Forecasting Technology to Target High-Risk Youths

In Florida, more than 85,000 kids flood the state's juvenile justice system every year. But this year, officials hope to shrink that number using new technology that examines key historical data to forecast the future.

The Florida Department of Juvenile Justice has implemented IBM SPSS predictive analytics software to analyze predictors such as past offense history, demographics, gang affiliation, peer association and home life environment to find out which kids have a higher chance of recidivism. The idea, then, is to target high-risk cases with programs that address specific needs for rehabilitation so they don't stumble back into the system.

"My job is to put myself out of business," said Mark Greenwald, chief of research and planning at the department. "It's important that we direct what resources we have to kids who need us the most and use the software to build upon the decision-making process."

In years past, to predict delinquency numbers the department used Excel, which had limited functionality that allowed the department to look "in the rearview mirror," Greenwald said, but wasn't advanced enough to help state officials see clearly ahead.

The new IBM SPSS analytics software will allow them to better intervene in juveniles' lives earlier, and match up those youths with programs based on their specific situations, such as drug abuse, mental health issues or criminal activity.

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