Local governments can invest in this strategy using State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF) from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).

  • This strategy can help address educational disparities, promote healthy childhood environments, and prevent violence. The U.S. Department of Treasury has indicated that strategies that help achieve these outcomes are eligible for the use of Fiscal Recovery Funds.
  • Investments in this strategy are SLFRF-eligible as long as they are made in qualified census tracts or are designed to assist populations or communities disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.

Program overview

  • Providing treatment to reduce recidivism: Corrections departments often provide psychological treatment to children and young adults who have been incarcerated for committing serious criminal offenses. Such treatment aims to reduce recidivism rates when juvenile offenders return to the community.

  • Focused on at-risk juveniles: Juvenile treatment programs are designed for individuals between the ages of 12 and 21 years old. Typically, participants have committed violent offenses (e.g., murder, voluntary manslaughter, arson) or are classified as chronic offenders, meaning they have three or more previous convictions.

  • Building participants’ skills: Treatment programs focus on helping participants learn the skills needed to consistently act in a pro-social manner. The most common type of treatment is cognitive behavioral therapy, which aims to help individuals better cope with patterns of thinking and behavior that lead to criminal acts. As part of their treatment, participants may learn social skills, anger control, negotiation tactics, and more. Typically, such treatment is led by a licensed therapist at the correctional facility, in either a one-on-one or small group setting.

Cost per Participant
Not available

Multiple studies with rigorous designs demonstrate that treatment programs for serious juvenile offenders are a well-supported strategy for reducing recidivism.

  • Create a referral and screening process: For a treatment to be effective, participants need to show willingness to engage with the program. As such, corrections departments should create a screening process to assess the fit of potential participants. Developing and communicating clear eligibility criteria can also ensure that all eligible children and young adults are referred for consideration.

  • Teach skills that address participants’ trauma: Children and young adults who have been incarcerated for serious criminal behavior have typically experienced extensive trauma. Focusing on teaching skills, primarily via cognitive behavioral therapy, that help participants approach decision making in a prosocial manner can contribute to their success upon release (e.g., in maintaining employment).

  • Hire staff who can build relationships: Central to therapists’ success is an ability to build relationships with program participants. Prospective staff who have experience working with at-risk or institutionalized youth, understand and have connections to the neighborhoods that participants lived in, or share lived experiences with participants may be most effective.

  • Measure program performance: Treatment programs should collect data on participant progress and establish a set of program-wide performance metrics (e.g., drop-off rate, recidivism rate). Doing so encourages shared accountability across stakeholder groups, allows for continuous improvement of policies and practices, and enables the program to demonstrate its success to community members and public officials.