Repurposing Of Juvenile Detention Services Criminology Essay

Published: Last Edited:

This essay has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work written by our professional essay writers.

In this paper I will be discussing the repurposing of juvenile detention services in Pennsylvania. Since 2008, detention center capacities in Pennsylvania have been shrinking. In 2008 alone, Pennsylvania had a capacity rate of 874 beds for its centers. Now in 2013, we are at 727 available beds for youth in custody at detention facilities. That is 147 decertified beds in Pennsylvania in the last 4 years. I will give a brief historical account of juvenile detention utilization in Pennsylvania and the factors that have contributed to this issue. Included in this paper will be interviews from key leaders in the field of detention services and their ideas on solutions as well as their thoughts on the future. Additionally, this paper will address management responses to the current climate and its impact on direct service workers. Lastly, I will discuss the current environment of juvenile detention services in Pennsylvania and conclude with my thoughts and expectations for the future.

The purpose of juvenile detention according to the National Juvenile Detention Association is the temporary and safe custody of juveniles who are accused of conduct subject to the jurisdiction of the court and require a restricted environment for their own community's safety while pending legal action (Worde, Krisberg, & Barry, 2001). Detention services fall under the community safety goal of Pennsylvania's Balanced and Restorative Justice; Act 33, enacted in January of 1995. Detention centers are well-regulated at the state and local levels, where PA is based on the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare's Title 55, Chapter 3800 regulation. This regulation, enacted in October 1999, sets minimum-mandatory practice, procedure and facility accommodations for the daily operation of detention centers and the treatment of youth detained in Pennsylvania's county detention centers (Pilson & Forstater, 2005).

The National Council on Crime and Delinquency has seen many jurisdictions use detention beds inappropriately (Worde, et al., 2001). According to the census of juveniles in placement put out by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), states that close to 70% of youth are detained for nonviolent offenses and do not meet those high-risk criteria (Holman & Ziedenberg, 2006). The history of juvenile justice and corrections is often portrayed as a pendulum: swinging from one extreme to another, from punitive and harsh to forgiving and therapeutic (Justice Policy Institute, 2013).

Youth held in secure detention facilities increased nationwide by 72 percent between years 1985 to 1995. Most of these offenders were non-violent, status offenders, and less than one-third were charged with violent offenses. Operating cost for public detention center more than doubled between 1985 and 1995 as well, from $362 million to almost $820 million (Steinhart, 1999). Studies are now revealing the impact of incarcerating youth in detention centers as well.

Holman and Ziedenberg's report titled The Dangers of Detention, revealed the harsh realities of youth in custody. Holman and Ziedenbergs's noted that despite the lowest youth crime rates in 20 years, hundreds of thousands of young people are locked away every year in our nation's 591 secure detention centers (p.2, 2006). As I mentioned before, facilities are packed with young people who do not meet the high-risk criteria, where close to 70% are detained for nonviolent offenses (Sickmund, Sladky, & Kang, 2004). The increased and unnecessary use of secure detention exposes troubled young people to an environment that more closely resembles adult prisons and jails than the kinds of community and family-based interventions proven to be most effective (Homan & Ziedenberg, 2006, p. 2). This report details the negative impact on young people's mental and physical well-being as well as their education and future employment. The following are the eight major findings reported by Holman and Ziedenberg (2006): (1) detention can increase recidivism, 2) detention makes mentally ill youth worse, 3) detention puts youth at greater risk of self-harm 4) detention is expensive-more expensive than alternatives to detention, 5) detention is not cost effective ($385 a day compared to $25 a day in a detention alternative), 6) formerly detained youth have reduced success in the labor market, 7) detained youth with special needs fail to return to school and lastly, 8) the large numbers of disproportionate minority confinement (African American youth are 5 times more likely and Latino's 2 times more likely than whites to be detained).

