Recidivism monitoring program for juvenile delinquents in Western Australian treatment centres

Criminology Research Council grant ; (13/79)

In 1979 the Department for Community Welfare in Western Australia initiated a project known as the Recidivism Monitoring Program. It is an ongoing system of evaluation for the Department's three major training centres for juvenile delinquents and assesses their effectiveness in terms of offence reduction. Financial assistance towards the initial phase of the program was provided by the Criminology Research Council.

The program is a series of studies with each study incorporating all children admitted to the centres during a particular six-month period.

Offence related data for each person are collected for 180 days before and 180 days after the date of admission. In determining these 180 day periods only days when the individual is in the community and therefore in a position to commit offences are counted. On this basis data are available for analysis after about two and a half years.

The first study of the program has been completed. It has produced some interesting results in relation to both the overall level of effectiveness of the centres concerned and factors potentially associated with recidivism.

The first study involved a sample of 188 cases. There was a total of 868 offences after intervention compared with a total of 1872 offences before intervention, thus representing an overall reduction of 54 per cent. Of all offenders in the pre-intervention period 41 per cent did not offend at all in the post-intervention period. A similar proportion reduced the frequency of their offending. The Department has noted that these results are not consistent with any generalised view that juvenile institutions fail to reduce crime.

Amongst the other results of the study it was found that more frequent offenders responded as well as less frequent offenders, that Aboriginal children did as well as other children, that the number of previous admissions to an institution appeared to have no bearing on recidivism and that there was no clear trend favouring either younger or older children. On the other hand it was found that improvement appeared to be associated with increased stability of life style. All these conclusions will be subject to review as the results of further studies become available, but for the moment the Department has observed that the trends which have emerged run counter to some popularly held beliefs about juvenile recidivism.

The program is seen by the Department as having introduced a clear and consistent process of evaluation of institutionally based work at the centres concerned. It regards this as being important not only from the viewpoint of public accountability but also in relation to maintaining the ongoing effectiveness of its centres. The Australian Institute of Criminology is currently engaged in dialogue with the Department concerning the possibility of wider application of the concepts and methodology of the program, in response to interest shown by social welfare administrators in other States.