Science of Adolescent Development Continues to Inform Juvenile Justice System
Over the past decade, state and local jurisdictions have been actively developing strategies to reduce both recidivism and spending in their juvenile justice systems. Many also seek to ensure that every youth who comes in contact with the system is met with procedural fairness at every stage of the justice system. To help accomplish these goals, juvenile justice leaders are examining and applying research and recommendations outlined in Reforming Juvenile Justice: A Developmental Approach, a seminal report released by National Research Council in 2012. This report provides an extensive review of decades of research on juvenile justice programs and practices.
Growing Evidence for Link Between Experience in Detention and Recidivism in Teens
Young people in the juvenile justice system who have an overall positive experience are 49 percent less likely to continue committing crimes, according to arrest and/or return-to-placement reports.
Two recent research briefs, “What Youths Say Matters” [PDF] and “Reducing Isolation and Room Confinement,” [PDF] by the Performance Based Standards Learning Institute (PbSLi) suggest that there is a direct, and strong, link between the quality of a teen’s time in detention and their likelihood to commit new offenses:
The latest PbSLi brief, “What Youths Say Matters,” focuses on the recent study, Pathways to Desistance, which is regarded as the most comprehensive longitudinal study of youths in the juvenile justice system.
The Pathways researchers interviewed around 1,400 youths in Philadelphia and Phoenix over a seven-year period observing what makes youths continue—or stop—committing crimes.
This study demonstrated that teens’ experiences in custody impact their future choices. The two main conclusions of the report include the following:
- What youths say matters; youths tell us ways we can help prevent them from continuing to commit crimes; and
- Asking young people is a valid, cost-effective way to find out what we need to know to prevent future crime.
RECLAIM Ohio: A Promising Alternative to Teen Incarceration
PEW recently published a report revealing the effectiveness of the RECLAIM (Reasoned and Equitable Community and Local Alternatives to Incarceration of Minors) funding initiative in Ohio. The report found RECLAIM to be highly successful in lowering recidivism rates and saving the state millions of dollars:
RECLAIM is an initiative funding program that allows county courts to implement community based programs in order to provide alternatives to juvenile incarceration for juvenile offenders or youth at risk of offending. The increased funding for counties is based on an equation that refunds counties for the time juvenile offenders would have spent if they had been committed to the Ohio Department of Youth Services (DYS) state facility.
Like many states in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, Ohio saw an increase in the incarcerated youth population. By 1992, the state reached an all-time high of 180 percent of capacity with many of the youth being first-time nonviolent offenders. The idea was that by better serving low to medium risk offenders through locally tailored community programs, admissions would decrease as well as recidivism rates.
Washington One of Nation's 'Comeback States' on Juvenile Justice; News Roundup
Juvenile Justice Reform
- Accouncement: Website Launch
New website launches for Multidimensional Family Therapy (MDFT), providing help for adolescents and families.
- Washington One of Nation's 'Comeback States' on Juvenile Justice (King5.com)
Washington’s juvenile detention population dropped 40% between 2001 and 2010, according to a new report released Tuesday by the National Juvenile Justice Network. The analysis puts Washington among nine “comeback states” on the issue of juvenile justice.
- Ted Cox has Faith in the Youth he Serves (Shreveporttimes.com)
Retired Army Reserve Col. Ted Cox arm wrestles an inmate at the Caddo Parish Juvenile Justice Complex, where he is the administrator. He regularly counsels the youth there.
- Zero Tolerance and Juvenile Justice: A View from the Bench (Alaska Justice Forum)
"The factors that lead youth into juvenile crime are many and varied. Drugs, alcohol, and interpersonal violence are often cited as major contributors. However, in my estimation, one of the principal factors that may often precipitate a plunge into the juvenile justice system is the failure to maintain and succeed in school."
Vera Releases New Guide for Evidence-Based Practice
The Vera Institute of Justice recently released a handbook to help a wide range of social service practitioners, in juvenile justice and beyond. The new document, "Measuring Success: A Guide to Becoming an Evidence-Based Practice," breaks the process into three steps and offers an easy-to-follow methodology to measuring performance.
Vera offers guidance in determining who qualifies as evidence-based, which can be helpful for funding. Vera's announcement continues:
Demonstrating that a program accomplishes its stated goals is increasingly important for social service organizations—funders and clients want to see the evidence of successful outcomes. Although a full-scale evaluation can be a costly and overwhelming goal, adopting the information-gathering and self-reflective approaches that lead up to an evaluation can in themselves strengthen an agency’s focus and procedural fidelity.
Vera has worked with juvenile justice system service providers in many settings as they build and monitor their programs. It produced this handbook on the basis of experience in the field, and in collaboration with the Institute for Public Health and Justice at the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center.
While the guide grew out of requests from juvenile justice service providers for a roadmap toward becoming an evidence-based practice, its recommendations have applications beyond juvenile justice. “We believe the systematic approach to collecting information on goals, treatment methods, and outcomes can benefit other social service providers seeking to measure the efficacy of their interventions,” said Annie Salsich, director of Vera’s Center on Youth Justice.
New Report: Moving Forward to End Mass Incarceration
The Sentencing Project recently released a report examining the history and impact of the Justice Reinvestment Initiative (JRI). The JRI is an evidence based approach to improve public safety, reduce incarcerations and reinvest savings to enhance neighborhoods. So far, it has supported 27 states in the last decade. While the JRI has made progress, the report, “Ending Mass Incarceration [PDF],” offers a note of caution:
Our analysis, described in the pages that follow, lead us to the conclusion that while JRI has played a significant role in softening the ground and moving the dial on mass incarceration reform, it is not an unmitigated success story; the picture is complex and nuanced.
It argues that the expansion of correctional control has not occurred accidentally, but as a result of deliberate policy choices that have increased the number of people entering the system and how long they stay. Although there have been some problems with the JRI since it was originally catalyzed, The Sentencing Project is enthusiastic about where it will go from here.
The report emphasizes the impact that JRI could have moving forward through four recommendations:
- Reduce all forms of incarceration and correctional supervision (probation/parole).
- Reinvest in high incarceration communities.
- Involve stakeholders and non-governmental entities at the state and local levels throughout the planning, legislative, implementation and reinvestment process.
- Create a multi-year plan and course for implementation and evaluation beyond short-term legislative or policy fixes.
Risk Assessment in Juvenile Justice: A Guidebook for Implementation
The University of Massachusetts Medical School’s National Youth Screening & Assessment Project recently published “Risk Assessment in Juvenile Justice: A Guidebook for Implementation.” This guidebook looks at research evidence and provides a framework for selecting and implementing an evidence-based tool to help reduce risks associated with teens’ placement and supervision while involved with the juvenile justice system. Via the report:
The primary purpose of this Guide is to provide a structure for jurisdictions, juvenile probation or centralized statewide agencies striving to implement risk assessment or to improve their current risk assessment practices. Risk assessment in this Guide refers to the practice of using a structured tool that combines information about youth to classify them as being low, moderate or high risk for reoffending or continued delinquent activity, as well as identifying factors that might reduce that risk on an individual basis.
The purpose of such risk assessment tools is to help in making decisions about youths’ placement and supervision, and creating intervention plans that will reduce their level of risk.
Violence Prevention: Evidence-Based Practices and Community Involvement
Contrary to what many people believe, mass shooters and other killers aren’t born, they’re created.
Violence is preventable, though maybe not totally avoidable. As shown by a growing body of scientific research, interventions that address the underlying causes of violent behavior and victimization are effective in preventing new instances of violence. There are programs and strategies that, if implemented correctly, reliably and significantly reduce youth crime.
Policy makers, practitioners and families that are committed to reducing violence must invest in potentially effective practices to the extent there are means of determining effectiveness. Making use of evidence-based interventions already at hand could potentially contribute to a reduction in violence and save billions of dollars by preventing or mitigating factors that would otherwise require expensive interventions after the fact.
To prevent violence and reduce its consequences it is necessary to understand the causes of violence. A major finding of national and international reports on violence is that no single factor explains why one individual, family, community or society is more or less likely to experience violence. Instead, it shows that violence is rooted in the interaction of factors ranging from the biological to the political. An ecological approach to prevention of violence targets the categories of risk factors for violence at four interacting levels: the individual, relational, community context and societal factors
A Community Approach to Juvenile Justice
This Fall, the Adler School Institute on Public Safety and Social Justice (IPSSJ) and its partner organizations with the Cook County Juvenile Justice Task Force published a concept paper (PDF download) outlining community-based, trauma-informed, restorative solutions to youth crime and conflict in Cook County, Illinois. The report provides guiding thoughts on how the juvenile justice system can better support young people while making communities safer. It also recommends alternatives to existing centralized juvenile detention approaches in Cook County.
The Adler School IPSSJ paper reports that the majority of juvenile justice dollars are spent in only a few zip codes. By using community approaches to juvenile justice, the Adler School argues that the county could get a much higher return on investment, along with lowering the risk currently posed by teen crime. Via the report:
...if the county does not reinvest these dollars in the communities of greatest need, it is asking residents of those areas to assume substantial additional risks to their safety without funding the types of programs and initiatives that could effectively manage those risks. This is a very real danger. As we all labor to design the best possible future for juvenile justice in Cook County, we would like your help keeping the above ideas and concerns at the forefront of the process. We know fundamental change will take years to responsibly develop; yet the time to begin the work is now.
Implementing Evidence-Based Programs for Justice-Involved Teens
A recent report from the Association for the Advancement of Evidence-Based Practice demonstrates strong evidence to support shifting resources to evidence-based programs (EBPs) in delinquency prevention or intervention, or those proven to produce substantial reductions in recidivism and crime. Despite this, according to the report,
Although there are sufficient resources currently invested in juvenile justice programs to provide a program that has been proven effective for every youth who could use one, less than 10 percent of youths in need actually receive these programs.
To address this and improve the availability and quality of EBPs, the report, Implementing Proven Programs For Juvenile Offenders: Assessing State Progress, examined the top five states in terms of proven programs (Connecticut, Hawaii, Louisiana, Maine and New Mexico) for commonalities that could guide other states.
Key similarities found in the study included:
- Structured involvement of all key stakeholders: requiring the cooperation of many state and local agencies, including state departments, law enforcement, and school systems, in programs
- Development of local expertise: identifying at least one person to become fully informed about the available EBP options and allotting time for them to do this
- Pilot testing of new EBPs: picking one or two sites in which to test the program models selected as the best to suit their needs
- Creation of information resource centers: establishing sites with staff acting to bridge the science of EBPs (assessment instruments, training consultant etc.) and the practitioners
- Designation of small number of EBPs to be supported by state: starting out supporting just one EBP and slowly adding additional programs
- Special funding for designated EBPs: enlisting state support for important but non-revenue producing pre-implementation aspects of a new EBP
- Technical assistance to counties for needs assessment, program selection and implementation