Goal-Oriented Incentives and Sanctions

Respond to compliance and noncompliance with incentives and sanctions that are designed to reinforce or modify the behavior of youth and their families.

"While the concept of rewarding positive behavior and sanctioning negative or noncompliant behavior is not new, it requires special attention in the context of juvenile drug courts. Given its heightened levels of intervention and supervision along with its coordinated team response, the juvenile drug court has a unique opportunity to use behavior modification strategies." (Excerpt taken from the Juvenile Drug Courts: Strategies in Practice.)

Resources & Tools


Use the In-House Tip Sheet on Goal-Oriented Incentives and Sanctions to provide operational steps to implementing the 16 Strategies in Practice. The Goal-Oriented Incentives and Sanctions Tip Sheet focuses on how team members need to embrace the philosophy that the use of incentives and sanctions is to motivate behavior change; developing written incentive and sanction procedures based on the concepts of proximal and distal goals; employ a variety of methods in both treatment and in the court room to visualize the incentives and sanctions process; and many more. For additional In-Practice Tip Sheets click on Practical Tips to Help Juvenile Drug Court Teams Implement the 16 Strategies in Practice


External Web Resources:

Juvenile Detention Alternative Initiative (JDAI) Help Desk

OJJDP Strategic Planning Tool (Graduated Sanctions)

National Court of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (Graduated Juvenile Sanctions)


Making Sense of Incentives and Sanctions in Working with the Substance Abusing Offenders  will help readers understand the theory behind the use of incentives and sanctions and how to properly use this strategy in a JDC. The article is laid out in a question and answer format that is accessible and practical for juvenile justice professionals.

The Carrot and the Stick, an article written for the Michigan Bar Journal will give more information regarding behavior modification and positive reinforcement as it relates to incentives and sanctions for substance abuse.

Things to Consider

  • Incentives and sanctions should be applied using research and evidence-based principles.
  • Incentives should outweigh sanctions 4 to 1 in the JDC program.
  • Incentives and sanctions should be juvenile appropriate. 
  • Juvenile drug treatment court participants should be allowed the opportunity to express what they find to be rewarding as well as punishing,  so sanctions and incentives can be tailored to each youth.
  • Incentives and sanctions should match the goals in each program phase. 
  • Incentives and sanctions should be consistent and fair but still maintain a degree of individualism. 
  • JDCs should not use treatment as a sanction. 
  • JDCs should use detention as a last resort.