New Study to Focus on Impact of Family Visits for Incarcerated Youth

VeraThe Vera Institute of Justice has announced that it will conduct a two-year study to examine the possible impact of increased family visits on juvenile residents in Indiana.

Recently, the Indiana Department of Correction’s Division of Youth Services (DYS) altered its policies, allowing family visitations as many as six times a week. The study, funded by the federal Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), will assess the links between increased family visits and behavioral and educational outcomes for DYS residents.

“We reached out to Indiana and asked if we could apply for this federal grant to study them, because what they’re doing is very innovative and certainly not the standard practice across the country,” Margaret diZerega, director of Vera’s Family Justice Program, told JJIE.

Two years ago, the state’s DYS was selected as a pilot site for Vera’s “family engagement standards,” which the organization developed alongside the Performance-based Standards Learning Institute. The DYS pinpointed visitation as an area the agency could improve upon, and a subsequent policy update last year resulted in the doubling of facility visitation rates.

“They made some pretty significant policy changes at the beginning of last year, so that families were able to visit almost as often as they wanted,” diZerega said. “So we’re interested in learning what the impact of that policy change is.”

Researchers will look at administrative data and conduct interviews with staffers, incarcerated youths and their families as part of the upcoming project. To measure the possible impact of visitations on recidivism, two cohorts will be studied; youth released from DYS custody between 2010 and 2012, before the visitation policies were updated, and youth released in 2013, after the policy change. Dr. Ryan Shanahan, senior program associate for the Family Justice Program, said an additional one-year-out recidivism study may be conducted once the two-year DYS study concludes.

Shanahan said she is optimistic that the study will provide greater evidence for a link between family visits and improved resident outcomes. “There’s a dearth of this kind of research in the field, and while criminal justice administrators across the country intuitively know that having more family contact can lead to better outcomes for the youth in their care, it would be great to have evidence that backs that up,” she said.

Council of Juvenile Corrections Administrators’ (CJCA) Ned Loughran said that increased family visitations can only be viewed as a positive for young people in the nation’s juvenile justice facilities.

“It has a calming influence on kids,” Loughran said. “They’re not going to act out if they know their parents are going to be there this week, and the next week and the week after.”

Isolating youths from family contacts may constitute a formula for juvenile misbehavior, he said. “I’ve been in juvenile corrections for almost 40 years and this is one of those ideas whose time has come, and it came a lot later than it should have come,” he said. “The facilities must be open to the parents; much more welcoming of them. … They must make them a part of their youth’s rehabilitation.”

Previous Vera research conducted in Ohio indicated a potential connection between expanded family visitations and educational and behavioral outcomes for its DYS residents. Through the study, diZerega believes Indiana is in a position to “set a new tone” for the nation’s juvenile justice agencies.

“We often get asked why family contact matters for youth in facilities, and I think to be able to learn through this study is one way we can answer that question,” she said. “Through what we learn from this study, we can provide some evidence to inform any kind of policy change that other jurisdictions might want to make.”


Nearly Half of U.S. States Enact Juvenile Justice Reforms

From the Campaign for Youth Justice's State Trends Legislative Victories from 2011-2013 Removing Youth from the Adult Criminal Justice System report.
From the Campaign for Youth Justice's State Trends Legislative Victories from 2011-2013 Removing Youth from the Adult Criminal Justice System report.

WASHINGTON – Nearly half of U.S. states have made great strides in the past eight years toward reducing the prosecution of juveniles in the adult criminal justice system or preventing youths from being placed in adult jails and prisons, a report released Thursday found.

The report, by the Washington-based Campaign for Youth Justice -- a national advocacy group that seeks to end the practice of trying, sentencing and incarcerating youth under 18 in the adult criminal justice system –- reviewed reforms among states nationwide.

The report highlights reforms in 23 states that include limiting states’ authority to house young people in adult jails and prisons; raising the age for juvenile court jurisdiction to 18 so older teens are no longer automatically prosecuted as adults; revising laws so youths are more likely to stay in the juvenile justice system instead of being transferred to the adult system; and changing mandatory minimum sentencing laws.

