Winner of the 2017 Abell Award in Urban Policy

July 2017 / Abell Reports / Criminal Justice and Addiction, Education

Juvenile Justice and the Heat of the Moment: A Proposal to Pilot Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Interventions to Reduce Youth Crime and Recidivism in Baltimore City

Despite extensive investment and planning by public and private stakeholders in Baltimore City, the battle to curb youth crime and recidivism has been an uphill one. Even with boosts from aggressive city- and statewide initiatives, juvenile crime and recidivism rates have remained relatively steadfast over the past five years. Currently, Baltimore youth are nearly 50 percent more likely to recidivate than the typical Maryland juvenile. A fresh approach is needed to tackle the unique complexities of youth crime and incarceration in Baltimore City.

The 2017 Abell Award in Urban Policy goes to a paper that proposes to address those complexities through an evidence-based program of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). In “Juvenile Crime and the Heat of the Moment: A proposal to pilot cognitive behavioral therapy interventions to reduce youth crime and recidivism in Baltimore City,” George Zuo (PhD Candidate in Economics at the University of Maryland) and Stephanie Zuo (MD, Johns Hopkins 2017) identify an intervention developed in Chicago that has resulted in significant, positive effects on juvenile arrest and recidivism rates among participants, while boasting increased graduation rates and cost-efficient implementation at scale.

Through Becoming a Man or BAM, an in-school program administered by Youth Guidance (a Chicago non-profit), young men were offered a series of weekly in-school sessions engaging in group activities and experiences guided by clinical principles of CBT. By the end of the first year, across all BAM sites, program participation reduced total arrests by 28-35 percent and violent-crime arrests by 45-50 percent, while increasing graduation rates by 12-20 percent.  A similar program implemented in the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center (JTDC) reduced youth re-admission rates to the detention facility by 21 percent for youth who had been released for 18 months.

The authors propose a pilot of the Chicago-based CBT program in Baltimore City, focusing resources on the highest areas of need within the Baltimore City Juvenile Justice Center and the Baltimore City Public Schools. The goals of the proposal are to use CBT to channel youth out of the school-to-prison pipeline and to emphasize local schools as key partners in delivering CBT-based violence prevention methods.

The Abell Award in Urban Policy is an annual competition for the best student paper that provides a cogent analysis of a critical issue facing the City of Baltimore and proposes well-reasoned, feasible solutions. Sponsored by the Abell Foundation and the Johns Hopkins Institute for Health and Social Policy, the competition is open to full-time matriculated students at all Baltimore area colleges and universities. The submissions are blind-reviewed by a panel of distinguished judges. The winning paper receives a $5,000 award and is distributed to key policymakers and opinion leaders and posted on the Abell Foundation’s website.