Overview of: “Getting the Law Involved a Quasi-Experiment in Early Intervention Involving Collaboration Between Schools and the District Attorney's Office”




Research Summary Precursors to serious and chronic delinquency often emerge in childhood, stimulating calls for early interventions. Most intervention efforts rely solely on social service programs—often to the exclusion of the juvenile justice system. The juvenile justice system has been reluctant to become involved in the lives of relatively young children fearing net widening or further straining resources that could be used for older youth with documented delinquency histories. We report here the results of an early intervention program sponsored by and housed in a district attorney's office in Louisiana. Using a quasi-experimental design, we examined outcomes associated with program involvement as well as whether the obvious involvement of the prosecutor's office was associated with further reductions in problem behavior.

  • 1The results revealed that significant reductions in problem behaviors of young children could be attributed to program participation.
  • 2The obvious involvement of the district attorney's office, however, was associated with limited, albeit significant, reductions in specific problem behaviors.
  • 3These findings show that successful early intervention efforts can be made part of the juvenile justice system and that in some limited situations prosecutorial involvement can result in positive outcomes.

Policy Implications The expansion of early intervention programming into the juvenile justice system offers opportunities to address early problem behavior. Our study and its results have the following policy implications.

  • 1Closely coupled partnerships between schools and the juvenile justice system can effectively address, mitigate, and perhaps prevent an early onset of antisocial behavior.
  • 2Even so, coupling early intervention efforts to the mission of the juvenile justice system warrants debate. Net-widening, resource diffusion, and the potential for officials to rely too heavily on the deterrent characteristics of the justice system represent serious threats to the integrity of effective early intervention programs.
  • 3We suggest substantial debate and consideration is given before coupling early intervention efforts to the juvenile justice system.