Carmen Daugherty, policy director at CFYJ, pointed out that many of the reforms had been passed unanimously, reflecting the results of research on prosecuting juveniles in the adult criminal justice system or placing them in adult jails and prisons.

“We know that a lot of research and data have come out to show that past policies didn’t work to increase public safety or reduce juvenile crime,” Daugherty told

“Policymakers are really taking into account the research, that data that is now available, in really realizing that the past practices of treating youths as adults did not work.”

The report notes many states enacted harsh laws in the 1980s and 1990s aimed at cracking down on youth crime by making it easier for young people to be prosecuted in adult criminal courts.

[module align="right" width="half" type="pull-quote"]The public remains largely unaware that 95 percent of juveniles tried in adult courts nationwide are non-violent offenders.[/module]Despite juvenile justice reforms, the report said, about 250,000 juveniles are tried in adult courts annually and nearly 100,000 youths are paced in adult jails and prisons each year. And half the states have undertaken no juvenile justice reforms, the report said.

Jessica Sandoval, CFYJ’s vice president and deputy director, said the public remains largely unaware that 95 percent of juveniles tried in adult courts nationwide are non-violent offenders.

“We don’t think the public is aware of it mostly because of the news that we see highlighting the most heinous crimes but not the kid who …  gets in a schoolyard fight and gets charged as an adult,” Sandoval told

Despite the lack of progress in many states, the CFYJ officials said they’re heartened by reforms that have taken place.

The officials point out research showing youths placed in the adult criminal justice system have a much higher rate of recidivism than those in the juvenile system and that youths are 36 times more likely to commit suicide in an adult jail than in a juvenile detention facility. And the U.S. Supreme Court has noted research showing young people’s brains are still developing and that they lack the maturity of adults.

Among the reforms highlighted in the report:

    • Eleven states – Colorado, Idaho, Indiana, Maine, Nevada, Hawaii, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Texas, Oregon and Ohio – have enacted laws limiting states’ authority to house youths in adult jails and prisons.

    • Four states – Connecticut, Illinois, Mississippi and Massachusetts – have increased the age for juvenile court jurisdiction. This means older teens are no longer automatically tried in adult criminal courts.

    • Twelve states – Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Nevada, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Ohio, Maryland and Nevada – have revised laws on the transfer of youths to the adult criminal justice system, making it more likely young people will remain in the juvenile justice system.

    • Eight states – California, Colorado, Georgia, Indiana, Texas, Missouri, Ohio and Washington – have changed mandatory minimum sentencing laws. Among other things, the changes take into account the differences in brain development between youths and adults and allow for post-sentencing review for young people facing juvenile court sentences of life without parole.

“We are finding that states are moving away from prosecuting youths in the adult criminal justice system and from placing youths in adult jails and prisons,” Sandoval said. “We think that there’s work to do obviously. But we think this is a good direction we’re heading in.”

Tracy McClard lobbied hard for the reforms in Missouri. She did so in memory of her son, Jonathan McClard, who hanged himself in a Missouri prison in January 2008, three days after his 17th birthday -- and after a month of being held in solitary confinement for placing his hands in his lap, violating prison rules, during a visit from his mother.

Jonathan was 16 when he was tried as an adult, charged with first-degree assault with a deadly weapon in the shooting of a youth who was dating Jonathan’s ex-girlfriend -- and who he believed had threatened to harm her. The victim survived the shooting.

Juvenile justice officials who reviewed Jonathan’s case concluded he could be rehabilitated and recommended to a judge that he be placed in a juvenile facility offering education and rehabilitation programs under the state’s dual jurisdiction program. The program allows youths to receive a suspended adult sentence and be placed in a juvenile detention facility.

Among other things, “Jonathan’s Law,” named for the teen, requires judges to state in writing why they reject Division of Youth Services recommendations that a youth be placed in a juvenile facility under the dual jurisdiction program.

