Vol. 79, No. 3On the leading edge

Upset boy leaning against a brick wall.

Latest research in law enforcement

Children whose parents are involved in the criminal justice system face a host of challenges and difficulties, including psychological strain, anti-social behaviour and criminal activity.


The following are excerpts from recent research related to justice and law enforcement and reflect the views and opinions of the authors and not necessarily those of the organizations for which they work.

Evaluation summary of the Atlantic Youth Inclusion Program

By Danièle Laliberté

The Youth Inclusion Program (YIP) is a geographically based program aimed at reducing crime in specific neighbourhoods with high rates of crime by targeting 50 youth aged 13 to 16 who are most at risk of offending. This complex and intensive program is based on individualized action plans developed for each youth and targets specific risk factors.

Specifically, YIP aims to increase protective factors, school attendance and school performance, while decreasing risk factors, youth offending and the number of youth in the criminal justice system. Three YIP projects implemented in the Atlantic region with funding from Public Safety Canada participated in an impact evaluation conducted by a contractor: Northside YIP in North Sydney, N.S. (January 2010 – June 2013); Seeds of Change YIP in Spryfield, N.S. (September 2010 – November 2012) and ONE Change YIP in St. John, N.B. (April 2010 – January 2014).

A total of 257 youth were admitted. In general, the three YIP sites were very successful in reaching their intended targeted groups. Consistent with the idea that a YIP should be placed in a high risk area, neighbourhood was among the top two risk factors across all three sites. Lifestyle, thinking and behaviour, school and education, and family and personal relationships were among the top factors in at least one site.

In-depth interviews with school staff, police and representatives from various social service organizations confirmed that the YIPs were reaching high-risk and appropriate youth; these stakeholders believed that the program was better received by those youth whose risk level was somewhat more moderate, and should not target youth who were too entrenched in the criminal justice system. A minimum target of five hours of intervention per week was planned (between five to 10 hours).

The fact that some youth were involved in the YIP intervention before being officially admitted in the ONE Change site had made it difficult to determine the extent to which the outcomes could be attributed to the intervention. This challenge illustrates how important it is to appropriately align program recruitment, implementation and the outcomes being measured. Another key finding is that youth who had participated more intensely in the program derived greater benefit from the YIP intervention. An indication that the expected short-term outcomes of the YIP intervention were reached was that 67 per cent of all participants decreased their total risk level based on the ONSET score. It's notable that some progress was also made regarding intermediary outcomes related to school-related indicators.

There was also a decrease in criminal offending for several YIP participants, particularly in the Northside and the Seeds of Change sites, where respectively 59 per cent and 50 per cent of the youth decreased suspected/charged contacts with the police between the end of the YIP and the end of Year 2 post-program. Twenty-five per cent of the Northside businesses saw a decrease in criminal incidents during program implementation. The majority of Northside business representatives expressed the belief that the program was somewhat or entirely responsible for decreasing youth anti-social behaviour.

Hidden consequences: the impact of incarceration on dependent children

By Eric Martin

Family members of incarcerated individuals are often referred to as "hidden victims" — victims of the criminal justice system who are neither acknowledged nor given a platform to be heard. Children whose parents are involved in the criminal justice system, in particular, face a host of challenges and difficulties: psychological strain, anti-social behaviour, suspension or expulsion from school, economic hardship and criminal activity. It's difficult to predict how a child will fare when a parent is intermittently or continually incarcerated, and research findings on these children's risk factors are mixed.

However, research suggests that the strength or weakness of the parent-child bond and the quality of the child and family's social support system play significant roles in the child's ability to overcome challenges and succeed in life. Therefore, it's critical that correctional practitioners develop strong partnerships with law enforcement, public schools and child welfare agencies to understand the unique dynamics of the family in question and try to ensure a safety net for the child and successful re-entry for the incarcerated parent.

This article summarizes the range of risk factors facing children of incarcerated parents. It also cautions against universal policy solutions that seek to address these risk factors but don't take into account the child's unique needs, the child's relationship with the incarcerated parent and alternative support systems.

Although each case is unique and each child responds differently, research has established that a parent's incarceration poses several threats to a child's emotional, physical, educational and financial well-being.

Law enforcement and child welfare practitioners are often involved with the child before the correctional system is involved with the parent, so enhanced and streamlined communication between the various government entities could maximize the potential to provide the child whatever support is available.

For example, NIJ-funded research on crossover youth cited the "one family, one judge" model, which combines cases in child welfare and juvenile justice to provide a streamlined and consistent approach to services for the child and family. If law enforcement, child welfare, educational and correctional practitioners can share information on the child and family experiencing parental incarceration, it would be more likely that the child would benefit from early intervention if he or she appears to be at risk for sustained deprivation, loss of educational attainment or criminal activity. Such a partnership would also benefit correctional practitioners and re-entry managers, who would have better information on the child's situation and prior relationship with the incarcerated parent, which seems to be critical for the child's welfare.

Given these considerations, it appears that enhancing communication between corrections practitioners and other service providers is a good way to ensure a safety net for the child and facilitate a successful re-entry for the incarcerated parent.

Violent extremism in Australia: An overview

By Shandon Harris-Hogan

Australia is one of the most culturally and linguistically diverse nations in the world. Although a wide range of backgrounds and beliefs are present within the Australian community, the nation has experienced a relatively peaceful recent history. While violent extremism is considered more or less a permanent feature of western societies, the threat to the Australian community from violent extremism has been comparatively small. However, that threat has remained persistent for a long period of time.

Although most have not been successful, in excess of 150 planned acts of violent extremism have occurred in Australia since Second World War. In this paper, the various forms of violent extremism that have impacted Australia over time are briefly chronicled and analysis is provided as to how the phenomenon contrasts with other broadly comparable countries.

Groups involved in international political or independence struggles are commonly termed ethno-nationalists. For example, between 1967 and 1973, the Australian wing of the Croatian Revolutionary Brotherhood was responsible for 10 separate bombings in Australia.

There's a long history of far-right activity in Australia and a number of violent incidents have also occurred post-2000. For instance, an organized campaign of violence was planned in Perth in 2004, with Jack Van Tongeren and four associates convicted of conspiring to firebomb four Chinese restaurants. Tongeren had previously led the Australian Nationalists' Movement in the 1980s and the attacks were intended to coincide with the launch of his book on the group.

Violence dedicated to a specific cause, such as environmental protection or anti-abortion, is known as issue-oriented violence. For the most part, criminal behaviour associated with a specific issue is disruptive and largely involves using threatening behaviour and criminal damage to promote a particular group or message.

In recent times, the primary violent extremist threat to Australia has come from jihadism. While acts of jihadist violence are often justified by the perpetrators using selectively literal interpretations of traditional Islamic texts, the motivation for such violence is predominantly political.

Post-2003, Australia's domestic jihadist events have shifted from being funded and directed by international organizations, to homegrown self-starting plots. This shift, which was not consistent with comparable countries internationally, was predominantly due to the removal of key facilitators with significant overseas connections from within the Australian jihadist network.

This threat has been heightened by the recent increase in the number of Australians travelling to fight in Syria and Iraq, and the documented connection between fighting in overseas insurgencies (as well as participation in training camps) and the perpetration of acts of violent extremism in Western countries.

However, this isn't the only potential threat. A historical presence of far-right extremists in Australia and dramatic attacks conducted internationally by individuals such as Wade Michael Page, Anders Breivik and David Copeland have demonstrated the potential for far-right violence. Further, issue-oriented and ethno-nationalist groups continue to operate in Australia and are likely to remain as an ongoing security concern into the future.

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