What Works to Prevent Urban Violence Among Proven Risk Young Men? The Safe and Successful Youth Initiative: Evidence and Implementation Review

The Massachusetts Safe and Successful Youth Initiative (SSYI) commissioned a review of the evidence underlying effective programs designed to reduce serious violence among targeted groups of young offenders. A Rapid Evidence Assessment (REA) methodology was used to identify and determine the effectiveness of rigorous evaluation studies of programs most similar to the SSYI intervention. A review of the implementation science literature complemented the evidence review to determine what characteristics organizations should demonstrate in order to produce optimal results from their SSYI efforts. Taken together, the guidance from evaluations of effective programs and the characteristics of high quality implementation provide SSYI with valuable insight on enhancing and improving violence prevention efforts moving forward.
Eleven program evaluations were identified, of which ten were deemed as producing “effective” results, with one program showing ineffective or detrimental outcomes. The two common features of all programs deemed to be effective included:

  • Using street outreach workers.
  • Providing positive development supports to high-risk persons.

However, the evaluations were generally not designed to specifically test the individual effects of single intervention components (such as street outreach) on individual or community-level outcomes. Most studies focused on measuring criminal justice outcomes (i.e., arrests and homicides) rather than norms of violence or changes in individual or community-well-being (i.e., mental health status or unemployment). None of the evaluated programs included any reference to trauma-informed supports and none evaluated a program implemented in multiple cities in the same state. Despite some differences with SSYI, most of the initiatives included multi-agency efforts, community mobilization, and the use of street outreach workers. At least three used a “list” of high-risk individuals to target for suppression and social services.

Campie, P.E., Petrosino, A., Pace, J., Fronius, T., Guckenburg, S. Wiatrowski, and Ward, S.
Massachusetts Executive Office of Health and Human Services, Boston, MA, 2013



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