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
Most Popular Juvenile Justice Blog Posts | October 2012
Did you miss some of our blog posts last month? Not to worry - here's a round-up of our most popular posts from October 2012.
10. [NEW REPORT] Community Solutions for Youth in Trouble
Over the past few years, Texas has shifted youth rehabilitation from large state-run facilities to smaller community programs. And they're seeing great results.
9. October is National Youth Justice Awareness Month
Last month, over 20 states are holding events to raise awareness about youth justice issues and the juvenile justice system.
8. 7 Core Principles to Change the Course of Youth Justice
A new article from the New York Law School Law Review examines problems with the juvenile justice system and offers solutions for a more productive youth justice system.
7. NC Teens, Police, Community Join Forces to Stop Bullying Epidemic
Recognizing the need to address bullying in schools, young people in North Carolina partnered with police officers and community members to create a short movie against bullying.
Minnesota Reports on Disproportionate Minority Contact in its Juvenile Justice System
Minnesota’s Department of Public Safety Office of Justice Programs has been researching Disproportionate Minority Contact (DMC) in their state in order to better understand why minority youth have contact with the juvenile justice system at different rates than white youth. Their new report, “Disproportionate Minority Contact in Minnesota’s Juvenile Justice System,” is an exhaustive investigation measuring DMC in Minnesota, along with strategies for reducing it.
Disproportionate Minority Contact is often dismissed by people not involved with the juvenile justice system with the thought that minority youth commit more crimes than white youth. The data, however, suggests otherwise. Via the report:
While data suggest white youth and youth of color may have different rates of offending for some crimes, the levels of disparity observed are too great to be explained by differences in youth offending patterns alone. Furthermore, once youth of color are in the system, research reveals they receive harsher consequences than white youth with similar offenses and criminal histories.
The report continues with an explanation of why DMC may be occurring:
A host of factors potentially contribute to disparate rates of justice system contact for youth of color. These include the inequitable distribution of resources in communities, bias within the policies and practices of juvenile justice agencies, and underlying social conditions of communities, particularly poverty.
Tough Times For Girls In Juvenile Justice System and More; News Roundup
Juvenile Justice Reform
- Kids Count Report Demonstrates New Jersey’s Successes In Juvenile Justice (NTToday.net)
Advocates for Children of New Jersey today released a special juvenile justice Kids Count report entitled, “Measuring Change in New Jersey’s Treatment of Young Offenders.” The report details the successful reforms in juvenile justice since the implementation of the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Juvenile Justice Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI) in New Jersey.
- Tough Times For Girls In Juvenile Justice System (NPR.org)
[AUDIO STORY] The number of boys locked up for crimes has dropped over the past decade, but the number of young women detained in jails and residential centers has moved in the other direction. Experts say girls make up the fastest-growing segment of the juvenile justice system, with more than 300,000 arrests and criminal charges every year.
- Common Sense Discipline In Denver Schools (RightOnCrime.com)
Between 2009 and 2011, enrollment in Denver schools rose six percent. But even with an increased number of students, expulsions dropped 44 percent, from 185 to 104. That’s because the school district has adopted alternatives to zero-tolerance, such as restorative justice and conflict resolution, which seek to defuse and resolve disciplinary issues before they rise to a level demanding expulsion.
- South Dakota Counties Export Effective Juvenile Justice (RightOnCrime.com)
Minnehaha and Pennington County, in South Dakota, have dropped juvenile detention rates by one-third and one-half, respectively, in just two years. Now the rest of the state is hoping to follow their lead.
7 Core Principles to Change the Course of Youth Justice
A new article from the New York Law School Law Review examines the problems with the juvenile justice system and offers solutions for a more productive youth justice system. “When the Cure Makes You Ill: Seven Core Principles to Change the Course of Youth Justice,” calls the extremity of youth justice to trial and shares statistics of the negative effects the system has on children.
Our current juvenile justice system is “iatrogenic,” says author Gabrielle Prisco. Being in the system worsens outcomes for troubled teens and more often than not, results in violence and recidivism -- the very same outcome it tries to remedy.
Prisco outlines seven core principles to change the course of youth justice:
Principle One: Treat Children as Children
Research shows children lack critical thinking skills and the ability to fully understand risk management. “The region of the brain that is the last to develop is the one that controls many of the abilities that govern goal-oriented, ‘rational’ decision-making, such as long-term planning, impulse control, insight, and judgment,” writes Prisco. Children who are incarcerated in an adult jail are thirty-six times more likely to commit suicide because they are not properly cared for in a youth facility, yet thirty-nine states in the United States presently allow juveniles to be tried in adult court and sentenced to life without the chance of parole (JLWOP).