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Prior to 2006, meta-analytic studies1 concluded that JDTCs
reduced delinquency by an average of only about 3 to 5 percent greater
than comparison programs, such as juvenile probation (Aos et al., 2006;
Shaffer, 2006; Wilson et al., 2006). Although marginally statistically
significant, this difference is small in magnitude. Fortunately, newer
findings are more encouraging, which suggests the programs may be
getting better at their operations with increasing experience.

A recent large-scale study in Utah found that participants in four
JDTCs (n = 622) recidivated at a significantly lower rate than a matched
comparison sample of juvenile drug-involved probationers (n =596)
(Hickert et al., 2010). At 30 months post-entry, 34% of the JDTC
participants had been re-arrested for a new juvenile or adult offense,
as compared to 48% of the probationers (p < .05). In addition, the
average time-delay before the first new arrest was approximately a full
year later for the JDTC participants (p < .05). Similarly, a
multi-site study in Ohio found that JDTC participants (n = 310) were
significantly less likely than matched juvenile probationers (n = 134)
to be arrested for a new offense at 28 months post-entry (56% v. 75%, p
< .05) (Shaffer et al., 2008).

The most reliable findings come from experimental studies, in which
participants are randomly assigned to different treatment conditions
(e.g., Heck, 2006; Marlowe, 2009). In a well-controlled experiment,
Henggeler et al. (2006) randomly assigned juvenile drug-involved
offenders (n = approximately 30 per group) to traditional family court
services, JDTC, or JDTC enhanced with additional evidence-based
treatments.2 The results revealed significantly lower rates
of substance use and delinquency for the JDTC participants as compared
to the family court, and the effects were further increased through the
addition of the evidence-based treatments. This study provides strong
scientific support for the potential effectiveness of JDTCs in reducing
substance use and delinquency.

1Meta-analysis is
an advanced statistical procedure that yields a conservative and
rigorous estimate of the average effects of an intervention. It involves
systematically reviewing the research literature, selecting out only
those studies that are scientifically defensible according to
standardized criteria, and then statistically averaging the effects of
the intervention across the good-quality studies (e.g., Lipsey &
Wilson, 2002).

2The enhanced
evidence-based treatments were Multi-Systemic Therapy (MST) and
contingency management (CM), alone and in combination. MST is a
manualized intervention that trains parents, teachers and other
caregivers to assist in managing the juvenile’s behavior. CM involves
providing gradually escalating payment vouchers for drug-negative urine
specimens and other positive achievements.

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