The truth about crime prevention is more complicated less utopian than some liberals would like, but far more promising than conservatives will admit.
Prevention can work and that it can be far less costly, in every sense, than continuing to rely on incarceration as out first defense against violent crimes. Instead of simply insisting that prevention is better than incarceration, then, we need to pinpoint more clearly what kinds of prevention workand why some programs work and others do not, the most encouraging efforts share important characteristics; there are reasons why they work, whether the target population is abusive families, vulnerable teens, or serious juvenile offenders whove already broken the law. Likewise, there are reasons why other programs fail, no matter how fashionable or popular they may be.
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Given what weve learned about crime prevention in recent years, four priorities seem especially critical: preventing child abuse and neglect, enhancing childrens intellectual and social development, providing support and guidance to vulnerable adolescents and working intensively with juvenile offenders. These arent the preventive strategies that can make a difference, but they are the ones that offer the strongest evidence of effectiveness. And they also fit our growing understanding of the roots delinquency and violent crime.
The first priority is to invest serious resources in the prevention of child abuse and neglect. The evidence is compelling that this is where much of the violent crime that plagues us begins, especially the kinds of violence we fear the most. It is known that most abused children never go on to injure others. But the correlation between later violent crime and childhood abuse is strong and consistent, especially for the most serious kinds of violence.
It turned out that being abused or neglected had little effect, if any, on minor forms of delinquency. But for serious delinquencyand violent crime in particular it mattered a great deal. The youths who had been abused were arrested almost twice as often, and reported almost twice as many violent offenses. The ideology is that if we prevent these tragedies, we can reduce violent crime.
The Elmira program is amongst one of the programs that have been developed. This program served vulnerablemostly white, poor, young, and marriedin a semi rural community with some of the highest levels of child abuse and neglect in the state. The project had several related goals: to ensure more healthful pregnancies and births, improve the quality of parental care and enhance the womans own development. The program seem successful while in progress however, once the program ended the effects seemed to fadea common pattern in many early intervention programs. By the end of the second year after the experiment, there were no differences in the number of abuse and neglect reports.
Even so, the researchers calculated that the program, which cost only about $3000 per family served, paid for itself through the money saved in child protective and welfare costs.Curries then goes on to discuss other alternatives for prevention of child abuse and neglect. He sums up this portion of the discussion by stating that there is more to learn about these programs.
But taken together, they show that it is possible to reduce the maltreatment of children often dramatically-among troubled families. The second priority in crime prevention is to expand and enhance early intervention for children at risk of impaired cognitive development, behavior problems, and early failure in school. Once again, the why is not mysterious. The link between these troubles and later delinquency is depressingly consistent. Poor children aged three and four were enrolled in preschool for two and half hours a day.
In addition, their teachers visited the children and their mothers at home once a week for about an hour and a half. Most of the children stayed in the program for two years, a few for just one. This program as called the Perry project. It allowed children to explore the meaning of those activates with their teachers. The project was assigned to 123 neighborhoods children and the outcome was widely disseminated. But what makes them particularly striking is that they were achieved with such modest means, and with unusually high-risk children in severally disadvantaged communities.
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