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Juvenile justice news.

In 1988, Congress directed the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) to assess conditions of confinement for juveniles and to report its findings to Congress along with recommendations for improvement. Abt Associates, under contract from OJJDP, and a large number of juvenile corrections and detention leaders and practitioners, designed, implemented and produced the study results and recommendations.

The National Juvenile Corrections and Detention Forum, sponsored by ACA under a grant from OJJDP, was held in Austin, Texas, April 24-28. This annual, invitational forum gathered the leading juvenile corrections and juvenile detention administrators from each state to discuss the findings and recommendations of the Conditions of Confinement study.

Participants agreed to concentrate on the most critical issues in the study: crowding, injuries and suicides, performance-based standards and future issues. They prepared specific recommendations intended to help government leaders at all levels. A partial summary of the recommendations follows:

Crowding. The study found that 47 percent of confined juveniles lived in crowded facilities. Participants agreed on these recommendations:

1. Develop congressional legislation guaranteeing due process rights to juveniles in pre- and post-dispositional confinement.

2. Prohibit the use of detention as a dispositional placement.

3. Develop a juvenile justice philosophy of using the least restrictive placement consistent with providing for public safety.

4. Direct resources to early prevention, diversion, community-based programs and family preservation programs.

5. Develop a community sanctions and continuum of care model for appropriate offenders.

Injuries and suicides. The study found that in one recent year there were 24,000 injuries to confined juveniles and 7,700 injuries to juvenile justice staff. In addition, there were 18,000 incidents of suicidal behavior and 10 suicides.

The juvenile corrections and detention leaders recommended developing and implementing standards and guidelines in the areas of architecture, training, programming and collaboration of services for juvenile offenders.

Performance-based standards. Participants recommended that OJJDP set up a grant through which performance-based standards can be developed and implemented. The development of these standards should be practitioner-driven and enhance existing nationally recognized standards for juvenile detention and corrections facilities.

These standards should cover system, staff and youth performance and be tied to the quality of life. They should create legitimate, alternative pathways to adulthood through equal access to services that are least intrusive and culturally sensitive at all levels.

Future issues. The Conditions of Confinement study was unable to address all issues of concern. The following ideas and recommendations reflect some additional concerns of juvenile corrections and detention leaders. Participants support measures to:

1. Ensure appropriate due process safeguards and humane treatment for confined juveniles at all stages of the proceedings (pre- and post-adjudication).

2. Ensure access to federal entitlement funding for confined juveniles through a redefinition of the entitlement programs to include incarcerated juveniles.

3. Identify quality services--such as assessment, treatment, education and medical services--and ensure they are provided.

4. Ensure and promote national research initiatives that enhance our capacity to present factual information allowing for informed decision making and establish proactive public education initiatives.

Participants also identified these leadership strategies:

1. Forge coalitions and alliances with organizations such as the National Governors' Association, the National Association of Counties, the Child Welfare League of America, the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, organized labor and union groups, and others.

2. Develop mechanisms to accurately gauge public opinion and work with the media to educate the public about the juvenile justice system.

3. Develop the capacity to respond quickly and effectively to erroneous and misleading information about the field.

4. Develop the capacity to identify and respond quickly to proposed legislation and regulation.

For a full report of the recommendations, contact ACA's Aggie Nestor at (301) 206-5045.
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No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Campbell, Judith R.
Publication:Corrections Today
Date:Oct 1, 1993
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