Supporting Positive Change: Latest Justice Research Focuses on Youth

School Discipline Reform, Violence Prevention, and Family Well-Being in the Spotlight
Sep 12, 2018

As students head back to school, we spotlight some of Mathematica’s work related to justice programs serving youth, including those focused on reforming school discipline, reducing violence, and facilitating family well-being. Our work with federal, state, and local agencies helps assess the effectiveness of justice programs and policies that support positive change.

Court HouseBeing suspended decreases achievement of suspended students

Schools have historically used suspensions and expulsions to discipline students for disruptive behavior and maintain safe learning environments. However, a growing body of research suggests these interventions negatively affect achievement and increase risk of dropout and involvement with the criminal justice system. A new article, coauthored by Johanna Lacoe and using data from the School District of Philadelphia, examines consequences of suspensions and provides further evidence of their negative effects. It also suggests that students remaining in the classroom do not benefit from suspensions of their peers.

Examining the violence prevention network in Oakland, CA

Oakland Unite is a publicly funded initiative to interrupt and prevent violence through strategies focused on youth and young adults at the highest risk of violent behavior. A new report describes the agencies that make up the network, including the youth and young adults they serve, services offered, and the successes and challenges participants face. The initiative supports social services, nonprofit organizations, police, schools, and faith-based agencies that work to reduce violence in Oakland.

Justice ScaleDiverting youth from juvenile justice to alternative programs

The juvenile justice system focuses on rehabilitation and punishment, goals that often conflict. We recently provided recommendations to the California legislature based on reviews of the body of existing research. Suggestions include diverting youth from the juvenile justice system to alternative programs whenever possible and overhauling the state’s juvenile justice data infrastructure.

Preventing pregnancy: programs serving adjudicated youth

Reducing pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections in teenagers has been a long-standing policy concern. A new brief looks at programs funded through the Personal Responsibility Education Program (PREP) serving adjudicated youth in 24 states. Programs serve about 8,000 teens each year, largely through juvenile detention centers. About three-quarters reported being sexually active before entering the program. After PREP, more than one-third reported they were less likely to have sex in the next six months, and a large majority reported they were more likely to use condoms and birth control if they do have sex.

People on EarthAcknowledging the importance of family and community

Strong social networks provide important help to families, and fathers in particular. A recent Evidence in Action blog post reviews the role of these networks, as well as the availability of responsible fatherhood programs, for dads involved with the criminal justice system. Although having an incarcerated parent is linked to worse outcomes for children, very few programs focus on kids with incarcerated fathers, and fathers with a criminal record face additional hurdles in supporting themselves and their children. Another post reviews how involvement with the criminal justice system threatens the well-being of children and families.

Building connections to the workforce

Stable employment helps people released from jail transition back into the community successfully and rebuild their lives. Three new briefs look at ways for local correctional facilities to coordinate with American Job Centers prior to release and improve employment outcomes.

Data Management for Pre- and Post-Release Workforce Services

Engaging Participants in Workforce Services after Release from Jail

“An Opportunity for a Reset”: The Experiences of Jail-Based American Job Center Customers Before and After Release

Learn more about our justice related work in the Justice section of our website, which includes information on education, employment, health and well-being, and more.


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