Panel Paper: Early Lessons from the Bridges to Pathways Evaluation

Thursday, November 2, 2017
Stetson D (Hyatt Regency Chicago)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Cindy Redcross, MDRC

Violent crime in Chicago is staggeringly high, with murder rates double to triple the rate of similar large cities. Violence is particularly devastating for Chicago’s youth; nearly half of Chicago’s homicide victims are young people between the ages of 10 and 25 years. City officials, policymakers, and advocates are investing in a wide range of anti-violence initiatives, with a focus on young people. Bridges to Pathways (Bridges) is one such program. Run by the Chicago Department of Family and Support Services, the program targets high risk young men ages 17 to 21 who have been incarcerated in juvenile or adult facilities. Bridges is an intensive six- to nine-month program offering online high school education or GED preparation, paid work experience, cognitive behavioral therapy, and mentoring.

This presentation describes early results from a random assignment study of Bridges. The program is delivered by two community-based organizations, Central States SER and SGA, in four of Chicago’s highest crime and most violence-prone neighborhoods on the South and West Side of the city. The program aims to improve problem solving and social skills while reducing violence and criminal justice involvement including arrests, convictions, and re-incarceration. As part of a national evaluation led by MDRC, over 400 young men were randomly assigned to a program group that was offered Bridges services or to a control group that was not offered Bridges services but could access other services in the community.

This presentation will describe how the Bridges model was designed and how it operated including the challenges providers had in implementing the model as originally intended and adjustments that were made to better tailor services to the individual needs of its clients. The evaluation’s logic model and theory of change were adjusted in accordance with the realities of how the program was implemented.

Preliminary results will include a description of the characteristics of the study sample, early lessons from a comprehensive implementation study, including in-depth interviews with staff and participants, and rates of participation in the programs using data from a central MIS and a participant survey.