The law also raises the age that youths must be considered for dual jurisdiction from 17 to 17 years and six months. (In Missouri, 17-year-olds are tried as adults automatically.)

Jonathan’s mother founded Families and Friends Organized to Reform Juvenile Justice, which urged legislators to approve the law and continues to seek juvenile justice reform.

“The general public really does not know what we do to kids when they get arrested, and policymakers don’t know what we do to these kids,” McClard said.

[module align="right" width="half" type="pull-quote"]"The more we can expose these youths to the rehabilitative-type programs in the juvenile system, the better the outcomes are going to be for the youths and, as a result, for the community..."[/module]Michele Deitch, a professor at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin, said her research has shown many young people charged with crimes can be rehabilitated through education and treatment.

“So the more we can expose these youths to the rehabilitative-type programs in the juvenile system, the better the outcomes are going to be for the youths and, as a result, for the community,” Deitch told

“It improves public safety. It reduces the number of victims. It reduces the chance that these kids are going to ultimately be repeat criminals or end up in the adult system and a burden to society in that way.”

Other research by Deitch helped persuade lawmakers to enact a 2011 law enabling those youths under 17 tried as adults to be held in a juvenile facility rather than an adult jail while awaiting trial.

“It’s a very poor fit to put children in adult facilities where they are at physical risk and their mental health is at risk and where the programs and services that are offered are just completely inappropriate for this age group,” Deitch said. “Jails are not equipped to provide children with education or treatment or services.”

She noted youths housed with adults are at high risk of being sexually or physically assaulted and if they’re placed in solitary confinement away from adults, it causes psychological harm and increases their risk of suicide.


IDJJ Mental Health Report Focuses on Staffing, Screening, Solitary

Dr. Louis J. Kraus
Dr. Louis J. Kraus

The report from court-appointed expert Dr. Louis J. Kraus on the mental health services provided in Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice facilities details several areas in need of improvement:

Staffing: The report points to the insufficient number of professionals, lack of a child and adolescent psychiatrist, lack of necessary licensing among mental health staff, inadequate salaries, and insufficient number of security staff.

Kraus suggested hiring a full-time child and adolescent psychiatrist at IYC Kewanee, where most youth with serious mental health diagnoses have been traditionally held. He added that the psychology 2 position, which requires a master’s degree, pays about $35,000 per year. “There was not a single psychology 2 professional who I talked to who thought this was a reasonable salary,” he wrote.

Many professionals in IDJJ lack knowledge of the subtleties of mental health issues, Kraus wrote. “My recommendation is to have a comprehensive review of the definition of what a mental health professional is, as defined by the state,” the report states. “The IDJJ should call mental health professionals what they are.”

MBR“There is a need in some cases for higher levels of training and qualifications, having licenses, having a child and adolescent psychiatrist … who can supervise and assist with the tougher cases,” said Adam Schwartz, ACLU lead counsel. “In some cases, there needs to be potentially enhancements in the salaries.”

Mental health screening and assessment: The report says IDJJ does not adequately identify youth with significant needs, allows excessive idle time, provides inadequate psychiatric review, and does not adequately separate youth of different ages.

[module align="right" width="half" type="pull-quote"]For example, one youth Kraus interviewed at IYC Harrisburg was “overtly psychotic” and was kept “in his fecal smelling room about 22 out of 24 hours a day”[/module]For example, one youth Kraus interviewed at IYC Harrisburg was “overtly psychotic” and was kept “in his fecal smelling room about 22 out of 24 hours a day” and yet was classified mental health level 2 out of 4 (with 4 the most severe), was not on psychotropic medication and did not have a clear diagnosis, the report says.

Kraus praised the department for work on screening and assessment tools, noting that it has made use of the MAYSI-2 rating scale and hired Dr. Tom Grisso, the inventor of that scale. “Other assessment tools such as the GAIN and CANS have also been helpful in assessing the youth,” Kraus wrote. “In my opinion, the IDJJ also has done a reasonable job in assessing suicide risk and doing initial screenings in a time efficient way.”

