Issue Brief: Focusing Juvenile Justice on Positive Youth Development
Chicago, IL: University of Chicago, Chapin Hall Center for Children
October 2005, 9 pages
Outlines the new and compelling framework of Positive Youth Development as a method of redirecting the majority of youth crime offenders. Currently, the juvenile justice system focuses on violent offenders who comprise a small percentage of the youth crime committed in this country. The majority of youth offenses are non-violent, such as vandalism, weapons possession, and drug abuse violations, and yet there is not a comprehensive prevention program to deter the repetition or escalation of youth crime. Positive Youth Development (PYD) focuses attention on three main areas: (1) accentuating a young person's strengths and aptitudes rather than punishing deficiencies and problems; (2) developing healthy relationships with pro-social and caring family, peers, and other adults, such as teachers, neighbors, and community members; and (3) accessing meaningful work through community organizations, social programs and neighborhood cooperation. A chart outlines the differences between the traditional and PYD models of juvenile justice. Using the PYD framework to renovate the juvenile justice system requires systemic change but can be achieved by creating small pilot programs subject to constant monitoring and evaluation. As successful PYD programs are implemented and identified, then comparative studies could empirically evaluate the effectiveness of PYD program versus traditional juvenile justice methods.