Once processed in the juvenile court system there are many different pathways for juveniles. Whereas some juveniles are released directly back into the community to undergo community-based rehabilitative programs, some juveniles may pose a greater threat to society and to themselves and therefore are in need of a stay in a supervised juvenile detention center. If a juvenile is sent by the courts to a juvenile detention center there are two types of facilities: secure detention and secure confinement.
Secure detention means that juveniles are held for usually short periods of time in facilities in order to await current trial hearings and further placement decisions. By holding juveniles in secure detention, it ensures appearance in court while also keeping the community safe and risk-free of the juvenile. This type of facility is usually called a “juvenile hall,” which is a holding center for juvenile delinquents. On the other hand, secure confinement implies that the juvenile has been committed by the court into the custody of a secure juvenile correctional facility for the duration of a specific program, which can span from a few months to many years.
Juvenile detention is not intended to be punitive. Rather, juveniles held in secure custody usually receive care consistent with the doctrine of the state as parent. The state or local jurisdiction is usually responsible for providing education, recreation, health, assessment, counseling and other intervention services with the intent of maintaining a youth’s well-being during his or
Generally speaking, secure detention is reserved for juveniles considered to be a threat to public safety or the court process, though in many cases, youths are held for violating a court order. Status offenders, i.e., juveniles charged with running away from home, alcohol possession, and other offenses that are not crimes if committed by adults, may only be held for 24 hours or less while initial case investigation is completed and other alternatives are arranged.
Within the categories of secure detention and secure confinement for juveniles, the overarching name of these facilities is residential programs and there are five overarching types of residential programs where a juvenile may be placed while in court custody: detention, corrections, camp, community based, and residential treatment. The reason for the wide variety in placement options of juveniles is that there does not currently exist a uniform definition of residential treatment programs. As a result, this creates a lack of uniformity across states and a large variety of names for secure detention and secure confinement centers for juveniles.
Many services are supposed to be provided to the youth at both detention centers and confinement facilities. Services vary from facility to facility, but in general the programs and services provided to the youth are geared to the juvenile needs. At the core, juvenile facilities function as rehabilitative institutions for youth. Education is seen by many as the primary rehabilitative service that must be provided to detained youth. Highly effective schools within juvenile facilities provide high school curriculum, opportunities for General Equivalency Diploma preparation, special education services, certified teachers, small student to teacher ratio, connection with families, and vocational training opportunities.
There is a long-standing connection found in research between youth who commit crimes and mental health concerns. There has been found to be a surprisingly high population of juveniles who present serious mental health illness within juvenile facilities. Since juvenile detention facilities operate on the foundation of rehabilitating the youth, different mental health programs are provided by facilities to help the youth rehabilitate. The incarcerated youth population requires careful and structured intervention, which must be provided by the facilities.
Many different mental health treatment strategies exist for juveniles. It is the responsibility of case management to decide what type of intervention strategy works best for each youth in his or her mental health treatment plan. Mental health services that can be provided to the youth include, individual counseling, group counseling, crisis counseling, family intervention, medication management, and transition planning.
Education is seen by many as the cornerstone of youth rehabilitation. Many landmark court cases, such as the 1981 case of Green v. Johnson, have given way to juveniles receiving their educational rights while incarcerated. Green v. Johnson (1981) ruled that incarcerated students do not have to give up their rights to an education while incarcerated.
Despite research stating the need for strong educational programs in juvenile detention facilities, there does not exist a uniform standard for education in juvenile facilities as education settings in juvenile facilities greatly vary across the country. The overseer of the school within the juvenile facility differs from state to state. Some schools within juvenile detention facilities are decentralized, some are centralized and run by school districts, and others are overseen by a State education agency.
There is a large percentage of incarcerated juveniles who are diagnosed as students with special needs. Educational programs in juvenile facilities are most usually designed to look like secondary schools in the community, and so special education services should be provided. The Office of Special Education Programs requires State Education Agencies to ensure that special education services are being provided at juvenile facilities.
All youth who have a disability, regardless of incarceration status, are authorized and eligible for their special education services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Since there is a wide variety of juvenile detention and confinement facilities across the nation, the type and quality of special education services provided to the youth greatly varies.There has been a history of juveniles with disabilities not receiving their mandated accommodations and modifications. With the passing of IDEA in addition to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act, juvenile correctional facilities have become seen as federally funded institutions and thus there prevails the mandated right to serve all students with disabilities as such institutions regardless if it is a short term or long term stay.
The disabilities most prevalent in incarcerated juveniles include mental retardation, learning disabilities and emotional disturbances. Surveys and studies have found that a high number of incarcerated youth suffer from emotional disturbance disabilities as opposed to youth in general public schools. Even with key court decisions and acts, it has been found that a large number of juveniles held at both detention centers and confinement facilities are not being served the special education services they should be provided by law. Many juvenile detention institutions have struggling special education programs, especially for those centers that detain youth for short periods of time.
Juvenile detention centers and long-term confinement facilities have constantly been discussed and debated around two major concerns: overcrowding and ineffectiveness. As the number of juvenile cases has increased in the past 15 years, so have the number of juveniles spending time in secure and confined facilities. As a result, the systems have become overpopulated and overcrowded, and many times this leads to the issue of too many residents and not enough empty beds.
Overcrowding has been found to exist in many facilities for juveniles. Crowding can create extremely dangerous environments in juvenile detention centers and juvenile correctional facilities. Many times the administration is not prepared to handle the large number of residents and therefore the facilities can become unstable and create instability in simple logistics. Furthermore, overcrowding can also bring about an increase in violence.
Overcrowding may also lead to the decrease in availability to provide the youth with much needed and promised programs and services while they are in the facility. If funding is an issue with a specific facility, overcrowding can be problematic in terms of the availability of services such as education and mental health to all of the youth.
In addition to overcrowding, juvenile secure facilities are questioned for their overall effectiveness in the bigger picture life of the youth. What causes many critics to question the overall effectiveness of secure detention centers and confinement facilities is the high juvenile recidivism rate. If juvenile centers are to provide the basic needs of the youth they serve, another large criticism by many is that the centers fail to meet the basic educational, mental health, and necessary rehabilitative needs of the youth. Part of the reason why overall effectiveness is a concern for juvenile secure settings is also due to the belief that all special education services may not be upheld to all youth in need while staying in the facility. Additionally, many juvenile centers have been found to lack basic educational programs for the youth.
Education is seen by many as a direct link to recidivism as is mental health needs of juveniles. Another area of concern in the bigger picture of juvenile facilities is the adequacy of mental health programs. It has been found that many juvenile facilities have well-executed mental health programs for the youth and that others have not.