"My main concern is that [politicians] don't care about the details, they just want to have a good sound bite and a good promotional campaign," says Jeffrey Butts, director of the Research and Evaluation Center at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City.
Jeffrey Butts participated in a panel hosted by the Bureau of Governmental Research in New Orleans, discussing the potential of community-based violence prevention strategies.
Understanding what work is being done, anything that lets researchers “pull back the curtain,” is important, said Jeffrey Butts, director of the Research & Evaluation Center at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York.
Prevention is different than deterrence, and it uses other tools and resources. It lowers risks and builds assets. Risks are obstacles to safety that often metastasize across individuals and increase harm to entire communities, including substance abuse, antisocial peers, unemployment, and family violence.v
“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.”
New York City officials responded to adverse conditions in NYCHA developments by launching the Mayor’s Action Plan for Neighborhood Safety in 2014. The initiative was designed to enhance the social and physical environment of housing developments in ways that improve public safety.
Jeffrey Butts, director of the Research and Evaluation Center at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, is evaluating two crime reduction initiatives at the behest of New York City, which has been investing in a targeted focus on people involved in gun violence. They found the organizations funded through the city’s Office of Criminal Justice "don’t have enough information" because programs "aren’t asked to generate or collect data." "Everyone is running around doing what they think is right,” he said. “Every neighborhood says they know their people, their guys, their culture. But that makes it impossible to say whether the program itself is responsible for improvements in public safety.”
"[Violence interrupters] are from the same streets, grew up in the same areas and had the same experiences as young people and so they just have more access and access means influence," said Jeffrey Butts, director of the Research and Evaluation Center at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. "The possibility of influencing someone's behavior and attitude is stronger if you come at them as an equal."
Jeffrey Butts joined Yuripzy Morgan on WBAL News Radio in Baltimore, where City officials are launching new efforts to reduce community violence.
“The evidence is mixed,” Butts, who led the 2015 review and subsequent research on interrupters, said. “We need to do more studies.”
A mayoral initiative since 2016, Fast Track began with a focus on prosecution and court processing and evolved to focus on driving down gun violence with a system-wide focus on individuals involved in gun violence and deploying the Cure Violence model in 18 NYC neighborhoods.
Recording of a webinar for the Council of Juvenile Justice Administrators in December 2020. Two parts: Presentation and Q&A that follows.
Arnold Ventures asked the Research and Evaluation Center at John Jay College of Criminal Justice to review and summarize the research evidence for policies and programs that reduce community violence without relying on police.
Arnold Ventures asked the Research and Evaluation Center at John Jay College of Criminal Justice to review and summarize research on policies and programs known to reduce community violence without relying on police.
While effects are modest and largely found in misdemeanor offenses, this rigorous test of the Mayor’s Action Plan for Neighborhood Safety indicates that New York City’s effort to improve the safety of public housing communities was beginning to show benefits by the end of 2019. Based on these findings, the results of MAP are promising.
Was the presence of the MAP initiative in some NYCHA developments associated with greater improvements in crime and victimization outcomes compared with the same outcomes in NYCHA developments not involved in MAP? The results presented here do not answer the question in full, but they offer an early look at efforts by the research team to generate more precise answers. Additional analyses are needed to rule out competing explanations and to examine the complex series of relationships among all the study’s variables. Based on the preliminary findings in this report, however, the results of MAP to date may be considered promising.
This second in a series of reports about the evaluation of the New York City Mayor’s Action Plan for Neighborhood Safety (MAP). This Evaluation Update: summarizes the goals and methods used to evaluate the Mayor’s Action Plan; describes the quasi-experimental design used to test the outcomes and impacts of MAP as well as the data sources assembled by the research team and how they are used; and portrays a logical framework the research team used initially to identify causal pathways through which various elements of MAP were intended to achieve their desired effect.
Justice practitioners and policymakers recognize the limited information available from official recidivism measures when agencies need to develop strong evidence of their own effectiveness. The wide array of alternative measures, however, can be overwhelming and many are either impossible or impractical from a data collection and data integration perspective. This training provides participants with added knowledge and skills with which to formulate a set of outcome measures that provide a fuller picture of the effectiveness of offender supervision and other justice interventions.
To evaluate the New York City Mayor’s Action Plan for Neighborhood Safety (MAP), an initiative to improve the safety of public housing developments, researchers estimated the counterfactual (no intervention) by selecting a set of comparison housing developments not involved in the initiative. The study relied on the statistical method known as propensity score analysis (PSA) to select the comparison group.
Experiments are also rarely able to reliably measure and isolate the effects of very complex justice interventions. Policymakers and practitioners in the justice sector should consider evaluation research as a portfolio of strategic investments in knowledge development. Randomized controlled trials are merely one asset in a broader investment strategy.
Rather than asking “what’s the recidivism rate?” we should ask an entirely different set of questions about justice interventions. Are we really helping people convicted of crimes to form better relationships with their families and their law-abiding friends? Are we helping them to advance their educational goals? Are they more likely to develop the skills and abilities required for stable employment? Are we helping them to respect others and to participate positively in the civic and cultural life of their communities?
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.
Grassroots organizations have often argued they can stop violence in a way the police department cannot. NY1 News reports on a new study by John Jay College's Research and Evaluation Center that shows some of those community programs are making a difference.
They have prior criminal records but now aim to resolve neighborhood conflicts before they turn violent. They walk neighborhood streets on a daily basis and use their connections to resolve disputes before they escalate, requiring the police. These “violence interrupters” and their tactics helped to drive down crime in East New York and the South Bronx, two neighborhoods analyzed in a John Jay College of Criminal Justice report.