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Mendota Juvenile Treatment Center



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