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The Maine Youth Center, which opened in 1854 and is one of the oldest reform schools in the United States, is home for over two hundred adolescent boys and girls from Maine who have broken the law. The campus sits high on an open hill overlooking the Fore River and looks out on the South Portland Airport. The original building, which formerly housed all of Maine’s delinquent youths, is now the facility’s administration building and several oversized brick ‘‘cottages,’’ two school buildings, and a gymnasium are contained by a tall inward curving chain link fence topped with coils of wire. On one corner of the youth center campus, the brick walls of a new building rise 34 feet high, 420 feet long and 17 inches thick. After 148 years of continuous operation, the dilapidated buildings scattered across the campus will be abandoned. In the fall of 2001, when the $32 million Southern Maine Juvenile Facility replaces the Maine Youth Center, 166 young offenders will occupy a state-of-the-art facility equipped with classrooms, closed-circuit TV for monitoring juveniles, a medical health center, individual bedrooms and dining facilities—all under one roof. A few hundred miles north in the town of Charleston, a smaller 144-bed sister institution called the Northern Maine Juvenile Facility is being constructed at a cost of $27 million dollars.
For more than a century, the juvenile justice institution has been the program of choice for juvenile offenders. Many of the institutions that were constructed during the latter half of the nineteenth century remain open today, each housing between two hundred and four hundred youths. After more than 150 years of operation, there is no research that points to the effectiveness of the institution in rehabilitating delinquent youths (Guarino-Ghezzi; and Loughran). Conversely, the harmful impact of correctional institutions on adolescents has been well documented over time. Although euphemistically referred to as ‘‘reform schools’’ or ‘‘training schools,’’ large custodial institutions have been known to foster all kinds of abuses including inadequate education and counseling programs, predatory behavior by staff, and resident-onresident assaults. Most states have not explored alternatives to large-scale institutions for less serious person and property offenders. The long tradition of institutions in America as well as the cost of constructing and maintaining an institution makes it difficult for juvenile justice policymakers to experiment with diversity in placement options.
The juvenile justice system, a distinctly American invention, got its start in 1825 when a separate institution for wayward children called the House of Refuge was established in New York City. Before the existence of the House of Refuge, young offenders were routinely remanded to the penitentiary where they were exposed to the corrupting influence of adult inmates. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, judges and juries had become reluctant to send minor offenders to prison, which resulted in the release of many young offenders and their return to the streets of the city (Feld). A reform group of the time called the Society for the Reformation of Juvenile Delinquents feared that many of these children, the sons and daughters of paupers who were regarded as the undeserving poor because of their corrupt and vice-ridden lifestyle, would themselves end up as paupers and criminals (Bernard). For the reformers, the creation of the House of Refuge was the answer to this problem, which was worsening with the migration of families from the countryside seeking work in the factories and the increase of immigration from Europe to America’s cities. Other Houses of Refuge were opened in Boston and Philadelphia on the East Coast and then spread to the Midwest over the next two decades.
Nearly a quarter of a century later, the country’s first publicly administered training school for delinquent boys was established in Westboro, Massachusetts, in 1847 by Theodore Lyman, a philanthropist and former mayor of Boston. Lyman’s cause was to end the mixing of vulnerable delinquent youths with hardened criminals in the jails and prisons of Massachusetts. He donated $22,500 of his own money to purchase the land on which the state would ultimately build the Westboro School for Boys for ‘‘the instruction, employment, and reformation of juvenile offenders’’ (‘‘An Act to Establish the State Reform School,’’ Massachusetts Acts and Resolves, 1847). The construction of The State Industrial School for Girls in Lancaster, Massachusetts, followed a decade later in 1856. Built for delinquent youths, the institutions began to receive minor offenders and so-called status offenders such as runaway youth, truants, and stubborn children. In 1862, Massachusetts passed an education reform bill that allowed the state to incarcerate chronic truants in its reform schools so as not to disrupt other children’s schooling (Feld).
