The construction of this National Gang Center (NGC) database of research-based programs relied on other juvenile delinquency program reviews that have been made and, thus, the criteria used in those reviews. Most of the programs in this database were rated for inclusion in the OJJDP Model Programs Guide (MPG), the OJJDP-funded Blueprints for Violence Prevention, and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Registry of Evidence-Based Programs and Practices (see “Related Web Sites”). In addition, the NGC and the MPG staffs jointly reviewed gang-related programs.
Programs in this database that were reviewed and scored for inclusion in the OJJDP Model Programs Guide and the NGC database were rated in accordance with four widely accepted scientific standards for judging program effectiveness:
Level 1 programs have been scientifically demonstrated to prevent delinquency, reduce risk factors, or enhance protective factors for delinquency and other child and youthful problems using a research design of the highest quality (i.e., an experimental design and random assignment of subjects). In other program rating schemes, programs in this category are designated “exemplary” or “model” programs.
Level 2 programs have been scientifically demonstrated to prevent delinquency, reduce risk factors, or enhance protective factors for delinquency and other child and youthful problems using an experimental or quasi-experimental research design, with a comparison group, and the evidence suggests program effectiveness, but the evidence is not as strong as for the Level 1 programs.
Level 3 programs display a strong theoretical base and have been demonstrated to prevent delinquency and other child and youthful problems or to reduce risk factors or enhance protective factors using limited research methods (with at least single-group pretreatment and posttreatment measurements). The programs in this category appear promising but must be confirmed using more rigorous scientific techniques. The main reason is that a control group is not required in the research design.
Using this classification scheme, Level 1 programs are considered effective, Level 2 programs are also considered potentially effective although the evidence is less convincing than for Level 1 programs, and Level 3 programs are considered promising. The OJJDP Model Programs Guide uses this same program rating scheme, and it contains more detailed information on most all of the programs in the Strategic Planning Tool, particularly evaluation information (http://www.ojjdp.gov/mpg/). Readers are reminded that few gang-related programs have been rigorously evaluated; hence, most of the prevention programs described here are rated “promising.”
This NGC review is not intended to be an exhaustive one. Its scope is limited to programs that specifically prevented or reduced gang involvement and delinquency in general (as opposed to only drug use, for example) or, at a minimum, aggressive or disruptive behavior. The review is also selective in terms of presenting a variety of promising and effective program options that are representative of the Comprehensive Gang Prevention, Intervention, and Suppression Model components (OJJDP, 2008, 2009a, 2009b), target age groups, and risk factors that programs address in the individual, family, school, peer group, and community domains.
Because delinquency and gang involvement share many of the same risk factors, delinquency prevention programs can also reduce involvement in delinquent behavior among gang members. Therefore a continuum of programs that address both juvenile delinquency and gang-specific programs are needed for optimal benefits communitywide. Readers are advised that all research-based delinquency prevention and reduction programs are not in this database, only a representative selection of these. Others, such as mental health treatment, can be found in other databases of research-based programs (see “Related Web Sites”).
The NGC database of promising and effective programs is unique in that it includes “program structures.” Some programs are purely “structures” that, as such, do not have a specific therapeutic content. That is, they provide a setting or context that fulfills specific needs or requirements other than service delivery, and their delinquency or gang reduction potential is very small and may be short-term. Shelter care facilities, detention centers, group homes, and intensive supervision programs are prime examples of such program structures or formats that have intrinsic value for purposes other than delinquency reduction, such as controlling offenders or providing a safe environment for children and adolescents. However, services could be provided in these settings or formats to enhance their value in a continuum of structures and services.
Good examples of gang structures include community mobilization coalitions (e.g., the Boston Ten-Point Coalition), an employment and referral center (e.g., Homeboy Industries), and a community safety program (e.g., the Safe Schools Unit in San Diego). A combination of structures and evidence-based treatment thus represents a potentially more effective continuum. In this database, “effective structures” typically have been in existence longer than “promising structures,” thus having demonstrated their intrinsic value.
Descriptions of many of the effective and promising delinquency programs were extracted from previous descriptions prepared by the OJJDP Model Programs Guide, the OJJDP Blueprints Project, and the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention, SAMHSA’s National Registry of Evidence-Based Programs and Practices. The NGC gratefully acknowledges use of this material.
Howell, J. C. (2003). Preventing and Reducing Juvenile Delinquency: A Comprehensive Framework. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
Howell, J. C. (2003). “Diffusing Research Into Practice Using the Comprehensive Strategy for Serious, Violent, and Chronic Juvenile Offenders.” Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 1(3):219–245.
Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. (2008). Best Practices to Address Community Gang Problems: OJJDP's Comprehensive Gang Model. Washington, DC: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.
Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. (2009a). OJJDP Comprehensive Gang Model: A Guide to Assessing Your Community's Youth Gang Problem. Washington, DC: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.
Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. (2009b). OJJDP Comprehensive Gang Model: Planning for Implementation. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.
Wilson, J. J., and Howell, J. C. (1993). A Comprehensive Strategy for Serious, Violent, and Chronic Juvenile Offenders. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.