Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.

Cooperating University

University of Kentucky


Social Work

Committee Chair

Wulff, Daniel P.

Author's Keywords

Alternatives to Detention; Kentucky; Deinstitutionalize; Status offenders


Alternatives to imprisonment--Kentucky--Jefferson County; Juvenile corrections--Kentucky--Jefferson County


Since the beginning of the juvenile justice movement in the United States over a century ago, considerable debate has persisted among policymakers and practitioners concerning the causes of juvenile offending and the appropriate responses to control it. Although the juvenile justice system was conceived and developed to provide individualized, benevolent treatment to young offenders, the system has gradually shifted to resemble a more punitive, adult criminal justice model. While presently the system includes characteristics of both the juvenile and adult justice models, future directions are uncertain. This is problematic for young offenders who need and deserve more solicitous care in their rehabilitation. This dissertation examines an alternative intervention used to respond to status offending in Lexington, Fayette County, Kentucky--the Alternatives to Detention (ATD) program. While policymakers and practitioners generally agree on the cause of status offending such as child maltreatment and general family dysfunction, there is no consensus regarding how to appropriately respond. Thus, this evaluation is particularly salient given the continuing debate over how to respond to the unique challenges presented by this population. The dissertation is divided into five chapters including an Introduction, Literature Review, Methodology, Results, and Discussion. Chapter One provides an introduction to the problem of juvenile offending, particularly status offending, and describes efforts to deinstitutionalize these youths in one Kentucky county by using the Alternatives to Detention (ATD) program. Chapter Two discusses the national, state, and Fayette County trends in juvenile offending, and pays particular attention to rising status offense trends. Based on the literature, Chapter Three defines the methodology used to evaluate the ATD program. The methodology includes a quasi-experimental, multiple-group pre/post-test design using chart review of existing Juvenile Court and ATD program records. Chapter Four includes data analyses using descriptive and inferential statistical procedures. The findings and implications for both the present study and future research in this area are discussed in Chapter Five with recommendations for program improvement. Based on the goals of the ATD program, results indicate that (1) Fayette County, Kentucky in is compliance with deinstitutionalization mandates set forth by the Juvenile Justice and Deliquency Prevention Act (JJDPA), and (2) the program produced positive outcomes when used as a predispositional alternative to secure detention for status offenders because it (a) ensures youths' appearance in court, and it (b) provides enhanced safety to youths and the community through decreased offending. This goals-based evaluation of the ATD program will add to the existing knowledge base focusing on effective correctional interventions for youths. In addition, the evaluation of the ATD program will provide local juvenile justice policymakers and practitioners with substantive outcomes that can be used in ongoing discussions concerning best practice standards for status offenders, while fulfilling mandates to deinstitutionalize these youths.