ISLG is conducting exploratory research in Baltimore, Philadelphia, Chicago, and St. Louis to better understand the factors, nuances, and context that affect young people who are at high risk of being involved in the justice system across the country.

Violence in American cities has made headlines in recent years, and the impacts for young people of color, in particular, are significant.

Over the past several years, staff at Roca—a community-based organization based in Massachusetts that works to disrupt the cycle of incarceration and poverty—have observed a need to adapt program services to respond to changes among their participants. These changes seem to be compounding the needs among an already high-risk population. Specifically, the young adults in the Roca program seem to be experiencing increased levels of trauma and violence in response to more intense circumstances within their communities.

To ground these local observations in a national context and to help Roca develop a better understanding of how to best serve affected young people, ISLG is exploring whether similar changes are happening in other cities with violence levels that are above the national average.

Research Activities

ISLG is conducting exploratory research in Baltimore, Philadelphia, Chicago, and St. Louis to better understand the factors, nuances, and context that affect young people who are at high risk of being involved in the justice system across the country. We seek to learn whether, how, and why their risk and their spectrum of needs are changing.

  1. One-on-one interviews with criminal justice system stakeholders and identified community leaders and community-based organizations serving similar populations are exploring perspectives on the factors driving violence among young men in these communities. We especially focus on the pervasiveness of guns, drugs, gangs, trauma, and the role of social media within these contexts; how local systems and communities are responding to violence; and associated impacts.
  2. Through focus groups with impacted young adults, we seek to learn more about changes observed within their communities with respect to the factors driving violent activity, the experienced impacts, and identified system and community needs in order for young people to become and remain engaged in services and interventions.
  3. We are developing violent crime profiles in each city based on aggregate data analysis (drawing on national and local data sources, as available), comparing trends across cities, age groups, and system points of interest. This places our qualitative findings in context and explores the similarities and differences in drivers, responses, and impacts across cities.

Through this work, we intend to create a learning network across programs and agencies that serve similar populations to foster collaboration and help build a more in-depth understanding of young adults who are dealing with the recurring impact of poverty, violence, and the justice system in their lives. Our findings will be used to encourage further conversation and enhance services to better meet the needs of young people and to ensure their short- and long-term success.

CLIENT and PARTNERS

ISLG is pursuing this work for Roca, a community-based organization based in Massachusetts that works to disrupt the cycle of incarceration and poverty by implementing an intervention model designed to help young people change their behaviors and develop life, education, and employment skills through tailored programming and collaboration with community partners.

ISLG also aims to establish partnerships within each city to develop an appropriate approach for incorporating the voices of those impacted into the work.

This research is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.