Afterschool programs are proven to reduce risk behaviors and cut crime. Teens who do not participate in afterschool programs are nearly 3 times more likely to use drugs and 37 percent more likely to become parents (U.S. Department of Education, 2000). Studies show that juvenile crime and other risk behaviors like smoking, drinking, doing drugs and sexual activity, are more likely to occur between 3 and 6 p.m. (Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, 2000).
In addition to societal and personal benefits, research has demonstrated that delinquency prevention programs are a good financial investment. For example, a 2001 Washington State Institute for Public Policy (WSIPP) study found that the total benefits of effective prevention programs were greater than their costs. More recent research by WSIPP found that sound delinquency-prevention programs can save taxpayers seven to ten dollars for every dollar invested, primarily due to reductions in the amount spent on incarceration.
Several researchers have promoted a positive youth development model to address the needs of youth who might be at risk of entering the juvenile justice system. One particular positive youth development model addresses the six life domains of work, education, relationships, community, health and creativity. The two key assets needed by all youth are learning and doing, and attaching and belonging.
Using this youth development model, increasing research is being conducted to determine which existing programs are truly effective. In general, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention recommends that the following types of school and community prevention programs be employed: