Logansport Juvenile Correctional Facility Hosts Open House for a New Youth Transition Reentry Independent Living (YTRI) Unit

Posted by Mike Dempsey
December 04, 2013

The Logansport Juvenile Correctional Facility recently held an open house for its newly opened Youth Transition Reentry Independent Living (YTRI) unit. This unit was opened as a result of the Indiana Department of Correction’s Division of Youth Services involvement in Performance-based Standards (PbS) and learning through national best practices that the use of isolation and confining youth to a room for long periods of time is detrimental to the treatment and developmental process.  National best practices also show that isolation of youth should only be used for short periods of time and only for the protection of the youth from harming themselves or others.  Such isolation should be brief, supervised and include mental health professionals to minimize the use of isolation and segregation. 

The Logansport Juvenile Correctional Facility was able to reduce its use so much that it no longer needed an isolation/segregation unit and has successfully converted its only segregation unit into the new YTRI Unit. This new unit allows for an alternative approach to traditional correctional facility methods. Some of these alternative approaches include a less structured environment where the students take responsibility for the basic operations and needs of the unit. The unit, operates independently of the general population units, provides unique opportunities to the students who are selected to participate. Students earn their way on to the unit by meeting certain behavioral and performance expectations and then are interviewed by a panel of staff for consideration.

The housing unit, which is set up like a college dormitory, allows for more freedom of movement within the unit.  Students on this unit take responsibility for their wake up times by utilizing alarm clocks. These students also assist in providing New Student Orientation by making a presentation during the orientation process that allows the new students to ask questions about how they can successfully complete the program and what pitfalls they need to avoid.  In the near future, the students from this unit will also be involved with New Employee Orientation to help new staff become familiar with student views and to assist in fostering a more positive working relationship between staff and students.

Along with standard groups and educational programming, the YTRI Unit students are also involved in the 40 Developmental Assets Group. The unit counselor, psychologist, and a member of the education staff facilitate this group, based on the 40 Developmental Assets system developed by Search Institute. After two decades of research and  data collected from over four million children and youth, Search Institute has shown that there are 40 different assets – such as safety, support, positive identity, commitment to learning, and boundaries and expectations—that all children need in order to become successful adults. The 40 Developmental Assets system places strong emphasis on making sure that the students experience as many of these assets as possible.

One of the ways in which the 40 Developmental Assets Group helps the YTRI students experience these assets is by giving them the opportunity to give and give often. This both develops internal character assets and helps youth learn how to connect positively to external assets. The program also gives students strength-based skills that they can use to facilitate a more positive and successful reintegration with their families, schools and communities. The 40 Developmental Assets program is more than homework, more than reflection and more than sharing. It is about learning—experientially—how to develop higher moral standards and mature character through intentional acts of kindness and service to others. To those who facilitate the 40 Developmental Assets Group on the YTRI unit, this is corrections.

Staff who work with the unit support the value of delegating responsibilities to the students. For example,  students create a weekly cleaning schedule for the unit that delegates daily sanitation duties to students by their assigned room number and design dayroom expectations and a schedule for the gaming system. Camaraderie is an important aspect of the unit because staff and students work together to make the YTRI unit the best it can be. Staff members enjoy the camaraderie, are excited to be a part of a ground breaking unit, and realize how it could become a model for other facilities.

Students on the unit are also making positive comments about how the unit is assisting them in getting more out of the program and teaching them personal responsibility. Some comments from youth include:

“The YTRI Unit is a training unit to prepare to go back to society. It’s not just a privilege unit there’s lots of work and new things are always getting asked. There’s a lot of opportunity to make good changes to improve your life”.

“I know you can get more time to think and learn how to do things. Like talking to others and respect others, and we did all that stuff to come up here. And it’s a big accomplishment for us.”

“This unit was opened to help students to get prepared to live on our own and become independent. With this unit we not only want to gather great life skills but to make this program nationwide. We’re the first out of any juvenile DOC to open an independent unit and we are all looking forward to causing a major change and impact on others lives in the DOC. Learning the responsibilities you learn in the youth transition re-integration independence unit will go a long way in life.”

“I think this unit makes people focus. I think it’s a good place for people who earned it. It is a good place for a lot of opportunities. The staff will help and their help is what you need to leave and leaving is what motivates me.”

The idea for this unit originated from one of Logansport Juvenile Correctional Facility’s sergeants; however, staff bought into the idea and expanded on it quickly. Suggestions came from every department – ideas for the living and sleeping areas, privileges and responsibilities for the students selected for the unit, different/relaxed dress standard, mentoring and volunteer opportunities, etc. The development of this unit was a joint effort, not only with staff, but Logansport State Hospital also provided the facility with surplus furniture for the unit which helped keep the start up cost of the unit down. 

Performance-based Standards, along with research of national best practices, provided guidance and support in helping make improvements to our daily operations and treatment that have brought about the addition of this new unit. We have learned that when youth feel safe, they are involved in fewer incidents. Also, positive youth-staff interactions and family involvement have a positive impact on youth behavior and the facility environment. As a result, the amount of time spent in isolation has been nearly eliminated, and we have seen a reduction in use of restraints. We continually research and seek ideas for improvements from staff, students, and families which will help us to continue to have a more positive environment at the facility, as well as, prepare the students for their successful release.