“Having the tools in place is an important and necessary step, but it’s not a sufficient step,” Schwartz said. “What is necessary is the level of staffing to use those tools and properly diagnose and treat these young men and women.”

Solitary confinement: Kraus wrote that IDJJ should end confinement for punitive reasons, particularly the improper use of specialized treatment units up to 22 hours per day. He cites a 1990 United Nations resolution supported by the United States that specifically prohibits solitary confinement of juvenile offenders, with which the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry concurs.

If a youth is “out of control with rage and dangerous right now,” a time out works fine, Schwartz says, “capped at an hour, or less if the young person regains their composure.” If a youth is considered a suicide risk solitary “for their own protection might in some narrow cases be appropriate, but after a short time, measured in days,” he said.

Kraus said IDJJ “has done a reasonable job in differentiating solitary confinement from ‘time outs.’” In addition, he wrote “The facilities in IDJJ have done a good job in having youth that are on confinement for more than 24 hours evaluated by a mental health professional. However, the evaluations that I reviewed have been quite cursory.”

Hospitalization: Certain youths need to be removed from IDJJ and cared for in more appropriate settings, Kraus wrote. Among them are youth who are considered suicide risks for more than a short period, Schwartz said. “The longer a person stays in a psychotic state, the higher the likelihood of long term and irreversible cognitive deficits, among other risks and difficulties,” the report states. “Hospitalization can be avoided if appropriate treatment is put into place.”

Psychotropic medication: The report cites inadequate consent for medication, improper use of stimulants for youths with polysubstance use, and insufficient medication monitoring. “Most information given to the psychiatrist in follow up is from the youth,” Kraus wrote. “Occasionally there is an acute acting out behavior that is shared, but other symptomatology, which might be more subtle, clearly is not.”

Discharge issues: Planning can be inadequate, which means youths are sometimes held beyond their release date due to lack of community placements or strictly so they can complete drug treatment, Kraus wrote. “Continued IDJJ confinement, against their will and after they have been rehabilitated, is simply a violation of their human rights,” he wrote. “To force a youth to enter into a substance abuse program that they are opposed to, and force on them additional set time in IDJJ, violates their rights to refuse treatment.”

Other issues: The report cites insufficient training regarding LGBT youth, lack of specialized treatment in special treatment units, lack of outside accreditation for facilities, inadequate mental health training for security staff, failure to obtain hospital records, inadequate family therapy, and inadequate treatment for juvenile sex offenders.

Kraus’ full report is available here. 


Lawmakers Study Neurology Along With New Juvenile Justice Policy Ideas

Elizabeth Cauffman shows a group of lawmakers brains in various stages of development.
Elizabeth Cauffman displaying images of brains in various stages of development.

“Why do most adolescents drive like they’re missing part of their brain? Because they are,” said Elizabeth Cauffman, professor of Psychology & Social Behavior and Education at the University of California, Irvine.

She was speaking to a group of state lawmakers, staff and others at a forum at the National Conference of State Legislatures summit in Atlanta on Aug. 14. The forum topic was using brain science to craft new policies.

The specific pieces that are missing can have much to do with judgment, impulse control and other behavioral aspects of interest to people who work with juveniles.

Physically, the prefrontal cortex — the part of the brain right behind the forehead — is not fully formed until about age 25. That’s the part that handles things like impulse control and emotion, Cauffman said.

According to her research, the brain is still pruning away indirect, inefficient paths among synapses. And those neural pathways are still growing the special cells that speed information among nodes. Additionally, dopamine, the chemical that contributes to happiness, is at its greatest circulation during the late adolescent years.

Georgia state Rep. Wendell Willard (R-Sandy Springs), the sponsor of the state’s 2013 juvenile justice code rewrite, put it differently. The human brain develops like an onion, Willard said, starting with a basic core of skills like seeing and hearing. And “the last to develop is judgment.”

