Judy Van Wyk

Judy Van Wyk studies teenagers—but not their sleeping or computer habits. The University of Rhode Island sociology professor’s focus is on troubled boys who have lost their way. For years, she’s been collecting and examining information about the teens who live at Ocean Tides, a residential facility for boys in Narragansett. Her conclusion: Many teens do better in that kind of facility than at home or in prison.

Her research found that counseling and other rehabilitation programs are effective for treating boys who have been victimized by family violence and more. Prison and home confinement often don’t work, she says. There is scant rehabilitation in prison, and, at home, young people are often exposed to the violence that led them astray in the first place.

Besides the social responsibility of getting male teenagers back on track, her findings are important for another reason: her research shows that it is about one third the price to send a boy to a program like Ocean Tides for a year than it is to incarcerate him in a youth prison.

Her exhaustive study is documented in a new book, “Turning the Tide of Male Juvenile Delinquency: The Ocean Tides Approach,’’ which she co-wrote with Lawrence Grebstein, URI professor emeritus of psychology.

“These boys are not useless,’’ says Van Wyk, who recently received a $110,500 federal grant to continue her research. “They have good things to contribute to society, and if we don’t help them now, the rest of society loses their future contributions.’’