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MarkPreviousArticleof 104 Next.School-Based Programs Are an Ineffective Response to Gang Violence. Elizabeth J. Swasey.
Opposing Viewpoints: Gangs. Ed. Laura K. Egendorf. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 2001.
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School-Based Programs Are an Ineffective Response to Gang Violence

Table of Contents: Further Readings

Reprinted, with permission, from "At-Risk of 'Prevention,'" by Elizabeth J. Swasey, American Guardian, October 1997.

School-based programs such as midnight basketball do not decrease juvenile crime and gang violence, Elizabeth J. Swasey asserts in the following viewpoint. She cites assaults and murders committed by youths that participated in these programs as proof that such strategies are ineffective. Swasey notes that even an evaluation by the U.S. Justice Department has concluded that these programs do not reduce juvenile crime. Therefore, she argues, Congress should not increase funding for these programs. Swasey founded the women's personal safety program at the National Rifle Association and is the director of the NRA's CrimeStrike, which works to improve the criminal justice system.

As you read, consider the following questions:

1.How does Congress define "at-risk youth," according to Swasey?
2.By what percentage did juvenile arrests for murder increase between 1985 and 1995, as stated by the author?
3.According to "Preventing Crime: What Works, What Doesn't, What's Promising," what crime-prevention strategies do reduce crime?

Syracuse, New York—Henninger High School, July 24, 1995, 8:45 p.m. Police officer Michael Sales and corrections officer Romie Days were off-duty, working security at the local version of Midnight Basketball called "Midnight Madness."

Violence by At-Risk Youth

It was Monday night. The championship game was set for Thursday. Suddenly, some of the "at-risk" youth in the Henninger High School gym started a fight. Officers Sales and Days took the perpetrators outside. Once outside, violence erupted among another group of youths. Fists started flying. Then a few cars pulled up, and more young people piled out. Some joined the fights already underway; others started their own.

The intersection of Teall Avenue and Robinson Street had become the scene of a street brawl. Officer Days, 43, saw two young men point guns straight at him, then shoot. Days fired back but the suspects escaped, speeding away from the "crime-prevention program" at Henninger High School.

San Fernando, California—October, 1985. Karen Severson and Michelle "Missy" Avila, both 17, attended the San Fernando Mission, which wasn't a mission at all. Instead, it was a "Continuation School" which at-risk youth are required to attend after committing crimes. There, students get intensive academic instruction as well as programs in job skills, parenting, arts and crafts, and music and dance.

Karen, Missy, and Laura Doyle were friends who "liked to party." They were on the way to their favorite hangout in Colby Canyon when Karen and Missy began arguing over a boy they had both dated. The argument got heated, and then got out of control. Karen and Laura turned on Missy, attacking her, cutting off her hair, forcing her face-down into a creek. They held Missy's head under eight inches of water and used a log nearly as long as Missy was tall to pin her body down. Missy died where she lay.

Unsuccessful Programs

When it comes to juvenile crime, crime-prevention programs are designed for at-risk youth, which Congress defines as people ages 11-19 who have dropped out of school or committed a crime of any kind, or who might drop out of school or commit any kind of crime.

And believe it or not, both the Midnight Madness and Continuation School "crime-prevention programs" are, by Congressional measure, "successful."

For the last quarter century, Congress has measured crime-prevention programs not by their results, but simply by whether the program was put into place—something Congress calls the "process objective."

But if these are crime-prevention successes, what is failure?

With any luck, what we call a successful program is about to change—and none too soon. We're nose-to-nose with a national crisis. Juvenile arrests for murder are up 115% from 1985 to 1995. Even so, things are poised to get worse.

Judging Success

By 2006, America's teenage population wilt exceed 20 million for the first time since 1975, a demographic inevitability that Princeton University criminologist John J. Dilulio, Jr., calls the "youth crime bomb." He warns of a violent juvenile crime explosion that Northeastern University criminologist James Alan Fox says is "really, really possible."

Even President Clinton agrees that cutting juvenile violent crime must be our top crime-fighting priority.

As a result, it's no longer enough for Midnight Basketball to be called a "successful crime-prevention program" simply because two teams are playing hoops at designated hours, or for a school-based, at-risk youth program to be called a "successful crime-prevention program" simply because it has enrollment.

To judge success, we must know whether rival gangs use Midnight Basketball games to settle violent scores, or whether Continuation School students use their camaraderie to kill. We must know if they work. And for the first time, we're beginning to get answers.

