A number of youth justice programs are honored on this site with Silver and Gold PYJ Medals. The medal winning programs were selected based on their adherence to the science of adolescent development and their embodiment of PYJ principles, including their conceptual orientation, intervention strategy, and consistency of implementation.
Distinctions between Silver and Gold programs are based on expert judgment. In some cases, staff members from JohnJayREC visited the programs, interviewed employees, and reviewed program operations. In others, selection was based on a program’s own materials and publications, including websites. Ideally, all medal winners would be selected based on a detailed review of evaluation research. Unfortunately, evaluations of youth justice programs using PYJ principles are still relatively rare.
The Research & Evaluation Center hopes that these PYJ-compatible programs inspire more researchers and funding organizations to increase their levels of investment in developing the evidence base for the PYJ Model.
The Silver Medal programs on this site have demonstrated a number of key characteristics, including:
- The program environment is developmentally appropriate in that it offers safety, support, and opportunities for youth to develop new skills, engage with pro-social adults, and expand their exercise of personal responsibility.
- The program staff works actively to avoid the use of negative labels and coercion.
- The program structure incorporates escalating rewards and opportunities for youth engagement.
- Program staff meet youth “where they are” developmentally and begin with the assumption that youth are competent and capable of exercising responsibility.
- Youth involved in the program have opportunities to build new skills and to use them to advance their own learning and to benefit the larger group or community.
- Whenever possible, youth activities involve tangible rewards or compensation, even paid work.
- The goal of adult leadership is always to hand over leadership to youth themselves as soon as practical.
- The fundamental purpose of setting goals for youth is to facilitate success, not to punish failure.
- The program avoids challenging and testing youth needlessly. Before offering opportunities to youth, the program first prepares them to succeed in those opportunities.
- If youth are engaged in educational activities, the program ensures that trained teachers are involved and that youth receive legitimate academic credit.
Gold Medal programs on this site share the characteristics of Silver Medal programs, but they are also designed with high levels of integrity and theoretical compatibility with the science of adolescent development and they were explicitly designed to prevent and reduce youth offending. Moreover, the programs maintain a consistent level of investment in research and evaluation that is designed to build strong evidence of their effectiveness. They operate as learning organizations and show a willingness to experiment and innovate. They also ensure that their basic activities are monitored and measured in order to assess their effects.