Program Goals/Target Population
Operation New Hope (formerly Lifeskills ’95) is a curriculum-based aftercare treatment program designed to assist chronic, high-risk juvenile offenders in their reintegration to the community after they are released from secure confinement. The program reinforces small successes while addressing the chronic offender’s fears of the real world. The program is designed to treat improperly socialized juvenile offenders by using a series of lifestyle and life skill treatment modalities in an integrated educational approach to healthy decision-making.
The program is grounded in the dynamics of William Glasser’s (1965) “reality therapy” approach. The approach used by the curriculum is based on six programmatic principles believed to help with reintegration:
- Improve the basic socialization skills necessary for successful reintegration into the community.
- Significantly reduce criminal activity in terms of amount and seriousness.
- Alleviate the need for or dependence on alcohol or illicit drugs.
- Improve overall lifestyle choices (social, education, job training, and employment).
- Reduce the individual’s need for gang participation and affiliation as a support mechanism.
- Reduce the high rate of short-term parole revocations.
These principles address the behavioral antecedents believed to be most responsible for failure to reintegrate. A juvenile’s inability to function and adapt to the norms of society is seen as a lifelong problem attributable to the early family socialization process and exacerbated by poor school performance, alcohol and/or illicit drug use, and strong attachments to negative peer groups (Josi and Sechrest 1999).
The treatment consists of 39 hours of programming completed over 13 consecutive weekly meetings that concentrate on different coping skills. There are 13 primary and 29 secondary program treatment topics. The 13 primary topics are 1) Program Introduction, 2) The “Pit”—Dealing With Your Emotions, 3) Unmanageability, 4) Denial, 5) The Problem of Thinking You Can Do It Alone, 6) “Letting Go,” 7) Perceptions, 8) Expectations, 9) Reality, 10) Love, 11) Family Dynamics, 12) Living With Addiction, and 13) Continuous Practice. Each session lasts approximately 3 hours. The first half of each session is used for lectures, while the last half of each session is used for group discussion.
Participants may begin the program during any point in the curriculum. Participation in a given session does not depend on attending the previous session for understanding, nor for progressing through the program.
Operation New Hope also operates a youth training program for at-risk youth age 17 to 21 years old. Before employment placement, staff conduct preemployment skills training and workshops that include topics such as interviewing, grooming, and educational/vocational requirements. The program is run in partnership with the County of San Bernardino (Calif.) Workforce Investment Board. Operation New Hope, in partnership with John Muir Charter School, also provides academic services to help youths attain their high school diplomas or GEDs. However, the effects of these portions of the program have not been evaluated.
16 to 22
At the end of the evaluation period, Josi and Sechrest (1999) found that there were significantly more control group parolees who were unsuccessful in their parole attempt, compared with experimental group parolees who participated in Operation New Hope. Fifty-three percent of the control group (61 of the 115 parolees) was unsuccessful at parole, compared with 35 percent of the experimental group (37 of the 106 parolees).
The experimental group was also significantly less likely to have been arrested. At the end of the evaluation period, 32.1 percent of the experimental group parolees had been arrested one or more times, compared with 53.9 percent of the control group.
The experimental group was significantly less likely to use drugs or alcohol. At the end of the evaluation period, none of the parolees in the experimental group were classified as daily users, compared with 19.4 percent of the control group. Nineteen percent of the experimental group occasionally used drugs, compared with 32.0 percent of the control group. The majority of the experimental group parolees (81 percent) had no drug use during the evaluation period, compared with fewer than half (48.5 percent) of the control group.
At the end of the evaluation, experimental group parolees were significantly more likely to be employed (full or part time) and to be enrolled in school, compared with control group parolees. Among the 65 parolees in the experimental group who had been successful on parole at the end of the evaluation period, 46.2 percent were employed full or part time, and 6.6 percent were enrolled in school or vocational training. Among the 52 parolees in the control group who had been successful on parole at the end of the evaluation period, only 26.1 percent were employed full or part time, and 5.2 percent were enrolled in school or vocational training. Please note: The employment outcomes included only parolees who had been successful on parole at the end of the evaluation period; the outcomes did not include parolees who had been unsuccessful on parole.
The experimental group displayed significantly greater improvements in social behavior, compared with the control group, as measured through negative peer associations and family relationships. Sixty-seven percent of the experimental group reported having no contact with former gang associates, compared with 45.2 percent of the control group. Approximately 43 percent of the experimental group reported few, if any, associations with negative peers, compared with 26.1 percent of the control group. Finally, 67.0 percent of the experimental group reported stable relationships with family members, compared with 51.3 percent of the control group.