Irvin Waller calls for governments to meet international standards of victim assistance and invest in preventing victimization.

17. US AG Endorses Winning Strategy to Prevent Youth Violence – Smart Enforcement and Prevention

The Attorney General wants to save lives and invest in youth, through a blue print consistent with the best national and international knowledge.  His framework presents a logical and evidence based strategy to move the paradigm from the expensive ¨only criminal justice¨ response to a wise balance between smart enforcement, risk focused prevention, and rehabilitation.

As super-cop Bill Bratton says, you cannot arrest your way out of youth violence. So it is great news that schools, housing, health and law enforcement will be encouraged to work together more to tackle the well established causes of violence.

The AG and the strategy knows that local government and partnerships hold the keys to focusing programs where they are needed to address the causes of violence.  But he accepts the responsibility for other orders of government to provide the financial and technical support to local government to make it happen.  He knows it must be data driven, using proven practices.  It requires professional development and training.

His framework agrees that integration (braiding) at the local level to address the multiple causes requires braiding at the federal level.  It uses the latest in what is known about how to help agencies to cooperate to solve local problems that lead to violence rather than compete from their silos.

To make this happen, key US federal agencies are braiding their efforts, including

¨Departments of Justice, Education, Health and Human Services (particularly the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Planning and Evaluation and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), Housing and Urban Development, Labor and the Office of National Drug Control Policy¨.

These integrated, balanced and evidence driven strategies have proved successful in other countries. The UK Youth Justice Board has already demonstrated large reductions in youth offending through widespread implementation of proven and braided programs targeting youth at risk.  Scotland has become renowned for reductions in violence achieved in youth violence through its own balanced strategy based on a public health diagnosis of the causes of violence.

In Canada, the Province of Alberta´s crime reduction strategy has taken it one step further.  It not only has a long term framework but has established a leadership centre that co-locates nine ministries to work on implementing its balanced and braided approach. Police leadership in Canada from the Province of Saskatchewan is calling for similar action.

But ultimately these promising ways to reduce youth violence require a sustained shift from the expensive ¨only criminal justice¨ response that is bankrupting some States.  It was funding actions by the US federal government through the last four decades that led to the current crippling expenditures on criminal justice, incarceration, and law enforcement.  So I have illustrated in chapters 8 and 9 of Less Law, More Order how funding actions by the federal government can shift the paradigm to stop youth violence, protect crime victims and respect taxpayers.

Justice reinvestment must not only balance smart enforcement and treatment but importantly prevention.  It must rebalance budgets to sustain the funds to make it happen.

The evidence on the effectiveness and cost benefits of risk focused prevention is impressive.  Unfortunately it is overlooked not only in the rhetoric of political debates but in the work of so many of the leading think tanks and universities.  The US must invest as much in risk focused prevention as in treatment and enforcement.

Fewer victims of crime equals fewer demands on criminal justice and health care, and reduced deficits for taxpayers.  That is a winning strategy!

Read more in Less Law, More Order and September Blogs

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