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Juvenile Justice: Community Treatment - Pre-adjudication

detention secure home youths

In the not too distant past, children apprehended by police were held routinely in police lock-ups and county jails. The Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act of 1974 ( JJDPA) resulted in dramatic changes—mandating the removal of juveniles from adult jails and police lock-ups, requiring a parallel system of juvenile detention centers for those who needed to be held securely, and forbidding the secure confinement of status offenders and children in need of supervision. States' receipt of federal JJDPA funding was tied to their compliance with these provisions. Several community alternatives to detention have also evolved, as discussed below.

Shelters. Some communities have nonsecure, temporary residential facilities intended for children removed from their homes in the initial stages of child protective services investigations or for children who may be picked up by police as status offenders. In addition to these shelters, some communities also include a network of host homes, families who volunteer to provide temporary shelter to a child. Shelters and host homes provide a necessary adjunct to the juvenile justice system. Without them, some children might be held inappropriately in secure detention facilities, despite legislation that forbids this practice. Shelters may also be used as a nonsecure alternative to detention for allegedly delinquent youths who may not meet formal criteria for secure detention but for whom an immediate return home is not feasible. In some jurisdictions, nonsecure shelters and secure detention centers are adjacent wings of the same building, sharing some administrative and operating costs.

Holdover programs. Following the enactment of the JJDPA, as discussed above, many communities built juvenile detention centers. Small, rural communities, however, had neither the resources nor the expected demand necessary for such construction. As an alternative to using adult jails, some of these communities developed "holdover" programs to bridge the time between the arrest of a youth and transport to the nearest juvenile detention center, often several hours drive away. A holdover program requires a room (this might be located in a police station or sheriff's department, or some other public facility) and someone (either a volunteer or part-time employee) who can provide continuous supervision of a youth for a few hours or overnight pending transportation.

Home detention. Home detention serves as an alternative to placement in a secure juvenile detention center for youths who do not appear to require secure confinement but cannot just be released prior to their court hearing without some form of supervision. Home detention workers supervise small caseloads, make frequent and irregular visits to the youths' homes and schools, and may provide crisis counseling or other support. As an adjunct to, or in some cases instead of, intensive supervision of the youth by staff, some home detention programs rely on electronic monitoring (e.g., ankle bracelets that send electronic signals over the telephone to a central computer) to keep track of the youths at all times.

The first home detention programs appeared in the 1970s, and have become increasingly prevalent. Several evaluations suggest that they are quite effective—that is, few youths on home detention acquire additional charges prior to their court hearings, and fewer still fail to appear at court hearings (Schwartz, Barton, and Orlando). There is ample evidence that many jurisdictions too readily use secure detention for youths who do not really need confinement (Schwartz and Barton; Snyder and Sickmund). Moreover, research has shown that placing a youth in secure detention increases the probability of subsequent residential placements, even when other factors, including offense, are held constant (Snyder and Sickmund). Home detention, therefore, may merit consideration for expansion and strengthening as an alternative to secure detention.

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over 7 years ago

juvenile justice article