The Juvenile Justice Policy and Oversight Committee found Thursday that data indicating the efficacy of existing youth recidivism programs is sparse and hard to acquire.
Led by State Representative Toni Walker, the discussion centered on two major problems that the committee faces: insufficient access to data that already exists and access to data that accurately indicates the efficacy of current recidivism programs. Given the inadequacy of the current data, the committee decided that it must reconsider which outcomes to measure in programs targeting recidivism.
The committee discussed programs that offer a wide range of services, ranging from job training to intensive in-home child and adolescent psychiatric treatment.
“How are we going to define success? Are we simply going to keep measuring it in the same way we have — that a child completes a program and gets rearrested, or doesn’t?” said Bill Carbone, director of the Tow Youth Justice Institute and University of New Haven professor. “We need to take this to the next level. We need to have the data systems that permit us to look at other indicators of success.”
Kendell Coker, an assistant professor at the University of New Haven and faculty chief researcher of the Tow Youth Justice Institute, presented data suggesting that the most-used programs might not be working. But he acknowledged that the data analysis raised more questions than it answered. He noted that when youths complete a program but still return to prison, it does not necessarily indicate a failure of the program to achieve its initial goal.
Carbone agreed, adding that a program’s immediate goal may be to reduce truancy and improve communication within the family, but even if a youth attends school and communicates better with his family, the youth may still commit an offense leading to arrest, Carbone said.
According to the sample data Coker presented, females under the age of 16 were completing programs at about the same rate as females 16 years of age and over, but the younger females were being rearrested at a higher rate. The data for male youths was similar. Many of the minors participated in multiple programs, which made it difficult for committee members to determine which interventions effectively combated recidivism.
Ben Barnes, co-chair of the committee and secretary of the Office of Policy and Management, questioned whether the data indicates which programs are most effective. Coker acknowledged that the data was inconclusive, adding that the findings do not reveal much about the effectiveness of the programs because they do not consider outcomes other than rearrest rates and program completion rates.
Committee members said not all work groups within the committee have access to certain data sets, which hinders the committee’s progress. Chris Rapillo — director of Delinquency, Defense and Child Protection for Public Defender Services — said her work group is still waiting for data from a recidivism study because a memorandum of agreement to release the information had not been signed.
The lack of data slowed the progress of her work group, Rapillo said.
Walker said it is unacceptable for technical matters to hinder progress, stressing that other states have found ways to overcome this hurdle, and that it should not prevent them from moving forward.
“We can always use many barriers in order to stop movement and to stop progress, and I really hope I don’t hear that anymore,” Walker said. “Because it’s not us, it’s our kids. Our kids are the ones that end up losing.”
According to data from the Office of Policy and Management, 9,439 youths under the age of 18 were arrested in Connecticut in 2014.