Interventions to Prevent SVJ Offending
Because several factors put children at risk of becoming SVJ offenders, it is unlikely that intervention efforts directed only toward a single source of influence (e.g., individual, family, school, or peers) will be successful. Multiple-component programs are needed, and priority should be given to preventive actions that reduce risk factors in multiple domains. Because many of the same risk factors that predict adolescent delinquency and violence also predict substance abuse, school dropout, early sexual involvement, and teen pregnancy, the benefits of such early intervention programs can be wide ranging (see table 3).
The most successful early intervention programs involve simultaneous interventions in the home and in the school. Community interventions -- particularly public health approaches that target risk or protective factors -- are also important. The success of this approach depends on the development of data collection methods that specify when, where, and how offenses occur as well as how offenders develop. Wide-ranging community-based programs are required in which risk and protective factors are measured, intervention techniques targeting these factors are implemented, and the impact of these techniques is assessed.
The public health approach can be effective with SVJ offenders because preventive actions often work best when implemented at the community level. For example, centrally mobilized police officers who use community policing strategies and coordinate their efforts with school nurses and other social service and mental health workers in the community can be effective in involving the community in identifying and targeting SVJ offenders. School-based strategies are also useful, especially those focused on school organization or on classroom-based curriculums emphasizing the reinforcement of prosocial and academic skills. The community can also intervene by reducing the availability of firearms and drugs and encouraging norms and laws favorable to prosocial behaviors. Most of these approaches have been incorporated in OJJDP's Comprehensive Strategy.
To be effective, the prevention of SVJ offending must involve:
|| Effective screening for children who are exposed to adverse circumstances or who exhibit behaviors that place them at high risk of becoming SVJ offenders.|
|| Access by families, children, and adolescents to early intervention services, programs, and opportunities that have been determined to be effective in preventing or reducing the likelihood of SVJ offending or in mediating associated risk factors. Effective interventions include home visitation of pregnant teenagers, parent training, preschool intellectual enrichment programs, interpersonal skills training, and medication for neurological disorders or mental illness.|
|| Preventive interventions based on public health approaches and implemented within a comprehensive, community-based program that targets risk factors in disadvantaged neighborhoods.|
|| Integration of services, including those provided by the juvenile justice system, mental health system, medical system, schools, and child protection agencies.|
|| Prevention of gang formation and involvement, drug dealing, drug markets, and violent victimization.|
Because gang membership is related to higher levels of SVJ offending, the Study Group identified a number of promising prevention and intervention programs to reduce gang involvement and gang violence. Three such programs are highlighted below:|
|| The Little Village Gang Violence Reduction Program, operated by the Chicago Police Department, employed targeted control of violent gang members through increased surveillance by probation and law enforcement agents along with a wide range of social services and opportunities for targeted gang members to transition out of gangs.|
|| The Gang Resistance Education and Training (G.R.E.A.T.) Program, developed by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, is a prevention program being tested and evaluated in 42 schools across the country with very promising results. It uses a structured curriculum provided by trained law enforcement officers to discourage adolescents from joining gangs.|
|| A third promising strategy under way in Boston and Chicago involves a multiple- component program to target youth gang homicides. This program maintains an online, geocoded information system to track gang violence, restricts access to firearms, enhances prosecution of gang crimes, and provides increased multiagency sanctioning and hospital emergency room intervention.|
Table 4: Effectiveness of Interventions for Serious and Violent Juvenile Offenders|
|Positive effects, consistent evidence|
Teaching family home
|Positive effects, less consistent evidence|
Community residential programs
|Mixed but generally positive effects, inconsistent evidence|
|Weak or no effects, inconsistent evidence|
|Reduced caseload, probation/parole
Drug abstinence Wilderness/challenge
|Weak or no effects, consistent evidence|
Early release, probation/parole
Note: Interventions were conducted primarily as single-component rather than multimodal programs. Results from multiple-services programs suggest that some of the interventions that showed less than consistent positive effects individually may have more significant effects when combined.
|Serious and Violent Juvenile Offenders
Juvenile Justice Bulletin
· May 1998|