Youth Violence


Many of the programs we reviewed have yielded disappointing results when subjected to a controlled evaluation. Others show promise, but they have been incompletely evaluated. Some appear to work. Few yield quick results.

In writing this review, we chose to focus our attention on preventive strategies. Although it can be argued that tough sentencing is preventive through deterrence (reducing crime through fear of sanctions) or incapacitation (reducing crime by incarcerating violent offenders from society for sustained periods of time), there is little evidence that either strategy is particularly effective with juveniles. Nonetheless, many politicians and a growing number of citizens are calling for harsh sentencing of violent juvenile offenders. Although this may achieve short-term reductions in juvenile crime and violence, the cost will be high (Howell and Bilchik 1995, Reiss 1993, Greenwood 1995). Furthermore, this strategy is unlikely to produce lasting results if the social and economic conditions that breed juvenile crime and violence remain unchanged (Reiss 1993, Wilson 1994).

If cities involved in the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s initiative, "America’s Promise" identify juvenile violence as a priority area, we hope that they adopt a variety of strategies. More importantly, we hope that these efforts are evaluated over time. Much remains to be learned.

Over the next two decades, the population of the United States will age considerably as the "baby boom" generation reaches retirement and beyond. The work force that will be called upon to support these "senior citizens" will be much smaller (proportionately) than the one we have today. Where are these workers today? They are sitting in our schools, and playing in our streets. They are our children. They are America’s promise.