New Home Office research suggests one in four boys aged 14 to 17 could now be classified as a "prolific or serious offender" (but see link). Claire Nee and Tom Ellis at the University of Portsmouth tested the effectiveness of a new intervention for young offenders - the Persistent Young Offender Project.
The project involves one-to-one mentoring on anger management and group work on things like antisocial behaviour, problem solving, and interpersonal skills. There are also workshops on music, art and drama, as well as outdoor activities. The authors said a key novel feature of the intervention is "responsivity", to "constantly refine and change the level and types of individual intervention".
Nee and Ellis compared 41 young offenders aged seven to sixteen enrolled on the project, with 19 age and behaviourally-matched control participants. Of the 41 project participants, 40 were male, 36 had been excluded from school, half had thieved, a third had committed criminal damage or assault, and six had raped or committed indecent assault.
After six months, participants on the project were judged to be at significantly less risk of offending using an established inventory (the LSI-R). This showed more participation in organised activity, more engagement with education, including improved attitudes to authority figures at school, and improved attitudes to crime. In contrast, the offending risk of the control group had increased. Moreover, the project participants' police charges had dropped whereas the control participants' had risen.
"Now we know the Persistent Young Offender Project works, it now remains for us to establish why", the authors said.
Nee, C. & Ellis, T. (2005). Treating offending children: what works? Legal and Criminological Psychology, 10, 133-149.