Nearly fifty years later in 1899, the first juvenile court was established in Cook County, Illinois, which completed the creation of a separate system of justice for juveniles. The birth of the juvenile court was based on an emerging view of children that regarded them as ‘‘corruptible innocents’’ who needed protection from the state (Feld). The new juvenile court introduced the concept of rehabilitation, which de-emphasized youths’ offenses and focused on their treatment needs. The juvenile court, acting in the best interest of the child, would officially blur the distinction between a youth’s delinquent acts and his nondelinquent status offenses. Many of the children charged with status offenses were in fact homeless, parentless, or poor and were placed in institutions for indeterminate periods of time until they reached their majority under the guise of treating their needs.
The history of juvenile correctional institutions reveals a cyclical process that has repeated itself generation after generation. When first opened, these schools enjoyed a period of calm where staff and youths interacted, and youths made progress. This was usually followed by overcrowding of the institution during periodic crackdowns on juvenile crime. Soon after, living conditions at the institution deteriorated with older, predatory youths attacking younger, more vulnerable ones, increased escapes, youths assaulting staff, and intimidated staff turning on youths. Next followed exposure of incidents and problems by the media, which usually triggered an investigation by state and federal authorities. A blue ribbon commission of elected officials and leading citizens would be convened to issue a report with recommendations for change and improvements. Reforms would be implemented ushering in a new period of calm and order at the institution (Guarino-Ghezzi; and Loughran).
Current Developments and Problems
During the 1990s, states began replacing old, run-down institutions and constructing new facilities to respond to the dramatic rise in violent juvenile crime throughout the country. Violent juvenile crime, fueled by the lethal combination of illicit drugs and guns in the hands of adolescents, climbed rapidly between 1988 and 1993. The proportion of juvenile arrests for violent crime grew from 9 percent in the late 1980s to 14.2 percent in 1994. Juvenile murder arrests more than doubled between 1987 and its peak year 1993 from approximately 1,500 to 3,800 each year.
According to the Census of Juveniles in Residential Placement (CJRP), there were 105,790 juveniles under age twenty-one in custody in either a pretrial detention or juvenile correctional facility on a given day in 1997. This represented a 63 percent increase in the number of incarcerated youth since 1991 when the one-day count of confined youths was 65,000. Three states (California, Texas, and Florida) that account for 25 percent of the youth population in the United States account for 30 percent of all confined youth in the country (Snyder and Sikmund). Youths in confinement facilities run the gamut from violent offenders to status offenders. The CJRP breakdown for youths in institutional placements in 1997 was:
- Violent Index Crimes—25 percent
- Other Person Offenses—8 percent
- Property Offenses—30 percent
- Drug Offenses—9 percent
- Public Order Offenses—21 percent
- Status Offenses—7 percent
This dramatic increase in the number of youths remanded to secure institutions has caused severe crowding problems in facilities throughout the country similar to the overcrowding of adult prisons in the 1980s. In 1995, 50 percent of all pretrial detention facilities and 45 percent of all correctional institutions were operating above design capacity.
Minorities, especially black youths, are overrepresented in the juvenile justice system, especially in secure institutions. Research findings show that this is primarily the result of widespread disparity in juvenile case processing. Data demonstrates that minority youths are more likely to be placed in public secure facilities, while white youths are more likely to be housed in private facilities or diverted from the juvenile justice system altogether. The custody rates for juveniles are:
- Black—1,018 per 100,000
- White—204 per 100,000
- Hispanic—515 per 100,000
- Native American—525 per 100,000
- Asian—203 per 100,000
Effect of Crowding on Conditions of Confinement
In 1988 the U.S. Congress directed the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) in the U.S. Justice Department to assess conditions of confinement for juveniles and to determine the extent to which those conditions conform to nationally recognized professional standards for juvenile institutions. This congressional mandate coincided with the rise in serious juvenile crime and a flurry of legislative activity in states to increase the severity of punishments for violent or habitual juvenile offenders. Many states, in response to particularly heinous crimes committed by juveniles, also enacted laws to make it easier to try and sentence juvenile offenders as adults.
