An article from Cleveland, Ohio gives harrowing stories about the violence in their youth detention centers – staff to juveniles and justice-involved youth to others. Is this report typical of juvenile facilities across the nation?
Risk Faced in a Detention Center
Part of the problem in Ohio's Quincy Avenue facility is a state law forcing court-run detention centers to hold adults who had committed serious crimes when they were juveniles. Since that time, threats to staff have increased by 300 percent, and physical assaults on youth are more than 230 percent higher.
Ohio is not the only state with juvenile detention problems. The Department of Justice released a survey that claims hundreds of teens are sexually assaulted or even raped during their stays. Many of these are victimized repeatedly.
Lovisa Stannow, executive director of Just Detention International, a California based health and human rights organization, reported that findings from surveys and reports, "show clearly that it is possible to protect young detainees from the devastation of sexual abuse," but that they also "make painfully clear that many youth facilities have a very, very long way to go."
Instead of reducing crime, incarcerating a high number of juveniles only escalates it. Many youth who are detained in juvenile justice centers commit offenses quickly after being released. Studies in Arkansas found that a teen’s experience of incarceration is the most significant factor in increasing the odds of recidivism.
The Justice Policy Institute, a think tank dedicated to solving answers to juvenile delinquency, found two excellent reasons for youth recidivism.
- According to behavioral scientists, putting adolescents together in juvenile facilities brings on peer deviancy training. Youth find solace in number and being “thrown into detention centers” with other delinquent minors brings on negative attitudes, antisocial behavior, and a gang mentality.
- When teens are detained and placed in a juvenile center, they are more likely to go deeper into the justice system. San Jose Police Chief Bill Landsdowne said, “Locking up kids is the easiest way. But once they get into the juvenile justice system, it’s tough to get them out.”
An Evidence-Based Assessment That Can Help
One way to understand juvenile recidivism is Orbis Partners' Youth Assessment and Screening Instrument (YASI). The assessment is evidence-based and innovative. The tool assesses risk, needs, and protective factors (strengths) in justice-involved youth.
YASI provides a vehicle for entering and analyzing information collected by juvenile probation officers, case workers, youth service managers, social workers, and other professionals who assess at-risk youth clients. The key objective is to ensure the assessment helps produce good decision-making and the creation of individualized case plans to both reduce problem behavior and strengthen pro-social behavior in adolescents.
Orbis Partners provides solutions for criminal justice and human services systems, specializing in designing and implementing services for at-risk client groups. Orbis’ risk/needs and strengths assessment tools for youth are designed to guide the casework process by incorporating an individual’s unique set of needs. For more information about assessment tools, visit our Youth Assessment page by clicking here.