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Can Music Help Transform the Juvenile Justice System?

A recently released exploratory study commissioned by WolfBrown and Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute examines the potential for music in teens involved with the juvenile justice system. Carnegie Hall’s Musical Connections Program has been providing musical workshops for the past four years for teens in various states of the juvenile justice system, including those in detention and on probation.

The study, “May The Songs I Have Written Speak For Me: An Exploration Of The Potential Of Music In Juvenile Justice,” is broken down into the following sections (via the news release):

  • A history of juvenile justice in the United States with an emphasis on the long-standing tension between incarceration and rehabilitation
  • An overview of the current movement for reform
  • A summary of basic research on adolescent development, with an emphasis on the new brain science that explains why adolescents are prone to risk-taking, thrill-seeking, and emotionally-driven choices, coupled with a discussion of the potential of music to reach and affect adolescents
  • A review of research and evaluations from an international set of music programs in both adult and juvenile corrections facilities, with an emphasis on what such programs accomplish and the specific effects they have
  • A reflection on the design principles emerging from effective programs
  • An examination of the current work in juvenile justice supported by Carnegie Hall and the Administration for Children’s Services in New York, with an emphasis on the issues and choices that are arising as this work enters a second, deeper, and more challenging phase.

Since this is an exploratory study, there isn’t conclusive data to report yet. However, Carnegie Hall and other musical organizations are encouraged to see the potential of music to make a difference in the lives of teens in the juvenile justice system.

juvenile-justice-system_David-BackesDavid Backes writes the Friday news roundup for Reclaiming Futures and contributes articles about juvenile justice reform and adolescent substance abuse treatment to He has a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Santa Clara University. David works as an account executive for Prichard Communications.