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Occupational engagement may be effective in reducing recidivism among juvenile offenders

1 January 2011


Young offenders present a number of challenges for rehabilitation specialists to address. These youth seem to benefit from a multi-faceted approach to treatment. Recidivism is a dangerous problem that inhibits health and wellness, and also creates a large spending expenditure for taxpayers. Using a treatment approach specifically designed for juvenile offenders, such as Project Back-on-Track, can be a helpful tool in reducing recidivism. This program is a short-term community based treatment program that utilizes a number of intervention types and topics applicable to this population, providing a means to be actively engaged in a variety of occupations. The research on using activity and occupational engagement to reduce recidivism amongst juvenile offenders seems favourable, but more research is needed to identify which occupations may be most effective in using as treatment with this population.
How does occupational engagement affect recidivism among juvenile offenders?

Juvenile delinquency is a multi-faceted dilemma. In the United States there were over 6,300 arrests per 100,000 youths in 2008 (US Department of Justice, 2009). Recidivism rates vary substantially geographically. The US Department of Justice (2006) estimated the average rearrest rate amongst the states of Florida, New York, and Virginia to be 55%. Other states show much lower rates; in the same year, re-incarceration of juveniles in Arkansas, Montana, and New Mexico was estimated to be an average of only 12% (p. 234).

Juvenile crime may be attributed to a number of factors and circumstances. A number of juvenile offenders cite boredom as a leading factor in prompting their illegal behavior. Factors that have been identified to be helpful in protecting individuals from juvenile delinquency include strong family support, involvement in positive social activities, school involvement, and feelings of accountability (US Department of Health and Human Services, 2008). It seems reasonable to expect that treatment interventions promoting participation in positive occupations would be useful in decreasing recidivism amongst juvenile offenders; however, research in this area is limited. This creates an excellent opportunity for occupational therapists to use their expertise in the therapeutic use of occupation to address rehabilitation of this population.


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