The study of 984 public and private institutions throughout the country that included pretrial detention centers, training schools, ranches, camps, and farms was conducted between 1990 and 1992. The Conditions of Confinement (COC) Report, issued in 1993, found substantial and widespread deficiencies in four major areas of institutional life—living space, security, control of suicidal behavior, and health care (Parent et al.).
The COC study found that nearly 75 percent of the institutions were crowded in some respect. To eliminate crowding in the facilities, it was estimated that more than fourteen thousand juveniles would have to be removed from the population of confinement facilities, or an equal number of new beds added in adequately designed living areas of institutions. The report recommended that large dormitories be eliminated from juvenile facilities because of the ease of adding beds in excess of the design capacity to accommodate an influx of delinquent youths. The study also found a link between crowding of institutions and a higher rate of injuries to staff by juveniles and juvenile-on-juvenile injuries. The rates for short-term isolation of acting-out juveniles were higher in crowded facilities. Poor security practices also contributed to escapes and injuries in the facilities.
The study indicated suicidal behavior to be a serious problem in juvenile confinement facilities. Ten confined juveniles killed themselves in 1990 while the COC study was underway. The study estimated that more than eleven thousand individual juveniles engage in more than seventeen thousand incidents of suicide behavior in juvenile institutions each year. Approximately 75 percent of juveniles in confinement were screened upon admission for indicators of suicide risk, and a similar number were in facilities that train staff in suicide prevention.
In the area of health care for confined juveniles, the COC study reported a number of deficiencies that included failure to complete health screenings within the first hour after admission to a facility, and failure to perform a full health assessment within a week of admission. Additionally, one-third of juvenile screenings in pretrial detention centers were completed by staff who had not been trained by medical personnel to perform health screening.
One of the limitations of the COC study was its inability to determine the adequacy of education and treatment services because of a lack of systematic empirical data on confined youth’s educational or treatment needs and problems.
The COC study tested the premise that facilities that conformed to nationally recognized standards of care such as the American Correctional Association Standards, which are used as the basis for accrediting juvenile training schools, and the American Bar Association/Institute for Judicial Administration Standards (1980) would result in improved conditions of confinement. Accredited institutions scored no better than nonaccredited facilities in important areas of operation, such as safety, security, education, treatment services, and health care. The COC study revealed the shortcoming of existing standards, which was their emphasis on written policies and procedures concerning aspects of facility operation rather than specifying measurable outcomes that ought to be achieved. A major recommendation in the final COC report called for the development and promulgation of performance-based standards in all aspects of institutional life that would serve both as goals for the facilities to attain and benchmarks against which their progress could be measured.
In 1995 OJJDP, acting on one of the recommendations contained in its COC report, launched a major initiative to improve the conditions of confinement in juvenile detention and correctional facilities, now known as the Performance-based Standards (PbS) Project. For five years the Council of Juvenile Correctional Administrators (CJCA), an organization representing chief executive officers of state and large county juvenile correctional agencies, which was designated by OJJDP, developed and has been implementing a set of outcome-based standards in detention and correctional facilities throughout the country. A set of standards addresses safety, order, security, programming, health/ mental health, justice of facility operations, and reintegration of offenders into the community. Each standard has one or more outcome measures that monitors performance with data and reflects improvements over time, as well as associated expected practices and processes that support performance and serve as the foundation for improved operations.
By the end of 2000, nearly sixty individual facilities from twenty-three states were implementing the performance-based system. Eight states have adopted the system in all facilities, allowing for systemic change, improvements, and management. Results of four data collections (every six months) demonstrate measurable improvements at participating sites, such as reduced use of isolation and room confinement, increased numbers of youths receiving health and mental health screenings and assessments, implementation of behavior modification programs, and reduction of assaults on youths and staff. As of 2001, the PbS project team was working to develop a software package and training model that can facilitate data collection and make the new standards system part of daily management operations in facilities throughout the country.
