Utah’s RealVictory Program is a two-part juvenile reentry initiative that combines cognitive behavioral training with an innovative cell phone based coaching and follow up service. It is a small program that has excelled through strategic partnerships despite limited capital investment. The program used a small $20,000 training grant from the Utah Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice to expand services, evaluate its effectiveness and lower the recidivism rate of its participants by 40 percent.
"Often a small infusion of state or federal grant funding will seed an innovative new program that eventually takes root, leading to a wider range of service options," explains Ron Gordon the executive director of the UT Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice about his agency’s role in funding RealVictory.
The RealVictory Program
RealVictory is a two-step program designed to reduce recidivism. Originally designed to be used with medium to high risk youth (as identified by the statewide assessment tool), the intervention begins with a six session training course that fuses elements of cognitive transformation theory with the life course theory of change to help juveniles (awaiting release or beginning supervision) enhance pro-social thinking, understand how behaviors relate to consequences and identify and practice effective interpersonal and decision making skills. During these sessions the juvenile and their family are engaged to understand the youth’s specific risk and protective factors. Once the youth has begun to understand the social, behavioral and cognitive triggers that have historically gotten them in trouble, they develop an individualized plan for behavioral change. This plan, made in conjunction with probation officers (trained in the treatment modality), is then used to define short, medium and long term goals for a yearlong cell phone coaching program.
The cellphone coaching element of the RealVictory Program is designed to monitor change and positively reinforce progress towards each participant’s individual cognitive/behavioral change plan. The yearlong after care program involves 1-3 daily follow up calls designed to monitor progress toward short and long term goals. How the youth answers specific questions determines the type of encouragement/feedback he or she receives. This encouragement comes in the form of pre-recorded voicemails from friends, family and other involved adults. This phone check-in is a requirement of release and the data collected on the youth’s perception of their progress is mapped for future follow up. The cell phone coaching program continues for a year and progress is tracked and reviewed by both probation staff and research staff from Brigham Young University.
Measuring Successes: Proof of Concept
Thanks to partnerships between RealVictory Inc., The Fourth District Juvenile Court, the Department of Juvenile Justice Services (JJS), Brigham Young University (BYU), the University of Utah and Cricket Communications; the RealVictory Program began working with youth and tracking their progress in 2005. With each partner providing free, at cost, or in-kind resources, the program was able to provide services and begin collecting the data necessary to establish empirical evidence of effectiveness. A small $20,000 state juvenile justice grant in 2008 supported an expansion of services and anacademic evaluation. The evaluation although not a randomized controlled trial, due to limitations placed upon the researchers by the court, used a strong matching methodology to evaluate outcomes for 70 juvenile offenders.
Key results include:
51 percent fewer arrests for treatment participants
Participating youth were able to avoid re-arrest at much higher rates (278 days vs. 106 for control group)
46 percent of participants were never rearrested
Participants were 4.8 times more likely to never be rearrested
A 40 percent reduction in recidivism
Due to strong evaluation results, the program has expanded from working with youth in Utah’s Fourth District Juvenile Court, to working in four of the state’s five JJS secure juvenile facilities. In addition to the expansion, the program has also received positive feedback from probation officers who now have an additional tool that promotes personal accountability and positive youth development.
Partnering For Success
Since its establishment in 2004, the RealVictory program has developed numerous strategic partners who have not only bought into the program itself but the theoretical underpinnings around behavioral change. These partnerships include free research services from BYU and The University of Utah, free cell phones and service from Cricket Communications and free and at-cost training and implementation assistance from RealVictory Inc. Thanks to these partnerships the RealVictory Program has been able to move quickly from theory to practice with proven effectiveness. Moving forward this partnership hopes to expand their services throughout the state and transition the model into the adult population.
To learn more about the RealVictory Program click here.