In 1996, Congress required the U.S. Attorney General to provide a "comprehensive evaluation of the effectiveness" of the over $3 billion—that's billion with a B—that the Department of Justice grants annually for crime-prevention. The research had to be "independent" and had to "employ rigorous and scientifically recognized standards and methodologies."

This evaluation is now out. It's a 500-page report called "Preventing Crime: What Works, What Doesn't, What's Promising." It judges crime-prevention success not on whether the program is put in place, but by whether it cuts crime.

School-Based Programs Have Failed

According to "Preventing Crime," school-based programs intended to "keep the most crime-prone segment of the population off the streets during peak crime hours ... and to enhance positive youth development through mandatory attendance at workshops covering topics such as job development, drug and alcohol use, safe sex, GED preparation and college preparation, and conflict resolution" are "not likely to reduce crime." In fact, the report says, these programs "may actually increase risk for delinquency [criminal behavior]."

Yet if President Clinton and his allies in Congress have their way, there'll be even more of these programs to come— even though they put at-risk youth at even greater risk by increasing crime, or by squandering millions on programs that are "not likely to reduce crime" when we should be investing taxpayer funds where they can make a difference.

True to its name, "Preventing Crime: What Works, What Doesn't, and What's Promising" does report that some crime-prevention strategies cut crime. Among them, incarcerating repeat offenders—including juvenile offenders.

This is the research. These are the facts. And it's likely that some of the same politicians who called for this report, especially Senator Joe Biden (D-DE) and Congressman Charles Schumer (D-NY), will wish they hadn't. But the fact is, the Clinton-Gore Biden-Schumer approach to the crisis of violent juvenile crime has been school-based crime-prevention programs, and we now know that these kinds of programs put America's at-risk youth at even greater risk.

So the next time the President asks, in support of his pet "prevention" programs, "Who can be against allowing a child to stay in school instead of on a street corner?" we can provide the answer: Criminologists hired by your own Justice Department.



•S. Beth Atkin. Voices from the Streets: Young Former Gang Members Tell Their Stories. Boston: Little, Brown, 1996.
•Curtis W. Branch and Paul Pedersen, eds. Adolescent Gangs: Old Issues, New Approaches. Philadelphia: Brunner/Mazel, 1999.
•Douglas Century. Street Kingdom: Five Years Inside the Franklin Avenue Posse. New York: Warner, 1999.
•Meda Chesney-Lind and John M. Hagedorn, eds. Female Gangs in America: Essays on Girls, Gangs, and Gender. Chicago: Lake View, 1999.
•Ko-Lin Chin. Chinatown Gangs: Extortion, Enterprise, and Ethnicity. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996.
•Herbert C. Covey, Scott Menard, and Robert J. Franzese. Juvenile Gangs. Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas, 1997.
•G. David Curry and Scott H. Decker. Confronting Gangs: Crime and Community. Los Angeles: Roxbury, 1998.
•Scott H. Decker and Barrik Van Winkle. Life in the Gang: Family, Friends, and Violence. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1996.
•Mark S. Fleisher. Dead End Kids: Gang Girls and the Boys They Know. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1998.
•James Garbarino. Lost Boys: Why Our Sons Turn Violent and How We Can Save Them. New York: Free, 1999.
•Gus Gedatus. Gangs and Violence. Mankato, MN: LifeMatters, 2000.
•Arnold P. Goldstein and Donald W. Kodluboy. Gangs in Schools: Signs, Symbols, and Solutions. Champaign, IL: Research, 1998.
•Vernon T. Harlan. Youth Street Gangs: Breaking the Gangs Cycle in Urban America. San Francisco: Austin & Winfield, 1997.
•Arturo Hernandez. Peace in the Streets: Breaking the Cycle of Gang Violence. Washington, DC: Child Welfare League of America, 1998.
•James C. Howell. Juvenile Justice and Youth Violence. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 1997.
•C. Ronald Huff, ed. Gangs in America. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 1999.
•Lonnie Jackson. Gangbusters: Strategies for Prevention and Intervention. Lanham, MD: American Correctional Association, 1998.
•Karen L. Kinnear. Gangs: A Reference Handbook. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 1996.
•Rick Landre, Mike Miller, and Dee Porter. Gangs: A Handbook for Community Awareness. New York: Facts On File, 1997.
•Joseph Marshall Jr. and Lonnie Wheeler. Street Soldier: One Man's Struggle to Save a Generation—One Life at a Time. New York: Bantam Doubleday Dell, 1996.
•G. Larry Mays, ed. Gangs and Gang Behavior. Chicago: Nelson-Hall, 1997.
•Maryann Miller. Coping with Weapons and Violence at School and on Your Streets. New York: Rosen, 1999.
•Dennise Orlando-Morningstar. Street Gangs. Washington, DC: Federal Judicial Center, 1997.
•Susan A. Phillips. Wallbangin': Graffiti and Gangs in L.A. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999.
•Joseph Rodriguez, Rubén Martínez, and Luis J. Rodríguez. East Side Stories: Gang Life in East L.A. New York: PowerHouse, 1998.
•Steven L. Sachs. Street Gang Awareness: A Resource Guide for Parents and Professionals. Minneapolis: Fairview, 1997.
•Eric C. Schneider. Vampires, Dragons, and Egyptian Kings: Youth Gangs in Postwar New York. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1999.
•Randall G. Shelden, Sharon K. Tracy, and William B. Brown. Youth Gangs in American Society. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 1996.
•Gini Sikes. 8 Ball Chicks: A Year in the Violent World of Girl Gangsters. New York: Doubleday, 1997.
•Ben Sonder. Gangs. New York: Benchmark, 1996.
•Margi Trapani. Working Together Against Gang Violence. New York: Rosen, 1996.
•Al Valdez. Gangs: A Guide to Understanding Street Gangs. San Clemente, CA: Lawtech, 1997.
•Ved Varma, ed. Violence in Children and Adolescents. London: Jessica Kingsley, 1997.
•Liza Vertinsky. A Law and Economic Approach to Criminal Gangs. Aldershot, England: Ashgate, 1999.
•Valerie Wiener. Winning the War Against Youth Gangs: A Guide for Teens, Families, and Communities. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1999.
•Lewis Yablonsky. Gangsters: Fifty Years of Madness, Drugs, and Death on the Streets of America. New York: New York University Press, 1997.


