As a three-year (2017–2019) research project, the purpose of the study is to provide policy implications for the successful reentry of youth offenders by assessing the current juvenile correctional system and conducting empirical analyses with longitudinal data. During the first year of the project, we focused on evaluating the current juvenile justice system and programs, including the roles of juvenile justice institutions in terms of reentry, and we also surveyed on the perception and attitude of correctional officers and probationers toward juvenile reentry. During the second year of the project, we shifted our focus from the system to empirical analyses in order to understand better the changes in youth offenders' perception, attitude, and behavior during the process of reentry. Prior researchers tended to emphasize recidivism heavily as a measure of successful reentry and examined correlates of recidivism, while they did not pay enough attention to the process of reentry including positive and/or negative progress until recidivism. That is, prior research seemed to clarify the reentry of juvenile offenders from the perspective of criminal justice, instead of the youth welfare perspective, which provides us with an opportunity to understand the reentry issues from comprehensive approaches beyond recidivism. Therefore, the current study applies the youth welfare perspective to explain reentry issues. To this end, scholars from diverse research areas, such as criminology, sociology, psychology, and education worked together in analyzing data, explaining the results, and providing implications.
We start by collecting data of juvenile offenders at juvenile training schools with a panel data design to track their changes in perception, attitude, and behavior. Different from a panel design with people in a community, we require collaboration with officers at juvenile correctional facilities and at the juvenile justice division to get information on the juvenile inmates such as their disposition and starting/ending dates that influence the research design. In addition, as a comparison group, we collect data on juvenile offenders who get probation. For the first wave of the data, we conduct a survey with 533 juvenile inmates at residential facilities and 463 juvenile offenders on probation. First, we compare the inmate group with the probationers group in reentry factors (positive/negative changes in perception/emotion and behavior) and protective/risk factors of reentry (intra-/interpersonal factors and community factors), and second, we divide the whole sample into four groups (male inmates, female inmates, male probationers, female probationers) and compare their reentry factors and protective/risk factors of reentry. According to the results, the youth at residential facilities were worse in intra- and interpersonal factors among the protective/risk factors of reentry and also in reentry factors (both positive and negative factors). In particular, female inmates were the most vulnerable among the four groups. The results of regression analyses between protective/risk factors and reentry factors show that most protective and risk factors influenced the perception/emotion factors among the positive reentry factors, while parental attachment, religiosity, and moral belief affected the behavioral factors of positive reentry. Perception and emotion factors of negative reentry were influenced by self-control, strain, religiosity, moral belief, labeling, and community security level, while the behavioral factors of negative reentry were affected most by the protective and risk factors. In addition, we conducted network analyses to explore juvenile offenders' relationships with others. Compared with probationers, the results showed that juvenile inmates had stronger affiliations with friends than with adults. In addition, the type of relationship (e.g., relationship with friends or family members) influenced the network structure only for juvenile inmates but not for juvenile probationers.
When considering providing juvenile offenders with customized reentry programs to maximize the effectiveness of the programs, it is very important to determine if heterogeneous subgroups actually exist in both inmates and probationers groups, and if so, how many subgroups exist in each group. Using the protective/risk factors and reentry factors as well as the Youth Self-Report (a psychological assessment tool), we conducted latent profile analyses. According to the results, three subgroups appeared in both groups. The first group was named the stable group due to no symptoms of internalizing and externalizing problems; the second group was named the externalizing group due to symptoms of externalizing problems, while the last group was named the mixed-unstable group due to symptoms of both externalizing and internalizing problems. Among the juvenile inmates group, 46.2% were included in the externalizing group, 18.1% were in the stable group, and 35.7% were in the mixed-unstable group, while the probationers group was composed of 51.4% of the externalizing group, 37.6% of the stable group, and 9.9% of the mixed-unstable group. That is, there were more juveniles in the inmates group who exhibited symptoms of externalizing and internalizing problems than the probationers group. The results also showed that there were more juveniles who had symptoms of internalizing and externalizing problems among the probationers group than expected.
We also evaluated the effectiveness of the reentry program developed in the first year. To evaluate this program, juveniles at one male and one female residential facility participated in the program. Among the 30 juveniles, 15 were assigned to the experimental group who participated in the program, and the remaining 15 were assigned to the control group as a comparison group. Pre- and post-tests were used to examine the program effectiveness. We also conducted in-depth interviews with the youth in the experimental group, and the staff involved in the program and the program leaders. The effectiveness of the program was evaluated with two measures. The first was called measurement indicators, which included seven areas such as understanding myself, communication skills, social interactions, financial management skills, career preparation (academy and job), and collecting information of resources after reentry. The second was named major indicators, which included self-esteem, resilience, self-regulation, career efficacy, understanding reentry services in community, and satisfaction with the program. The results showed higher increase in psychosocial abilities (i.e., decrease in aggression, increase in both career efficacy and understanding reentry services in community) of the youth in the experimental group than those in the control group after controlling for the pre-scores of the indicators. In addition, the youth in the experimental group showed higher satisfaction with the program content than those in the control group. According to the results of the in-depth interviews, the youth involved in the program were quite satisfied with getting useful information on reentry, gaining a better understanding of themselves within their relationships with others, and preparing for the reentry step by step. These results imply that the program helps the youth develop psychosocial abilities.
Based on the results of the analyses aforementioned, we suggest the following. First of all, the juvenile correctional facilities should provide more intensive reentry services for female inmates, an individualized reentry program based on the youth's relationship with others, mental services for the youth with mental issues, and an intervention program focusing on recovering family strengths. Second, the juvenile probation office needs to reevaluate their classification system and reentry services and programs, and they also should work more closely with juvenile residential facilities to make the transition from residential facilities to probation and community smoother. Third, the juvenile justice system should pay more attention to juvenile offenders' reentry issues and provide more financial and human resources to develop and run evidence-based reentry programs.
Training School, Juvenile Offender