A new research project by the University of Chicago Crime Lab has determined that a mentoring and counseling program for inner-city youths can have a significant positive impact on violent crime rates. The program, Becoming a Man-Sports Edition, was developed by the nonprofit organizations Youth Guidance and Word Sport Chicago in conjunction with the Chicago Public School System.
The project selected 800 male teens in grades 7 through 10 to participate in the project. More than one third of the participants had been arrested at some point of the lives. The average participant had a D+ average in school and had missed six weeks of school the previous year. The students selected for the study were from low-income Chicago neighborhoods and a large percentage were African Americans.
The teens selected for the program participated in nontraditional sports activities and group counseling sessions to discuss issues such as impulse control, personal responsibility, and conflict resolution.
The results showed that teens who participated in the program had a 44 percent reduction in violent crime arrests and a 36 percent reduction in arrest rates for other crimes compared to a control group that did not participate in the sports and counseling program. In addition, teens in the program missed less days of school and improved their grade point average in relation to teens in the control group.
As a result of the pilot study, a much larger group of teens will be enrolled in a similar program over the next three years.