Evaluation of Florida's Avon Park Youth Academy and STREET Smart Program, 2002-2008 (ICPSR 37111)

Version Date: Sep 7, 2018 View help for published

Principal Investigator(s): View help for Principal Investigator(s)
Robert DeComo, National Council on Crime and Delinquency; Tim Matthews, Eastern Kentucky University


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The Evaluation of Florida's Avon Park Youth Academy and STREET Smart Program, 2002-2008 contains data gathered on youth involved in programs which aim to increase educational outcomes, increase labor force participation, and reduce recidivism.

Avon Park Youth Academy (APYA) is a secure custody residential facility that provides specialized, remedial education and intensive vocational training to moderate risk youth committed to the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ). The STREET Smart program (SS) was the reentry component of the program, which provided community support and educational and vocational services to APYA participants on a voluntary basis after their release to the community. In the last several years, APYA/SS has received national and international recognition as a "Promising Program" for juvenile offenders. Both the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) and the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) determined that a rigorous evaluation was required to assess whether APYA/SS could progress from a "Promising Program" to an "Evidence-based Practice."

To conduct this evaluation, the National Council on Crime and Delinquency (NCCD) designed and conducted a field trial that randomly assigned youth committed to DJJ to the APYA/SS program or a control group. This experimental design permitted a rigorous test of the hypothesis that compared to the control group, APYA/SS participants would demonstrate more positive educational achievement, increased labor force participation, and reduced recidivism outcomes after community release.

The 360 youth assigned to the experimental control group stayed at APYA for an average of 9.7 months from 2002-2005. Of these, 301 youth completed participation in the SS program by March 2006. The youth were observed for a three-year period after their community release dates. This included an interview following release from incarceration to collect data on educational achievements, employment, and justice system program experiences. All subjects had reached the 36-month follow-up threshold as of May 2008.

DeComo, Robert, and Matthews, Tim. Evaluation of Florida’s Avon Park Youth Academy and STREET Smart Program, 2002-2008. Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2018-09-07. https://doi.org/10.3886/ICPSR37111.v1

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United States Department of Justice. Office of Justice Programs. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (2005-JK-FX-0010)


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Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research

2002 -- 2008
2006-05 -- 2008-03

The purpose of this study is to evaluate the effectiveness of the Avon Park Youth Academy and the STREET Smart Program at increasing educational attainment, increasing labor force participation, and reducing recidivism rates among juvenile offenders.

The post-release subject interviews combined telephone and face-to-face interviewing techniques to minimize costs and reduce the attrition rate. A subject tracking and interview schedule was constructed based on a standardized follow-up period of 44-48 months (a four-month window) from the time of random assignment. Respondents were asked to identify and evaluate vocational services they received during residential placements and aftercare and report criminal behavior and arrests after their release.

Random assignment procedures were successfully implemented. Assignment produced a sufficient sample size (369 experimental and 345 control youth) to detect relatively modest treatment effects, and the experimental (APYA) and control groups were equivalent in terms of critical pre-assignment characteristics including criminal history and demographics.

Following random assignment, control group youth were placed in one of 49 DJJ residential programs located across the state. While these programs varied widely by program type, they all included some educational and/or vocational training components. The average length of residential stay was 8.5 months. Control group youth were not eligible for SS after community release, but they did receive reentry services typically available to DJJ clients. Findings for the study are based on an intent-to-treat (ITT) analysis of all randomly assigned subjects (369 experimental and 345 control youth).

Longitudinal: Panel: Interval

To be eligible for this study, youth had to meet the following criteria:

  • Be between 16 years old and 18 years, three months;
  • Be moderate risk level;
  • Have an IQ of at least 70;
  • Demonstrate a need for or interest in vocational training and/or have the ability to pass the GED;
  • Be free of significant mental health diagnosis and/or psychotropic medication;
  • Not have a significant substance abuse problem (i.e., not recommended for residential substance abuse treatment) nor any history of inhalant abuse;
  • Not have a history of escape from residential placement or absconding from supervision;
  • Not have a history of aggressive behavior;
  • Not have any chronic, pre-existing medical condition requiring a doctor's supervision (see Appendix A for the screening instrument used for determining study eligibility).


The post-release subject interview questions were designed to examine educational attainment, employment and income, training and certifications, job search activities, household status (residence and family), health status, and self-reported arrests after youth were randomly assigned to APYA or control groups. Participants were also asked to describe and evaluate their program experiences (e.g., extent to which program participation enhanced job-related skills) and the services they received during secure placement and after release.

Out of 477 asked to complete a post-release subject interview, 237 were non-respondents.

Scales include Substance Abuse Subtle Screening Inventory (SASSI), The Behavior Assessment System for Children (BASC), and Adolescent Psychopathology Scale (APS).





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