NEW SOFTWARE HELPS WASHINGTON'S JUVENILE COURTS GET "Back on Track".

Author:DELIA, HAROLD
 
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In 1998, the Washington State Juvenile Court Administrators Association (WAJCA) decided to develop and implement a computerized risk-assessment and classification system for county juvenile justice operations. Utilizing a risk-assessment tool reserached and developed by the Washington State Institute for Public Policy (WSIPP), WAJCA contracted with Allvest Information Services Inc. (Allvest), a private company that manages technology for human services, to develop the software application, install and implement it statewide, and provide a comprehensive staff training program that focused on the theory and application of the assessment tool and centralized database system.

Installation of the Back on Track! software system began in July 1998. Since then, Washington counties have used it to help assess the recidivism risk for all juveniles entering their respective systems and to make dispositional recommendations to the courts. More than a year after its implementation, WAJCA evaluated the overall effectiveness of the new system and declared it a success. As a result, WAJCA again is partnering with Allvest to enhance the overall utility and capability of the software, adding a comprehensive case study component to track each youth's treatment and progress.

Case Study Background

In 1996, the combined operations of WAJCA provided services to more than 57,000 youths. Although WAJCA had served these juvenile offenders and their communities for many years, it was generally felt by those in the organization that WAJCA needed to take advantage of emerging technology in order to standardize its services and develop a systemwide approach to its operations, i.e., specifying appropriate disposition, administering effective case management and determining outcome measurement.

In order to make the best use of its resources and to achieve reliable outcome measurement data, it was necessary to implement a standardized system throughout the WAJCA network in Washington. Without such a system, it would have been impossible to make accurate recommendations to the court regarding dispositions, sanctions and intervention alternatives for each youth, providing the degree of case management focus and reduction of the risk to re-offend that is now demanded.

WAJCA decided that, to be successful, its system had to be created with four critical elements: a research-validated risk-assessment tool with both risk and protective factors; comprehensive training programs...

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