The Youth Justice Intensive Support and Supervision Program (ISSP) is offered to high-risk, justice-involved youth as an alternative to custody or as a means of facilitating community re-entry after a period of custody. The aim of ISSP is to reduce recidivism by increasing supervision and supporting activities to reduce participants’ criminogenic needs. Research on similar programs has yielded mixed findings for reductions in recidivism, although the way programs are delivered appears to be a key factor influencing their effectiveness. For the current study, an evidence-based evaluation framework of best practices was developed for ISSP from the research literature on similar and general youth justice programs. File data for 176 ISSP participants were used to evaluate the program’s delivery against the best practice framework as well as ISSP’s program guidelines to determine how well the program was implemented and whether a better-implemented program led to better outcomes. A questionnaire study was also conducted with Youth Probation Officers. Adherence to individual program guidelines and best practices varied from 11% to 92% of youth, while the mean of overall best practices implemented was approximately 50%. An implementation composite of best practices was associated with marginal reductions in multiple recidivism outcomes and the positive relationships with intermediate targets such as school and employment outcomes approached significance. Moreover, the relationship between ISSP implementation and recidivism was strongest for younger, for Aboriginal, and for higher-risk participants. An index of level of engagement in ISSP also predicted reductions in recidivism in the year following ISSP. The quality of the ISSP documentation on the files limited the interpretation of the study findings. Several recommendations are offered to support and improve current practice.
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Thesis advisor: Roesch, Ronald
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