The first juvenile correctional institutions in this country were located in rural, bucolic settings based on the belief that exposure of urban youth to the wholesome agrarian environment would ameliorate the corrupting influences of the city. States continue to build juvenile facilities far from the communities where the confined youths live but for very different reasons from the founding intention. The public’s fear of young offenders has been reinforced by negative media coverage and elected official’s political posturing over the relatively small number of violent juvenile offenders. Facility planners are customarily confronted with ‘‘not in my backyard’’ opposition when searching for prospective facility locations. Consequently, juvenile correctional facilities are often constructed long distances from youths’ families, their local schools’ and employment opportunities, making reintegration of young offenders into their home communities difficult. This is the case in states such as California, Maine, Nebraska, New York, Ohio, and Texas. Delaware is an exception as both its pretrial detention and juvenile correctional facilities are situated on a campus in a suburban community just beyond the city limits of Wilmington where most of the confined youths live.
The first institutions were freestanding buildings that housed youths in congregate style, mixing older and younger children and criminal and status offenders. Then followed a campus setting with cottages and cottage parents to normalize the environment. Today many states, such as Colorado, Maine, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Ohio, continue to follow the campus model where youths are classified by offense type and special programming needs, such as alcohol and substance abuse, sex offending, or mental health problems and are placed in cottages or living units. Youths sleep under one roof and participate in group-counseling in the living units in the evening, but move about the campus in groups under the supervision of counselors or officers to attend school in a separate school building, eat in a cafeteria, recreate in a gymnasium or on outdoor ball fields and courts, and attend services in a chapel.
Juvenile institutions constructed since the mid-1990s are self-contained buildings that house living units and programming areas under one roof. The building design consists of administrative offices near the building entrance, a central-services area that contains classrooms, medical facilities, kitchen and dining area, and a gymnasium. Living space is divided into units or pods with individual rooms and common rooms for counseling sessions and evening-recreational activities. Most juvenile correctional institutions are now enclosed by a high inward-curving chain link fence with barbed wire or razor ribbon atop the structure.
A handful of states, such as Kentucky, Massachusetts, and Missouri, operate small secure treatment facilities for serious person and chronic property offenders in lieu of large, custodial institutions. Some of these facilities accommodate as few as fifteen youths, while others are designed for thirty to fifty young offenders. The treatment offered at these programs is much more intensive and individualized than what can be offered at institutions with two hundred or more beds. Staff has the time to get to know youths, and to learn more about their problems, offense history, and needs in order to design and carry out comprehensive treatment interventions. Small class sizes permit teachers to tailor instruction to the educational deficiencies of underachieving students, many of whom attended school irregularly or dropped out altogether. Additionally, these smaller programs conduct appropriately sized group-counseling sessions that deal with a young offender’s underlying issues, such as the effects of child neglect and abuse, impulsive and aggressive acting-out, alcohol and substance abuse, and other behavioral problems.
Small, appropriately staffed rehabilitation programs tend to have fewer behavior management problems. Consequently, violent incidents, use of force by staff, use of mechanical restraints and isolation, and rates of serious injury to youths and staff are significantly reduced in these facilities.
Recognizing the benefits of smaller treatment programs on youth behavior management and staff morale, administrators of larger institutions in states such as Connecticut, Ohio, and Maine, have begun to institute unit management in the living cottages or units. Under this arrangement, direct care and clinical staff are formed into treatment teams and assigned to a cottage or unit with responsibility for designing and carrying out treatment plans for the youths residing there. This approach allows the large institutional population to be broken down into manageable components. Youths are customarily classified based on the risks and needs they present at admission and assigned to homogeneous units. Classification can be based on a combination of factors, such as age, maturity, offense history and criminal sophistication or on the specialized nature of a youth’s underlying problems, such as alcohol and substance abuse, sex offending and mental health problems. Unit management brings the distinctive benefits of small programs to the larger institution.
Since reaching an all-time high in 1994, juvenile crime has fallen for five consecutive years. The rate of juvenile arrests for Violent Crime Index Offenses—murder, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault—declined by 36 percent in the five-year period. The juvenile murder arrest rate fell 68 percent to 1,400 in 1999 from 3,800 in 1993.