Reginald Betts, who at age 16 was sentenced to nine years in adult prison for a carjacking. He’s now en route to Yale and criticizes the system that channeled him into adult punishment.
Reginald Betts, who at age 16 was sentenced to nine years in adult prison for a carjacking. He’s now en route to Yale Law School and criticizes the system that channeled him into adult punishment.

Author, essayist and spokesman for the Campaign for Youth Justice Reginald Betts fell into the juvenile justice system at the age of 16. The honors student and a friend were arrested for carjacking. Betts was immediately scared, and confessed within seconds of being arrested.

“I was automatically transferred to adult court,” said Betts. And treated like an adult during his nine-year sentence.

The young Betts, though he was already studying physics and calculus and was on the way to college, was still growing the part of his brain that governs emotions.

People know the difference between right and wrong just as well as adults by about the age of 16, according to Cauffman. In scientific terms, they are at near cognitive parity with an adult: they can understand what happens to them in court, for example.

But they can’t yet control their emotions and impulses, she said. That’s the underdeveloped prefrontal cortex.

Now Betts is on his way to Yale Law School, but he lamented that his judge, prosecutor, defense attorney and lawmakers lacked the “imagination” to see him as anything but a criminal.

He said he is still asked by every landlord if he has a criminal record and that Howard University turned him down because of his felony conviction as an adult.

Sealing records for youth offenses is something lawmakers nationwide might do well to look into, said Maria Schneider, assistant state attorney for the 17th Judicial Circuit of Florida.

In Schneider’s state, completing a diversion program can erase a young person’s criminal record. But an arrest can still be visible.


Maggie Lee / JJIE

“We had kids going on job applications who said they had no record,” said Schneider. But when employers order a Florida background check and see an arrest, they figure they are catching applicants in a lie, Schneider said.

“We don’t need to hold these kids back” if they are really reformed and rehabilitated, she said.

Schneider noted that for adults, we have a “penal” system, a system for punishment; and for youth, a rehabilitative system.

Maybe it would be worthwhile, she told the legislators, to have a conversation about a bigger part for rehabilitation, rather than punishment, when locking people away.

Summer Jobs May Reduce Teen Violence, Study Says


Summer jobs may help reduce violence, according to a recent study that found that low-income Boston teens who held down summer jobs were less likely to engage in violence than teens without jobs.

The study, conducted by researchers at Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University, surveyed more than 400 young people who obtained employment last summer through a State Street Foundation youth violence prevention program.

During the initial survey, 3 percent of young people involved with the program reported either threatening or attacking another person with a gun in the month prior to beginning their summer jobs. By the end of the program, however, just 1 percent of participants reported attacking or threatening someone with a firearm in the last month of the study.

Similarly, 15 percent of young people in the program said they had been involved in a fight in the month prior to the beginning of the program. That number fell to 8 percent by the end of the summer.

[module align="right" width="half" type="pull-quote"]“High school students working today work at less than a 50 percent rate than they did back in 2000."[/module]The study also found that holding down a summer job may make it easier for teens to find jobs in the fall, and reduce the likelihood young people will engage in risky behaviors, such as alcohol or drug use.

However, Andrew Sum, director of Northeastern’s Center for Labor Market Studies, said the potential benefits of summertime employment are being felt by fewer and fewer teenagers.

“High school students working today work at less than a 50 percent rate than they did back in 2000,” he is told PBS.

The number was even lower for disadvantaged inner-city youths, he said.

“You find low-income kids work at the lowest rates by far,” he said. “When you combine them, take a young black high school dropout low-income male, you’re talking 5 percent employment.”


New Guide to Program Evaluation Released

Measuring Success: A Guide to Becoming an Evidence-Based Practice, a new guide from the Vera Institute.
Measuring Success: A Guide to Becoming an Evidence-Based Practice, a new guide from the Vera Institute.

