NEW SOFTWARE HELPS WASHINGTON'S JUVENILE COURTS GET "Back on Track"
Delia, Harold, Corrections Today
In 1998, the Washington State Juvenile Court Administrators Association (WAJCA) decided to develop and implement a computerized risk-assessment and classification system for county juvenile justice operations. Utilizing a risk-assessment tool reserached and developed by the Washington State Institute for Public Policy (WSIPP), WAJCA contracted with Allvest Information Services Inc. (Allvest), a private company that manages technology for human services, to develop the software application, install and implement it statewide, and provide a comprehensive staff training program that focused on the theory and application of the assessment tool and centralized database system.
Installation of the Back on Track! software system began in July 1998. Since then, Washington counties have used it to help assess the recidivism risk for all juveniles entering their respective systems and to make dispositional recommendations to the courts. More than a year after its implementation, WAJCA evaluated the overall effectiveness of the new system and declared it a success. As a result, WAJCA again is partnering with Allvest to enhance the overall utility and capability of the software, adding a comprehensive case study component to track each youth's treatment and progress.
Case Study Background
In 1996, the combined operations of WAJCA provided services to more than 57,000 youths. Although WAJCA had served these juvenile offenders and their communities for many years, it was generally felt by those in the organization that WAJCA needed to take advantage of emerging technology in order to standardize its services and develop a systemwide approach to its operations, i.e., specifying appropriate disposition, administering effective case management and determining outcome measurement.
In order to make the best use of its resources and to achieve reliable outcome measurement data, it was necessary to implement a standardized system throughout the WAJCA network in Washington. Without such a system, it would have been impossible to make accurate recommendations to the court regarding dispositions, sanctions and intervention alternatives for each youth, providing the degree of case management focus and reduction of the risk to re-offend that is now demanded.
WAJCA decided that, to be successful, its system had to be created with four critical elements: a research-validated risk-assessment tool with both risk and protective factors; comprehensive training programs for WAJCA administrators and staff in the theory and application of this tool; a customized software and database system matched to the use and application of the risk-assessment tool; and a process by which line staff could provide feedback.
Goals and Objectives
To implement this project, WAJCA contracted with Allvest to develop the software tool and manage program installation and training in collaboration with WAJCA members and WSIPP. A special committee of WAJCA acted as the project advisory board and oversaw all activities. The collective goal was to create an effective system that combined local and state efforts to resolve the problems described above. Specifically, WAJCA hoped to positively impact public safety and system accountability through the implementation of its system and to assist court, law enforcement and treatment professionals working with juvenile offenders to identify and reduce each youth's level of risk for re-offending. To achieve these goals, the following objectives were outlined:
* Determine the level of risk posed by youths in contact with the juvenile court system.
* Identify the targets of intervention. This includes a thorough assessment of risk factors that have been consistently linked to criminal behavior, as well as protective and competency factors related to pro-social development.
* Develop a case management plan focused on intervention strategies that are linked to reductions in future criminal behavior. …