Date of Conferral


Date of Award

February 2024




Human Services


Barbara Benoliel


In 2019, U.S. law enforcement officers detained almost 700,000 juveniles under the age of 18. The U.S. Department of Justice Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention stated that 55% of juveniles were rearrested within a year, and after that, 24% of juveniles were reincarcerated within a year. The purpose of this multiple case study was to explore church leaders’ perceptions of their role, experiences, and activities in contributing to reducing the risk of reincarceration of juvenile offenders, and to create a model for other community leaders. The conceptual framework for the study was Shaw and McKay’s social disorganization theory. Nine church leaders participated in semistructured interviews and provided their perceptions and experiences in deterring juvenile reincarceration. Data from interviews were analyzed using thematic content analysis, resulting in six themes: (a) church leaders’ focus on meaningful connections and relations with juveniles, (b) the negative impact of family conflict on reintegration, (c) the positive impact of church programming on reintegration (d) mentoring programs for juveniles in the church are the key to success, (e) challenges of juveniles returning to disorganized neighborhoods, and (f) challenges of negative peer pressure on returning juveniles. This study contributes to positive social change by influencing expanded research in this field and informing church leaders and other social service providers about the potential to impact youth through organized faith-based programs, deterring juvenile reincarceration.