Juvenile Justice Bulletin --July 2000 --Rewards and Sanctions

Rewards and Sanctions

Each site has developed IAP-specific, graduated reward and sanction programs for use in the institutional and aftercare phases. Working with these programs, IAP staff are able to consistently reinforce positive accomplishments and consistently respond to negative behavior in a way that is proportionate to the violation. The formality of the systems and how they have been implemented differ not only by site, but by phase (i.e., institutional versus aftercare) within sites.

Institutional Rewards and Sanctions

In Colorado and Nevada's institutional phase, staff have developed incentive programs as enhancements to the routine institutional reward/sanctioning systems. Colorado's "Bonus Bucks" program allows IAP youth to earn privileges (e.g., family visits, extra phone calls) and tangible items (e.g., favorite food) for significant accomplishments such as attaining a treatment goal. The program is popular with both youth and staff, who report that it cut behavioral incidents by two-thirds after implementation. In Nevada, staff in the IAP cottage have developed running, weight lifting, and reading programs, all of which provide incentives (e.g., favorite food, late nights, movies) for reaching predetermined milestones. In Virginia, institutional case managers in the different facilities use an informal system of rewards and sanctions, but there are differences in the scope of application and the consistency with which they are applied. At Beaumont (the institution with the majority of IAP youth), the system historically has not been used as routinely or aggressively as at the Hanover Juvenile Correctional Facility. At Hanover, rewards and sanctions are applied on a weekly basis to respond to a youth's behavior and in special situations, such as completion of a treatment program or a major rules violation. The Hanover case manager uses a wide range of motivators including additional phone calls home, access to fast foods or computer games, and permission to wear "wave caps" or "doo rags." Program infractions or lack of progress in treatment typically results in delayed or denied privileges. Major violations of institutional rules result in institution-imposed sanctions and learning assignments that require the youth to reflect on and write about the precursors and consequences of his behavior.

Community Rewards and Sanctions

The rewards/sanctions systems used in the community are similar in principle to those used in the institutions. The community setting, however, generally offers a wider array of potential rewards (e.g., movie tickets, passes to sporting events or concerts, dinners out, recreation center memberships, gift certificates) and sanctions (e.g., more restrictive curfews, community service, house arrest, increased surveillance, court reviews, revocation). Because all three sites use some type of phase system for aftercare supervision, movement to a more restrictive phase in response to violations, or to a less restrictive phase in response to sustained progress, is a common tactic. In each of the sites, it also is possible to place a youth in detention for a brief period in cases of significant noncompliance.

The structure of the sites' rewards/sanctions systems differs. Colorado's tends to be fairly unstructured, allowing case mangers to choose from a whole menu of rewards and sanctions and apply them as they think best fits the individual and his circumstances. Both Nevada and Virginia, however, have developed rather elaborate systems that involve classifying various behaviors or infractions into multiple tiers and specifying the types of rewards/sanctions that are considered appropriate to each tier.17

Reward/Sanction Issues

Although the reward and sanction systems are used routinely in the sites, they have not been easy to implement, especially in the community settings. Each of the sites has had difficulties and continues to experiment with its system. For example, Colorado had to revamp its entire system after youth began to demand rewards for meeting what were considered routine expectations (e.g., reporting, attending day treatment). Under the revised system, rewards are linked only to the achievement of objectives specified in the youth's behavioral contract. Nevada has experienced problems with older, more sophisticated youth's unwillingness to comply with some of the intermediate sanctions imposed in response to their rules violations. Virginia staff have noted that for some youth, behavior deteriorates so quickly and dramatically—progressing from minor to major violations to reoffending—that staff do not have time to respond with progressive intermediate sanctions. Finally, Nevada and Virginia also have had to amend their approaches to rewards because the progress among high-risk parolees is frequently slow and measured in small increments. As a result, the reward systems currently emphasize not only goal attainment, but also intermediate steps toward those goals.

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Implementation of the Intensive Community-Based Aftercare Program Juvenile Justice Bulletin July 2000