Reducing Recidivism and Improving Outcomes for Youth in the Juvenile Justice System

Core Principles for Reducing Recidivism and Improving Other Outcomes for Youth in the Juvenile Justice System

This white paper was written to guide leaders across all branches of government; juvenile justice system administrators, managers, and front-line staff; and researchers, advocates, and other stakeholders on how to better leverage existing research and resources to facilitate system improvements that reduce recidivism and improve other outcomes for youth involved in the juvenile justice system. The focus of the white paper is to promote what works to support successful reentry for youth who are under juvenile justice system supervision. To help advance this goal, this white paper does the following:

  • Part One distills and synthesizes the research on what works to reduce recidivism and improve outcomes for youth in the juvenile justice system into four core principles. The discussion of each principle includes the latest research supporting the importance of the principle accompanied by specific policy, practice, and resource-allocation recommendations, which when taken together, offers the potential for significant recidivism reductions and improvements in other youth outcomes. It also provides examples illustrating how state and local juvenile justice officials have established particular policies and system interventions to implement these principles.
  • Recognizing that improved outcomes are possible only when research on what works is implemented with fidelity, Part Two details lessons learned from research and practice on how to implement the principles effectively, and provides examples of how state and local juvenile justice systems have operationalized the principles in practice.

To read the full white paper, click here.

To read the executive summary, click here.

For more information on the Juvenile Justice Project, click here.

The Council of State Governments Justice Center prepared this paper with support from, and in partnership with:

Sponsored by and with guidance from:


This paper is the result of a collaborative effort involving juvenile justice experts, practitioners, and advocates from across the country. It draws on an extensive review of the literature and related research, observations from the field, feedback from national experts, several multidisciplinary forums and advisory group discussions, and a rigorous review process. Although the individuals involved in every aspect of the project are too numerous to thank, the authors hope they see their efforts reflected in this paper.

This report could not have been developed without the esteemed expertise and contributions of Shay Bilchik, Dr. Mark Lipsey, Ned Loughran, Dr. Brian Lovins, and Dr. Gina Vincent. Special thanks to Carrie Rae Boatman and the staff at the Annie E. Casey Foundation for their careful review and insight into the draft. This report would also not have been possible without the support and leadership of Administrator Robert Listenbee, Jr., Kellie Dressler and the staff at the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

CSG Justice Center staff also had the opportunity to visit with several state and local juvenile justice systems to better understand the implementation of effective juvenile justice policies, practices, and programs. Special thanks to our hosts, who generously donated their own and their staff’s time to meeting with us to discuss their reforms and lessons learned: Phyllis Becker, Missouri Division of Youth Services; Susan Burke, Utah Division of Juvenile Justice Services; Kelly Clement, Louisiana Office of Juvenile Justice; Fariborz Pakseresht and Shannon Myrick, Oregon Youth Authority; James Anderson and Keith Snyder, Juvenile Court Judges’ Commission, Pennsylvania Judicial Center; and Bruce Knutson and Marcus Stubblefield, King County, Washington Juvenile Court.

Finally, a group of advisors and partners generously gave their time and expertise to the whitepaper and deserve recognition:

  • Nancy Arrigona, Research Director, Texas Juvenile Justice Department
  • Susan Burke, Director, Utah Division of Juvenile Justice Services
  • Joe Cocozza, Ph.D., Vice President for Research, Policy Research Associates; Director, National Center for Mental Health and Juvenile Justice
  • Kay Farley, Executive Director of Government Relations, National Center for State Courts
  • Mike Griffiths, Executive Director, Texas Juvenile Justice Department
  • Peggy Jessel, Chief Deputy District Attorney, Juvenile Division, 20th Judicial District, Boulder District Attorney’s Office
  • Ryan King, Research Director, The Pew Charitable Trusts’ Public Safety Performance Project
  • Barry Mahoney, President Emeritus, Justice Management Institute
  • Katayoon Majd, Program Officer for Juvenile Justice, Public Welfare Foundation
  • Shawn Marsh, Ph.D., Chief Program Officer, Juvenile Law, National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges
  • Judge Orlando Prescott, Chief Judge of the Juvenile Division of the 11th Circuit Court, Miami-Dade, Florida
  • Maureen Sheeran, Chief Program Officer for Family Violence and Domestic Relations, National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges
  • Melissa Sickmund, Ph.D., Director, National Center for Juvenile Justice
  • Tom Stickrath, Chair, CSG Justice Center Board of Directors, Superintendent, Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation, Office of the Ohio Attorney General
  • Carl Wicklund, Executive Director, American Probation and Parole Association

The authors also thank the many in-house experts at the CSG Justice Center who offered critical perspectives that made the publication a stronger and more useful document for the juvenile justice field. Special thanks go to Karen Watts and Liam Julian for their editorial counsel.