Planning for detention reform and repurposing has been underway for the past two decades. Agencies like the Annie. E. Casey Foundation and the National Center of Juvenile Justice, Models for Change Initiative, have organized and created successful and replicable models of detention reform. Their projects are aimed at safely minimizing populations in juvenile correctional facilities through fairer, better informed system policies and practices, and the use of effective community-based alternatives (Steinhart, 1999). Pennsylvania is known as a leading state on juvenile justice and was chosen to participate in the Models for Change Initiative. The MacArthur Foundation selected Pennsylvania for the initiative because the state had already demonstrated successful juvenile justice reforms by developing stable and sensible funding streams for youth services, giving juvenile court professionals a voice in law and policy-making, expanding community-based alternatives to incarceration, and using evidence-based interventions with delinquent youth (Models for Change, The Annie E. Casey Foundation launched a multi-year, multi-site project known as the Juvenile Detention Alternatives (JDAI) in December of 1992. JDAI's purpose was straightforward: to demonstrate that jurisdictions can establish more effective and efficient systems to accomplish the purposes of juvenile detention (Steinhart, 1999).

Reform needs to happen in youth corrections. The above findings prove detention repurposing must happen or more facilities will continue to be shut down. Holman and Ziedenberg (2006) noted that common elements for proven programs would include:

1) treatment occurs with their family, or in a family-like setting, 2) treatment occurs at home, or close to home, 3) services are delivered in a culturally respectful and competent manner, 4) treatment is built around the youth and family strengths, and 5) a wide range of services and resources are delivered to the youth, as well as their families (p. 16). A reinvestment of the funds once spent on detention beds could be used on other interventions, such as those noted above, that prove to reduce recidivism.

To build or not to build a new facility was the issue that Chester County, PA faced in early 2000. Chester County was renting a 12 bed unit for males and six beds for females for alleged and adjudicated delinquents in our neighboring, Delaware County. Construction of a new facility was going to happen for Chester County but did the planners and political figures study the research, especially the research that I have included above? The juvenile detention referral population was considered, but did we produce alternative projections based on bed saving plans and gauge for future capacity based on the needs when juvenile justice reform had been happening a decade prior? Building a state of the art, multi-million dollar facility; a 48-bed detention center for alleged and adjudicated youth and 12-bed unsecure shelter for dependant females in 2006 now seems that the research and statistics were not considered and even the key factor that PA was selected in 2004 as a key state because of our "readiness for change" by The MacArthur Foundation's Models for Change Initiative.

A unit in The Chester County Youth Center has sat empty now for the past three years. We carry a daily average population of 15 youth, this includes our shelter numbers. According to the National Juvenile Justice Network, legislator's across the country are currently searching state budgets for areas to cut, and many have already made reductions to juvenile justice programming (2010). Eight juvenile detention centers have closed in Pennsylvania since 2003. Some closures have been mandated by legislatures, while others are the result of reform-minded administrators who acknowledge more appropriate and effective ways to respond to court-involved youth (National Juvenile Justice Network, 2011). Exploring options for center utilization and repurposing is a must or Chester County will be next on the list of closures.

Public safety and crime reduction are goals that drive juvenile detention. With constant budget issues, focusing on the costs of confinement is a daily conversation. The National Juvenile Justice Network states that focusing on cost alone drastically oversimplifies the issues faced when trying to rehabilitate youth (2010). The goal is not simply to treat the youth in the least expensive way possible, but rather to invest enough resources in a youth so that he or she may become a successful, productive member of society, thereby contributing to society's overall financial and social well-being (National Juvenile Justice Network, 2011).

