IntroductionThe Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) is launching a Juvenile Justice Practices Series to provide the field with updated research, promising practices, and tools for a variety of juvenile justice areas. These Bulletins are expected to be important resources for a large number of youth-serving professionals involved in developing and adopting juvenile justice policies and programs, regardless of their funding sources.
This first Bulletin in the series examines aftercare services that provide youth with comprehensive health, mental health, education, family, and vocational services upon their release from the juvenile justice system.
Aftercare can be defined as reintegrative services that prepare out-of-home placed juveniles for reentry into the community by establishing the necessary collaborative arrangements with the community to ensure the delivery of prescribed services and supervision (Altschuler and Armstrong, 2001). The term "aftercare," however, is something of a misnomerthe process does not begin only after an offender is released. Instead, a comprehensive aftercare process typically begins after sentencing and continues through incarceration and an offender's release into the community. Effective aftercare requires a seamless set of systems across formal and informal social control networks. It also requires a continuum of community services to prevent the recurrence of antisocial behavior, and it can involve public-private partnerships to expand the overall capacity of youth services.
Two key components of the aftercare concept distinguish it from the traditional juvenile justice model. First, offenders must receive both services and supervision. (Offenders in the traditional juvenile justice system are generally sentenced to some type of supervision and are sometimes provided with services.) Second, they must receive intensive intervention while they are incarcerated, during their transition to the community, and when they are under community supervision. This second component refines the concept of reintegrative services to include services that occur before release as well as after release.
This Bulletin describes how aftercare can address some of the problems that exist in the juvenile justice system. It also reviews relevant research, examines aftercare as it relates to system change, and identifies promising aftercare programs.