Strengthening Youth Justice Practices with Developmental Knowledge and Principles

Youth justice is a challenging environment in which to implement a rigorous PYD approach. The insights and lessons of developmental science do not translate easily into the day-to-day tasks of youth justice systems, which often focus on control and compliance. Youth justice practitioners require assistance as they apply developmental principles. The Positive Youth Justice (PYJ) Model was developed to meet this challenge. It provides a simple framework for designing PYD-compatible interventions for justice-involved young people and for supporting youth justice reforms.

WHYY—Youth Courts and the Value of a Jury of Their Peers

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.

Better Research for Better Policies

In setting priorities for funding and support, intervention programs demonstrated to be effective and efficient are preferred over programs that are well intentioned but untested by rigorous evaluation. An evidence-based approach is undeniably better than an approach based on faith or anecdotes, but the findings of existing evaluations are not sufficient by themselves as a basis for effective policy-making. Translating research into practice requires more than a review of existing studies. It requires knowledge of the research process and its limitations.

Positive Youth Justice

Positive youth development could be an effective framework for designing general interventions for young offenders. Such a framework would encourage youth justice systems to focus on protective factors as well as risk factors, strengths as well as problems, and broader efforts to facilitate successful transitions to adulthood for justice-involved youth. The positive youth development approach supports youth in making successful transitions from adolescence to early adulthood by encouraging young people to develop useful skills and competencies, and to build stronger connections with pro-social peers, families, and communities). Young people engaged with trustworthy adults and peers in the pursuit of meaningful activities and the acquisition of new skills are more likely to build the developmental assets needed for a positive adulthood.