So how do we invest resources in our youth in a fiscally responsible way in juvenile detention? I felt that to answer this question I needed to turn to leaders in the field of juvenile detention. I interviewed two key individuals that have a combined total of over 75 years in the field of juvenile detention in Pennsylvania. My first interview was with Wayne Bear. Wayne is a Licensed Social Worker and is currently the executive director of the Juvenile Detention Center Association of Pennsylvania (JDCAP). Wayne has over 27 years experience having worked as a front line detention staff, juvenile probation officer, as well as having over 14 years in juvenile residential program management. HeĀ is responsible for staying current onĀ juvenile justice issues, including issues related to juvenile courts. Wayne acts as the staff contact for the committees within JDCAP focusing on public policy and legislation, training, and information systems. I felt Wayne would bring expertise to this subject because he is in touch with all facilities and is current on the detention services/programs that are offered in Pennsylvania's juvenile detention centers. The following is my interview with Wayne Bear. My question for Wayne was "What is the biggest issue/concern for juvenile detention in PA today?"

Probably the biggest issue has to do with juvenile detention accessibility. Efforts to use risk assessments to limit out-of-home placements to only those youth who need removed, has resulted in lowering juvenile detention utilization. The underlying idea arises from research that shows those kids placed in detention are more likely to further penetrate the justice system compared to similar kids who were not. Anyway, the problem arises when detention centers in rural areas can no longer afford to keep open. This results in subsequent problems when youth are detained greater distances from their home. These problems include issues associated continuity in education, behavioral health services, legal counsel, etc. So while we encourage efforts to assure that the "right" kids are detained, we need to also make sure that when that kid needs to be detained, there is a facility close enough to provide structure and continuity of care, (W. Bear, personal communication, January 22, 2013).

My second interview was with my director, Gary Blair. Gary has been in the field of detention services for over 35 years in Chester County, Pennsylvania. Gary began his career as a line detention officer, moved on to caseworker at the center, to deputy director and eventually to the director position for the last 26 years. I posed the same question to Gary, "What is the biggest issue/concern for juvenile detention in PA today?"

The biggest issue I see as a director for the past 26 years is twofold; changing the mindset that we are not just "custodial care" anymore. With drug and alcohol issues, mental health concerns, we need to have programming to provide for each youth's needs. We also need to be thinking about developing more diversionary programming and how to utilize beds here at the Center, (G. Blair, personal communication, January 24, 2013).

Wayne and Gary's interviews provided me with a wealth of insight on management's perspective of the issues in juvenile detention today. Both interviews helped provide a greater understanding into the problem at hand where Wayne Bear provided his view coming from a system's perspective, and Gary Blair's was from an agency perspective. In processing the interviews, it helped reinforce the notion of detention centers and how they need to adopt the open system theory. Open system theory "hypothesizes that criminal justice organizations are malleable and influenced differently by elements of the environment" (Stojkovic, Kalinich & Klofas,, 2012, p. 15). I would argue that in the past, adult corrections and detention centers could once be seen as the opposite, known as closed systems, but with the pendulum shifting to a more treatment focus, criminal justice organizations must rely on the community for resources. Not only are we working in a complex environment, dealing with court and human service bureaucracies, but we work with complex goals where "the organizations of the criminal justice system have multiple and conflicting goals" (Stojkovic, 2012, p. 11).

Leadership in the field of detention has to focus on the daily operations of the center but also how will the agency look in the future and the future of its dedicated employees. Lipsky (1980) would argue that the conflicting goals of human service organizations are the result of unresolved disagreements in society at large. Just as I referred to earlier where the pendulum is swinging to a more treatment and rehabilitation focus, there is still a firm belief that corrections/detention needs to hold offenders accountable and that they be punished for their wrong doings.

