Profile No. 44

Juvenile Gun Program -- Minneapolis, MN

Program Type or Federal Program Source:
Court-related programs.

Program Goal:
To reduce the number of juveniles committing gun offenses through education about gun violence and its consequences.

Specific Groups Targeted by the Strategy:
Juveniles adjudicated on gun offenses.

Geographical Area Targeted by the Strategy:
Hennepin County, MN.

Evaluated by:
Internal data collection.

Contact Information:
Michael Sandin, Coordinator/Probation Officer
Hennepin County Juvenile Probation
626 South Sixth Street
Minneapolis, MN 55415
Phone: 612­348­2407

Years of Operation:

Hennepin County initiated a Juvenile Gun Program in November 1995 in response to the rising number of juveniles coming into the juvenile justice system on gun offenses. Prior to the program's inception, all juveniles adjudicated on gun offenses were required to complete 100 hours of community service. However, these orders were not consistently enforced and had little impact on recidivism.

The Juvenile Gun Program was designed by a Hennepin County Juvenile Court judge in conjunction with the juvenile probation staff. The program, which is operated by the juvenile probation office, combines education and community service requirements. Juveniles adjudicated on charges involving a gun are given a stayed commitment to an out-of-home placement and referral to a work program. If the juvenile fails to follow the expectations of the program, his stay is revoked immediately.

Juveniles meet for 40 hours over a 16-week period for the educational component of the gun program. Random urine testing is conducted at some meetings, and indicators of drug use lead to referrals for treatment. Juveniles are exposed to a variety of speakers, presentations, and experiences designed to show them the negative consequences of gun violence. They attend the Calling the Shots program, where they witness a reenactment of a hospital emergency room scene depicting the aftermath of a serious gunshot incident. Speakers have included prisoners convicted of gun charges, the judge who founded the program, the mayor, a minister who was on probation in his youth, investigators, a woman whose child was murdered, a juvenile on death row, and a probation staff member whose brother was convicted of murder.

The goal of the Juvenile Gun Program is to encourage youth to think about the effects of gun violence on themselves, their families, and their communities, as well as personal responsibility, victimization, and community responsibility. In addition, trained professionals discuss anger management alternatives with the youth and help them develop plans to manage stressful situations. They are given a tour of the workhouse, an old and ominous short-term lockup run by the county. They are asked to read and clip newspaper articles on gun violence in the Twin Cities area and bring them in for discussion. To satisfy their 60-hour community service requirement, they perform park maintenance and beautification, neighborhood clean sweeps, one-time activities like planting a "victim's garden," and other jobs that benefit the community.

The program continually adapts to the changing needs of its clients. Evaluations administered at the end of each presentation have given program administrators insights into how the program is affecting participants, and the program has been modified accordingly. For example, the time of commitment has been lengthened from 3 to 6 weeks, and more aggressive substance abuse referrals and treatment have been implemented.

From its inception in 1995 through July 1998, the program served more than 300 clients. In quarterly progress reports, the probation department compares results for program "completers" with "noncompleters." Seven-month outcomes for the first 7 groups (51 completers and 56 noncompleters), which included juveniles out of the program for at least 6 months, showed that the completers had slightly lower rates for new charges than noncompleters (49 percent versus 55 percent). However, the new charges for completers tended to be misdemeanors or status offenses (88 percent) rather than felonies (12 percent), whereas for noncompleters 35 percent of new charges were misdemeanors and 65 percent were felonies. There was one new weapons charge for the completers group, which was subsequently dismissed, while the noncompleter group had six new weapons offenses.

In the latest report, revocations had declined and a formal aftercare component for those in need of probation supervision had been added to the program. The Minneapolis Anti-Violence Initiative (see profile 31) also will be used as an additional resource to supervise probationers. Of the 26 clients who completed the program between December 1997 and March 1998, none had committed a new offense by June 30, while four noncompleters had reoffended with one new weapons charge each.

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Promising Strategies to Reduce Gun Violence OJJDP Report