As funders, programs and the public increasingly understand the importance of evidence based practice, nonprofit leaders are feeling more pressure to prove the effectiveness of their initiatives. To help organizations interested in creating or strengthening a research base for their work, the Vera Institute of Justice recently released a new publication, “Measuring Success: A Guide to Becoming an Evidence-Based Practice.” The guide, which was funded by the MacArthur Foundation as part of its Models for Change initiative, is written primarily for juvenile justice initiatives, but may be helpful for other youth-serving programs as well. [Editor’s note: The MacArthur Foundation is a funder of the JJIE.] Although evaluation is beneficial for any program, the guide cautions that “the steps described here are neither simple nor easy.”

The guide is based on Vera’s experience working with many different types of juvenile justice initiatives at various points in their growth and evaluation processes. It helps organizations prepare for evaluations of their programs, and explains many of the terms and methods used in social science research.

The publication suggests that organizations begin by engaging in a process evaluation, comparing the program’s current operations to the goals, objectives and plans developed for the program at its inception. The next step, according to the authors, is the actual outcome evaluation, which involves identifying a study group, and possibly a control group. The publication also describes different types of quantitative data that could be used to show outcomes (e.g., program attendance or re-arrest rates) and also discusses the use of qualitative data (e.g., quotes taken from surveys of participants) to add another layer to evaluations. It also provides guidance on using the results of outcome evaluations.

Even if a program doesn’t have the resources necessary to engage in a full evaluation of its work, “data collection, monitoring, and reporting are critical for good program planning and pave the way to developing an evaluation capacity” wrote Annie Salsich, director of Vera’s Center on Youth Justice in her foreword to the guide.

Juvenile-involved Murder Rate Holds Steady

Youths are involved in murders, either as victims or perpetrators, at about the same rate as they have been for the last few years, according to newly gathered statistics. Both figures are far down from an early 1990s peak.

In 1994, juveniles were involved in committing more than 2,300 murders. The year before that, nearly 3,000 minors were murder victims.

In 2010, the statistics had fallen to 788 and 948 respectively, according to data recently published by the federal Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, which complies figures voluntarily reported by many jurisdictions nationwide, including the largest urban areas in the country. For the past decade, neither number has gone above 1,100.

Some people will say “the question isn’t so much why did they come down but why did they go up,” in the early 1990s, said Melissa Sickmund, interim director of the National Center for Juvenile Justice, the nonprofit that developed the OJJDP’s Briefing Book.

“I don’t think that anyone has definitively said ‘this is it, this is the reason,’” for the change in the statistics over the decades, she said.  It’s most certainly several things at work.

She says studies show the 1990s numbers may have come from “volatility in the drug market when crack hit the streets.” As dealers and drug lords battled to stake out territory in a new market, they recruited the young and put guns in their hands.

Programs like Boston’s Gun Project also play a part, she said.  When that program was in place, police cracked down on gun traffickers and gangs in certain key areas. The juvenile murder victim rate fell by half. Even better emergency room care drives down the murder rate by saving more lives.

Buddy Howell agrees that there’s no one proven factor behind juvenile-involved murder. He’s written about and studied the problem for more than two decades and is now senior research associate at the National Gang Center, a federally funded research body. He said gang-related murder rates are stubbornly steady.

“Gangs don’t seem to be affected by so-called national trends,” said Howell. “The gang problem really varies from one city to another.”

There were about 2,000 gang-related murders annually from 2006 through 2010, according to the National Youth Gang Survey. Howell cautioned, however, that the data also includes gang members over the age of 18 and only counts mostly the few hundred most populated counties.

Yet that probably catches the vast majority of murders, which are overwhelmingly concentrated in a handful of urban counties. Los Angeles and Chicago alone account for about half the murders. Conditions that make neighborhood kids more at risk for joining gangs, like unemployment and poverty, don’t change in big cities, Howell said.

More Teens Using Contraceptives, Says CDC

birth controlEarlier this month, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) unveiled new data suggesting more teen girls are using birth control. Part of the “Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report,” the data was compiled from several National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG) cycles.

According to the report, approximately 60 percent of sexually active teens reported using contraceptive methods considered “highly effective” by the CDC, such as hormonal treatments or intrauterine devices - an increase from 47 percent in 1995. Additionally, the CDC report estimated that 57 percent of females ages 15 to 19 reported they’d never had sex, up from 49 percent in 1995.