My director is managing a large staff of over 90 full and part-time employees. Gary's leadership is paramount during this time of transition as well as his strategies for handling an unstable future. I know my director has experienced direct pressure about facility utilization. One example Gary faces on a daily basis is how to increase revenue, especially with a pod that has now sat empty for 3 years. I find it ironic though that these are the same individuals that decided to build a state of the art multi-million dollar facility back in 2006. I did talk to Gary about this at length; about the pressures he experiences from the "higher-ups." I questioned Gary about building construction and asked if they looked at the research because reforms had been underway since the late 90's. The court was already considering unsecure shelter beds as a more favorable option for alleged and adjudicated youths, so why 48-detention beds and only a 12 bed unsecure shelter unit? Building a facility with a self-contained shelter where meals, sleep, school, programs, etc., are all done on one unit seems senseless where in detention, there are 4 classrooms for education with computers and smart boards, an art room, a dark room, a kiln, a chapel, etc. that are not accessible to the unsecure shelter population.

My administrator bears the responsibility for the future of our agency. I feel that Gary is progressive in the agency he leads and continues to be future thinking in his decision making. "An agency that develops favorable relations with its environment will likely be perceived as a responsive, productive, and contributing organization" (Stojkovic, 2012, p. 86). Twenty-first century leadership must employ past and present ideas of effective leadership skills. Stojkovic, et al. calls this "transformational leadership." The three core components of transformational leadership are: 1) mission and vision, 2) goal setting, and 3) cultivation of creativity and imagination to address organizational concerns and problems (p. 206). Effectiveness has been shown employing "transformational leadership" by worker productivity, turnover rates, and job satisfaction among employees. I feel that my director has born leadership qualities but if I had to describe my director's leadership especially in the times we are living in and the threat to our future as an agency, I would say that Gary definitely employs transformational leadership. Gary is mission driven, has clear goals for the future, and motivates his employees to be active participants in the future plans of the center.

We need to broaden the scope of our agencies duties with the threat of future closures. I feel that if we were to employ an open system view, we have to be prepared for the influences of our environment, outside organizations, and research. This has created complex goals: "custodial care" versus diversionary, community-based programs. Detention centers may want to consider running diversionary programs. An example of this would be at our center which runs the electric home monitoring program, a weekend respite program, and an evening reporting center. These three programs are all detention-alternative programs. Some may ask, are we shooting ourselves in the foot by creating programming that is in direct opposition to our "custodial care" detention model. This speaks directly to Lipsky (1980) and the conflicting goals of human service agencies, and conflicting goals among street-level bureaucrats, who in this case are the line detention officers.

Street-level bureaucrats are the "public service workers who interact directly with citizens in the course of their jobs, and who have substantial discretion in the execution of their work" (Lipsky, 1980, p. 3). Managers have to be concerned with end results where detention officers are concerned with the day-to-day operations. The interests of the two parties are opposite which can again create conflict. Lipsky (1980) states "at best bureaucracies are highly ambivalent about personalistic service delivery" (p. 23). Lipsky (1980) discusses though that street-level bureaucrats can fire back at mangers by completing minimal work, even refusing to do certain parts of the job or working too strictly so that they can ultimately discredit their supervisor. We are constantly be asked to do more with less, again keeping our dwindling budget in mind, how can we keep detention officer street-level bureaucrats on the top of their game? I imagine Pennsylvania detention center leaders are asking themselves these questions on a daily basis; how can we provide the "continuity of care" as Wayne Bear had mentioned, and with Gary Blair stating that we need to "develop more diversionary programming and utilize beds." Leadership in the field of juvenile detention in Pennsylvania has to be progressive in that it needs to be planning for the future of juvenile detention services.

What are some of the major outside forces that are effecting the underutilization of juvenile detention services in Pennsylvania that are outside the control of its leadership? Two major factors that are impacting detention center utilization that I will be discussing are the detention risk assessment and the Youth Level of Service/Case Management Inventory (YLS). The detention risk assessment is a triage device that brings structure, uniformity, and predictability to the detention decision-making process for juvenile probation officers. The YLS is an evidenced-based tool that helps probation officers, youth workers, psychologists, and social workers identify the youth's major needs, strengths, barriers, and incentives; this helps the probation officer select the most appropriate goals for him or her; and produce an effective case management plan for the youth on probation. The adoption of the above risk assessment tools has increased in popularity in the juvenile justice system due, in part, to recommendations by the Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) (Vincent, Paiva-Salisbury, Cook, Guy, & Perrault, 2012).

