1. To understand the role of specialist teams of mental health law enforcement. For this phase I will be in Houston Texas, learning about crisis intervention policing and the mental health warrant system that is in place in Harris County Texas.
2. To observe how a community organisation is working with young people and adults who are at risk of criminal involvement and gang membership and how they support the users into work. I will head to Chicago for the second phase of my fellowship. I have arranged to speak to community organisations and will also be attending the National Gang Crime Research Center’s annual conference. This event attracts international researchers, law enforcement, juvenile justice practitioners and supervisors. It is the perfect place to both learn from others working with young people who become involved in gangs and also to share research and obtain feedback.
3. To understand how the juvenile justice system copes with young people who are at risk of criminal involvement and exploitation. I will visit the Department of Juvenile Justice in Louisville, Kentucky for the final week of my fellowship to learn more about their interventions to support young people who become criminally involved.
I observed and interviewed professionals from a variety of different agencies and roles, and where possible meet with service users. This enabled me to see how organisations instructed and implemented training for their staff, and to ask questions operational questions. I achieved this by visiting targeted agencies and divisions in three states and by attending the National Gang Crime Research Conference.
The report is in the form of a series of blog posts:
Executive Summary of Findings
Department of Juvenile Justice Kentucky
- In Kentucky educational provision from young people who have been excluded from the mainstream use a comprehensive model to young people support young people.
- Youth workers and supervisors in Juvenile Justice have a high level of training in understanding gangs, risks factors, and the impact of trauma.
Harris County Precinct 1 Constable’s Office Texas
- Specially trained Juvenile Division officers serve warrants as part of a civil process. They are housed in the same building as the juvenile courts and the detention center.
- A 40-hour crisis intervention training is delivered to law enforcement officers to enable them to recognise and intervene for those in mental health crisis.
- The Mental Health Special Operations Division has specially trained officers who are based in Harris County Psychiatric Center. Their role is to execute civil warrants for the diagnosis and treatment of patients.
Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation, Chicago
- The project responds to local needs
- The organisation recognises the impact of trauma on young people
- Local mentors from the community
- Restorative approaches are used to support young people
- Places to reflect are provided for young people
- The organisation is embedded in the local community
- Young people learn a comprehensive set of skills to move forward
- The staff understand the complexities of the pathway to desistance
National Gang Crime Research Center Conference, Chicago
- A diverse representation of professionals who work with gang prevention and intervention
- An opportunity to understand current issues relating to gangs across the USA
- The development of research and interventions for females affected by gang membership and exploitation
- Networking events to enable attendees to meet
I was impressed with the level of training for staff, and consequently specialist knowledge that I observed at all of the organisations I visited. Furthermore, this training was consistent and sustained to ensure that people were informed about new developments, innovation and practice. I also found that agencies worked together, and this this process was often facilitated by the relevant sections being placed in a single building or area. In short this was multi-agency working at its most effective; proximity of key personnel ensured that communication could be operational. For those who worked directly with the juveniles in the justice system, interventions addressed all of the key risk factors consecutively. Access to mental health services, including substance misuse counsellors was central to rehabilitation and support. Where relevant, young people were also given the coping mechanisms to change their impulsiveness and aggression, thus enabling them to concentrate on their schoolwork and training. Overall, they were learning a range of skills for life and an understanding of how to cope with the problems that had played a role in their prior behavioural patterns.
Recommendations for the UK
- An annual gang conference for academics, youth offending services, police, and community practitioners with certification.
- Access to the latest research and training for agencies to enable organisations to work effectively as part of a process to detect, intervene and support young people who are at risk of or involved in gangs.
- To move away from seeing gang membership as a generic experience; and the adoption of a more systematic and comprehensive approach to addressing the individual risk factors that young people in gangs present.
- Clearer transparency in the evidence base and model for any gang intervention and a more systematic evaluation across programmes.
An annual conference with certification with a focus on the UK would serve a number of the above recommendations. It is essential that any meeting should be apolitical and not constrained by existing policies; research and practice from the conference should inform policy and strategy.
My fellowship made me aware of the need for targeted interventions for young women who are at risk of gang membership and exploitation. I have started to look more specifically at local risk factors for females in the North West region in relation to a police violence reduction project; and in the development of targeted interventions for adolescent females with Salford Foundation in Greater Manchester.
The Fellowship has also reminded me of the need to consider young people as individuals rather than simply “gang members”, to look carefully at their specific risks and to present a comprehensive and targeted approach to support them. This can only be achieved by applied research and knowledge transfer. I will continue to post summaries on my blog to inform practitioners.
If anyone would like further information, to find out more about my Fellowship, or my research please contact me at: Ashtons@edgehill.ac.uk
Harris County Precinct 1 Constable’s Office
Assistant Chief Sonny Colunga
Lieutenant Shone Sigue, Operations
Lieutenant Victor Torres, Mental Health Special Operations
Lieutenant Dale Hubert, Juvenile Division
Corporal Wil Moran
Deputy Marissa Flores
Principal Chris Garcia
Kentucky Department of Juvenile Justice*
Deputy Commissioner Kris Mann
Mr William Campbell, Branch Manager Training Academy
Mr Tim Corder, Division Director
Mr John Ellington, Facilities Superintendent
Mr George Scott, Facilitites Regional Manager
Ms Grace Smith, Director of Professional Development
* Titles and job roles represent those at the time of the Fellowship
Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation
Sister Donna Liette, Family Program Coordinator
Father Denny Kinderman, Spiritual Advisor and Youth Conselor
Karlyn Boens, Young Women’s Coordinator