Youth who receive special education services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA 2004) and especially young adults of transition age, should be involved in planning for life after high school as early as possible and no later than age 16. Transition services should stem from the individual youth’s needs and strengths, ensuring that planning takes into account his or her interests, preferences, and desires for the future.
The prevention efforts targeted at limiting youth involvement in gangs is integral to promoting optimal individual and community well-being, specifically in those areas that are susceptible to gang activity. In recent years there has been an emphasis placed on evaluating gang prevention programs to discern effective approaches and providing a more comprehensive approach.
The Comprehensive Gang Model
The OJJDP Comprehensive Gang Model focuses on reducing and preventing youth gang violence. The model involves five strategies for dealing with gang-involved youth and their families. These include:
- Community mobilization, the involvement of local citizens, including former gang members and community groups and agencies, and the coordination of programs and staff functions within and across agencies.
- Opportunities provision, the development of a variety of specific education, training, and employment programs targeting gang-involved youth.
- Social intervention, youth-serving agencies, schools, street outreach workers, grassroots groups, faith-based organizations, law enforcement agencies, and other criminal justice organizations reaching out and acting as links between gang-involved youth and their families, the conventional world, and needed services.
- Suppression, formal and informal social control procedures, including close supervision or monitoring of gang youth by agencies of the criminal justice system and also by community-based agencies, schools, and grassroots groups.
- Organizational change and development, development and implementation of policies and procedures that result in the most effective use of available and potential resources to better address the gang problem. 1
An important facet to implementing the Comprehensive Gang Model in a community is to first assess the youth gang problem. This assessment includes collecting quantitative and qualitative data from community representatives such as law enforcement, school faculty, youth, parents, community leaders, probation officers, gang members, grass roots organizations, and local government. Data collected includes the perception of the gang problem as well as what the community considers as priority needs such as tutoring, jobs training, increased police presence, and mentoring for youth.2
Properly assessing a community’s gang problem significantly improves the development of an implementation plan. The plan should include goals and objectives based on the assessment findings and should address the five core strategies previously described. The OJJDP Comprehensive Gang Model Guide details the steps required for assessment and provides the necessary data collection tools.
An example of a gang prevention effort that has been widely utilized in the U.S. to promote positive youth development and help rehabilitate youth involved with a gang(s) is mentoring.3 Mentoring works on the foundation that youth benefit from close, enduring, caring relationships with nonparental adults, and that such formal or informal relationships are vital to positive youth development.4 By providing adult support and guidance through adolescence, mentoring has been found to provide a range of benefits to both youth and mentors, including the prevention of juvenile delinquency and youth gang involvement. Mentoring is popularly used in school and after school programs, as well as in the broader community.5
While mentoring is a strategy that can be used to enhance positive youth development for all youth, it has also been utilized for rehabilitating youth who are already involved with gangs or the juvenile justice system. The Center for the Advancement for Mentoring held a webinar focused on mentoring adjudicated and gang-involved youth for OJJDP Mentoring Grantees. The webinar includes information on common challenges and issues that these youth face (e.g., academic underachievement, limited adult support or engagement, experience with violence and abuse, and restricted availability to mental health services), addresses strategies used by mentoring programs, and provides resources for staff and mentor training. Additional information about mentoring can be found in the mentoring youth topic.
National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention
The National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention (Forum) provides an example of the comprehensive ways communities are addressing gang prevention through larger youth violence prevention efforts. The Forum is a network of communities from across the U.S. that collaborate, share information, and build local capacity to prevent and reduce youth violence. In many cases these violence prevention plans include a focus on gang prevention. Learn more about the Forum and the communities involved and view the Youth Violence Prevention Strategic Planning Toolkit for Communities, a helpful guide for community planning.
Frequently Asked Questions: OJJDP Comprehensive Gang Model
This web page addresses frequently asked questions about the OJJDP Comprehensive Gang Model.
