There is no debate that juvenile crime is of great concern in the United States. According to the FBI, youths younger than 18 commit almost 20 percent of all serious crimes, 13 percent of violent offenses and 20 percent of crimes involving property. It’s also been found that a single lifetime of crime amounts to a $1.3 to $1.5 million burden on society. Knowing that makes it even more imperative to keep adolescents from becoming habitual criminals.
Where there is debate is how to deal with this problem and where to allocate funds earmarked for it. There are many who lean toward paying as little as possible upfront. Policymakers and those who sign the checks are under pressure to come up with programs that reduce crime without draining the budget. Often, they choose individual therapy instead of a program like Multisystemic Therapy (MST). What they overlook is the long-term savings when a treatment such as MST is implemented. It has been shown that youths commit fewer crimes following MST. That means lower future expenses for taxpayers and crime victims relative to the expenses associated with individual therapy.
A recent study conducted by Charles M. Borduin, a developer of MST, and three of his graduate students (David V. Wagner, Aaron M. Sawyer and Alex R. Dopp) at the University of Missouri, delved into the cost effectiveness of evidence-based therapies (EBT) such as MST versus other approaches over 25 years. The results were impressive and included the effect of EBTs on offender siblings. If you would like to read the entire study, published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, you can access it here.
Individual therapy is the usual community outpatient treatment. Adolescents receive interventions in the clinician’s office that are a blend of promoting insight, expressing emotions, showing the juveniles the therapist cares and attempts at behavioral change such as better school attendance.
MST has a radically different approach. Therapists go to the child’s home, school and neighborhood. They get parents, family members, the school and offenders involved in the treatment. Therapists employ empirically supported clinical techniques such as behavioral and cognitive-behavioral therapies and structural family therapy at the same time addressing the youth’s entire environment.
Borduin’s results show that when using MST, the cost of crime was reduced $35,582 per juvenile offender and $7,798 per sibling for each family. Overall, every dollar spent on MST recovered $5.04 in savings to taxpayers and crime victims in the 25 years following treatment.
How do you spell cost effectiveness? Try MST.
To read more about the cost savings of MST. Download this whitepaper.