Recent Juvenile Aftercare Initiatives
The Skillman Intensive Aftercare Project
    Philadelphia and Michigan

Two experimental intensive aftercare programs for chronic delinquents in Detroit and Pittsburgh were evaluated by Greenwood, Deschenes, and Adams (1993). Over 2 years, approximately 100 juveniles completing residential placements in each city were randomly assigned to either intensive aftercare or regular supervision. The programs were developed and operated by two separate private providers committed to the Skillman program model that emphasized five components:

  • Prerelease contacts and planning involving the assigned aftercare caseworker, the youth, and the family, beginning at 3 months before release.

  • Intensive supervision contacts in the community, starting at several per day and gradually diminishing.

  • Assistance in family stabilization.

  • Mobilization of supportive community resources, particularly in relation to education and jobs.

  • Enlistment of role-modeling, motivated caseworkers.

In terms of actual implementation, the two programs differed in the timing of the youth's release from placement, the intensity of implementation, and the sanctions that could be imposed. The profiles of participating offenders also varied. In the Detroit program, juvenile offenders were confined in one of the State of Michigan's training schools for an average of 17.1 months. Early release played no role in the effort. The average age at first arrest was 14.4, and the participants averaged 2.5 prior arrests. More than half of the Detroit participants were known to be drug dealers, nearly half had drug use problems, and the current offense of slightly more than half was a crime against persons. In Pittsburgh, a privately run wilderness program with an average length of stay of 10.2 months was used for this experiment. The average age at first arrest was 14, and the participants averaged 4.6 prior arrests and 3.7 adjudications. Their current offenses were mostly property crimes. The study found no difference between experimental and control groups in the proportion of youth arrested, self-reporting of offenses, or drug use during a 12-month followup period.

Equally important, youth in the experimental programs did not participate any more frequently in educational or work activities than did control group youth. Also, most of the families viewed delinquency as the youth's personal problem and were not interested in making major changes in their own behavior or activities. Further, in neither of the two sites did the aftercare program have a significant effect on the youth's associations with delinquent peers. In the Detroit program, which was characterized by longer lengths of stay and no possibility of early release, no savings were apparent in residential placement costs. Consequently, the aftercare program simply produced an overall increase in cost per placement. In Pittsburgh, where reduced time in residential placement was an explicit part of the program, total placement costs were slightly reduced.

Given the absence of any impact on the participation of the experimental group in school and work, family involvement, and delinquent peer associations, there is little reason to expect lowered recidivism. Greenwood and colleagues (1993) took the position that a number of factors explain the results, including:

  • Aftercare workers provided only general support and assistance, rather than targeting specific problems that were contributing to risk.

  • Aftercare workers did not devote sufficient attention to programming that addressed risk factors related to delinquent behavior, for example, substance abuse treatment and anger management.

  • Deployment of a surveillance/casework approach was inappropriate, particularly given the kind of problems and high level of temptations encountered by these youth after they returned to their home communities.

  • More formal methods of assessing ongoing needs and progress were needed, including drug testing, reports by third parties, or tests of specific skills.

Reintegration, Supervised Release, and Intensive Aftercare Juvenile Justice Bulletin   ·  July 1999