Resources for Key Issues

+ What are Community-Based Alternatives?

    • Scan this guide to find model programs in use across the country as community-based alternatives.
    • This report examines a number of programs in Chicago that provide alternatives to detention and incarceration.  While varied in scope and structure, each program works intensively with youth to help them build relationships and connections within the community.

+ What's Best for Kids?

Adolescent Development

    • In 2012, the National Research Council released an exhaustive, authoritative report on the need to reform the juvenile justice system based on research into adolescent development. You can find a brief summary here.
    • See this brief 2012 guide for an overview of the adolescent brain and development research (and the nuances of using it to inform policy).
    • Don’t miss this 2010 guide on how to implement “positive youth development” in a juvenile justice setting and see this website for further information on sites that are adopting the positive youth development approach.

Harm to Youth from Incarceration and Formal Juvenile Justice System Processing

    • For comprehensive, accessible reports on the harms juvenile incarceration does to youth and to community safety, see No Place for Kids, from The Annie E. Casey Foundation; see also, The Dangers of Detention, from the Justice Policy Institute.
    • “The Truth about Consequences” is a fact sheet summarizing the research showing that processing youth in the juvenile justice system does not reduce crime (it can even increase it), and that incarceration is ineffective.
    • Another fact sheet summarizes the policy implications of the landmark Pathways to Desistance study (funded in part by Models for Change), showing that institutionalizing youth has no effect on their rate of re-arrest, and more.
    • Or, check out this meta-analysis showing that processing youth in the formal juvenile justice system does not control crime and in fact increases delinquency.
    • This new study of securely detained youth by the Northwestern Juvenile Project found that 1 in 5 youth had marked functional impairment in social, psychiatric, and academic areas 3 years after release from detention.
    • “Juvenile Justice Interventions: System Escalation and Effective Alternatives to Residential Placement” reports on the results of a study by the Justice Research Center which found that youth placed in residential programs had significantly higher rates of recidivism than similarly situated youth placed on probation.
    • OJJDP introduced a Data Snapshot series based on its Statistical Briefing Book. This Data Snapshot focuses on juvenile residential facility populations, characteristics, and practices.

+ How Do We Keep the Community Safe?

  • Download a comprehensive list of trauma treatment programs from the National Child Traumatic Stress Network.
  • For an in-depth look, see Peter W. Greenwood’s Changing Lives: Delinquency Prevention as Crime-Control Policy (University of Chicago Press, 2006), which analyzes juvenile delinquency prevention programs, identifying those that are evidence-based and those that are ineffective, discussing why ineffective programs sometimes thrive.
  • This report of the Attorney General’s National Task Force on Children Exposed to Violence makes the case that exposure to violence is a national crisis that affects approximately two out of three children. The report provides an in-depth look at the problem, discusses its impact on juvenile justice, and makes recommendations for reform.
  • “Increasing Public Safety and Improving Outcomes for Youth Through Juvenile Justice Reform,” by the National League of Cities Institute for Youth, Education and Families recommend strategies for city-led juvenile justice reform that includes expanding high-quality community-based alternatives to arrest and prosecution and ensuring equitable access to these alternatives.
  • “Re-Examining Juvenile Incarceration,” a brief from the Pew Charitable Trusts, finds that out-of-home placements and longer lengths of stay do not improve outcomes for most youth and cost taxpayers far more than community-based alternatives. Examines steps taken in many states to reduce incarceration.

+ What is Most Cost-Effective?

+ Who is Eligible for Community-Based Alternatives?

+ Is There Such a Thing as Too Much Diversion? The Danger of “Widening the Net”

Resources for Reform Trends

+ Prevention: Schools

Conflict resolution/Restorative Justice

Evidence-based school-wide disciplinary programming

School Discipline

    • For juvenile justice advocates, here’s a policy platform on safe and effective school discipline policies.
    • See the Advancement Project for a model school discipline policy.
    • Suspended Progress, from the JustChildren Program of Legal Aid Justice Center, discusses the high number of suspensions in Virginia’s schools, disproportionately impacting males, African-Americans, and students with disabilities, and makes recommendations for lawmakers and policymakers.

Police/School Resource Officers in Schools

+ Early Intervention

Child Abuse and Neglect


+ Diversion

+ Diverting Youth Who Commit Status Offenses

+ Funding Community-Based Alternatives on a Large Scale

Fiscal Realignment/Reinvestment


+ Alternatives to Secure Confinement

  • See OJJDP’s publication “Alternatives to Detention and Confinement” for further information on approaches to preventing youth from being placed in secure detention or confinement.
  • See the website for the United States Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Special Litigation Unit, for further information about lawsuits to improve the conditions of confinement for incarcerated youth.
  • The Council of State Governments Justice Center report, “Closer to Home,” released in January 2015, studied the juvenile justice reforms Texas enacted from 2007-2011 aimed at reducing the confinement of youth and investing in community-based alternatives. The study found a 65 percent reduction in the state-secure youth population between 2007-2012, as well as a 33 percent decline in juvenile arrests. Read the full findings of the study here[1]

+ Evidence-Based Practices

For Further Information . . .

For resources on community-based interventions and other juvenile justice issues, visit the Models for Change website section on Community-Based Alternatives.

To learn more about:

Notes . . .

[1] Tony Fabelo, Nancy Arrigona, Michael D. Thompson, Austin Clemens, and Miner P. Marchbanks III, “Closer to Home: An Analysis of the State and Local Impact of the Texas Juvenile Justice Reforms,” (The Council of State Governments, January 2015),