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Youth potential

A model system recognizes that all youth are capable of change and growth. It works to help young people realize their full potential. It is literally forward-looking: rather than focusing primarily on sanctioning juveniles for past offenses, it seeks to provide them with the structure and tangible help they need to become law-abiding and productive in the future.

A juvenile justice system that is forward-looking in its outlook and rehabilitative in its aims will feature certain practices, including assessment that identifies juveniles’ needs and strengths, intervention that responds to identified needs and strengths, and performance measurement that determines the extent to which juveniles exit the system more capable, connected, and productive than when they entered it.


  • Structured assessments that identify strengths and needs as basis for case planning


  • Case plans that assist offenders in overcoming problems, building on strengths, and acquiring living/learning/working skills
  • Specialized treatment for mental health, substance abuse and other problems
  • Training/employment/job readiness and other skills programs/services
  • Advocacy that addresses school failure and fosters school success
  • Re-entry programs/practices that help post-incarcerated youth adjust and succeed


  • Documentation of outcomes (services provided, progress achieved, restitution paid, community service performed, etc.) at case-closing
  • Ongoing program monitoring and evaluation
  • Funding and other mechanisms for assessing aggregate needs and developing programs to accommodate them


Supported by

Models for Change is supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, website operated by Justice Policy Institute.