Recidivism is not a comprehensive measure of success for criminal justice in general or for community corrections specifically. When used to judge the effects of justice interventions on behavior, the concept of recidivism may even be harmful, as it often reinforces the racial and class biases underlying much of the justice system. We encourage justice systems to rely on more flexible and more responsive outcome measures. Community corrections agencies should encourage policymakers to rely on outcomes related to criminal desistance and the social integration of people on probation or parole. Measures focused on social development and community wellbeing are more useful for evaluating the effects of justice interventions, and they are less likely to distort policy discussions.
Measuring positive outcomes in youth justice requires a shift away from recidivism as the sole indicator of program effectiveness. A youth justice system embracing the PYD approach would gauge its success by tracking positive youth outcomes, such as the formation of strong and supportive relationships, academic engagement, labor market readiness, and improved socio-emotional skills.
As part of an ongoing evaluation of the Cure Violence strategy, researchers found the program was potentially associated with less support for the use of violence and greater confidence in police. In a series of neighborhood surveys, young men in areas with Cure Violence programs were less likely to use violence to settle personal disputes and more likely to rely on law enforcement.
Promising evidence that the public health approach to violence reduction championed by Cure Violence may be capable of creating safe and healthy communities. "A recent evaluation of the NYC program is perhaps most convincing. It was a very sophisticated analysis, done by experienced researchers using police data, hospital data, interviews and surveys. It showed not only reductions in shootings by up to 63 percent, and a change in norms (towards rejecting the use of violence). It also showed that the program resulted in an increase in confidence in police. We’ve heard from several people that this study convinced them even more that the Cure Violence approach really worked." - Gary Slutkin quoted in the Washington Post - June 18, 2018.
Young men living in neighborhoods with Cure Violence programs reported significant reductions in their willingness to use violence compared with men in similar areas without programs. Regression analysis explained 20 percent of the total variance in violence-related norms with significant reductions in willingness to use violence among young men in Cure Violence areas (–14%) and no significant change among residents in matched comparison neighborhoods.
YAP services generate considerable savings by reducing the need for commitment and out-of-home placement among court-involved youth. Based on average lengths of stay in out-of-home placements in Florida and the actual placement settings used for committed youth in this study, we estimate that the State of Florida saves more than $2.7 Million in avoided placement costs for every 1,000 youth referred to YAP rather than DJJ probation.
None of the cities involved in the National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention were able to track violent crime trends in a way that could have allowed researchers to evaluate the effects of the initiative over time and in specific neighborhoods.
While one of the strengths of OJJDP’s CBVP model was its emphasis on adaptation to local context and needs, the variation across program sites posed serious challenges for the evaluation and made it impossible to assess and compare outcomes in each city.
The National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention generated important changes in five communities participating in the initiative (Boston, MA; Detroit, MI; Memphis, TN; Salinas, CA; and San Jose, CA). Survey respondents reported a number of potentially valuable outcomes.
When researchers examined new survey findings from communities that participated in the Reclaiming Futures initiative over a ten-year period, the data suggest that communities with the strongest engagement in Reclaiming Futures tend to have more positive perceptions of their youth justice and substance abuse treatment systems, including key facets of administration, collaboration, and overall system quality. In communities where the survey scores increased significantly during the early years of Reclaiming Futures, improvements were sustained through 2015. Thus, robust implementation of Reclaiming Futures may be associated with lasting improvements in system operations.