Serious and violent juvenile (SVJ) offenders comprise a troubled and often dangerous population. Although their numbers are small, they are responsible for a disproportionate amount of crime. To know what to do about this difficult problem and to garner the necessary financial, political, and public support to deal with it effectively, policymakers need a solid research foundation. To build this research base, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) convened the Study Group on Serious and Violent Juvenile Offenders. The findings of this distinguished panel of researchers are quite hopeful and compelling. They conclude that it is never too early to begin efforts to prevent SVJ offending, and it is never too late to intervene with known serious and violent juvenile offenders.
Expanding upon OJJDP's formative work on the Comprehensive Strategy for Serious, Violent, and Chronic Juvenile Offenders (Wilson and Howell, 1993), the Study Group carefully documented what is known about SVJ offenders, what programs have been tried, how these programs have performed, what lessons can be drawn from them, and what research and evaluation efforts are needed to advance knowledge about preventing and controlling SVJ offending. One of the primary goals of the Study Group was to provide further guidance to jurisdictions across the country that are implementing OJJDP's Comprehensive Strategy. This strategy, originally developed from research on general delinquency, emphasizes strengthening the family and other core socializing institutions, implementing prevention programs targeting key risk factors, identifying potential offenders at a young age, and employing graduated sanctions based on assessments of risks and needs. The Study Group used this framework to guide its efforts.
Over a period of 2 years, the Study Group of 22 researchers worked collaboratively under the direction of Rolf Loeber, Ph.D., Professor of Psychiatry, Psychology, and Epidemiology at the University of Pittsburgh, and David P. Farrington, Ph.D., Professor of Psychological Criminology at the University of Cambridge, England. The final product, Serious and Violent Juvenile Offenders: Risk Factors and Successful Interventions (Loeber and Farrington, 1998), analyzes current research on risk and protective factors and the development of SVJ offending careers, integrating it with information on the effectiveness of prevention and intervention programs. The interventions examined range from those targeting children to those focused on adults, and from programs in the juvenile justice system to programs involving homes and schools. By highlighting the link between risk and protective factors and programming, the Study Group has provided a comprehensive synthesis of available literature and specially commissioned data analyses to focus specifically on serious and violent juvenile offenders. This Bulletin summarizes the latest, most comprehensive research on SVJ offenders and is intended to stimulate interest in and discussion of the findings and issues raised by the Study Group's report.