Outcome measures for evaluating the effectiveness of juvenile justice programs

Caroline Spiranovic, HELEN COCKBURN, Lorana BARTELS, Roberta Julian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Within the ‘what works’ literature, recidivism is typically embraced as the sole or primary outcome measure of success for offender intervention programs. Often, no account is taken of other important measures for evaluating program success. As such, our understanding of what works is based largely on programs that have demonstrated effectiveness with respect to reduced recidivism rates. Focusing specifically on tertiary prevention approaches for juvenile offenders, this article argues that there are significant limitations in using rates of recidivism as the primary outcome measure of program success. Firstly, this article explores the importance generally of incorporating a comprehensive evaluative framework into program design. Secondly, the limitations of relying upon recidivism as the sole or primary outcome measure in program evaluation are outlined. Thirdly, this article briefly describes the Risk-Needs-Responsivity (RNR) model and the Good Lives model (GLM) as examples of models that can be used to inform the selection of appropriate outcome measures for program evaluation. Furthermore, this article then offers three examples of recent outcome evaluation studies which sought to determine the effectiveness of post-sentencing tertiary intervention programs for juvenile offenders using a broad range of indicators of success. Finally, the article suggests alternative outcome measures that might be usefully incorporated in future program design, as well as the monitoring and evaluation of existing programs.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)23-33
Number of pages11
JournalVictoria University Law and Justice Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2015


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