The Record – North New Jersey


Hackensack and Paterson assaults are not part of ‘knockout game,’ police say

August 21, 2014
by Abbott Koloff

After a man in his 60s was beaten by a group of teenagers in Pat­erson on Wednesday night, a city councilman said it looked like an example of a supposedly trending national game called “knockout.” Fears that the game, blamed for at least one death in New Jersey, had taken root locally were fanned earlier in the week when a lone assailant randomly punched three people in separate incidents in Hackensack. …

At the same time as the Hoboken assault, a flood of national ­stories appeared about the knockout game, according to Jeffrey A. Butts, a head researcher at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Butts said the stories indicated a heightened interest by the media but not necessarily a rise in the number of incidents, which he said are rare.

[ read article ]

The Debt Penalty

Evans, Douglas N. (2014). The Debt Penalty – Exposing the Financial Barriers to Offender Reintegration. New York, NY: Research & Evaluation Center, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York.

Financial debt associated with legal system involvement is a pressing issue that affects the criminal justice system, offenders, and taxpayers. Mere contact with the criminal justice system often results in fees and fines that increase with progression through the system. Criminal justice fines and fees punish offenders and are designed to generate revenue for legal systems that are operating on limited budgets. However, fines and fees often fail to accomplish this second goal because many offenders are too poor to pay them. To compound their financial struggles, offenders may be subject to other financial obligations, such as child support payments and restitution requirements. If they do not pay their financial obligations, they may be subject to late fees and interest requirements, all of which accumulate into massive debt over time. Even if they want to pay, offenders have limited prospects for meaningful employment and face wage disparities resulting from their criminal history, which makes it even more difficult to pay off their debt.
debtpenalty_graphicAn inability to pay off financial debt increases the possibility that offenders will commit new offenses and return to the criminal justice system. Some courts re-incarcerate offenders simply because they are unable to settle their financial obligations. Imposing financial obligations and monetary penalties on offenders – a group that is overwhelmingly indigent – is not tenable. States often expend more resources attempting to recoup outstanding debt from offenders than they are able to collect from those who pay. This report explores the causes and effects of perpetual criminal debt and offers solutions for encouraging ex-offender payment.


logo_jfThis report was prepared as part of the R&E Center’s partnership with Justice Fellowship. The mission of Justice Fellowship is to reform the criminal justice system so communities are safer, victims are respected, and offenders are transformed. Justice Fellowship operated as an independent organization until 2001, when it became a department within Prison Fellowship Ministries.

Discussing Evidence-Based Policy and Practice

logo_jjieThe Juvenile Justice Information Exchange ( hosted a Google Hangout (online live chat) between the director of the R&E Center, Jeffrey Butts, and Cynthia Lum from the Center for Evidence-Based Crime Policy at George Mason University. The conversation covered a number of topics, including the nature of evidence-based practices, how programs or practices become evidence-based, and forces that often complicate the connections between evidence and practice.

Who Chooses the Evidence Base?

Baltimore Sun


Baltimore’s New Curfew Takes Effect Friday

Unsupervised children must be indoors as early as 9 p.m.
by Yvonne Wenger and Colin Campbell
August 7, 2014

Baltimore’s new curfew — among the strictest in the country — takes effect Friday amid mixed reaction, with some parents saying it could help keep youths safe and experts noting that there’s no evidence that it will.

… Researchers say there is no evidence to suggest that curfews reduce crime or keep children safe. For instance, a study of crime statistics from 1980 to 1996 in California cities with youth curfews found no correlation between curfews and crime by or against juveniles.

Jeffrey A. Butts, director of the Research and Evaluation Center at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said the argument that a curfew is necessary to protect children is “convenient” but not rooted in fact. Governments have child welfare laws for safety, he said, and officers can intervene when necessary without needing a curfew law to step in.

Butts said Baltimore’s law is not only strict, but confusing because of the way it changes based on a child’s age and the time of year.

“It’s more coverage than I have seen most cities do,” Butts said. “It sounds not only comprehensive but complicated, which means kids will lose track of it.”

