NUMBER 1139 • 28 FEBRUARY • HELPFUL JUVENILE DETENTION
... there are several reasons why juvenile detention facilities are logical locations for innovative programs and strategies to change the behavior of juvenile delinquents:
Order. Due to the increasing use of violence by youth as a problem-solving strategy, more and more inappropriate behavior is dangerous in nature. The advantage to secure juvenile detention is that it is one of the few places within all child-serving agencies where a wide range of measures can be used to stop these behaviors and create a truly safe and orderly environment. For example, sanctions for inappropriate behavior can be applied with greater swiftness and certainty than in the public schools. In addition, criminologists, educators, and the public have understood for decades that when sanctions are swift and certain, they need not be severe.
Manageability. Furthermore, of all the institutions within the child serving profession, juvenile detention remains one of the most manageable due to its relatively small size. Most secure detention facilities have fewer than 45 beds (Parent et al., 1994). As a result, the span of control is much smaller, interactions between staff and youth have the potential to be much better, and operational efficiency is generally improved.
Momentum. Due to the restrictive nature of juvenile detention, helpful programs implemented in that setting can eliminate factors that may have been negatively affecting youth prior to incarceration, thus creating momentum in a positive direction. For example, juvenile offenders often detoxify in detention while they have no access to tobacco, alcohol, marijuana, crack-cocaine, and prescription drugs. It is not uncommon for youth to make major improvements in basic health and hygiene through the contact with medical and health care providers in juvenile detention, including a health care appraisal, health education programs, sex education programs, teen pregnancy programs, and parenting programs, to name a few. Youth often improve their general physical health and condition through regular vigorous exercise, proper nutrition, proper hygiene, and adequate sleep. And finally, it is not uncommon for parents and legal guardians of delinquent youth to re-evaluate their personal and family practices as the result of interactions with juvenile detention staff and programs.
Community-Based Services. Juvenile detention provides a community-based service to the juvenile court. Secure and staff-secure juvenile detention facilities, the most common institutions for juvenile offenders, are in more communities and are more likely to be under local control. Thus, opportunities are increased to link detention to all other child-serving agencies in the community (Roush, 1996a).
Juvenile Detention as Process. Juvenile detention, when implemented effectively, is not a building - rather it is a process that includes a range of custody alternatives. Juvenile detention as a process (Dunlap & Roush, 1995; Treahy, 1995) promotes the development of a continuum of services for troubled youth. This includes alternatives to detention (programs and services that divert youth from court involvement) and detention alternatives (a range of less restrictive options that move youth out of secure confinement without compromising the goals of detention). To develop a comprehensive, integrated strategy for the improvement of detention programs and services, especially for violent youth, community and interagency cooperation is the key.
Roush, D. (1999). Helpful juvenile detention. Reaching Today’s Youth, 3, 3. pp.63-68