“Get Tough” Approaches To Teen Crime Found Wanting

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Boot camps and other “get-tough” programs for adolescents do not prevent criminal behavior and may make the problem even worse, a new study has found, the Associated Press reports. The study also said that laws transferring juveniles into the adult court system lead these teenagers to commit more violence. It rejected programs that “consist largely of adults lecturing,” like DARE, the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program. More promising are programs that offer intensive counseling for families and young people at risk.

The conclusions, which echoed earlier studies, were reached by a 13-member panel convened by the National Institutes of Health to review the available scientific evidence. “Scare tactics don’t work,” the panel said. “Programs that seek to prevent violence through fear and tough treatment do not work.” The panel attributed violence to conditions including inconsistent or harsh parenting, poor peer relations, gang involvement, lack of connection to school, and living in a violent neighborhood. One barrier to setting up effective programs, the report said, is resistance from people operating ineffective programs who depend on them for their jobs. “All the evaluations have shown they don’t work,” said panel chairman Dr. Robert L. Johnson of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. “Many communities are wasting a great deal of money on those types of programs.”

Link: http://www.nytimes.com/2004/10/17/national/17violence.html

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