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Reducing Juvenile Recidivism with CBT and Cell Phone Technology

According to a recent study published in the International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) supplemented with cell phone technology may help reduce juvenile recidivism. The juvenile correctional system in the U.S. struggles to implement effective interventions for keeping supervised juveniles from re-committing crimes. Although research indicates support for CBT programs in decreasing recidivism, evidence-based programs have not been adequately incorporated into treatment.

Authors of the current study aimed to provide an appealing alternative for CBT treatment by using innovative cell phone technology. A total of 70 juvenile offenders from Utah were recruited by their probation officers. They were assigned to either the control group or one of two experimental groups, receiving CBT only, or CBT with cell-phone reinforcement. Cognitive behavior training consisted of six 90-minute interactive classes that used the Control Model, a method designed to teach juveniles to examine how their behaviors are influenced by their beliefs. The cell-phone reinforcement intervention involved daily phone calls with recordings from significant others to provide support for the participants and encourage them to reflect on their progress toward behavioral change.

A year after treatment ended, researchers conducted a follow-up study. They found significant effects that not only supported previous findings for the use of CBT, but also additional benefits of cell-phone technology. Perhaps the most important finding was that both experimental groups abstained from crime much longer than the control group: the median days to arrest was 106 for the control group, 191 for the class-only group, and 278 for the class plus cell phone group. There was also a significant intervention effect for total arrests: the experimental groups were about 51% lower in total arrests than the control group. Overall, these results indicate that CBT is effective for reducing juvenile recidivism. Further, the use of cell-phones may enhance treatment by providing a cost-effective method for reinforced learning and supplemental aftercare.

Burraston, B.O., Cherrington, D.J., & Bahr, S.J. (2012). Reducing juvenile recidivism with cognitive training and cell phone follow-up: An evaluation of the RealVictory program. International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, 56(1), 61-80.

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