A Second Chance: Delinquency Prevention among Special Education Students

A Second Chance: Delinquency Prevention among Special Education Students

Christine S. Barrow (Molloy College, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-9935-9.ch015
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A qualitative analysis of special education youth who attended school at a recreation center in Brooklyn NY helps provide an understanding of the relationship between alternative high school education and offending. According to Wang and Fredericks (2014), interventions that aim to improve school engagement may promote positive youth development, including reducing involvement in problem behaviors. This study focuses on youth who were at risk for offending due to poor academic performance and previous delinquent involvement. Prior to attending school at this facility, the individuals were previously exposed to an environment that put them at risk for delinquency. This investigation provides support for preventative measures to youth conflict and delinquency by placing them in an environment that promotes pro-social behavior.
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The current study looks at the role of neighborhood institutions and its impact on alternative high school education. The role of social institutions and the ability to solve chronic problems is seen in the early works of Shaw and McKay’s (1969/1942) social disorganization theory. The theory refers to the inability of a community to realize common goals and solve chronic problems. According to the theory, poverty, residential mobility, ethnic heterogeneity, and weak social networks decrease a neighborhood’s capacity to control the behavior of people in public, and hence increase the likelihood of crime (Shaw & McKay, 1969/1942). Social ties and informal control are believed to mediate the effects of poverty, residential mobility and ethnic heterogeneity on neighborhood crime (Bursik and Grasmick, 1993; Sampson et al., 1997).

Social ties exist in many forms; examples of social ties are local friendship networks, recreational activities between neighbors, and attendance at local community meetings. More recent models of social disorganization have recognized that social networks are critical in the distribution of and access to social capital and social support (Bursik, 1999). The current study highlights the importance of social capital and support for alternative high school youth who at risk for offending.

The research conducted for this investigation took place at a neighborhood institution in a disorganized Brooklyn, N.Y. community. Madyn (2011) argued that when a community is disorganized, access to resources might be unevenly distributed or less visible to too many individuals within the community. Madyn (2011) also argued that understanding the role of poverty is important because of its adverse impact on the ability to establish social ties and implement solutions to academic problems. As a result the author pointed out the importance of accounting for the quality of social ties when examining achievement outcomes in disadvantage neighborhoods (Madyn, 2011).

Neighborhoods vary in the degree to which a neighborhood-based institution can contribute effectively to neighborhood levels of social control (Shaw & McKay, 1942; Kornhauser, 1978). However Triplett, et al. (2003) drew on criminological and sociological literatures and identified four interrelated characteristics that define institutional strength: stability, resources, a clear delineation of rules and statuses, and interconnectedness. Stability in particular is necessary for effective social control because it aids the institution in its ability to guide behavior as well as provide social capital and social support within the institution (Triplett, et al 2003). These characteristics are believed to help sustain institutions even in disadvantaged communities. This current study examines how a neighborhood-based institution collaborated with local agencies to improve the educational situation for alternative high school youth.

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