The movement to reduce the number of youths in secure confinement and treat more youths in community-based programs was confirmed again by the March 2015 report on the Census of Juveniles in Residential Placement released by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP). The report showed that about half as many youths are locked up in America as were 20 years ago (57,190 in 2012, the most recent year data is available) and the current total of about 2,000 confinement facilities across the country is evenly split between public detention and correction centers and private community-based programs.
Until we end our reliance on incarceration as a response to delinquency, it is imperative that we know what happens to confined youths wherever they are placed. We must ensure they are kept safe and provided appropriate and effective rehabilitation services. Performance-based Standards (PbS) was launched by OJJDP in 1995 to do just that – and address the dangerous findings of the Conditions of Confinement Study. PbS is a data-driven continuous improvement model grounded in research that holds agencies and facilities to the highest standards for operations, programs and services though national standards and performance outcome measures.
Shortly after PbS was developed, several public agencies who contracted with private providers for community-based residential programs to keep youths close to home asked PbS for help measuring and monitoring what was happening in the programs. The leaders wanted to be sure the youths were receiving the appropriate, effective services needed, the programs were strengthening the youths’ connections with their families and communities and be able to demonstrate to elected officials and stakeholders that the tax payer dollars were well invested. The leaders were having a hard time getting information about private programs and worried because most are not covered by the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA).
PbS recently released its first publication sharing information collected from the community-based programs participating in PbS. Research shows youths’ experiences in residential placement impact their likelihood of recidivism as well as their behavior while in custody. Based on surveys of youths, staff and families, the PbS report describes the community-based programs’ safety, fairness, connection to family, involvement in treatment planning and the relationships between youths, staff and families. For more data on perceptions of community-based programs, read the full issue brief.
PbS also released the first of a regular biannual publication, the PbS Perspective, reporting what we know about all secure facilities and programs participating in PbS.
The more we know, the more we can ensure the quality of the juvenile justice system’s response to young offenders. And only with knowledge and data can we create positive change.
- Written by Kim Godfrey
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