Using the Web to Improve Juvenile Justice in Massachusetts

Creating a Web-Based System to Assess and Promote the Youth Development Approach to Legal Advocacy

Dates of Project: December 2008 to December 2011

Field of Work: Information technology in the juvenile justice system

Problem Synopsis: The Youth Advocacy Department of Massachusetts, the juvenile division of the state's public defender agency, needed to be able to collect and analyze data to assess its implementation of the Youth Development Approach, which focuses on helping youths acquire the knowledge and skills they need to become healthy, productive adults.

Synopsis of the Work: The Youth Advocacy Department developed a Web-based information system to help manage and assess the impact of its work with the young people (primarily young men of color) that the department represents in juvenile court. The department's lawyers and social workers use the system.

Key Results: The Youth Advocacy Department:

  • Created a Web-based information system, the Transformational Representation Information System. It enhances communications between lawyers and social workers and enables them to document their work and request, receive, and record clients' records from various organizations (e.g., schools and the state welfare agency).
  • Promoted use of the Youth Development Approach by prompting staff members using the Transformational Representation Information System to ask questions and collect data for each client.
  • Started work on an evaluation of the Transformational Representation Information System and the department's Youth Development Approach, working with an evaluation team from Northeastern University's Institute for Race and Justice.
  • Promoted the use of the Youth Development Approach and the information system within other agencies in Massachusetts that deal with children.