Pre-trial intervention (PTI) has been shown to be more effective when the family is involved in the process. Most PTI programs focus on the treatment given before release from confinement. Family-oriented PTI programs look beyond the prison set-up and attempt to establish a community for the accused to return to (Dembo, 2003).
The reality is that the social stigma against persons released from prison facilities poses a strong hindrance against re-integration into the community efforts towards rehabilitation (Tate, Reppucci, & Mulvey, 1995). By conducting regular and in-depth discussions with the family regarding rehabilitation, the basic social support system of the accused is assured (Dembo, 2003).
The present study will replicate a family-intervention system conducted by Dembo, Schmeidler, and Wothke (2003) wherein families were trained to address the rehabilitative process a family-member was undergoing with the end goal of improving PTI. However, in the study conducted by Dembo et al., the dependent variable was measured through self-report data.
The present research will use indicators of reintegration into society along with repeated delinquent acts to assess whether or not family-intervention is indeed a rehabilitative process. The succeeding sections will reflect the design and method of the research. The research questions to be answered by the present study will also be clarified in order to show a clear direction of the research being conducted.
The present research will attempt to answer the question as to whether or not family-oriented pre-trial intervention programs improve rehabilitative efforts by increasing the incidence of community participation and integration as well as decreasing the incidence of delinquent behavior. This question may be answered by looking into the activities engaged in by the offender upon release and with the introduction of family PTI. The research has several hypotheses:
1. That family PTI will increase community involvement;
2. That family PTI will decrease delinquent behavior; and
3. That family-oriented PTI programs are more effective in fostering rehabilitation than offender-centered PTI.
The main thrust of the research is to assess the efficacy of a proposed pre-trial intervention program. A family-oriented program will thus be administered to one experimental group while a non-family-oriented program will be applied to another group. These programs will be administered to one group of individuals and their families.
By doing so, there will be greater parallelism in the comparison of the two programs. Considering that the family set-up is most relevant in the case of minors, the present study will limit its population to juvenile delinquents (Alexander & Parsons, 1973).
In particular, this research will limit its population to minors still living with their parents. In order to obtain a sufficient number of participants, several penal facilities will be asked for consent for the participation of their detained juvenile delinquents who have not yet started with their PTI programs. This will control for confounding effects of other PTI programs which may be administered by the penal facility.
The design to be used in the present research is the experimental design. The experimental design has been lauded as the most rigorous design. It is essentially the gold standard of research designs because of its ability to isolate the independent variables being studied and their relationship with the dependent variables (Creswell, 2009).
This is the most appropriate design for the research to be conducted because the juvenile delinquents who will give consent to participation in the experiment will be randomly assigned into two groups. These two groups are the experimental and control groups. Moreover, previous research has shown that rigorous methods provide the best results with respect to reduced recidivism in studies of juvenile delinquents (Latimer, 1999).
The experimental and control groups will be identical in all regards except for the presence of family-intervention in the experimental group. In both groups, the juvenile delinquent will undergo identical PTI processes wherein they will receive treatment and training regarding rehabilitative practices.
However, in the first group there will be an added intervention wherein the researchers will actively foster a dialogue with the family of the juvenile delinquent in order to help them understand and cope with their child’s rehabilitation. In order to assess whether changes have truly resulted, a pre-intervention assessment will be administered to the participants and their families. After a period of six months the assessment will be administered again in order to track any changes in disposition and placement of the juvenile delinquents.
Population and Sample
The study will limit the number of participants to forty due to the longitudinal nature of the study and due to the need for in-depth counseling to be undertaken with the families involved. Time and resource constraints would not support a study involving an experimental group of more than twenty families.
The participants will be chosen primarily based on their prior reception of PTI treatment and the fact of residence with family members. Demographic factors such age, gender, social status and family situation will be recorded and assessed but will not serve as criteria for acceptance into participation. By doing so, the experiment retains a higher external validity. However, the recording of these factors will broaden the discussion and interpretation of results as the effect these factors play on the rehabilitation of participants may emerge as serendipitous findings.