While pre-trial juvenile incarceration is legitimized by federal and state law, we know from articles noted above such as The Dangers of Detention, that it is not necessarily good for children. When juveniles are confined in pre-trial facilities, they incur specific risks of abuse, injury, and suicide (Steinhart, 2006). Juvenile Probation decision-making has shifted to be more consistent with Risk-Need-Responsivity practices, such as (a) making service referrals based on the fit between youths' criminogenic needs and services, and (b) assigning levels of supervision based on youths' level of risk (Vincent et al., 2012). Currently, there is a huge shift in the field of juvenile probation to pay attention and to utilize more evidence-based tools, programs, and treatments.

Juvenile justice reformers sought to control admissions to detention facilities by adopting local, written detention criteria that were more focused than state detention laws (Steinhart, 2006). Criteria were designed to separate low-risk youth - who could safely be returned to their homes - from higher-risk youth who should be securely detained. There are three key principles behind screening instruments:

Objectivity: Detention decisions should be based on neutral and objective factors rather than on the screener's subjective opinion about an individual youth. Objective criteria anchor detention decisions in ascertainable facts such as the nature and severity of the offense, the number of prior referrals, or the minor's history of flight from custody.

Uniformity: Local criteria should be uniform in the sense that they are applied equally to all minors referred for a detention decision. To achieve the desired level of uniformity, the criteria must be in a written (or electronic) format and must be incorporated into a screening process that is standardized for all referrals.

Risk-based: The criteria should be risk-based, meaning that they should measure specific detention related risks posed by the minor. These risks are: the risk of reoffending before adjudication and the risk of failing to appear at a court hearing (Steinhart, 2006).

Both the detention risk assessment and the YLS have had a significant impact on the number of youth housed in local juvenile detention centers. Again, I refer back to my interview with Wayne Bear, where he stated "while we encourage efforts to assure that the "right" kids are detained, we need to also make sure that when that kid needs detained, there is a facility close enough to provide structure and continuity of care." Risk assessments are producing lower detention rates and reduction of detention facility populations. Risk assessments are also assisting in the creation and development of alternative-to detention programs.

So what is the future of juvenile detention services or maybe I should ask, is there a future for juvenile detention services in Pennsylvania? The Juvenile Detention Centers Association of Pennsylvania (JDCAP) says "yes." As a system response to eight center closures in the last several years, JDCAP has gathered information around the state from centers regarding their innovative and progressive solutions. JDCAP has offered the following successful options as new programs that centers could adopt: 1) a staff secure shelter program, especially for low to medium-risk and status offenders, 2) a 90-day substance abuse/detox program, 3) a weekender/short length of stay/violation of probation, 3) 20-day stays in shelter to pay off truancy fines, 4) an independent living program, 5) a local re-entry program for returning offenders from long-term placement facilities, 6) a 3-6 month mental health program and lastly, 7) to partnering/regionalize juvenile detention centers.

There will be numerous barriers that centers will face adopting a new philosophy and taking on new projects. Push back from street-level bureaucrats would be, in my opinion, one of the biggest obstacles. Detention officers have, in the past, always had a clear role within a center. Detention officers are expected to maintain order, direct supervision of residents, and the safety and security of all youths in their care. Are we now going to expect line officers to provide treatment and rehabilitation? This would fall under what Lipsky (1980) would call goal conflict with role expectations. Agencies are being hit with the current budget crisis, how to do more with less and now we are going to be asking our street-level bureaucrats to wear a different hat. Lipsky (1980) warns that "role ambiguity affects individual performance as well as organizational direction" (p. 48).

