Shifting Gears on Juvenile Justice

A FrameWorks Communications Toolkit

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Welcome to Shifting Gears on Juvenile Justice—a collection of framing research, recommendations, and sample communications.

This toolkit is designed to help reformers and advocates in the juvenile justice field increase public understanding of:

  • the science of adolescent development and the need to incorporate a developmental perspective into criminal justice policies designed for youth;
  • why the current approaches to juvenile crime aren’t working;
  • age-appropriate treatments and interventions that improve outcomes for those already in the system and preventive programs that divert more youth away from juvenile detention and towards programs that better serve their needs.

This toolkit, sponsored by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, models how to frame the juvenile justice system and related issues as important policy fields and matters of public concern. The toolkit demonstrates how to apply the FrameWorks Institute’s evidence-based recommendations for communicating with average Americans about these issues in ways that build public understanding and support. The kit’s materials include:

  • sample “ready to go” communications that can be used as is or adapted and repurposed for your organization’s needs;
  • communications examples that demonstrate the “do’s and don’ts” of the framing recommendations;
  • graphics that model the key concepts of the recommendations;
  • annotations that explain the framing strategies being illustrated.

When communicating with the public or policymakers, communicators are encouraged to borrow the toolkit language verbatim if desired, or to adapt the examples to the immediate needs of a local communications context. No citations or special permissions are needed for these public-facing applications. For other uses of toolkit materials – such as incorporating these materials into trainings or another communications resource - please refer to FrameWorks Institute’s terms of use for guidance on seeking permissions.

For 15 years, FrameWorks Institute research has demonstrated that effective communications can help activate the public’s engagement with complex social issues—such as the approaches to youth crime issues that will reduce the number of youth who enter the system and to improve outcomes for those who do. This toolkit is based on the findings of fifteen years of multi-method social science research on child and youth development that queried the thinking of more than 80,000 Americans and three years of research on criminal justice and public safety that queried more than 10,000 Americans; the research included expert interviews, literature reviews, peer discourse sessions, on-the-street interviews, large-scale surveys and usability trials. For more on the evidence base that informs the recommendations in this toolkit, visit our website.

Writing credits: Jenn Nichols
Design credits: Holly Valero, Segun Adesina and Chris Vo.

The Big Picture

New to framing? These materials offer a succinct overview.

Anticipate Public Thinking

Public thinking is like a swamp – and it can be hard to get your messages through. With a map, you can navigate it.

The Swamp!

Visual summary of relevant findings from cultural models research.

The Swamp Glossary!

Glossary of cultural models related to Juvenile Justice

You Say…They Think

This chart offers helpful tips for choosing the right tested frame elements to make sure that what you say is what people hear.

Key Framing Guides

Useful guides to keep communicators on frame.

Talking Points

Review the key messages that will help build the public’s understanding and support.

Annotated FAQs

Discover the research and analysis that informs our messaging strategy when faced with tough questions.

Message Cards

o Pragmatism, Brain Architecture, Air Traffic Control, Maze, Levelness, Scale, Gears

Communications Samples

These materials model how to apply the tested frame elements to your social media communications. Use them as templates or as ready-to-go pieces. They can be adapted to local contexts (by adding, for example, program-specific information) or restructured for a variety of media (for instance, by repurposing the sample blog post as talking points or an op-ed).

Sample Blog Post

Blog posts provide an opportunity to influence public discourse by introducing a reframed perspective to the online community.

Sample Tweets

Even micro-messages can be opportunities to frame your communications more effectively.

Additional Research

Caning, Context, and Class: Mapping the Gaps Between Expert and Public Understandings of Public Safety.

Compares expert and public perspectives on the criminal justice system, identifying specific opportunities for bringing a more progressive view of justice into public thinking and discourse.

Strengthen Communities, Educate Children, and Prevent Crime.

A Communications Analysis of Peer Discourse Sessions on Public Safety and Criminal Justice Reform. Reports on small group discussions on criminal justice and juvenile justice, and recommends that juvenile justice advocates include more discussion of child and adolescent development in their advocacy communications.

Adjusting Our Focus: Current Communications Practices and Patterns in the Criminal Justice Sector.

Analyzes communications materials from influential criminal justice organizations, identifies their dominant narratives, and recommends specific shifts in framing strategies.

Talking Criminal Justice Reform and Public Safety: A FrameWorks MessageMemo.

Recommends a set of rigorously tested reframing tools that have been shown to overcome the conceptual challenges faced when talking about criminal justice reforms. Includes video data of ordinary Americans thinking and talking differently after exposure to reframed communications.

Framing and Facts: Necessary Synergies in Communicating About Public Safety and Criminal Justice.

Reports on an experiment that found that a combination of the Value Pragmatism and data on disproportionate racial impacts is the most powerful way to use data to make the case for reform.

Maze and Gears: Using Explanatory Metaphors to Increase Public Understanding of the Criminal Justice System and Its Reform.

Details the development and testing of two metaphors that help advance understanding of structural problems in U.S. justice responses and build a sense of both urgency and agency when it comes to tackling reform.