•Tiffany Danitz. "Keeping Kids Out of Gangs," Insight on the News, July 6-13, 1998. Available from 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002.
•Gary Delgado. "Warriors for Peace: Stopping Youth Violence with Barrios Unidos," Colorlines, Winter 1999.
•Debra Dickerson. "Cease-Fire in Simple City," U.S. News & World Report, March 16, 1998.
•Craig Donegan. "Preventing Juvenile Crime," CQ Researcher, March 15, 1996. Available from 1414 22nd St. NW, Washington, DC 20037.
•Ted Gest. "A Taxpayer's Guide to Crime and Punishment," U.S. News & World Report, April 21, 1997.
•Juvenile Justice Update. "What Works in Preventing Youth Crime: Systematic Assessment Provides Some Surprises," October/November 1997. Available from Civic Research Institute, 4490 U.S. Route 27, PO Box 585, Kingston, NJ 08528.
•Greg Michie. "A Teacher Reflects on Kids and Gangs: 'You Gotta Be Hard,'" Rethinking Schools, Winter 1997/1998.
•Carol Ann Morrow. "Gang Priest," St. Anthony Messenger, August 1999. Available from 1615 Republic St., Cincinnati, OH 45210-1298.
•Janet Patti and Linda Lantieri. "The War for Peace," Professional Counselor, August 1997. Available from 3201 Southwest 15th St., Deerfield Beach, FL 33442-8190.
•Colin Powell. "I Wasn't Left to Myself," Newsweek, April 27, 1998.
•Ron Stodghill II. "In the Line of Fire," Time, April 20, 1998.
•Andrew P. Thomas. "From Gangs to God," Wall Street Journal, October 23, 1998.
•Quint C. Thurman, Andrew L. Giacomazzi, Michael D. Reisig, and David G. Mueller. "Community-Based Gang Prevention and Intervention: An Evaluation of the Neutral Zone," Crime & Delinquency, April 1996. Available from Sage Publications, 2455 Teller Rd., Thousand Oaks, CA 91320.
•Robert L. Woodson. "A D.C. Neighborhood's Hard-Won Peace," Wall Street Journal, February 21, 1997.
•Robert L. Woodson. "Reclaiming the Lives of Young People," USA Today, September 1997.

Source Citation:Swasey, Elizabeth J. "School-Based Programs Are an Ineffective Response to Gang Violence." Opposing Viewpoints: Gangs. Ed. Laura K. Egendorf. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 2001. Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center. Gale. Apollo Library-Univ of Phoenix. 1 May. 2010 <>..
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Gale Document Number:EJ3010137221
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