Tuesday, May 27, 2014


I went to a fascinating meeting the other day in Jerusalem. With several leaders I went to the Juvenile Probation Service (JPS) in the Ministry of Social Affairs. In most countries, probation services are run by the police or courts. But in Israel, the social side is the emphasis. Israel has 240 probation officers, and there are 16,000 new referrals every year ... for 23,000 offenses. JPS is actually one of the oldest social services in Israel - it was set up in 1934 during the British mandate.

My colleagues at the Myers-JDC-Brookdale Institute have been helping the JPS with empirical data. The Institute profiled the kids, the process, the programs. How do you know when the process is effective? When are the kids deemed 'rehabilitated?'

We met with A., a high-risk young offender. He agreed to join a 'wraparound' program - an intensive case-management process to get him back on track without removing him from the community. "He was lost," his father said. "He didn't know what to do with his life ....now he's learned his risk factors, responsibility, sensibility."

The challenge is how do we help these kind of social services get the most impact with stretched-thin resources. There are complex family and personal backgrounds, dangerous behaviors. And it's not all drug- or violence-related. 40% of the offenses are violent, 20% are property crimes. Only 10% are drug crimes, and 2% are sex-related crimes. So you need facts, knowledge, impact-studies.

I'm proud of my colleagues in Myers-JDC-Brookdale. They are making a major change in how JPS measures outcomes, develops tools to track treatment and understands young offenders. And these kinds of applied research programs make a real impact in people's lives.

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