Teaching Decision Skills to Troubled Teens

Publication Type: 
Published Articles & Papers
Ali Abbas
Nathan Hoffmann
Ronald Howard
Chris Spetzler
The U.S. Department of Justice recorded 2.2 million juvenile arrests in 2003 [1]. Juvenile courts handled 1.6 million delinquency cases in 2002, up from 1.1 million in 1985. Nearly 25,000 16-year-olds in residential placement have an average stay of 105 days in public facilities, and about 85 percent of teens admitted into a juvenile detention center return at least once. For these young people, becoming involved with the juvenile detention system is a traumatic experience that carries with it the danger of being drawn into a cycle of repeated offenses. Operations research professionals have received well-deserved attention for their contributions to improving the criminal justice system and making a significant impact on its pressing issues (see for example, Blumstein [2007] and Morgan [2007]). Our focus in this article is on our experience of teaching decision skills to the teens and officers of the Champaign County Juvenile Detention Center (JDC) in Urbana, Ill. The program is led by Ali Abbas, assistant professor of Industrial and Enterprise Systems Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), in partnership with the Decision Education Foundation (DEF), a non-profit organization dedicated to helping young people make better decisions about their lives. Ronald Howard, one of the founders of the field of decision analysis, is president of the DEF.