“I’m a big fan. I think [Cure Violence is] a very valuable asset for a community to have,” said Jeffrey Butts, director of the Research Evaluation Center at New York's John Jay College of Criminal Justice, who has observed Cure Violence programs in New York, New Orleans and Philadelphia. “But it’s definitely possible to do it poorly."
A seminar with the Committee on Law and Justice (CLAJ) at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Speakers explored juvenile diversion practices and policies, their costs, and benefits. Watch the entire seminar. Review the agenda. https://youtu.be/onKL6bgq9Fc
Good researchers want to know a lot about the program or policy they are evaluating before expressing a preference for a particular research design. If your research partner tries to convince you to support a particular evaluation design before you are sure they understand your situation and your information needs, you are probably working with someone in sales, not research. Get a new partner.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Evidence Generation initiative focuses on improving the operations and effectiveness of justice agencies in New York City and New York State by generating and analyzing data about the effects of interventions and crime reduction strategies. The program was launched in 2010 with funding from the Pinkerton and Rudin Foundations.
Dr. Jeffrey Butts said that evaluation should play a large role in policy and practice. Human development is not finished at some “magic birthday.” Prosecutors and judges need to know that extending the developmental frame beyond age 18 will not endanger them politically and public safety will not be harmed