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Assessing the Impact of a Graduated Response Approach for Youth in the Maryland Juvenile Justice System

NCJ Number
Date Published
February 2020
67 pages
This study evaluated the Maryland Department of Juvenile Services'(DJS) Accountability and Incentives Management (AIM) system, which was implemented to promote supervision compliance and completion, reduce rates of supervision violations and recidivism, prevent detention and committed placements resulting from supervision violations, decrease lengths of stay under supervision and in placement, and address racial disproportionality in detention and committed placements.
Supervision violations are a major contributing factor to the incarceration of young people in this country, particularly for youth of color. Graduated response systems, which use a range of sanctions and incentives to respond to youth behaviors without relying on confinement, constitute one approach to achieving accountability, fairness, and recidivism prevention in the juvenile justice system; however, very little research has assessed the effectiveness of these approaches with juvenile offenders under community supervision. The current study was a process evaluation of AIM's implementation in Maryland. The evaluation used a two-group, quasi-experimental design to assess youth outcomes, as well as a cost-savings analysis. The treatment group (or AIM group) included 1,983 adjudicated youths who started/completed probation or aftercare supervision with Maryland DJS between November 1, 2015 and October 31, 2017. Propensity score matching was used to create a statistically equivalent comparison group composed of youth who were supervised prior to AIM implementation (July 1, 2013 - June 30, 2015). Process analysis findings showed that 55 percent of youth under supervision received an AIM response, and youth were more likely to receive sanctions rather than incentives for reform. Virtually all case managers adhered to the range of sanctions recommended by the structured AIM grids. Moreover, responses were applied within approximately 3 days of the identified behavior. Outcome analyses indicated that youth supervised with AIM in place were significantly less likely than youth in the control group to have a violation of probation filed with the court, be placed in a committed residential placement, and commit an offense resulting in adjudication/conviction during supervision.The effects for AIM did not vary by race or supervision type. Further, AIM has not had a substantial impact on placement costs. Study limitations, policy implications, and areas for future research are discussed.

Date Published: February 1, 2020