Despite this significant drop in juvenile crime, especially violent crime from 1995 forward, juvenile court judges continue to commit adolescents to state juvenile correctional agencies for placement in institutions in unprecedented numbers. Crowding in these institutions, which results in youths sleeping on floors in hallways and in gymnasiums, continues to worsen the working and living environment for staff and youths. Today, correctional administrators face a host of complex problems, such as a surge in youths with serious mental health problems, high staff turnover, and insufficient training programs for direct-care staff.
Increase in Mentally Ill Youths
The closing of state-operated psychiatric hospitals for children throughout the country during the 1990s and the introduction of managed behavioral health care to cut the cost of providing mental health services to patients has forced many emotionally troubled and mentally ill children into the juvenile correctional system. An estimated 20 percent or more than twenty thousand incarcerated juveniles are seriously emotionally disturbed. The juvenile justice system is unprepared to care for and treat mentally ill youths. Failure to screen and assess the special needs of these youths could result in serious harm or treatment that exacerbates the illness. Co-mingling the mentally ill with serious offenders contributes to the increase in disruptive behavior in programs. Additionally, staff, unaware of the side effects of certain mood-altering medications administered to these youths, impose sanctions for their acting-out behavior, which results in unfair treatment of these youths. Many emotionally disturbed or mentally ill youths placed in juvenile correctional facilities are not receiving the specialized treatment they require, nor are plans being developed ensure appropriate aftercare services for them upon release from the institution.
High Staff Turnover
Direct-care staff, who supervise confined youths in their cottages or units, are called youth workers or juvenile correctional officers. These workers are assigned to one of three shifts (7:00 A.M.–3:00 P.M., 3:00 P.M.–11:00 P.M., and 11:00 P.M.–7:00 A.M.). Their starting salaries range from a low of $12,500 in Montana to a high of $30,000 in California, with the average being $20,500. The number of staff assigned to supervise youths varies greatly from facility to facility, with one youth worker responsible for ten youths being the ideal, but in most institutions the ratio is one youth worker for fifteen to twenty youths. Working in overcrowded buildings with troubled, disruptive youths contributes to extremely stressful conditions for staff. Recent surveys of direct-care staff indicated that 20 percent feared for their safety while supervising youths in living units. Absentee rates soar under such conditions, forcing staff to work extra shifts. Staff morale suffers and ultimately leads to high rates of turnover among those staff who are responsible for the day-to-day care of the youths, role modeling, and doling out punishments and rewards.
Insufficient Training for Staff
Training for direct-care staff in institutions throughout the country varies greatly in the number of hours of pre-service and in-service training required, the quality of the curricula, and trainers teaching the courses. In 1994 only a handful of state juvenile correctional programs had training academies. Today thirty-three states have academies that train, test, and certify staff as youth workers. The ACA Standards for Juvenile Training Schools state that all new juvenile care workers receive 40 hours of training before they supervise youths, an additional 120 hours of training during their first year of employment, and an additional 40 hours of training each subsequent year of employment. A survey of 110 juvenile correctional facilities in 1997 indicates that the average number of pre-service and first-year training for juvenile correctional workers was 102 hours. The results from the same survey demonstrate that undertrained staffs in facilities are the ones who get assaulted. In recent years, the high rate of turnover results in many youth care workers receiving a brief orientation and mostly on-the-job training until the next training for new staff is held, which sometimes is not for weeks or months.
The Kentucky Department of Juvenile Justice is recognized as a leader in its training program for juvenile correctional staff. The training academy is operated out of Eastern Kentucky University’s Training Resource Center. All new direct-care staff hired at the state’s thirty-five residential treatment facilities (thirty to thirty-five beds) and three pretrial detention facilities begin a ten-week cycle of training at the academy with two weeks in the training facility classroom. This is followed by two weeks on the job, two more weeks in the classroom, back to the job for two more weeks, and the final two weeks in the classroom. Research has shown that attrition rates for staff in the first year had been 37 percent. The professionally conducted training program has been able to stabilize the turnover rate.
