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Thesis (M.S.)—University of Nebraska—Lincoln, 1995. Department of Agricultural Education.


Copyright 1995, the author. Used by permission.


Characteristics of Four Cooperative Extension Juvenile Diversion Programs Leading to Reduced Recidivism and Change in Participant Behavior

Increases in youth crime and ineffective intervention techniques have led to a rising interest in alternative methods of dealing with juvenile delinquency, including juvenile diversion models. The purpose of this study was to identify characteristics of four Nebraska Cooperative Extension juvenile diversion programs which influence recidivism rates and change in participant behavior.

The study was qualitative in nature and was designed to collect data from three sources: participants, program organizers and the juvenile justice system. Interviews were conducted with thirty individuals, selected as being representative of the four programs of interest. Resultant data were categorized by characteristics identified as being critical to reaching program objectives. Recidivism rates were collected and compared to perceived program outcomes. Perceived change in youth behavior, parent behavior, and the parent/child relationship were treated as both dependent variables and as indicators of recidivism.

Recidivism rates of the four programs were 5.4%, 27.3%, 28.6% and an estimated 30%. Increased levels of parent/child interaction and improved relationship were consistent through three programs, while changes in youth behavior were not consistent outside of the program achieving the lowest recidivism rate. No significant changes in parent behavior were reported.

It was found that parental involvement, level of commitment from the county attorney, and existing alternatives for youth offenders are the program characteristics most likely to affect behavior change and recidivism. Other significant factors include level of collaboration in the community, long-term commitment from stakeholders, and program consistency. Experiential education methods were consistently rated as effective by participants.

In addition, all four Cooperative Extension juvenile diversion programs provided quality opportunities for improved family relationships and assisted in reducing stress on the juvenile justice system.

Advisor: F. William Brown