As a cost-effective, comprehensive alternative to prosecution, SHORTSTOP utilizes effective, science-based models for reducing delinquency among youth. The program incorporates a strong restorative justice plan, which makes for a highly effective diversion program. SHORTSTOP teaches youth offenders to take responsibility for their actions through decision-making strategies designed to result in positive future choices.
SHORTSTOP breaks the cycle that turns young people into repeat offenders by using three simple concepts: 1) reach youth early; 2) involve the parents; and 3) use a graphic courtroom setting with legal professionals and parolees. Additionally, through linkages with community partnerships, SHORTSTOP provides comprehensive wraparound services. SHORTSTOP is part of a system reform approach that collaborates with key justice stakeholders on Juvenile Detention Alternative Initiative efforts in Orange County.
The overwhelming success of SHORTSTOP is largely due to the fact that we incorporate families into our program services. Services are provided in both English and Spanish by bilingual, bicultural staff, and focus on increasing protective factors for at-risk youth, including self-control, peer refusal skills, parental monitoring, school bonding, academic competence, strong neighborhood attachment, and participation in prosocial activities.
Activities include providing youth and families with:
- A one-hour clinical intake assessment, as needed
- Two four-hour program sessions
- Case management and referral services, as needed
When kids come to SHORTSTOP, they commit to two sessions of life lessons and tough questions. Program sessions are held in a courtroom and attended by both youth and parents. Here, youth are introduced to the stark reality of the juvenile justice system. They visit a holding cell, listen to volunteers on parole, and simulate appearing in front of a judge. Services focus on legal education, as well as the themes of gang awareness, substance abuse prevention, conflict resolution, and personal accountability.
Another critical part of SHORTSTOP is what happens at home. Mandatory homework assignments include:
- reading decision making and legal education materials
- writing essays (example: how much their city pays to scrub out graffiti)
- interviewing a working professional in the community (to encourage youth to explore future career paths and focus on positive life choices)
- multiple writing and goal setting assignments
- family communications exercises
In addition, an individualized restorative justice plan is created for each youth that requires financial restitution, victim apology letters, and
community service hours. On average, each of our youth completes 21 hours of community service hours during the course of the program. If needed, youth and families receive case management services to link them to partner agencies that provide additional mental health, substance abuse, and other wraparound services.
Recidivism studies of juveniles who participated in Project Youth OCBF’s diversion programs (SHORTSTOP, Programa SHORTSTOP, and STOP SHORT of Addiction – English and Spanish versions) prove that the programs work to keep youth from further involvement in the criminal justice system. The basis for these studies is to determine if the youth we serve are referred to probation for a new law violation within a year of completing our programs.
Tracking approximately 961 youth for a year, results from a 2012-2014 Recidivism Study showed that youth who pass Project Youth diversion programs are less likely to have a referral to probation in the year following their program completion than youth who fail the program. One-year referral rates for these program completers averaged 7%. By contrast, the one-year referral rates for the program failures averaged 25%.
These results continue to underscore Project Youth’s positive outcomes with the at-risk youth who successfully complete Project Youth’s early intervention programs.