The Legal Rights of Juveniles in Confinement
A growing body of law from past litigation against juvenile correctional facilities and relevant federal statutes specify the minimum environmental conditions that juvenile institutions must meet. Under these laws, confined juveniles have the right to protection from violent residents, abusive staff, unsanitary living quarters, excessive isolation, and unreasonable restraints. Youths in confinement must also receive adequate medical and mental health care, education (including special education for youths with disabilities), access to legal counsel, and access to family communication, recreation, exercise, and other programs (Puritz and Scali).
The sharp rise in commitments to juvenile correctional facilities during the last decade has exacerbated the living conditions in facilities where many youths are held. Investigations of these institutions by youth advocacy groups as well as the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Justice Department have documented significant deficiencies in living space, security, control of suicidal behavior, health care, education and treatment services, emergency preparedness, and access to legal counsel. In 1996, the American Bar Association Juvenile Justice Center released a report titled ‘‘A Call for Justice: An Assessment of Access to Counsel and Quality of Representation in Delinquency Proceedings.’’ The report revealed numerous deficiencies in both the access to and the quality of representation juveniles receive at every point in the juvenile court process (Puritz et al.). The results of inadequate representation can be seen in the disproportionate representation of minority youths and nonviolent property and drug offenders in juvenile detention and correctional facilities. As the bar association looked into the shortcomings of the process of justice for juveniles, other international and national advocacy groups, such as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, The Youth Law Center in San Francisco, and the Juvenile Rights Center in Philadelphia, have investigated and reported on widespread abuses of adolescents in juvenile detention and correctional facilities throughout the country.
Since 1995, Human Rights Watch Children Rights Project has published devastating reports on constitutional abuses of children in confinement facilities in Louisiana, Georgia, and Colorado. The international organization has documented abuses of youths in the Louisiana Department of Correction’s four juvenile post-adjudication correctional facilities to include physical abuse of residents by staff, improper restraints with handcuffs, and youths kept in isolation for excessive periods of time.
A scathing report on abusive, overcrowded, and dangerous conditions in detention and correctional facilities, including boot camp programs, in Georgia prompted the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate facilities operated by the Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice. The Justice Department’s investigation, conducted under the authority of a federal law called the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (CRIPA), substantiated alleged abuses in unconstitutional living conditions and the state’s failure to properly educate confined youths and inattention to their psychological and mental health needs.
In 1999, the State of Georgia avoided a lawsuit by the Justice Department and entered into a ‘‘Memorandum of Understanding’’ with the federal government to improve conditions in the numerous institutional deficiencies cited in the report. A monitor appointed by the Justice Department currently oversees the state’s ‘‘Plan of Improvement.’’
The Justice department investigated very few juvenile facilities during the 1980s, but as reports of abuses that resulted from crowded conditions mounted, the federal government stepped-up its investigations of juvenile detention and correctional facilities in the 1990s. As of November 1997, the Civil Rights Division had investigated three hundred institutions under CRIPA. Seventy-three of these institutions were juvenile detention and correctional facilities. As of 2001, the federal executive or judicial branches were monitoring confinement practices in several jurisdictions including Georgia, Louisiana, Philadelphia, Puerto Rico, and South Dakota.
Distinguishing Juvenile Correctional Facilities from Adult Prisons
It is becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish juvenile facilities from adult prisons. In fact, in some states, notably Georgia and Florida, the excessive building of prisons in the 1980s produced a surplus of prison-bed inventory because of either a fall-off of the number of new prisoners or insufficient operational funding from state legislatures. These states handed over the new prisons to juvenile correctional agencies to meet the demands caused by rising juvenile commitments. Spartan by design, adult prisons house inmates in cells and provide very little program space, such as classrooms, counseling areas, offices for staff in the housing units, and adequate recreational space. Until the 1990s, juvenile institutions were relatively open facilities with no perimeter fences except for secure units that had fencing around outdoor recreation areas only.
