Helping to Remedy Gang and Youth Violence


Suffolk Sociology Professors Carolyn Boyes-Watson and Erika Gebo are working on efforts to stem gang activity and youth violence in Fitchburg, Leominster, and Gardner through a grant from the Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety and Security.

The Edward J. Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant funds implementation and evaluation of a restorative justice initiative in schools in the Greater Fitchburg area. 

Positive approach

“We believe it is feasible … to keep young people positively engaged in school through the institutionalization of restorative approaches to discipline, conflict, and academic support,” said Boyes-Watson, director of the Center for Restorative Justice at Suffolk University. This is accomplished by working closely with the public school systems, police departments, community non-profits, juvenile court/probation officers and the Department of Youth Services.
Said Gebo: “We are action research partners, which means that we work collaboratively with these three communities, assisting them in their anti-gang and anti-youth-violence efforts by supplying information on best practices, analyzing their current practices, and raising issues that may arise as a result of their efforts.” 

Alternatives to discipline

Boyes-Watson and Gebo play separate roles in the effort. Boyes-Watson conducts restorative justice training with community members, particularly school personnel, while Gebo evaluates school-based benchmarks toward utilizing restorative justice practices as alternatives to discipline in middle schools.

“Research has shown that problems in school lead to dropping out, delinquency, and poor life outcomes generally,” said Gebo. “The goal of this initiative is to prevent school failure, and it is uniquely being taken on as a community-wide initiative.”
The grant is part of the Senator Charles E. Shannon, Jr., Community Safety Initiative.


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