Effective intervention plays an essential role in any strategy designed to diminish the rates of juvenile delinquency. Individuals who are employed in the juvenile justice system use intervention as an important component of dispositional sanctions imposed in juvenile cases. This is particularly true for the treatment of serious, violent, and chronic juvenile offenders (serious offenders) who have the potential for long and harmful criminal careers and who, absent effective interventions, are likely to recidivate while at the age for peak offending.

Which interventions are most effective in dealing with the serious offender? Although recent research reviews have shown that some intervention programs result in lowered recidivism among youthful offenders, the reviews have only asked whether intervention is generally effective (Andrews et al., 1990; Cullen and Gilbert, 1982; Garrett, 1985; Gendreau and Ross, 1987; Lipsey, 1992; Palmer, 1994). Little systematic attention has been given to the effectiveness of interventions with distinct types of offenders, and little intervention research has looked specifically at serious offenders.

This Bulletin presents the results of a meta-analysis (a systematic synthesis of quantitative research results) that posed two questions:

  • Can intervention programs reduce recidivism rates among serious delinquents?

  • If so, what types of programs are most effective?

The Bulletin describes the procedures used to select studies for the meta-analysis, presents the methods of analysis used to answer the above questions, and then discusses effective interventions for noninstitutionalized and institutionalized offenders.

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Effective Intervention for Serious Juvenile Offenders Juvenile Justice Bulletin April 2000