Changing Lives: Delinquency Prevention as Crime-Control Policy

Changing Lives: Delinquency Prevention as Crime-Control Policy

Changing Lives: Delinquency Prevention as Crime-Control Policy

Changing Lives: Delinquency Prevention as Crime-Control Policy


Historically, it has been historically difficult to measure the impact of policies and programs designed to address juvenile crime. The most commonly used strategies for combating juvenile delinquency have primarily relied on intuition and fads. However, the promising research documented in Changing Lives presents methods that can directly remedy these deficiencies in our juvenile justice system.

Peter W. Greenwood demonstrates here that as crime rates have fallen, researchers have identified more connections between specific risk factors and criminal behavior. At the same time, program developers have discovered a wide array of innovative interventions. The result of all this activity, he reveals, has been the revelation of a few prevention models that reduce crime much more cost-effectively than popular approaches such as tougher sentencing, the D. A. R. E. campaign, boot camps, and "scared straight" programs.

Changing Lives expertly presents the most promising of these prevention programs, their histories, the quality of evidence to support their effectiveness, the public policy programs involved in bringing them into wider use, and the potential for investments and developmental research to increase the range and quality of programs.


Changing Lives is the third in a series of books commissioned by the MacArthur Research Network to fill important gaps in our knowledge of the legal environment of adolescent development. The topic of Peter Greenwood's study, programs designed to prevent delinquency in children and adolescents, had earlier been pursued by a much larger body of literature and had greater involvement of government agencies than the previous topics in this series—analyses of mental health problems in juvenile justice and of adolescent sex offenders. But all the earlier enthusiasm generated about prevention as a goal in programming failed to produce clear notions of what constituted effective prevention in practice, how quality control could be integrated into the public investment in prevention programs, and where in government the administration and funding of government prevention programming should be located.

Part of the difficulty is the huge variety of programs that can properly be called “preventive” and the hybrid quality of the prevention enterprise itself. Programs that seek to change the life course of youth are a mix of education and pathology avoidance. Effective programs typically influence not simply one specific problem—criminal offending, educational attainment, job stability—but create a wide variety of different benefits that are usually the concern of different components within executive government. Where in government should these efforts be located? Many prevention programs can only be evaluated in the long term while most other types of crime control work much faster because they operate more closely to the immediate environment of offending.

The editorial board of this venture wanted to commission a book that would provide a rigorous structure for thinking about the prevention . . .

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