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Project Back-on-Track

Ages 9-17

Rating: Level 3


Project Back-on-Track is an afterschool diversion program designed to help divert youths in early stages of delinquency from committing future crimes. It uses a multifaceted approach that targets factors contributing to delinquent behavior. Program youths participate in a 4-week cycle of treatment consisting of group and family therapies, parent groups, educational sessions, community service projects, and empathy-building exercises. These youths attend the program 2 hours a day for 4 days a week, allowing 32 hours of contact with the program per cycle. Parents attend the program 15 hours per cycle. Most youths (93 percent) are referred to the program by the District State Attorney’s Office. Referrals are based on a youth’s being an early career offender and living in the local juvenile justice district. The program accepts violent offenders (domestic assault, aggravated assault, sexual assault), drug offenders, and property offenders.


The evaluation used a quasi-experimental design with a nonequivalent control group and a 1-year follow-up. The study participants were the first 30 youths who were referred to and completed the afterschool diversion program. These youths, ages 9–17 (with 19 of them female, 19 African-American, 10 white, and 1 Hispanic), were enrolled between July 1997 and July 1998. Most study youths (16 of them) are first-time juvenile offenders. The repeat offenders (the other 14) had committed a mean of 1.57 offenses before committing the referral offense. The comparison group (n=30) was created by matching age, sex, race, and delinquency stage. Both groups were assessed for recidivism rates and psychopathology.


The evaluation indicated that Project Back-on-Track completers were significantly less likely than the matched controls to have committed subsequent criminal offenses within 12 months following their participation in the program. In addition, they had significantly fewer subsequent criminal charges at 9- and 12-month follow-up intervals than the controls. Finally, by decreasing the frequency of criminal recidivism, it was estimated that the program resulted in a savings of $1,800 per youth enrolled after 1 year.


Myers, Wade C., Paul R.S. Burton, Paula D. Sanders, Kimberly M. Donat, Jane Cheney, Timothy M. Fitzpatrick, and Linda Monaco. 2000. “Project Back-on-Track at 1 Year: A Delinquency Treatment Program for Early-Career Juvenile Offenders.” Journal of American Child and Adolescent Psychiatry 39(9):1127–34.


Wade Myers, M.D.
Project Back-on-Track
P.O. Box 100256
Gainesville, FL 32610–0256
Phone: (352) 265-3284