Juvenile Reentry Programs: Ensuring Long-Term Sustainability
Keep it Going
Start thinking about the longevity of your program from the beginning of implementation. Developing a sustainability plan is an important way to maintain your program and to ensure the greatest return for all your hard work and investment.
This chapter outlines ways you can be proactive about sustainability by developing a sustainability plan, conducting ongoing evaluations, and ensuring ongoing funding.
Steps to Take: Lessons Learned from the Research
Steps to Take: Lessons Learned from the Research
- Consider additional funding streams to help secure the future of your reentry program.
- Generate investment from community partners to help sustain important program elements.
- Know what to measure in evaluations of your reentry program.
- Conduct regular process evaluations focused on program fidelity.
- Conduct an outcome evaluation to determine if a reentry program is meeting the desired goals and objectives.
- Capture the whole picture both numerically and qualitatively.
- Present cost savings in support of continuation of reentry efforts.
Develop a Sustainability Plan for Your Reentry Program
It is important to keep an eye on sustainability throughout the implementation process. By starting early, you can best position your program for long-term sustainability.
- Consider additional funding streams to help secure the future of your reentry program. Seeking additional funding streams before initial funding has ended can help ensure the continuation of your program (for more information on the different funding streams available, see Procuring Funding). For example, in the Tribal Green Reentry Initiative, program stakeholders identified other grant opportunities and tribal funding as the most probable options for continuing funding for the program once initial federal funding ended.
- Generate investment from community partners to help sustain important program elements. For example, the Gang Intervention Treatment Reentry Development for Youth (GitRedy) program was largely discontinued after funding ended. However, important aspects of the program still exist, such as the partnership between the Houston District Parole Office and the Houston Mayor's Anti-Gang Office. As a result, educational and vocational programming are still active in the community in addition to tattoo removal services.
Conduct Ongoing Evaluation of the Reentry Program
Another crucial aspect of ensuring program effectiveness and long-term sustainability is evaluation. By conducting process evaluations during the implementation phase and outcome evaluations after program completion, you can better understand whether the program is working as intended. If the program is not working as intended, an evaluation can shed light on the elements of the program that need to be adjusted and then reapplied. An important aspect of sustainability is that the program you are implementing has information to support its effectiveness. This information may also be helpful in applying to funding opportunities.
- Know what to measure in evaluations of your reentry program. It's best to choose several key measures for your reentry program that can be useful for understanding effects and may be considered in sustainability decisions, rather than collecting too much information that will then not be used. Additionally, you will need to distinguish between process measures and outcome measures.
- A process measure is an output of your program that measures if your program is operating as designed (such as number of drug tests conducted or hours that youth spend engaging in planned prosocial activities).
- An outcome measure is the measure of your program's effectiveness as it relates to your overall goals (such as number of negative drug tests or the recidivism rate among youth).
- Conduct regular process evaluations focused on program fidelity. A process evaluation can be as simple as a checklist of program elements for staff members to fill out or it can be a more formal procedure, such as observing staff members as they implement the program in the field. Process evaluations also can include a feedback component so stakeholders can express their opinions about the program. To do this, you might hold focus groups or conduct surveys of youth and families to see how they view programming efforts. For example, the Reentry Services Project (RSP) in Clay County, Minnesota, conducted a series of process evaluations. Evaluation data included interviews and surveys of stakeholders, review of program materials, and documents filed by program staff. This examination of the RSP program's operations showed that probations officers were meeting with youth, their families, and other agency partners as anticipated.
- Conduct an outcome evaluation to determine if a reentry program is meeting the desired goals and objectives. For example, Project BUILD (Broader Urban Involvement and Leadership Development) staff developed and implemented an evaluation to measure the degree to which the program met the stated goals, especially the reduction of youths' recidivism rates. Data collection included interviews with case workers, teachers, and youth, as well as survey data. An initial indicated that the program was having the desired impact; specifically, 33 percent of youth who participated in Project BUILD returned to detention within 1 year compared with 57 percent of non-Project BUILD youths. In addition to ensuring program goals are achieved, such an evaluation can encourage continued investment and buy-in. In instances where findings are not positive, an outcome evaluation can assist with refining the program further and making adaptations, as necessary (for more information, see Addressing Adaptations).
- Capture the whole picture both numerically and qualitatively. Evaluations that include quantitative data (surveys, risk-needs assessments, arrest or court data) and qualitative data (observations, interviews, and focus groups) provide the full picture of a program’s effectiveness. Project RISE (Reentry Intervention and Support for Engagement) used two measures in their evaluation of the program, which captured quantitative data through a survey and qualitative data through focus groups. Specifically, the program developers administered surveys at Project RISE Advisory Board meetings and conducted focus groups with adult stakeholders, including advisory board members and staff.
Ensure Ongoing Funding of Reentry Efforts
- Present cost savings in support of continuation of reentry efforts. If juveniles can successfully reenter the community and recidivism rates are reduced, this can result in cost savings to the juvenile justice system and to taxpayers. A cost-benefit analysis, or return on investment (ROI) analysis, can help present these valuable findings. For example, the Washington State Institute of Public Policy conducted a cost-benefit analysis of the Multisystemic Therapy–Family Integrated Transitions (MST–FIT) program. The analysis looked at the benefits of the programs (such as savings to taxpayers in criminal justice system costs from reduced recidivism rates of youth) and costs (such as the amount per program participant). The analysis found a benefit-to-cost ratio of $3.15: for every $1 invested in the program, $3.15 is saved in criminal justice expenses and avoided criminal victimizations.
Other Useful Info...
- The Center for Public Health Systems Science, at Washington University in St. Louis, provides a free Program Sustainability Assessment tool that communities can use when thinking about and planning for sustainability of their reentry programs.
- The Center for Community Health and Development, at the University of Kansas, provides an informative toolkit on Sustaining the Work or Initiative for community work in general. You can use their detailed outline and real world examples to inform your own reentry program sustainability plan.
Steps to Take:
Juvenile Reentry Programs
- Establishing clear programs goals
- Conducting a needs assessment
- Doing supportive research
- Getting stakeholder buy-in
- Identifying specific jurisdictional issues
References and Levels of Evidence
*for details about the references and levels of evidence for the Juvenile Reentry Programs I-Guide.
I-Guide Category Reference
- These components relate to building a solid foundation before implementing an evidence-based intervention.
- These components assist with putting a program or practice into place.
- These components relate to stabilizing and sustaining the program or practice within the community or jurisdiction.
Review the I-Guide Glossary Page for a complete listing.
Development Services Group, Inc. 2018. MPG I-Guides: Juvenile Reentry Programs. Washington, D.C.: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. https://www.ojjdp.gov/mpg-iguides/topics/juvenile-reentry-programs/
Prepared by Development Services Group, Inc., under contract number GS–10F–0166K.