It’s Not About the Art; It’s About the Artist

We actually need young people who are bold, willing to challenge conventional thinking, and to break rules, but we also need them to respect others, to rely on logic rather than force, and to appreciate the corrosive effects of violence and exploitation. In short, our communities need powerful and creative young people who want to improve us and not simply to fight us. These should seem like obvious concepts to anyone working around the youth justice system, but it is often surprisingly difficult to implement them in practice.

Recidivism Reconsidered

Jeffrey A. Butts and Vincent Schiraldi Recidivism is not a robust measure of effectiveness for community corrections agencies. When used as the sole measure of effectiveness, recidivism misleads policymakers and the public, encourages inappropriate comparisons of dissimilar populations, and focuses policy on negative rather than positive outcomes. Policymakers who focus on recidivism as evidence of justice effectiveness are confusing a complex, bureaucratic indicator of system decision-making with a simple measure of individual behavior and rehabilitation. Recidivism is at least in part a gauge of police activity and enforcement emphasis and, because of differential policing practices in minority communities, using recidivism…

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Positive Outcomes

This report reviews a number of prominent frameworks that are available to help youth justice systems rely on positive outcomes rather than recidivism to measure their effectiveness. These include the Developmental Assets model, the 5Cs model, the Youth Program Quality Assessment model, the Positive Youth Justice model, and the Youth Thrive framework. Each model or framework aligns with the key principles of positive youth development as well as the large body of research on desistance from crime, which is also presented in this report.

Chronicle of Social Change

The Chronicle of Social Change published a series of articles on applications of the Positive Youth Justice model. In the first summary article, John Kelly points out that the youth justice system tries to intervene in many areas of a young person’s life. Substance abuse, serious mental health disorders, family problems and a history of abuse. These are the problems that current policies assume fuel the criminal behavior of some juveniles, but surely not all. The reality is that most youth simply need someone to identify and build on their strengths, not only focus on their weaknesses. This is known as…

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PYJ in the UK

Positive Youth Justice: Children First, Offenders Second This topical book moves beyond established critiques to outline a model of positive youth justice: Children First, Offenders Second (CFOS). Already in use in Wales, the proposed model promotes child-friendly, diversionary, inclusive, engaging, promotional practice and legitimate partnership between children and adults which can serve as a blueprint for other local authorities and countries. Setting out a progressive, positive and principled model of youth justice, Positive Youth Justice: Children First, Offenders Second is written in an accessible style which will appeal to academics, practitioners, policy makers, researchers and students seeking to improve working…

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Adolescent Risk Perception

Shulman, Elizabeth P. and Elizabeth Cauffman (2013). Reward-Biased Risk Appraisal and Its Relation to Juvenile Versus Adult Crime. Law & Human Behavior, 37(6): 412-423. Journal site Patricia Zapf provides this helpful this helpful summary. The authors note that “the nature of adolescent risk perception may not only increase the chances of criminal behavior, it may interfere with the deterrent intent of legal sanctions. If, as suggested by the developmental literature, adolescents tend to discount risks and future consequences, the are unlikely to give sufficient weight to the potential legal consequences of law-breaking prior to indulging in it. Rather, they will…

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Using Science to Reform Systems

According to the National Research Council, the “overarching goal of the juvenile justice system is to support the positive social development of youths who become involved in the system, and thereby assure the safety of communities. The specific aims of juvenile courts and affiliated agencies are to hold youths accountable for wrongdoing, prevent further offending, and treat youths fairly. All three of these aims are compatible with a developmental approach to juvenile justice.” See the full report, Reforming Juvenile Justice: A Developmental Approach. Richard J. Bonnie, Robert L. Johnson, Betty M. Chemers, and Julie A. Schuck (Editors). Washington, DC: National Research…

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Bridging Juvenile Justice and PYD

A synopsis of evidence indicates what does and does not work in juvenile justice and the inherent limitations of an approach based on “the medical model.” Recent progressive approaches in juvenile justice are more hospitable to positive youth development principles than are previous approaches.

Youth Development Institute

The Youth Development Institute (YDI) supports the growth and development of young people by strengthening the quality and increasing the availability of experiences offered by the organizations that serve them. They partner with community organizations, schools, colleges, policy makers, funders, and others to create programs, train staff, and develop policies that encourage and enable young people to transition successfully to adulthood. The Institute publishes materials and provides training to organizations seeking to embed the principles of positive youth development into routine operations and workplace culture.

Strengthening Youth Justice Practices with Developmental Knowledge and Principles

The insights and lessons of developmental science do not translate easily into the day-to-day tasks of youth justice systems, which often focus on control and compliance. Youth justice practitioners require assistance as they apply developmental principles. The Positive Youth Justice (PYJ) Model was developed to meet this challenge.

Positive Youth Justice

Butts, Jeffrey A., Gordon Bazemore, and Aundra Saa Meroe (2010). Positive Youth Justice: Framing Justice Interventions Using the Concepts of Positive Youth Development. Washington, DC: Coalition for Juvenile Justice. Positive youth development could be an effective framework for designing general interventions for young offenders. Such a framework would encourage youth justice systems to focus on protective factors as well as risk factors, strengths as well as problems, and broader efforts to facilitate successful transitions to adulthood for justice-involved youth. The positive youth development approach supports youth in making successful transitions from adolescence to early adulthood by encouraging young people to develop…

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A Sensible Model

Butts, Jeffrey A. (2008). YTFG Briefing Paper #3: A Sensible Model for Juvenile Justice. Chicago, IL: Youth Transition Funders Group. The juvenile justice system needs a new, sensible model for policy and practice, one that can be used to design and deliver interventions for the full range of delinquent offenders coming to the attention of law enforcement and the courts. Policies and practices in the juvenile justice system are often developed in reverse. Problems are remodeled to fit existing solutions. Too often, interventions that are appropriate for particular subgroups of juvenile offenders — those charged with serious and violent crimes…

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