Case #1904.0

Taking a Therapeutic Approach to Juvenile Offenders: The "Missouri Model"

Publication Date: May 14, 2009
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In the early 1970s, the Missouri Division of Youth Services (DYS) took its first steps toward radically changing the way it dealt with youthful offenders remanded to its custody. For years, like most states, it had incarcerated juveniles convicted of felony or misdemeanor offenses in large quasi-penal facilities called training schools. Instead, DYS began establishing smaller cottage-style residential programs that emphasized rehabilitation over punishment and applied a therapeutic approach to its troubled young charges. Over the next three decades, DYS expanded this approach to encompass its entire juvenile offender population. By the mid-2000s, the "Missouri model," as it became known, was perhaps the most admired and, many considered, most effective juvenile corrections system in the US.

This case is accompanied by a Video Short that can be shown in class or included in a digital coursepack. Instructors should consider the timing of making the video available to students, as it may reveal key case details.

Learning Objective:
This case describes the Missouri model including the population it serves, the educational and therapeutic programs it offers, and the frontline staff of youth specialists it employs to work closely with young offenders. The case also provides an overview of Missouri's impressively low recidivism figures and a brief discussion of the complexities of comparing such figures among states.

Other Details

Teaching Plan:
Available with Educator Access
Material Included:
Case and Video Supplement
Case Author:
Esther Scott
Video Producer:
Patricia Garcia-Rios
Faculty Lead:
Julie Boatright Wilson
Pages (incl. exhibits):
United States
Funding Source:
Ash Institute for Democratic Governance and Innovation