Serious (violent and chronic) juvenile offenders: treatment effectiveness in secure corrections

Additional Info

  • Authors: Vicente Garrido, Luz Anyela Morales Quintro
  • Published date: 2007-09-20
  • Coordinating group(s): Crime and Justice
  • Type of document: Protocol, Review, User abstract
  • Volume: 3
  • Issue nr: 7
  • Category Image: Category Image
  • Title: Serious (violent and chronic) juvenile offenders: treatment effectiveness in secure corrections
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Juveniles responsible for violent offenses are at high risk of becoming chronic offenders, committing many types of offences. A challenge in the treatment of the these violent or chronic delinquents is that the majority are well into delinquent careers. It remains to be demonstrated what specific strategies provided within secure correctional facilities are promising in rehabilitating these serious juvenile offenders.


To systematically collect and assess the quality of the outcomes of empirical research regarding the effectiveness of treatment programmes implemented in secure corrections designed to decrease the reoffending rate and type of offense for serious (chronic or violent) delinquents (12-21 years old).

Search strategy

Several strategies were used to identify studies that met the explicit criteria of this review. We conducted a specific search in 14 relevant electronic databases about the topic area, including the Campbell SPECTR database of trials. Experts in the field were consulted and relevant citations were followed up.

Selection criteria

This review included experimental (with random assignment) and quasi-experimental (without random assignment) studies with control or comparison groups. Furthermore, the outcomes presented in the studies include recidivism rates or at least information about new offenses. The program recipients were juveniles either male or female, in secure corrections aged between 12 and 21 years old, under either the adult or juvenile jurisdictions, characterised as serious (chronic or violent) delinquents.

Data collection and analysis

Separate meta-analyses were carried out for the two different recidivism measures (general and serious recidivism) and for completers and intent-to-treat (as assigned) data. We selected as the effect-size index the odds ratio and its translation to natural logarithm. The meta-analytic calculations were carried out assuming a random-effects model. When the heterogeneity Q test was statistically significant, mixed-effects analyses were carried out to search for moderator variables that could explain the variability among the effect estimates. For qualitative moderator variables, weighted analyses of variance were applied on the effect estimates, whereas the relationship between continuous moderator variables and the effect estimates was assessed by weighted regression models.

Main results

The overall results at the last follow up for completers showed a statistically significant positive result in favour of treatment. For the intent-to-treat data, both fixed- and random-effects models were statistically significant. This result showed that even under the more conservative intent-to-treat model, the interventions were still effective overall. Moderator variables did not show a statistically significant results to explain the heterogeneity in relation to effectiveness of the treatment. We found evidence for positive effects of the cognitive and cognitive-behavioural treatments and of the multi-focus programmes.

Reviewers’ conclusions

In general, the programmes “do work” to reduce the general and, specially, the serious recidivism of serious institutionalised juvenile offenders. This is particularly true in the case of interventions with a cognitive or cognitive-behavioural emphasis, applied to male samples in centres of juvenile reform. It seems also that the educative non-structured programs did not work to reduce the recidivism.

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