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Study finds most adolescents sent to group homes still involved with drugs/crime seven years later
Date:3/19/2009

Most adolescents referred to long-term group homes in Los Angeles County after being charged with a serious offense reported they were still involved with crime or drugs seven years later, according to a new RAND Corporation study.

The bleak findings suggest there is a need to improve juvenile justice rehabilitation programs, according to the report published online by the American Journal of Public Health.

Studies rarely track juvenile offenders for so long so that little is known about the prognosis for juvenile offenders nationally. However, the youths in this study were similar to the national profile of youths in juvenile correctional facilities and a similar study conducted in Chicago found similar mortality rates.

Researchers studied 449 adolescents aged 13 to 17 who were referred to group homes by judges in Los Angeles County between February 1999 and May 2000. The participants were interviewed periodically over the next seven years to assess how their lives had progressed.

When attempts were made to re-contact these young people in 2007, researchers learned that 12 of the young people had died, including seven from gunshot wounds. Among the 383 participants who completed the final interview, 36 percent had used hard drugs in the past year and 27 percent reported five or more symptoms of substance dependence.

Among the group that completed the final interview, 66 percent reported they had done something illegal, other than using alcohol or drugs, in the previous year. Thirty-seven percent reported being arrested within the previous year and 25 percent had been in jail or prison every day for the previous 90 days.

"We cannot say that these group homes failed to improve anyone's life, but the large number of poor outcomes we observed raises questions about whether the juvenile justice system is as effective in rehabilitating delinquent youths as it should be," said Rajeev Ramchand, the study's
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Contact: Warren Robak
robak@rand.org
310-451-6913
RAND Corporation
Source:Eurekalert

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