Youth at Risk Development – Hamilton (YARD Hamilton)

Program snapshot

Age group: Adolescence (12-17); Young adult (18-24)

Gender: Mixed (male and female)

Population served: Adult offenders; Gang-involved (and/or at risk); Youth in contact with law enforcement (and/or at risk)

Topic: Aggressive/violent behaviours; Gang and/or related criminal activities; Recidivism

Setting: Urban area; Community-based setting

Location: Ontario

Number of completed Canadian outcome evaluation studies: 1

Continuum of intervention: Secondary crime prevention; Tertiary crime prevention

Brief Description

Youth at Risk Development (YARD Hamilton) is a youth gang prevention program implemented by the John Howard Society of Hamilton, Burlington and the neighbouring area in partnership with the Hamilton Police Service, the Hamilton Wentworth District School Board, the Hamilton Wentworth Catholic District School Board, the City of Hamilton, and various community agencies. This program is based on the Gang Reduction ProgramFootnote1 and is designed to prevent gang participation through individual and community strategies.

The program is centered on community mobilization; conflict resolution; counselling and social work; leadership and youth development; skills training; and social emotional learning.


The main goals of YARD Hamilton are to:

  • Prevent young people from participating in gang activity or violent crime;
  • Have gang involved youth exit from the gang lifestyle; and
  • Increase collaboration between organizations and community members for the purpose of gang reduction with the overall goal of reducing youth gang crime and violence.


The appropriate clientele for YARD Hamilton are youth between the ages of 12 and 24 years old who are involved in gangs and the criminal justice system, or are at risk of gang/criminal involvement. YARD Hamilton is also appropriate for youth who have a history of violence.

Participants are referred to YARD Hamilton by family members, justice services, police services, schools, other youth, and various community agencies.

To participate in the program, a youth must be at risk of gang involvement or currently involved in a gang. The youth must also be a Hamilton resident.

Core Components

YARD Hamilton consists of:

  • Prevention: Youth assessed as medium risk attend a 12-week prevention program in individual and group formats for two hours each week, covering topics such as anger management, problem solving, and conflict mediation;
  • Intervention: Youth attend a 24-week intensive personal development and intervention program that is delivered in individual and group formats to cover topics such as anger management, social development skills, problem solving, and conflict mediation skills; and
  • Re-entry: This stream targets high risk youth and their families immediately following release from an institution to help the individual exit pre-existing affiliations with a gang and successfully transition back to the community.

Implementation Information

Some of the critical elements for the implementation of this program or initiative include the following:

  • Organizational requirements: The lead organization must have solid skills in outreach and program delivery.
  • Partnerships: The success of the YARD Hamilton program depends on its many partnerships with the Hamilton Police Service, the Hamilton Wentworth District School Board, the Hamilton Wentworth Catholic District School Board, and the City of Hamilton.
  • Training and technical assistance: Staff must be trained in the Gang Reduction Program approach.  Staff must be trained as a youth worker before they are able to administer the YARD Hamilton program.
  • Risk assessment tools: Youth Level Service – Case Management Inventory (YLS-CMI 2.0) and Level of Service Inventory – Revised (LSI-R) 
  • Materials & resources: Limited information on this topic.

International Endorsements

The most recognized classification systems of evidence-based crime prevention programs have classified this program or initiative as follows:

  • Blueprints for Healthy Youth Development: Not applicable.
  • Crime Solutions/OJJDP Model Program Guide: Not applicable.
  • SAMHSA's National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices: Not applicable.
  • Coalition for Evidence-Based Policy: Not applicable.

Gathering Canadian Knowledge

Canadian Implementation Sites

Public Safety Canada’s National Crime Prevention Strategy provided funding to implement the YARD Hamilton program in Hamilton (Ontario) between 2013 and 2018. The YARD Hamilton program is being implemented by the John Howard Society of Hamilton, Burlington and the neighbouring area.

Main Findings from Canadian Outcome Evaluation Studies

As part of Public Safety Canada’s funding, an outcome evaluation study of Youth at Risk Development – Hamilton Program (YARD-H) was conducted between 2014 and 2018 by the John Howard Society of Ontario’s Centre of Research, Policy & Program Development.  The YARD-H evaluation design included a process and outcome evaluation with pre- and post-tests and most significant change interviews as well as a cost-effectiveness analysis.

Results from this evaluation showed the following:

  • Participants in YARD-H experienced meaningful reductions in criminal justice involvement over the course of the program.  From program start to end participants who finished YARD-H programming showed a meaningful reduction in receiving a police caution/warning or diversion; being arrested; convicted; or receiving a non-association order. 
  • Female participants were less likely to experience reductions in criminal justice involvement when compared to males.
  • Youth Level Service – Case Management Inventory (YLS-CMI 2.0) and Level of Service Inventory – Revised (LSI-R) risk scores and levels dropped dramatically for participants who started and left the program and had pre- and post-risk assessments available for analysis.
  • Improvements in participants’ peer groups, and particularly reductions in gang involvement or hanging out with delinquent peers, were one of the strongest outcome findings from YARD-H.  While 57% of youth reported they had not experienced any change in their gang involvement compared to before they started in YARD-H, 40% of all participants indicated that they are less involved with gangs as a result of the program.  A higher proportion of participants in the Intervention and Re-Entry streams (69%) indicated that they were less involved in gangs because of YARD-H.
  • According to the satisfaction survey, a majority (68%) of youth reported that YARD-H program improved their ability to control their anger and violence.  However, due to the fact that survey results relied on self-reported data, these results should be considered with caution.
  • There were no significant findings to report for substance use and education & employment outcomes, and YARD-H demonstrated only minor effects on youths’ relationships with their parents and/or families.

Cost Information

Between April 2013 and March 2018, the total cost of the YARD-H program was $4,211,662.06. Based on 461 total youth, the cost for program delivery varied slightly by program stream, as follows:

  • Prevention Stream - $9,139.59 per participant.
  • Intervention Stream - $9,137.17 per participant.
  • Re-Entry Stream - $9,110.94 per participant.


John Howard Society of Ontario’s Centre of Research, Policy & Program Development. (2018). Youth at Risk Development – Hamilton Program (YARD-H). Final Evaluation Report. Submitted to Public Safety Canada (Unpublished report).

For more information on this program, contact:

John Howard Society of Hamilton, Burlington and Area

654 Barton Street East

Hamilton, Ontario L8L 3A2

Telephone: (905) 522-4446



Record Entry Date - 2018-03-15
Record Updated On - 2021-04-29
  1. 1

    For more information on the OJJDP Comprehensive Gang Model, also known as the Gang Reduction Program, refer to the specific program descriptive sheet.

Date modified: