Understanding the Influence of Outreach, Case Management, and Service Engagement on Interrupting Community Violence

Trevor Fronius (WestEd), Allyson Pakstis, Victoria Rothbard, and Anaïs Toungui

Since its inception, the Safe and Successful Youth Initiative (SSYI) has shown promise for reducing violent crime at the community level in Massachusetts. Based on the cumulative results of evaluations conducted by AIR and WestEd, SSYI was designated as a “promising program” in 2021 by the U.S. Department of Justice CrimeSolutions evidence review repository and the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Model Programs Guide.

Most recently, the Massachusetts Executive Office of Health and Human Services contracted with AIR and WestEd to evaluate SSYI at the individual level of impact. Using extant data on offense history and case management records for 313 SSYI clients through July 2019, the most recent study focused on four key questions that examine client recidivism outcomes affected by the dosage and cumulative impact of SSYI client outreach, case management, and service engagement strategies.

Key Findings

While overall recidivism was best explained by prior, lifetime history of offending, contact with outreach workers and case managers and engagement in multiple SSYI services added predictive value to the estimate of recidivism. This result confirms that core SSYI services can counteract the influence of prior involvement with the criminal justice system on future client recidivism.

The study results provide substantial support for the SSYI theory of change, whereby frequent client involvement with SSYI outreach workers and case managers is associated with greater service engagement, program retention, and decreased recidivism. Specifically:

  • Outreach frequency (e.g., once a week, once a month) and outreach amount (count of outreach contacts) were directly related to the time it took for client to enroll in SSYI and their eventual program participation, and this relationship was statistically significant.
  • The total number of outreach contacts that clients experienced correlated positively with the total number of priority risks and needs assessed after enrollment; and case managers were statistically more likely to meet more frequently with clients who were assessed for risk and needs.
  • The overall level of SSYI clients’ engagement in services was directly related to their total amount of contact with outreach workers and case managers. Further, having a case plan with goals and objectives for clients was related to greater levels of contact with outreach workers and case managers. Both results were statistically significant.
  • The total number of contacts between clients and outreach workers and the total number of meetings between clients and case managers were each inversely related to recidivism after program exit. These relationships were statistically significant.
  • The more services clients engaged with, the less likely they were to reoffend after leaving SSYI. There was an inverse relationship between engagement in multiple SSYI services and recidivism. This relationship was statistically significant.
  • The most typical SSYI clients did not have any recidivism events during their enrollment in SSYI and recidivism events declined as clients remained engaged in the program. Only 20% of the clients who left the program recidivated within 18 months after exit.

Future Research

Though this study shows the critical importance of frequent contact between SSYI clients and their outreach workers and case managers for engaging clients in the program and services and for impacting recidivism, future research is needed to understand in greater detail how SSYI program practices influence these relationships and the resulting impact on client outcomes.

Further, the study found that clients older than age 21 had the greatest success in SSYI and appear to engage most frequently with outreach workers and case managers. Understanding the desistance pathway for younger clients in SSYI will be important for maximizing violence reductions because younger clients have more years ahead of them to possibly reoffend if prevention efforts are unsuccessful.

Finally, the study showed that the more services clients receive, the stronger the recidivism prevention outcome becomes, analyses also revealed that no single service on its own was related to reduced recidivism, after controlling for previous offense history. This result invites further examination into whether the services themselves are tied to behavior changes or instead accrue from collateral benefits from SSYI engagement (e.g., developing new peer networks, having less free time to engage in antisocial behavior).

Patricia Campie
Principal Researcher
Image of Nicholas Read
Senior Researcher