Dr. Jeffrey Butts, the director of research at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, has studied violence interruption programs at the national level. He explained that it's difficult to quantify just how effective these programs are, as violence interrupters in other cities primarily deal with trying to change the community culture through relationships to avoid violence.
“They should not operate in hostility to law enforcement…but they need to operate almost autonomously,” said Jeffrey Butts, director of the Research and Evaluation Center of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City. “If the neighborhood starts to think that these programs are in cahoots with law enforcement, the young people in the neighborhood will stop talking to the workers.”
“People have tried to put a number on the cost of a death. If someone is shot — even injured — much less killed, there are policing costs,” Butts told the Brooklyn Eagle. “Someone has to show up to process the scene. There are prison costs for the shooter, and then all the other costs for family who have a person shot and or killed. There’s lifelong trauma, loss of income. You can actually estimate the total cost.”
The John Jay College of Criminal Justice Research and Evaluation Center analyzed the New York City experience with the Cure Violence model in 2017, seven years after the strategy was adopted. It found reductions in gun injuries of 37–50 percent in the South Bronx and Brooklyn. The center also documented a 14 percent reduction in attitudes supporting violence, with no change in control populations. However, more research is needed.
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.
Research shows that young people who participate in youth court or teen court programs may have lower rates of recidivism. Adults involved in the programs attribute much of their success to the influence of positive peer pressure and the value of giving young people a voice in the process. Joining Radio Times host Marty Moss-Coaneus to tell the story of youth courts are Jeffrey Butts of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, who has evaluated teen court programs across the country; and attorney Gregg Volz, who has implemented school-based youth courts in Chester.
“The most powerful factor is peer support for pro-social behavior,” said Jeffrey Butts, one of the authors of the Urban Institute study, who is now the director of the Research and Evaluation Center at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York. “When a judge controls the room — that’s what their whole life is like. That’s no different than high school.”
Drawing on a national survey of juvenile court practitioners, this study investigates key questions about the effectiveness of juvenile justice and discusses the implications of the findings for research, policy, and practice.
This report presents the results of research that examined changing trends in juvenile justice legislation and surveyed juvenile justice professionals across the nation to measure their impressions of recent juvenile justice policy reforms. Researchers learned there is considerable consensus among diverse practitioner groups, with survey respondents viewing rehabilitative programs as more effective than punitive ones – a perspective consistent with recent legislative trends. Together, these data suggest the policy pendulum is swinging toward more progressive measures after years of "get tough" reforms.