Guide to Assessing Your Community’s Youth Gang Problem (PDF, 139 pages)
This guide is a resource for assessing your community’s needs and assets.
Respect Youth Stories: A Toolkit for Advocates to Ethically Engage in Youth Justice Storytelling (PDF, 15 pages)
The National Juvenile Justice Network (NJJN) and its member organization Citizens for Juvenile Justice (CfJJ) partnered with youth to create the following toolkit. The toolkit assists advocacy organizations in establishing ethical and youth-informed practices for facilitating young people sharing their stories in public, including through the press, legislative testimony, digital media, publications, or panel discussions. The toolkit aims to help young people understand their right to establish boundaries while sharing their experiences in public.
Implementing the OJJDP Comprehensive Gang Model (PDF, 2 pages)
This fact sheet gives an overview of the five original communities that were awarded grants to implement demonstration projects of the Comprehensive Gang Model.
National Mentoring Resource Center
This center works to improve the quality of mentoring programs across the nation by using evidence-based practices and innovations. The resource offers no-cost technical assistance to existing mentoring programs and serves as a one-stop shop for practitioners to view upcoming trainings, webinars, and e-learning mentoring initiatives.
Model Programs Guide: Mentoring
This guide presents evidence-based juvenile justice and youth prevention, intervention, and reentry programs. Each program is rated either effective, promising, or no effect. Users can search the database for programs and interventions based on the age range of the child or young adult or can use other search filters to find mentoring programs.
Prevalence and Implementation Fidelity of Research-Based Prevention Programs in Public Schools (PDF, 173 pages)
This report offers the following information which can be applied to gang prevention efforts: collecting background information on substance abuse and school crime, identifying research-based programs and practices, using data collection instruments, developing implementation fidelity measures, and collecting, processing, and analyzing data.
Research and Evaluation Projects on Gangs
This resource provides process and outcome evaluation results and a discussion of anti-gang and anti-gun-violence programs.
Strategic Planning Tool
This tool helps communities assess gang problems and plan strategies to deal with the issue.
Strengthening Connections: Mentoring Youth During a Pandemic
This webpage highlights resources for practitioners looking to continue their mentoring programs throughout the pandemic, including those that are designed for gang-involved youth.
T. E. A. M., Teach, Empower, Affirm, Mentor, A Risk Reduction Mentoring Curriculum, Instructor’s Manual (PDF, 253 pages)
This mentoring curriculum manual is intended for implementation with middle school students and its aim is to address four central risk factors for delinquent behavior among this population. The curriculum takes a strengths-based approach that focuses on empowering youth and includes lessons on school engagement, peer relationships, and victimization.
Working to Prevent Gang Violence
This video highlights OJJDP’s anti-gang efforts. OJJDP resources and programs that prevent and suppress gang violence and recruitment are discussed
Other Resources on this Topic
Tools & Guides
Videos & Podcasts
Research links early leadership with increased self-efficacy and suggests that leadership can help youth to develop decision making and interpersonal skills that support successes in the workforce and adulthood. In addition, young leaders tend to be more involved in their communities, and have lower dropout rates than their peers. Youth leaders also show considerable benefits for their communities, providing valuable insight into the needs and interests of young people
Statistics reflecting the number of youth suffering from mental health, substance abuse, and co-occurring disorders highlight the necessity for schools, families, support staff, and communities to work together to develop targeted, coordinated, and comprehensive transition plans for young people with a history of mental health needs and/or substance abuse.
Nearly 30,000 youth aged out of foster care in Fiscal Year 2009, which represents nine percent of the young people involved in the foster care system that year. This transition can be challenging for youth, especially youth who have grown up in the child welfare system.
Research has demonstrated that as many as one in five children/youth have a diagnosable mental health disorder. Read about how coordination between public service agencies can improve treatment for these youth.
Civic engagement has the potential to empower young adults, increase their self-determination, and give them the skills and self-confidence they need to enter the workforce. Read about one youth’s experience in AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC).