The Maine Department of Corrections (MDOC) Juvenile Division works toward the result that all Maine youth successfully transition into adulthood by ensuring that all justice-involved youth experience a fair, equitable, responsive system that contributes to positive outcomes. To measure the extent to which youth are achieving positive outcomes during their time in Maine’s juvenile justice system, MDOC adapts the positive youth development (PYD) framework to juvenile justice system programming. PYD emerged on the premise that all youth possess assets, both internal and external, that can buffer the risk factors present in their environments and the risk-taking behaviors that are a natural part of adolescent development. With its roots in ecological systems theory, PYD considers the contexts in which youth act, and maintains that all youth can develop positively when they are connected to the right supports and opportunities. Youth who become involved in the justice system are often contending with greater environmental challenges than their non-justice involved peers, but a justice system intervention grounded in the PYD framework aims to provide necessary supports and build upon youths’ inherent assets and resiliency to help them navigate their adolescence and transition into thriving adults.
Five dimensions commonly used PYD assessment are competence, connection, confidence, caring/compassion, and character. Positive development in these areas, combined with the development of goal-directed skills (also known as intentional self-regulation), generally result in youth demonstrating contribution to themselves, their families, and the community. In adapting PYD for youth in Maine’s justice system, MDOC tracks outcomes in five areas: education/vocation, employment, home/community, prosocial activities, and positive identity. Within a month of a youth’s supervision ending, their juvenile community correctional officer (JCCOs) administers a client exit review, which tracks activities and achievements that indicate a young person is on a positive trajectory, such as school engagement and advancement, employment, family involvement and positive connections with adults and peers, community service and restorative justice, self-advocacy and positive use of personal time.
Tracking positive youth outcomes for youth who pass through Maine’s justice system creates a more complete profile, beyond recidivism measures, of the resiliency and potential of this population. It also serves to highlight areas of strength where the system intervention is helping youth succeed, and point to areas where the system could offer youth more or different supports to facilitate their development in positive tracks.
Layton, Danielle and Shaler, George MPH, "2018 Positive Youth Outcomes in Maine’s Juvenile Justice System" (2018). Maine Statistical Analysis Center. 13.