[ read article ]

Statement of Jeffrey A. Butts to the New York Commission on Youth, Public Safety and Justice

banner_img1In 2014, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo established the Commission on Youth, Public Safety and Justice and charged it with producing a plan to raise the age at which juveniles are charged as adults in New York criminal courts. The Governor described current policies that send all 16-year-olds to criminal court as “outdated.” The director of the R&E Center, Dr. Jeffrey A. Butts, spoke at a July 29, 2014 hearing before the members of the Commission.

[ read statement ]

Baltimore Sun

Youth placement is overused [Commentary]

Maryland should look to more community-based programs to help juveniles

By Catherine E. Pugh
July 24, 2014


As a senator, public safety is at the top of my mind. But we have seen time and again that youth incarceration does not improve public safety. In fact, it is a failed experiment. To really make communities safer, we should invest in them, not in jails, prisons and residential centers.  …

Safely Home details what that support would look like and also provides data about how working intensively with youth with complex needs in the context of their families and communities as opposed to the isolation of a residential bed or jail cell has worked. The John Jay College of Criminal Justice Research and Evaluation Center published a series of short briefs that looked at thousands of youth in Youth Advocate Programs’ community-based alternatives for justice involved youth from across the country, including one right here in Baltimore. The children in these programs were high-risk youth and they have very complex needs. Yet, nearly all of them succeeded in the program with 86 percent remaining arrest free and 93 percent still living in their communities, not back in a facility. One example from a separate study that looked at 1,851 youth found that 95 percent of youth studied were still living in the community six to 12 months after discharge from YAP’s non-residential community-based program.

[ read article ]

Preliminary Survey Findings

logo_nyccureIn 2012, 2013, and 2014, the Research & Evaluation Center received funding from the New York City Council to assess the implementation of gun violence reduction initiatives in New York City neighborhoods. The project is tracking the formation and deployment of gun violence reduction strategies in five areas: South Bronx, Harlem, Jamaica (Queens), North Shore of Staten Island, and East New York.

Each pilot program incorporates the shooting incident crisis management system recommended by the 2012 report from the Council-sponsored Task Force to Combat Gun Violence. Each project is also expected to implement the public health oriented violence-reduction strategy known as Cure Violence, which was developed at the University of Illinois-Chicago. Other support services are to be connected with each Cure Violence program to provide needed supports for at-risk youth, their families, and communities, including mental health services, school based conflict mediation services, job training and placement services, and legal services.

The Survey Method

The City Council funded the research team from John Jay College to follow the implementation of the strategy in each neighborhood and to assess its effectiveness. Researchers from the Research & Evaluation Center visited the boroughs to investigate their progress. In each community, researchers interviewed program leaders, agency officials, and community partners. The team also reviewed available documents and websites about each pilot site, and the team spoke with several City officials involved in the design and launch of the crisis management system.

In 2014, the research team began to collect survey data as well. John Jay researchers (operating under the street brand “NYC Cure”) are conducting surveys of young men (ages 18-30) in the communities operating Cure Violence program funded by the City Council as well as several New York City neighborhoods involved in a demonstration of Cure Violence supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The R&E Center’s surveys are designed to measure respondents’ experience of violence as well as their attitudes toward the appropriateness of violent behavior in varying situational contexts. The project is using an innovative sampling method (“respondent-driven sampling”) that is used to gather data quickly and efficiently from traditionally hard-to-reach populations.

Surveys are being completed in neighborhoods with Cure Violence programs and four comparison neighborhoods without Cure Violence. The study will conduct additional rounds of interviews in all of the communities in 2015 and 2016.

Some Preliminary Findings

Survey Responses Harlem East N.Y. (Brooklyn) South Jamaica (Queens) South Bronx
I’ve been “stopped & frisked” in the past year 81% 79% 72% 78%
I’ve been shot at before 29% 41% 30% 45%
I’ve been stabbed before 18% 17% 17% 19%
I’ve seen at least one gun on my block in the past year 43% 45% 32% 50%
I’ve heard gunshots in my neighborhood 83% 83% 77% 87%


More Information

NYCCure is the R&E Center’s program of studies on gun violence prevention in New York City. Read the evaluation plan.