Weber, L., Messias, D. K. H., Smith, A., & Eaddy, H.
University of South Carolina’s Women’s and Gender Studies Conference: Transitions and Transformations: Gender at the Crossroads of the Sciences, the Social Sciences, and the Humanities, Columbia S.C.
Publication year: 2013

Research indicates that art-based therapy (AT) positively benefits offenders, increasing their understanding of themselves (Liebmann, 1994), improving mood and attitude (Gussak, 2006), decreasing depression (Gussak, 2009), and improving emotional literacy (Meekums, 2011). However, research on the effect of anger management programming (AM) on offenders has been less conclusive (Howells et al., 2005). Despite known positive impacts of AT, research linking AT to decreased recidivism rates for incarcerated adult offenders (Brewster, 1983; Milliken, 2002; Peaker & Vincent, 1990) is almost non-existent for adolescent offenders. In fact, both AM and AT forensic research has largely focused on adult offenders despite the fact that AT is greatly effective for adolescents (Riley, 1999), particularly female adolescents (Hartz & Thick, 2005). Further, most studies treat AT and AM separately, examine only incarcerated offenders, and fail to evaluate the effectiveness of AT and AM as preventative strategies. Our study attempts to fill these gaps by examining the effect AT and AM programming have on recidivism rates for at-risk youth who have participated in Lexington County Juvenile Arbitration, a pre-trial intervention program available to first-time, non-violent offenders between the ages of 12 and 17. This multi-method study examines the effect that the Women’s Wellbeing Initiative Art Class and Choices™ Anger Management have on juvenile offenders’ recidivism rates. We compared recidivism rates of youth participating in the diversion program between 2005 and 2012, separating them into either the “AT/AM Group” (n=322) or a control group randomly selected from offending youth who participated in other sanctions (n = 322). Recidivism rates for both groups were determined by researching each youth’s record in the South Carolina DJJ database. We hypothesize that those youths participating in the AT and AM classes will have significantly lower recidivism rates than those in the control group who did not have either intervention.