Attendance Model and Reintegration Support Program

The Attendance Model and Reintegration Support Program (AMRSP) was a community-based program that aimed to rehabilitate youth in conflict with the law and reintegrate them into mainstream society through non-custodial sanctions. The AMRSP was designed to address the specific risks and needs associated with juvenile offenders. The program strove to modify behaviour through a mix of group and individual activities.

The AMRSP was run by the John Howard Society of Ottawa. The program targeted moderate- to high-risk offenders aged 12 to 17. Most were referred to the program by probation officials, although the police also provided some referrals. The AMRSP served as an alternative to open custody, as a means for youths released from custody dispositions to reintegrate into the community and as a programming service for those sentenced to probation. The United Way and the Department of Justice Canada funded the program.

The program followed a rigid structure of three phases. The first phase focused on needs assessment and action planning, resulting in an initial case plan for each participant. During the second phase, participants were assessed for treatment readiness and worked with staff to develop case plans. The third phase involved individual and group treatment based largely on cognitive behaviour modification. For the group sessions, AMRSP staff used a modified version of counterpoint; an approach to treatment that has proven effective for adult offenders.

Participants typically attended two 90-minute sessions per week. These sessions were based on the participants’ specific needs. Program staff often spent additional time with participants to help them address day-to-day challenges, such as securing housing and completing applications for jobs and government financial assistance.

Project assessment

Robert Hoge, a Carleton University psychologist who has written several books about the assessment of young  offenders, conducted the evaluation of the project. The process involved interviews (both face-to-face and online) with key personnel (including caseworkers) and reviews of assessment forms, policy and procedure manuals, and other program collateral. Dr. Hoge also attended two group-treatment sessions.

The assessment focused on 77 cases admitted to the program during the 2003-2004 fiscal year. Of these participants, 89 percent were males aged 12 to 17 years. Most had been admitted following a probation order for a violent offence: 60 percent of participants had been convicted of assault, threat of assault or robbery.

Key findings

The data indicated that the program had a positive effect on the levels of risk and need associated with young offenders. Of particular significance is evidence of improvements in social attitudes and associations with peers — both widely considered to be major predictors of future criminality among youth. The key measurement tool used was the Youth Level of Service/Case Management Inventory (YLS/CMI), a standardized measure of risks and needs associated with criminal behaviour.

Program staff calculated YLS/CMI risk/need scores for participants upon entry and then again when they completed or abandoned the program. Risk/need scores decreased in 74 percent of all cases.

Lessons learned

  • Additional individual counselling, along with greater involvement of parents and other family members, would lead to better outcomes.
  • Given that no follow-up data about participants was collected, it is impossible to determine the program’s long-term impacts.

Conclusion

The AMRSP was a carefully planned and well executed community-based program for moderate- to high-risk/need juvenile offenders. The program delivered effective services to more than 70 young offenders.

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