OMAHA – Two new reports from the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) are highlighting the success of state-wide initiatives designed to keep Nebraska youth out of the criminal justice system.
The reports, which were released recently by UNO’s Juvenile Justice Institute (JJI), indicate that youth who complete juvenile diversion programs and truancy programs are showing positive results with regards to committing future law violations and school attendance, respectively.
However, obtaining that data isn’t easy, said Anne Hobbes, director of the Institute.
“Determining whether youth have committed a new law violation is a complicated process,” she said. “The researcher must get court approval to access sealed records. To my knowledge, this is the first time recidivism has been thoroughly examined in juveniles in Nebraska.”
In “Nebraska Juvenile Diversion Programs: 2012-2015,” the study's authors found that while just 61 percent of those juveniles recommended for diversion are successful in avoiding the court process, once a youth enrolls in a diversion program, that numbers jumps to 72 percent.
Lindsey Wylie, director of research for JJI, says that this data is important because similar reports on a national level have been inconclusive on the value of recidivism programming.
“Previous research that has examined juvenile diversion has been mixed. Some studies find positive effects on recidivism, while others have found no effect. Although this study does not compare youth in diversion to traditional court-processing, it does give us a baseline so we can compare recidivism rates across programs and institutions in Nebraska”
The other report, “Nebraska Truancy and Absenteeism Programs: 2015 to 2016,” highlights that of the 21 community-funded programs that provided data, 19 showed some sort of measurable improvement in school attendance after working with youth that were deemed at risk.
Analysis showed that just over 1,200 students were enrolled in some sort of truancy program from July 2015 through June 2016, and of the 821 cases that could be calculated, there was a nearly 2.5 percent drop in excused absences and a 5.5 percent drop in unexcused absences.
Wylie said that the data collected is particularly important given that very few studies have analyzed programs that provide direct intervention as a way to try and curb truancy.
“This data tells us that something is working when programs hold youth and families accountable for attending school across the state,” she explained. “What we know less about, however, are whether there are specific interventions that work best for certain absenteeism reasons, for example, medical;, drug or alcohol abuse; or bullying. Our next step is to more specifically examine which interventions are most effective.”
A full version of both studies can be found at the JJI website.
The studies are part of Evidence-Based Nebraska, a collaboration between the JJI; UNO’s College of Information Science and Technology; and the Nebraska Crime Commission, a legislatively-mandated project focusing on youth programs funded by Community-based Juvenile Services Aid funding.
As part of the partnership, which launched in 2014, the Juvenile Justice Institute is tasked with creating a secure Juvenile Case Management System to house program data and then evaluate that date to determine programmatic effectiveness and recommendations to achieve program goals.
In total, JJI works with 237 programs across the state of Nebraska that are focused on keeping youth out of the criminal justice system.
JJI was founded in 2002 and has assisted lawmakers, stakeholders and practitioners by providing expertise in evidence-based practices and by helping to identify and implement effective programs serving youth across Nebraska.
In 2016, the National Center for Juvenile Justice highlighted UNO's JJI as one of three state-wide entities, across the nation, that are helping achieve high standards for research and implementation of evidence-based practices.
“It is an honor to be recognized as one of the national leaders for doing work that helps Nebraska’s youth,” Hobbs said.
For media inquiries, please contact Charley Reed, UNO Associate Director of Media Relations, at 402.554.2129 or email@example.com.
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