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Justice Evaluation Journal


Drug testing is a frequent condition of juvenile justice programs, although research on the effects of drug testing juveniles – especially early system-involved youth – is scarce. The risk-needsresponsivity (RNR) model suggests drug testing would only be a beneficial intervention if substance use contributes to a youth’s criminal behavior and has a rehabilitative component. We examined drug testing policies and practices in one Midwestern state utilizing interviews with 27 diversion program managers and a statewide sample of 665 youth referred to pretrial diversion. Analysis tested whether drug testing juveniles with and without a substance use need predicted successful completion of diversion and decreased the probability of future system involvement. Results indicated that drug testing was not a significant predictor of successfully completing diversion, nor did it decrease youths’ odds of recidivating in the year after discharge from diversion. Further, those with a substance use need were significantly less likely to successfully complete diversion than those without a substance use need, indicating that diversion programs should utilize rehabilitative methods for addressing criminogenic drug or alcohol needs.

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