The new report analyzed NFSG data collected from three different intervals - 1995, 2002, and a five-year survey encompassing findings from 2006 to 2010. The report noted several racial discrepancies in the rates of contraceptive usage, with African-American and Hispanic teenagers using birth control at lower rates than their white counterparts. According to the CDC findings, although an estimated 66 percent of white teens reported using highly effective contraceptive methods, only 46 percent of sexually active Hispanic teens and 54 percent of sexually active African-American teens reported using the same methods.

The most recent NFSG survey cycle found approximately 73 percent of female teens ages 15 to 17 and 36 percent of females ages 18 to 19 reported never having sex.

In 2010, the CDC reported the teen birth rate in the United States had plummeted nearly 44 percent from the national rate in 1990 – the lowest it’s been in seven decades.

Photo by nateOne and  M.Markus

States Failing to Reduce Youth Exposure to Alcohol Marketing

alcohol adA new study finds that states are failing to do much if anything to keep young people from being exposed to advertisements promoting alcoholic beverages.

The report, issued by the Center on Marketing and Youth (CAMY) at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health notes eight methods, referred to as best practices, for states to limit and reduce youth exposure to such advertisements. And according to the new research findings, only 11 states implement more than one “best practice” policy – with 22 implementing none at all.

In State Laws to Reduce the Impact of Alcohol Marketing on Youth: Current Status and Model Policies, CAMY researchers conclude that most states are doing inadequate jobs of keeping children from being exposed to alcohol ads in both traditional and untraditional media formats. The report found the legislative and regulatory steps taken by most states to be both “disappointing” and “inactive.”

The report assessed states on their utilization of best practices established by CAMY guidelines, including measures which prohibit alcohol advertising targeting minors, restrict outdoor alcohol ads in places children may frequent and establish jurisdictions over in-state television and radio advertising. In reviewing individual states’ alcohol advertising laws, CAMY researchers rated legislation on a continuum from “all elements of the best practice are present” to “the law has
none of the elements of the best practice.”

According to CAMY research, no states currently implement more than five of the recommended “best practice” policies.

Center on Marketing and Youth director David Jernigan, said that the research indicated most states have a lot of room for progress in reducing youth exposure to alcohol ads.

“We know quite a bit about how to reduce youth exposure to alcohol marketing and advertising,” he is quoted by Newswise. “This report should open people’s eyes to the unrealized potential of state action in this arena.”

Performance-Based Scholarships May Improve Academic Progress of College Students

MDRCA new policy brief states that performance-based scholarships – financial aid incentives allotted to students based upon one’s ability to achieve certain academic benchmarks – may serve as a catalyst for both improved grades and greater odds of finishing college, especially for low-income students.

The brief, Performance-Based Scholarships: Emerging Findings from a National Demonstration issued by the Manpower Demonstration Research Center (MDRC) was published earlier this month. The policy brief examines the effects of performance-based scholarships on students in select colleges in, among other states, New York, California and Florida, with the authors saying that their findings seem to indicate a slight, yet positive impact on the academic progress of students enrolled in such financial assistance programs.

In 2009, an MDRC report on Louisiana’s Opening Doors program exhibited improved grades, higher credit accumulation levels and greater likelihoods of retention for several college students that were enrolled in the performance-based scholarship program. A year earlier, MDRC began a six-state study, the Performance-Based Scholarship Demonstration, to gauge the overall effectiveness of scholarship programs contingent upon ongoing student academic progress.

Although the authors say that the preliminary findings for the six states surveyed for the brief were not as pronounced as the Louisiana data, they still noted that performance-based scholarship programs resulted in several statistically-significant influences for students, including an increase in credits earned and an increase in students’ abilities to meet end-of-term benchmarks during program terms.

MDRC research on the impact of performance-based scholarships will continue until December 2014. The organization plans on releasing several studies, including a full implementation report, once the project officially concludes.