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OJJDP News @ a Glance June 2024

News In Brief

Literature Review Explores Community-Based and Residential Alternatives to Youth Detention

A newly updated literature review on OJJDP’s Model Programs Guide site identifies successful alternatives to secure detention or confinement for youth. The review examines research into community-based alternatives—such as probation, electronic monitoring, and community-based treatment programs—and residential alternatives such as group homes, shelters, and treatment centers.

Alternatives to Detention and Confinement concludes that, regardless of the setting, successful interventions incorporate both supervision and a therapeutic approach. Evidence-based approaches include the use of restorative practices, cognitive-behavioral techniques, multiple coordinated services, graduated responses, and family involvement; and building social, academic, or vocational skills.

The review cites multiple evaluations of community-based and residential alternatives that resulted in positive youth outcomes when compared to the outcomes of youth placed in secure detention or confinement. They include a day-treatment program; a short-term, family-based program; behavioral treatment intervention; and group homes using treatment models that address the primary risk factors associated with a young person’s behavior. “Community-based alternatives are most effective when they serve higher risk youth, target dynamic risk factors with cognitive behavioral modalities, integrate family-focused therapy, and employ trained and qualified staff,” the literature review states.

Overall, research indicates that youth at low risk for reoffending should be diverted from the juvenile justice system, and youth at moderate or high risk for reoffending should receive appropriate therapeutic services and be subject to the minimal level of supervision and control, consistent with public safety. Rehabilitation has the potential to substantially reduce recidivism, the review states, while punishment that exceeds the level of control necessary for public safety is likely to be counterproductive to reducing recidivism.

For insights about other types of diversion programs for youth, see the Diversion From Formal Juvenile Court Processing literature review.  

Interactive Video Demonstrates the Perils of Financial Sextortion 

In response to the alarming rise in online sextortion, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) has released an interactive video that enables parents and other caregivers to see how easily a child can fall victim. Sextortion occurs when children and teens are coerced into sending explicit images online and then extorted for money or additional explicit material.

No Escape Room,” a 7.5-minute film funded by OJJDP, reveals how a 15-year-old boy in a friendly, flirtatious online chat is persuaded to share a nude photo. The film gives viewers insight into the desperation the boy feels when his new online acquaintance demands $500—and threatens to share the boy’s photo with his friends and family if he refuses.

NCMEC has seen a dramatic increase in sextortion cases reported to its CyberTipline, especially situations involving demands for money. Teenage boys are the most common targets in financial sextortion cases. From October 2021 to March 2023, the FBI and Homeland Security Investigations received more than 13,000 reports of online financial sextortion involving at least 12,600 victims age 17 or younger—primarily boys—and leading to at least 20 deaths by suicide.

Helping Youth Cope With the Impact and “Collateral Consequences” of Juvenile Records

Juvenile courts process an average of 700,000 young people each year for charges related to delinquency, leaving many youth with juvenile records that follow them into adulthood—even those who were never adjudicated. To help justice-involved young people successfully move forward and reintegrate in their communities, reentry programs must understand the impact of having a juvenile record, the collateral consequences, and how to help youth address them. 

The Youth Reentry Technical Assistance Center published Reintegration with Resilience: Understanding and Overcoming the Challenges of Juvenile Records with reentry programs in mind. The resource describes the “series of collateral consequences” juvenile records can have, explaining what reentry programs need to know and what they can do to assist youth, and identifying tools to support this work. It was published with support from OJJDP.

Successful Strategies To Reduce Violence by Youth Center on Youth Strengths and Interests

Getting to the Heart of Youth Transformation, a new publication from OJJDP’s National Gang Center, explores the importance of considering youth strengths and interests when developing strategies to reduce violence by young people. Creating opportunities that are attractive to youth and build on their strengths helps to open “space for them to thrive,” the publication says, “which may ultimately prevent their involvement in violence.” 

The publication has a particular focus on young people impacted by gang and gun violence and at higher risk for involvement in the justice system. It lists several activities that community-based programs have successfully used to bolster youth; engage their interests and explore their strengths; and provide chances to impact their own lives, the lives of their peers, and their community. Strategies include: 

  • Leveraging digital media and entertainment platforms, both for enrichment and skills building.  
  • Exploring job and workforce development. 
  • Enhancing social and emotional skills, especially for youth who have experienced significant trauma or adverse childhood experiences.  
  • Encouraging leadership and peer mentoring. 
  • Engaging young people at the community and system levels to encourage them to voice their perspectives and strive for change. 

The publication also lists multiple OJJDP-funded initiatives that take a youth-led approach to designing and implementing violence-reduction strategies, with embedded links to grantee websites.

Date Created: June 25, 2024