Meet the Team - Philadelphia MVP

February 21, 2014

Read about the 2014 Public Policy Challenge Finalists in our Meet the Teams series this week.  Watch the teams compete in the Finals on March 2nd at 1pm at the Van Pelt Library, 6th Floor, 3420 Walnut Street. RSVP HERE for the Finals. Meet Philadelphia MVP. . .

The Idea

Violence in Philadelphia is mostly concentrated among young people. Since 2007, 5,051 Philadelphians between the ages of 14 and 24 have been shot or killed. Most of those arrested for murder are also very young, usually between the ages of 17 and 22. In order to combat violence, many programs currently in practice focus on rehabilitating juvenile offenders after they have committed a crime. Unfortunately, that is too late for the victims. It is all too often that we see images of teddy bears and candle vigils being held for another teen lost to “senseless violence”. What if there was a way to teach young people to be sensible in tense situations? Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is designed to do just that! 

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) employs a short-term goal-oriented approach to change problem behaviors associated with the automatic cognitions that stimulate them. The individual learns to reflect upon automatic thoughts that come up when a triggering situation occurs, and to respond with improved decision-making skills. It can be implemented in a classroom setting and modified for different age groups and problem behaviors. Our team intends to implement a CBT program in Philadelphia Public High Schools in order to prevent youth violence. Additionally, there will be an after-school sports component to develop appropriate outlets for aggression, while also increasing focus and self-control. In order to ensure that youth begin on an equal playing field, non-traditional sports such as fencing, boxing, and archery would be offered. 

Interest in such a program has been increasing among many policymakers and juvenile justice advocates because of a growing body of evidence that suggests some outstanding results! A program in Chicago used CBT and non-traditional sports to teach kids how to address their automatic thoughts and behaviors that arise in tough situations. This program, called Becoming a Man (BAM), reduced the violent crime rate among its participants by 44% during the year the program was implemented. While the program costs $1,100 per participant to implement, a cost-benefit analysis estimated that the returns on this investment were anywhere from $5,309 to $33,262 per participant. Essentially, for every dollar invested in this program, we could expect at least $5 in savings from the reduction in violent crimes. Evidence also suggests that this program was responsible for an increase in high school graduation rates between 7 and 22%, which would likely lead to a reduction in violent crimes later in life. 

Contrary to the typical juvenile justice policy, the proposed program is a preventative measure that combines a variety of avenues. Decision-making skills, outlets for aggression, and mentorship will be available to all participating youth. If implemented in Philadelphia, this program has the possibility to dramatically reduce the amount of violence on our streets almost immediately. We would also expect to see violence reduction in the long-term, as well as more educated youth entering the workforce. According to the estimates provided by the Chicago study, we could save over a million dollars for every 200 students who participate. We believe Philadelphia Metropolitan Violence Prevention could be Philadelphia’s most valuable policy! 

The Team

Marissa DeAnna is a student from Georgetown Law School on a leave of absence to work on her Masters in Criminology here at Penn. Her interests include juvenile justice, as well as the interaction between the public education system and the criminal justice system. 

Monica Celli is working on her Masters in Criminology. She has worked in public safety, a law firm and at the Delaware Coalition Against Domestic Violence.  Her interests include juvenile justice, prevention, psychology and policing. 

Julie Furdella is working on her Masters in Criminology.  She has experience with researching topics on juvenile justice.  Her interests include juvenile justice, developmental psychology, and effective prisoner re-entry. 

Ashwin Iyengar is working toward a Masters of Social Work and a Masters of Public Administration. He has worked with Teach for America and his interests include the public school system and mental health. 

Article written by Marissa Marissa DeAnna, Monica Celli, Julie Furdella, and Ashwin Iyengar.

Want to learn more?  Read Philadelphia MVP's Executive Summary and join us on March 2nd at 1pm at the Van Pelt Library for the Finals!
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