals change their beliefs in order to change their behavior—and family therapy—programs that treat juveniles by focusing on improving communication with family members—are effective and cost beneficial when addressing reentry and substance abuse issues.So TYC's substance abuse treatment historically produced worse results, and the feds say it's not been proven effective for juveniles compared to family and cognitive-behavioral therapy. I'm generally a supporter of evidence-based treatment, but at this point, can we say that drug treatment for incarcerated juveniles is "evidence based"? The evidence seems to say it's not working. Maybe I'm missing something.
Given those outcomes and the status of current research, TYC and perhaps local probation departments should take a hard look at their outcomes and evaluate whether a drug treatment emphasis makes as much sense for juveniles as for the adult population. My instincts would be to think that it does, but both Texas data and this national GAO analysis seem to say otherwise.
TYC recently revamped its drug treatment program so it'll be a while before we see recidivism outcomes from the new regime. These trends make me think the data will be worth parsing closely when they finally become available.