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Dewey Cornell
Dewey Cornell, dir., Virginia Youth Violence Project

New Report Outlines Ways To Prevent Juvenile Violence

July 19, 1999 -- The potential for youth violence in Virginia can be reduced dramatically by standardizing intervention programs for students and juvenile offenders and sharing information aout services, according to a new statewide report.

Prepared for the Center for Injury and Violence Prevention in the Virginia Department of Health, the report calls for a systematic and coordinated statewide effort to implement programs found effective in reducing youth violence, such as mentoring, bullying-reduction campaigns and conflict-resolution training. The report was prepared by faculty in the Virginia Youth Violence Project at the University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education who completed an assessment of violence-prevention programs statewide.

The U.Va. researchers found that although there is a variety of violence-prevention services and programs available throughout the state, there is little shared information about the effectiveness of such efforts. Even within state government, services in one department are often unknown to others in different divisions, say the researchers in the 130-page report titled "Youth Violence Prevention in Virginia: A Needs Assessment."

To increase knowledge, the researchers propose regular meetings of directors of programs addressing youth violence. Such meetings would promote coordinated planning and joint program efforts, they say.

"The state could establish a central clearinghouse for planning and coordinating youth violence-prevention efforts," said Dewey G. Cornell, director of the Virginia Youth Violence Project. "There should be efforts, for example, to create an inter-agency group linking the Departments of Education, Criminal Justice Services, Juvenile Justice, Mental Health, Mental Retardation, Substance Abuse Services and Social Services together."

Local providers of services should also meet regularly to exchange information and to learn the extent of youth violence in their communities, the researchers note.

The report emphasizes the need for more timely release of annual school safety statistics by the state Department of Education. Such information is released nearly two years after the incidents occur.

The researchers call for statewide training of school administrators on how to collect and report data reflecting school violence. They also recommend training on how to use such information to improve school safety.

Unlike other states, Virginia has no statewide method for tracking the extent of alcohol and drug use among youth, the researchers note. The report calls for additional legislation to broaden information-sharing among schools, courts and law enforcement agencies.

Although there are numerous programs statewide that seek to reduce youth violence, many such efforts have no proven track record or firm evaluative procedures, the researchers found. Programs appear to be chosen because of cost, political popularity or philosophical appeal rather than documented effectiveness.

However, there are now programs that have been found widely effective in reducing the potential for youth violence. The researchers call for the adoption of such programs, which include mentoring, bullying -- reduction campaigns, conflict resolution and after-school supervision. The report proposes implementing such programs at schools, in churches or through private non-profit agencies such as the YMCA and the Boys & Girls Clubs.

Because the most clearly identifiable group of youth likely to commit violent crimes are those who have been recognized by juvenile authorities as delinquents, the report recommends implementing violence-prevention programs for the thousands of youth incarcerated yearly in Virginia’s 18 detention centers. The researchers note an urgent need for providing those youth such services as job training, substance abuse counseling, mentoring and parent education.

"Perhaps the most important message in the report is that there are effective means of preventing or reducing youth violence, but such programs must be held accountable for documenting their quality and effectiveness," Cornell said.

A limited number of free copies of the report can be obtained by contacting the Virginia Department of Health at (804) 225-4483. After that supply runs out, copies of the report can be purchased for $10 from the Virginia Youth Violence Project at (804) 924-8929.

For more information, contact Dewey Cornell at (804) 924-0793 or via dgc2f@virginia.edu.

Contact: Ida Lee Wootten, (804) 924-6857.

FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: please contact the Office of University Relations at (804) 924-7116. Television reporters should contact the TV News Office at (804) 924-7550.
SOURCE: U.Va. News Services

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