Public concern over
rising crime among juveniles has led to renewed efforts to find effective treatment and
incarceration facilities for youthful offenders. Many states are turning to private
providers such as Youth Services International, Inc.
Founded by Jiffy-Lube entrepreneur W. James Hindman, himself a former delinquent youth,
YSI serves 4,000 at-risk or adjudicated juveniles. Adjudicated youth juveniles who have
been committed to YSI by the court system compose 65 percent of YSI’s residents. Says
Hindman, "about 95 percent of all YSI students have committed crimes in the
YSI’s stated goal is to "change dramatically the thinking and behavior of
troubled youth, preparing them to become self-sufficient taxpayers."89
This involves teaching students not just educational and vocational skills, but also
behavior-management skills. For example, YSI has created programs such as Victim
Awareness, Anger Management, and Alternative Solutions.
YSI’s Charles J. Hickey School in Baltimore, MD runs an enhanced security program
for juveniles who have committed crimes ranging from theft to murder. Says YSI
public-relations manager Camille Baumgardner, "The Hickey School serves the hard core
juvenile delinquent. It’s the highest security program in Maryland. This is their
last chance."90 YSI’s Reflections Treatment Agency in Knoxville, TN
is a facility designed strictly for criminal sex offenders.
Both programs report relatively low recidivism (repeat offense) rates within one year
of release. At the Hickey School, 13 percent of the youth were readjudicated; the
recidivism rate at Reflections was 11 percent.91 Comparable one-year recidivism
rates are not available, but the U. S. Department of Justice reports that nationally 44
percent of juveniles who commit an aggravated assault (and 45 percent who commit simple
assault) are re-arrested and return to juvenile court.92 More useful
longitudinal measures of recidivism and other outcomes for juvenile offenders are
necessary to assess and compare the value of various juvenile-justice placements.
Despite its tough clientele, YSI says the cornerstone of its programs is education.
Says YSI president Henry D. Felton, "YSI is not about incarceration, warehousing,
retribution, revenge or punishment. We do not have inmates, we have students."
To serve its students, YSI offers a continuum of placements with different levels of
security, ranging from group homes to boot camps. All its education programs are state
accredited, offer a high-school diploma or GED, and allow students to earn credits which
are transferable to regular public-school systems.
"The youth knows he’s not just doing time, but making the best of his
time," says Hindman. "Because of their age, most of these youngsters end up
going back to the school system [upon release]." YSI also provides services for
nonadjudicated students who are deemed at-risk.
YSI recognizes the importance of measuring results. Says Hindman, "We need to
produce proof that our practices and policies work. . . . I believe we are doing a very
good job. I want to be able to prove it." To do so, YSI commissioned Advanced
Technologies Support Group, Inc., an independent evaluation firm, to survey all
residential students discharged between January and September 1995 from the 13 facilities
YSI operated at the time. The survey sought to determine whether or not YSI intervention
had a positive impact on the students’ rates of recidivism, school attendance, and
school performance. Of a total discharged population of 1,408 students, the survey firm
was able to contact 863 (or 63 percent). One year from being released or leaving YSI:94
Sixty percent were attending school;
Seventy-seven percent of those students attending school were passing with 2.0 GPA or
Eighty-seven percent had stayed out of the courts.
Eighty-six percent of the students felt the YSI program had been beneficial.
The average per-pupil cost per day of YSI programs is $114, but can range from $75 to
$220 per day. Says Hindman, "We can save 20 percent of the cost per pupil [compared
to similar public residential programs for adjudicated youth] as well as provide a higher
quality of education."95 The for-profit company operates nineteen
facilities in twelve states and receives juveniles from 36 states.