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Second Chances for First Time Offenders

By Tim Hyland
Illustrations by Brian Stauffer

Second Chances Illustration by Brian Stauffer

August 22, 2016

Strict “zero tolerance” policies have led to a disturbing number of in-school arrests — about 1,600 in the School District of Philadelphia annually. Once in the justice system, youths’ life chances are diminished considerably. Psychology Professor Naomi Goldstein is working with community partners to divert students from the damaging “school-to-prison pipeline,” improving outcomes for youth and making Philadelphia a national leader in the process.

Naomi Goldstein, PhD

After spending nearly two decades working to transform juvenile justice in America, Naomi Goldstein understands that changing people’s minds about crime and punishment — especially crime and punishment for at-risk youth — is no easy task.

But Goldstein, an associate professor of psychology in Drexel’s College of Arts and Sciences, also knows that change is possible, and sometimes, she says, a simple shift in mindset can make all the difference.

“In all of my work, it’s about transforming this idea that there’s no hope for these youth,” Goldstein says. “It’s about recognizing that, if we use empirical data, if we enact the right changes in philosophy and if we change the structure of the system, these young people can lead positive lives. And that’s not only better for them; it’s better for their communities, for their states and for the country.”

Goldstein has emerged as one of the nation’s leading thinkers in the area of juvenile justice reform.

Her unique research interests — which range from anger management to trial competence and from interventions with girls in juvenile justice facilities to Miranda rights comprehension among youth suspects — have uncovered serious structural problems within the nation’s juvenile justice systems.

Perhaps most importantly, her work has delivered real solutions to some of the trickiest problems facing those systems today, and has offered greater hope to an untold number of at-risk youth in Philadelphia and beyond.


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