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Peter W. Greenwood, Changing Lives: Delinquency Prevention as Crime Control Policy.

Peter W. Greenwood, Changing Lives: Delinquency Prevention as Crime Control Policy. Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 2006, $37.00 hardcover.

The conversion of scientific knowledge about juvenile delinquency to actual policy and practice has been dreadfully slow and even stalled at times. Criminological research consistently links such factors as delinquent peer affiliations, neglectful parental supervision, low school achievement, and adolescent substance abuse to juvenile delinquency, and juvenile delinquency itself is a risk factor for adult criminality. Despite this robust knowledge base, however, recent developments in crime-control policy often look strikingly like old developments. Tougher sentencing laws, expanding police departments, and construction of more prisons are promoted, supported and funded over proven evidence-based interventions.

The frequent evolution of chronic juvenile delinquents into serious adult offenders would seem enough to justify the need for sound, early preventive programming. Yet, as Peter Greenwood notes in his new book, Changing Lives: Delinquency Prevention as Crime-Control Policy, delinquency prevention is a difficult and complex undertaking. Key issues around how prevention is defined, what types of criminal behavior are to be prevented, and who is responsible must be addressed. Clear definitions of program success and a better understanding of what works are needed, as well as reliable mechanisms for the transmission of information and evidence from researchers to public policymakers and practitioners. These issues drive the book, and Greenwood does a remarkable job of highlighting, analyzing, and critiquing these most critical topics and considerations.

Following a foreword by noted legal scholar Franklin Zimring, the brief opening chapter introduces the purpose and focus of the book. Greenwood recognizes the disconnect between research and policy, the need for better prevention strategies, and the necessity of examining those issues described in the preceding paragraph. Chapter 2 then assumes an historical perspective when tracing the evolution of juvenile delinquency prevention from the emergence of colonial-era institutional placements to the establishment of the juvenile court to the Great Society programming of the 1960s and the policy shifts that marked the 1980s and 1990s. This is a fascinating chapter with relevance beyond simply summarizing interesting social welfare and criminological history. Instead, a better understanding of the historical developments and changes in delinquency prevention gives context to the political and social climate surrounding prevention today.

The third chapter gives an overview of how prevention programs are evaluated and how program impact can (and should) be measured. Greenwood argues that cost-effectiveness is the most appropriate criteria for program comparison and evaluation, though he acknowledges that such analysis is uncommon and many delinquency prevention programs have not been evaluated at all. It is also recognized that variations in study design and methodology often hinder our understanding of a program's true effectiveness. Whereas this chapter argues strongly for the establishment of scientifically-rigorous and consistent criteria for evaluating program effectiveness, the next two chapters extend this to systematically review what works (chapter 4) and what doesn't work (chapter 5) in delinquency prevention. In chapter 4, programs are organized by target age and the chapter concludes with a brief cost-benefit assessment of the most effective programs. Chapter 5 reviews ineffective programs organized by prevention level (primary, secondary, and tertiary) and it includes an interesting discussion of specific programs that continue despite evidence that they do not work (D.A.R.E., boot camps, and Scared Straight). The discussion of why such programs persist is especially compelling and speaks to the need for clearer definitions of program success as well as better dissemination of research evidence.

Part 2 of the book (Chapters 6-8) tackles important policy-related issues. Chapter 6, for example, discusses the strengths and limitations of cost effectiveness in resource allocation, while chapter 7 examines the role of government in prevention programming. This chapter debates critical questions about which level of government and which branch of government should be responsible for crime and delinquency prevention. Such choices will absolutely impact a program's mission and goals, yet these questions do not receive enough scholarly, popular, or political discourse. The final chapter (chapter 8) focuses specifically on programming in the juvenile court. The juvenile court is in a unique position to provide and regulate a variety of services aimed at preventing juvenile delinquency. As this chapter recommends, juvenile courts should be knowledgeable about the current evidence base, divert youth to available services when appropriate, consider programming needs and sanctions in all cases, monitor the quality of local programs, and identify programming and service gaps.

Perhaps the real strength of this book is its usefulness to multiple disciplines and professions. As evidenced here, the contents have clear utility to politicians and policymakers as well as juvenile court judges and court administrators. Social work practitioners, social service providers, and agencies seeking to implement programs will also find the book useful, especially chapters 4-5 that review effective and ineffective programs. As noted in chapter 4, adjudicated juveniles, or those youth involved with law enforcement and the courts, pose a distinct risk for re-offending and chronic delinquency. In light of such risk, the brief discussion of effective programming for these youths in the book is disappointing. However, this is more reflective of our limited understanding of what works with these juveniles than it is a criticism of this book. On the contrary, Changing Lives is an important book with broad appeal and equally broad application. It is wholeheartedly recommended for everyone working in the juvenile and criminal justice systems or for anyone with an interest in delinquency and crime prevention.

Matthew T. Theriot

The University of Tennessee
COPYRIGHT 2007 Western Michigan University, School of Social Work
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Copyright 2007, Gale Group. All rights reserved.

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Author:Theriot, Matthew T.
Publication:Journal of Sociology & Social Welfare
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jun 1, 2007
Words:913
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