The Ferris School in Wilmington, Delaware, a seventy-two-bed secure facility built in 1997, bucked the trend of building a ‘‘juvenile prison.’’ In 1990, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a class action suit charging that the Ferris School was overcrowded, unhealthful, unsanitary, and life endangering. In 1994, after four years of fighting the suit in court, the state decided to enter into a settlement agreement with the ACLU and to secure funds for a ‘‘new’’ Ferris School. The building represents an architectural breakthrough in balancing security and a rehabilitative environment that is spacious and filled with natural light. Each living area has twelve individual rooms with large outer areas for group meetings and light recreation in the evening. Correctional administrators from jurisdictions throughout the country have traveled to Delaware to obtain ideas for incorporation in their future building plans.
The Reduced Use of Institutions
Massachusetts stands out as the state that dismantled all of its large reform schools in the early 1970s in favor of a variety of smaller, treatment-oriented programs, many of them operated by private, community-based agencies. Thirty years later, the Massachusetts Department of Youth Services (DYS) operates a balanced juvenile correctional system with a diverse network of small secure programs, group homes, outreach and tracking (intensive community supervision), and day and evening reporting centers. Each youth who is committed to DYS is assigned a case manager who will devise a treatment plan for the youth, based on clinical and educational evaluations, as well as on family history and the presenting offense. For youths initially placed in residential programs, the case manager arranges for the youth to participate in community services, such as drug and alcohol treatment and counseling, as a prerequisite of the conditions of his or her liberty. Studies have demonstrated that the recidivism rates for youths eased back into the community through a variety of residential and nonresidential community-based programs and services were below those of states that still rely solely on large, custodial institutions.
Only a few states, such as Utah, Hawaii, Kentucky, and Missouri, have followed Massachusetts’ lead in either downsizing or replacing large institutions with a similar network of programs. These states as well as Massachusetts have added secure beds to their systems to deal with the rise in juvenile offender populations during the last decade but they continue to rely on small, secure treatment programs rather than return to large institutions.
Many states visited Massachusetts during the 1970s and 1980s to study and possibly replicate elements of the balanced approach but the changing picture of youth crime in the early 1990s and the media’s overreaction derailed most of those plans. However, many states have developed some of the community-based alternatives, such as outreach and tracking and group homes pioneered in Massachusetts, for youths leaving the institution.
Effectiveness of Institutions
Evaluations of large congregate training schools report consistently negative findings. Most state training schools do not reduce recidivism rates and fall short in reforming multiple offenders.
However, recent research on certain components of juvenile correctional programs indicates that some interventions do produce positive effects on the behavior of confined youths. Aggression Replacement Training (ART) is one of a number of cognitive behavioral interventions that tries to reduce the antisocial behavior that many youths bring into confinement programs and encourage pro-social behavior. ART has an anger control component that helps the eight to ten participants in a group session understand what triggers their anger and how to control their reactions. The ‘‘skill-streaming’’ behavioral component teaches a series of pro-social skills through modeling, role playing, and performance feedback from others in the group. In the moral reasoning component, participants work through cognitive conflict through ‘‘dilemma’’ discussion groups. Results on the studies of ART have been consistently positive for skill acquisition. Aggressive adolescents have demonstrated the ability to learn a broad array of previously unavailable interpersonal, aggression-management, affect-relevant, and related psychological competencies (Goldstein and Glick). Integrating these new skills into their overall behavior for an extended period of time and maintaining the change after returning to the community has had mixed results.
Many juvenile confinement facilities have developed a combination of clinical and educational interventions for subgroups of youths, such as sex offenders, substance abusers, and youths with mental health problems who have been committed to youth correctional agencies. Some of these specialized program components have been written up as ‘‘promising approaches’’ but the majority of them have not been evaluated. There is a continuing need for states and the federal OJJDP to conduct and publicize research that acknowledges how humane conditions and well-designed and managed programs can lower recidivism rates and enhance public safety.
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