Governing Magazine — What We’ve Learned — and Failed to Learn — from a Million COVID Deaths

Many criminologists blame the pandemic and its societal and economic disruptions for the spike in homicides over the past couple of years. “It’s not that the whole society fell apart,” says Jeffrey Butts, director of the Research and Evaluation Center at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. “It’s just that there are enough people who were already living on the edge, and this pushed them off of it.”

NPR — Michigan School Shooter is 1 of Thousands of U.S. Juveniles Charged as Adults in 2021

"If it's just supposed to send a message to that kid and all other people that we take this seriously and we're not going to stand for this behavior, therefore we're punishing you, then it accomplishes that purpose." But Butts says if the idea is to improve public safety or prevent future crime, decades of research show that is rarely the result.

New York Times — A 7-Year-Old Was Accused of Rape. Is Arresting Him the Answer?

There appears to be little, if any, organized opposition to raising the age of delinquency. But those who resist say doing so would hamstring the legal system, according to Jeffrey A. Butts, the director of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice’s Research and Evaluation Center. In rare cases involving a particularly dangerous child, he said, incarceration may prevent them from being a risk to others.

JJIE — With Plunging Crime Rate, New York Experts Dreaming Big

But while the numbers show New York City is shifting gears on criminal justice reform, much harder is to establish, the experts said, is whether new policies are causing the drop in crime or whether they are a consequence of it.... Crime numbers have been decreasing for a long time nationwide, and even worldwide, said Jeffrey Butts, a professor who leads the Research and Evaluation Center at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. He has researched the juvenile justice system since the late 1980s.

It’s Not About the Art; It’s About the Artist

We actually need young people who are bold, willing to challenge conventional thinking, and to break rules, but we also need them to respect others, to rely on logic rather than force, and to appreciate the corrosive effects of violence and exploitation. In short, our communities need powerful and creative young people who want to improve us and not simply to fight us. These should seem like obvious concepts to anyone working around the youth justice system, but it is often surprisingly difficult to implement them in practice.

Recidivism Reconsidered

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.

Miami Herald—Florida Juvenile Justice said it Would Weed out Bad Hires. How Did This Guy Slip Through?

“It’s ‘Lord of the Flies’ culture with some of the people they have managing these facilities,” added Butts, who has worked with policymakers in 28 states, largely on youth justice. “With strong kids controlling the weak kids — and the staff controlling the strong kids. “You are using violence to try to teach kids not to use violence.”

Interview with the International Juvenile Justice Observatory

The main challenge is that juvenile justice policies are not based on a simple, rational assessment of costs and effectiveness, or even on the basic concept of justice. Policy choices are affected by fear and emotion, as well as political/electoral competition, economic self-interest of governments and service providers, and the enduring battle between social classes as to who defines the origins and solutions to social problems.