1994 Finalist
Allegheny County, Pennsylvania
Innovations in American Government Awards
Innovations in American Government Awards

In the face of significant budget deficits, courts in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, were adjudicating a significant increase in African-American referrals and corresponding institutional placements. However, African-American youth were under-represented in drug and alcohol treatment programs both in the private and public sector. Although the court could not control the referrals and severity of delinquent behavior that caused the judges to remove an increasing number of juvenile offenders from the community, county officials appealed to the court to try to contain costs. The administrative judge responded to the county by proposing that the Juvenile Probation Department develop a program that would divert juveniles from jail placement.

Juvenile Court Administration thus developed the Community Intensive Supervision Program (CISP), an initiative that functions as an alternative to institutionalization for repeat juvenile offenders. CISP is a community-based alternative that operates within three neighborhood centers during the hours of 4:00 PM to midnight, seven days a week. Supervision of the youth continues throughout the night by use of an active electronic monitoring system. The program emphasizes a balanced approach to justice by stressing supervision (public safety), rehabilitation, competency skills, and restitution (community service). In addition to traditional Probation Department personnel, the program is staffed by paraprofessional "Community Monitors," African-American staff indigenous to the community where the youth reside who present themselves as positive role models.

Youth from three geographic regions within the city of Pittsburgh have been chosen to participate in CISP. The areas selected for the project have traditionally experienced a high rate of institutional placement. CISP is designed for male juvenile offenders (ages 10-18) from the targeted neighborhoods who were on probation, continued to recidivate, and would be institutionalized but for the existence of this alternative. Other juveniles have been court-ordered into CISP for felony property offenses, drug sales, firearms violations, assaults, and gang affiliation.

Youth in CISP live at home and are permitted to attend school and to work. All must report, however, to the center located in their neighborhood at 4:00 PM, where center youth are fed and subjected to random drug testing. Juveniles are also afforded the opportunity to receive individual, group, and family counseling, and are required to participate in community service activities.

Recidivism rates and drug test results are measured to determine program success. Since the initiation of the program, the recidivism rate has remained relatively constant (in both 1991 and 1992, recidivism was at 12 percent; 1993 saw a 14 percent recidivism rate), an impressive outcome considering the seriousness of offenders involved in the program. CISP also routinely tests for THC and cocaine. Drug testing conducted since the inception of the program indicates only a 2.45 percent positive rate. This is a low rate given that approximately 30 percent of all the youth committed to CISP were committed for drug-related offenses.