Hope for At-Risk Youth













If you’re an avid Ask reader, the name “Naomi Goldstein, PhD” will sound familiar. Last year, we featured Goldstein’s collaboration with the Philadelphia Police Department, Philadelphia Department of Human Services, and School District of Philadelphia on the Philadelphia Police School Diversion Program, an innovative new approach to addressing in-school misconduct. Goldstein’s evaluation of the program is supported by a grant from the U.S. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, and the first-year results are impressive:

The number of school-based arrests in the 2014-2015 academic year dropped 54 percent from the previous year, prior to implementation of the program (a decline from 1,582 to 724 arrests).

Arrests rates dropped significantly in the following areas: 87 percent reduction in possession of weapons and cutting instruments (from 162 to 21 arrests); 85 percent reduction in marijuana possession and use (from 130 to 19 arrests); and 77 percent reduction of disorderly conduct and fighting (from 319 to 74 arrests).

The program diverted 486 students from arrest to support services, and the vast majority of these youth and their families accepted the program’s voluntary intensive prevention services.

Only six diverted youth (1.2 percent) were later arrested for other offenses in school or in the community — an impressive rate when compared to available data on the number of youth rearrested within one year of release from correctional custody, which ranges from 37 to 67 percent, depending on the state (Mendel, 2011).

The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania reported that 5,261 school-based arrests took place during the 2011-2012 academic year in Pennsylvania alone. For many students, these arrests lead to detention or placement in juvenile justice facilities, says Goldstein, and 50 percent of those students later drop out of school upon release.

The initial outcomes of the Philadelphia Police School Diversion Program suggest significant progress in meeting the program’s goals of diverting youth away from arrest, decreasing court caseloads, reducing collateral consequences of justice system involvement, and providing youth with preventative services to address underlying issues. The final report of President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing cited the Philadelphia diversion program as a model of community policing, emphasizing the value of partnerships with community agencies.

Philadelphia Deputy Police Commissioner Kevin Bethel — the driving force behind the program’s development — will spend the next three years expanding and disseminating the program as the first Diana A. Millner Youth Justice Fellow at the Stoneleigh Foundation. His work will be housed in Goldstein’s Juvenile Justice Research and Reform Lab.

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