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Mendota Juvenile Treatment Center


Intervention; Ages 16–18


(Read the criteria for these ratings)

Promising gang program

Promising delinquency program


The Mendota Juvenile Treatment Center (MJTC) is a residential facility that provides mental health treatment to serious and violent juvenile offenders in secured correctional institutions. The program was established by the Wisconsin State Legislature in 1995 to meet the needs of youth who are too unruly, aggressive, or “treatment refractory” to be housed in the state’s traditional correctional centers. Youth are typically transferred to MJTC when they are unresponsive to customary rehabilitation services provided in correctional institutions. MJTC seeks to control and rehabilitate such youth by combining the security consciousness of a traditional correctional institution with the strong mental health orientation of a private psychiatric facility.

The overarching goal of the program is to replace the antagonistic responses and feelings created by traditional correctional institutions with more conventional bonds and roles, which can encourage positive social development. The program model integrates Goldstein and Glick’s Aggression Replacement Training© and Caldwell and Van Rybroek’s “decompression” treatment model. A fundamental concept of the decompression model is that treatment should do more than provide juvenile offenders with needed skills. Rather, treatment also should address the youth’s detachment from, and antagonistic defiance of, conventional behaviors and lifestyles.

An evaluation found that the MJTC youth had less than half the recidivism rates of the comparison group and that the program produced benefits of $7.18 for every dollar of cost. Given the effectiveness of Aggression Replacement Training, its use in the treatment regimen suggests that MJTC is likely to be effective with gang members.

Risk Factors

Antisocial/delinquent beliefs
Conduct disorders (authority conflict/rebellious/stubborn/disruptive/antisocial)
Early onset of aggression/violence
Exposure to firearm violence
Few social ties (involved in social activities, popularity)
General delinquency involvement
High alcohol/drug use
Lack of guilt and empathy
Life stressors
Low perceived likelihood of being caught
Makes excuses for delinquent behavior (neutralization)
Mental health problems
Physical violence/aggression
Poor refusal skills
Victim of child maltreatment
Victimization and exposure to violence
Violent victimization
Abusive parents
Antisocial parents
Broken home/changes in caretaker
Delinquent siblings
Family history of problem behavior/criminal involvement
Family poverty/low family socioeconomic status
Family violence (child maltreatment, partner violence, conflict)
High parental stress/maternal depression
Lack of orderly and structured activities within the family
Low parental attachment to child/adolescent
Low parental education
Parent proviolent attitudes
Parental use of physical punishment/harsh and/or erratic discipline practices
Poor parental supervision (control, monitoring, and child management)
Poor parent-child relations or communication
Sibling antisocial behavior
Unhappy parents
Frequent truancy/absences/suspensions; expelled from school; dropping out of school
Identified as learning disabled
Low academic aspirations
Low achievement in school
Low math achievement test scores (males)
Low parent college expectations for child
Low school attachment/bonding/motivation/commitment to school
Poor school attitude/performance; academic failure
Poor student-teacher relations
Poorly defined rules and expectations for appropriate conduct
Availability and use of drugs in the neighborhood
Availability of firearms
Community disorganization
Economic deprivation/poverty/residence in a disadvantaged neighborhood
Feeling unsafe in the neighborhood
High-crime neighborhood
Low neighborhood attachment
Neighborhood youth in trouble
Association with antisocial/aggressive/delinquent peers; high peer delinquency
Association with gang-involved peers/relatives
Gang membership
Peer alcohol/drug use
Peer rejection


Crimesolutions.gov: Promising program

National Gang Center: Promising program


Mendota Mental Health Institute
301 Troy Drive
Madison, WI 53704
Phone: (608) 301-1000
Fax: (608) 301-1358


Caldwell, M. F., and Van Rybroek, G. (2001). Efficacy of a decompression treatment model in the clinical management of violent juvenile offenders. International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, 45, 469–477.

Caldwell, M. F., Vitacco, M., and Van Rybroek, G. J. (2006). Are violent delinquents worth treating? A cost-benefit analysis. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, 43, 148–168.

Date Created: April 7, 2021