Youth Crime, Delinquency Prevention and Juvenile Justice

Project Title: Reducing Gang Violence: A Randomized Trial of Functional Family Therapy (with the University of Maryland)
Funding Agency: National Institute of Justice
Affiliated Faculty: Jamie Fader and Phil Harris (retired)

Description: The research will produce knowledge about how to prevent at-risk youth from joining gangs and reduce delinquency among active gang members. It will evaluate a modification of Functional Family Therapy (FFT), a model program from the Blueprints for Healthy Youth Development initiative. This modification, FFT-G, was developed in an earlier phase of the research. A randomized trial testing this adaptation is currently underway with funding from Smith Richardson Foundation. The long-term goal is the designation of FFT-G as a national Blueprint Model Program for a new and especially high-risk population, members of street gangs, thus providing the first known evidence-based program (EBP) for such youth. In addition to scholarly articles and presentations about the project, this research will produce a program model that is ready for broad dissemination, an existing dissemination mechanism, and a model for how public agencies can fund EBPs using existing funding streams. Given recent estimates that more than 782,000 gang members reside in the U.S., this product is expected to have a large impact on community uptake of the model.

Approximately 200 adjudicated males age 11-17 who reside in inner city Philadelphia neighborhoods with high gang prevalence and are gang members or at high risk for joining a gang will be court-ordered to receive family therapy. These subjects are then randomly assigned to receive FFT-G (treatment) or another family therapy typically used by the court (control). Treatment lasts 5 to 6 months. Participating youths and their care-givers complete interviews prior to random assignment and at 6 months post-randomization, and data from court and public assistance records are obtained. Interviews assess criminal activity, involvement in gangs, and several targeted risk factors that contribute to these poor outcomes. A process evaluation documents program implementation as well as costs for both the FFT-G and control groups.

Project Title:Gangs, Social Networks and Geography: Understanding the Factors Associated with Gang Desistance
Funding Agency: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention
Affiliated Faculty: Caterina Roman

Description: This two-site study, involving collaboration between Temple University and RAND, examines the factors that influence gang disengagement and crime desistance. The research team used social network methods to collect detailed data on 225 gang youth and their social relations in the Philadelphia and the District of Columbia.

Project Title: The Penology of Justice for Minors in the United States and Europe: Dedicated System or Mainstream Justice?
Affiliated Faculty: E. Rely Vîlcică

Description: In contrast to the United States, many European countries do not have separate, specialized courts dedicated to the processing of delinquent youth. However, reform efforts there, especially in the most recent EU country members, are considering experimenting with such courts. In efforts to contribute to such discussions, this research will critically compare the merits of adopting a dedicated juvenile court system in Romania (a recent EU member) versus maintaining processing in the mainstream courts, drawing on lessons from the relatively long history of the American juvenile court.