So how will leadership attack this issue with its line staff, keeping in mind the constant budget and political pressures on facility utilization, and still run a successful agency? Dr. W. Edwards Deming, in his book, Out of the Crisis (1986), lays out 14 steps toward an improved management. Deming was well known in his work in the early 1950's, during WWII in Japan, to help reconstruct the Japanese economy. The 14 principals Deming feels will cultivate a fertile soil and create a performing culture. In applying Deming's principals in the workplace, it is thought that management will see a more efficient workplace, higher profits, and increased productivity and productivity may even grow (Aren't these last two points the same thing?). I feel that Deming's second principal speaks to leadership in the current state of detention services. The second principal states that businesses/agencies need to "adopt the new philosophy" of continual improvement; not only adopting the new philosophy, but incorporating it into our organizations life. Relating Deming's second principal to detention services in Pennsylvania, agencies will need to take on the notion that centers are not just for "custodial care" anymore; that we need to be more treatment and diversionary program focused if we want to stay a viable option for our local communities.

Juvenile probation departments are now using what is called a service matrix. A service matrix is comprehensive document with clear guidelines regarding treatment of clients. I want the Chester County Youth Center to show up multiple times on this matrix, almost as a menu of services that we provide, and not for the single option of detainment. In looking at the future of our center, we need to provide a continuum of alternatives to secure custody. Community-based programs are cost-effective solutions for delinquent youth and still keep street-level bureaucrats employed with a more empowering type of employment rather than "custodial care;" shifting not only to evidenced-based risk/needs assessments, but to evidenced-based treatment such as Functional Family Therapy and Multisystemic Family Therapy.

Plans for the future that I've been thinking about exploring would be to use the YLS findings for housing our youth (low/medium risk pods and high risk youth pods) as well as the type of programming that we provide. Currently, have 3 diversion programs run by our detention center: 1) an electric home monitoring program, 2) a weekend respite for girls, and 3) an evening reporting center for boys. My thoughts on planning for the future at our center would include a: 1) non-secure boys shelter program, 2) a weekend respite for boys, 3) an evening reporting center for girls, and lastly, 4) a short term, 3-6 month residential program for low/medium risk offenders. All of the above options would give JPO eight options for programming, and a menu of services when selecting what would best suit their clients' needs. Our center would continue to run a detention program but have a vast array of other services that it can provide in the youth's home county. I feel that this will help to maintain positive ties between the juvenile and his or her family and home community. The "continuity of care" that Wayne Bear spoke about, where we would no longer have to ship a good majority of kids far from home because we can provide their needs right here in their local community.

So has the pendulum permanently swung? I would say that it has, especially with the research to support the changes. I feel that the best overall option for our county would be to create a short-term residential program. This would be the best utilization of our center coupled with evidenced-based programming and mandated family treatment/counseling. Leadership could professionalize the field of detention for street-level bureaucrats (no more blue collar work; similar to how police organizations have shifted to this paradigm). Management can create specializations for line staff in specific evidenced-based curricula, make staff case managers, and regionalize them to their home areas where they would have the best knowledge of community resources, and aftercare mentors for youth re-entering the community. This would allow each resident to have a mentor for one year upon discharge. Researchers found that the most satisfied corrections officers were those whose job had the highest variety, task identity, feedback and autonomy (Stojkovic, 2012, p. 173). My hope for the future of juvenile officers would be one where staff are empowered to do more and truly have a career path. We need to get back to true restorative justice with a holistic approach called "Theory Z;" realizing that juvenile detention centers can no longer exist in a social vacuum (Stojkovic, 2012, p. 146). The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention states that, "without compromising community safety, through new program initiatives or legislation, administrative, or litigation based reforms, each jurisdiction bear the responsibility for enhancing its programmatic alternatives to meet the needs of the youth it serves (Austin, Johnson, & Weitzer, 2005). The future and viability of juvenile detention centers in PA centers around the notion that they must be able to provide an extensive mix of evidenced-based services to address the complex issues of the youth that we serve in our communities.