Criminal Justice Section  

    Criminal Justice Magazine


Criminal Justice Magazine
Spring 2000
Vol. 15, Issue 1

Back to the Future: Returning Treatment to Juvenile Justice

By Stacey Gurian-Sherman

In the movie Back to the Future, Michael J. Fox plays a teenage boy living with a sister and their parents in a dismal reality that is uninspiring and antagonistic. Through some fluke, he travels back in time, corrects the family's problem, and returns-"back to the future"-where all traces of family dysfunction have been eradicated.

For a great many children in the juvenile justice system, especially those with behavioral or mental health issues, the present reality is dismal. Out of control caseloads and dockets make it difficult, if not impossible, to retrieve crucial information, such as previous diagnoses, and medical and special education records. When available, such information can be taken out of context, misunderstood, or misapplied by probation officers, judges, and lawyers. This problem can be compounded by inadequate consultation and assessment by mental health and other professionals.

The result is that nationwide too many children are needlessly placed in detention facilities and institutions, which do not provide needed treatment and rehabilitative services. Moreover, these children are supervised by untrained and underpaid staff who too often resort to verbal and physical abuse. Yet these are the "lucky" ones because state and federal laws increasingly are eviscerating the authority of judges to keep children in juvenile court. Instead, mandates require removal of children at younger and younger ages to the adult system where specialized services for children are virtually nonexistent.

As we celebrate the 100th anniversary of America's juvenile court, we should look to those early reformers who saw the potential of children. The 1999 Children's Court Centennial Communications Project, Second Chances/100 Years of the Children's Court: Giving Kids a Chance to Make a Better Choice, noted,

[They] helped to redefine "childhood," creating a new vision of childhood as a sacred period in human life, a period during which children and adolescents required the nurturance and guidance of responsible adults. . . . To these reformers, the last thing a civilized society should do to its children was to process and punish them like adults in the criminal justice system. . . . This meant that children should receive individualized attention, under the watchful eyes of trained and sensitive judges and probation officers, in a system premised on rehabilitation rather than crippling punishments.

Legal and mental health professionals who affect juvenile justice policy and practice must look "back to the future." They must remember the reason juvenile courts exist, understand current problems, and affect change by allocating resources for successful policies and programs that benefit children and communities alike. The challenges of delivering juvenile justice in Maryland mirror those across the country. Maryland's situation and efforts are described with statistics, program highlights, legislative proposals, and actual cases of children in detention facilities.

The overuse and misuse of detention

The Juvenile Justice Bulletin published statistics for 1995 indicating that U.S. juvenile courts disposed of 1,714,300 delinquency cases, and 325,717 juvenile offenders were detained. Between 1986 and 1995, detention increased 31 percent, with just over 133,500 children detained in 1995 on property offenses-a 7 percent increase in this category over 10 years. During this same period, the number of drug offenses involving detention increased 110 percent, and the number of "public order" cases involving detention increased 22 percent.

Statistics cited by the Maryland's Juvenile Justice Coalition show that 93 percent of juvenile offenders are arrested for nonviolent offenses. The total youth population responsible for violent offenses is less than 1 percent, and juvenile crime is dropping in the state. In 1997, the overall juvenile crime rate decreased 2 percent and then increased 4 percent the following year.Yet, at a time when juvenile crime is going down, admissions to Maryland juvenile detention facilities have increased an alarming 60 percent in the past five years. Eighty percent of these children are held on nonviolent or minor offenses that by themselves should not merit incarceration.

Moreover, too many children are being detained in juvenile facilities for needlessly prolonged periods of time. Maryland statutes proscribe that adjudication must occur within 30 days of the filing of a petition, and disposition must follow within 30 days after adjudication. This necessarily limits pre-adjudication and predisposition detention. However, the law is silent about the length of detention pending placement and whether such postdispositional detention is lawful. Nonetheless, once the children are detained and committed, there is little urgency to place them.

Probation officers exacerbate the overcrowding problem by pulling the trigger all too quickly on returning children to detention facilities. Children who are doing well overall at home or in residential programs are given probation violations for minor or trivial offenses. Indeed, status offenses, such as missing curfew or truancy, that would not authorize a new offense or detention are used to "lock up" children.

The great number of children who should not be detained mix shoulder to shoulder with the smaller number who must be detained in what are too often overcrowded and outdated facilities. The American Bar Association publication America's Children at Risk specifically notes that "75 percent of confined juveniles live in facilities that violate at least one critical physical design standard (e.g., capacity, sleeping areas, size of living unit)" and that "one-third of all confined juveniles sleep in windowless rooms." (America's Children at Risk, a Report of the American Bar Association Presidential Working Group on the Unmet Legal Needs of Children and Their Families, AMERICAN BAR ASSOCIATION (July 1993).) The report went on to target overcrowding as a prevalent problem, emphasizing that it is "unhealthy and often generates violence amongst residents and between residents and guards."

Maryland is experiencing the worst overcrowding of detention facilities in its history. The 650-700 children in detention facilities on any given day (7,000 admissions annually) do not receive adequate medical, mental health, substance abuse, and educational services. Moreover, children are increasingly subject to insufficient and untrained staff whose lack of supervision, verbal abuse, and inappropriate discipline create a persistent danger of violent or sexual assaults.

Example: "Maxwell B." is an African American youth who looked younger than his 13 years when he was detained in January 1997. He had never spent a day away from his mother who had a steady low-income job. Maxwell was found fully clothed under bed covers with a fully clothed three-year-old. He was detained despite his mother reporting the incident, a medical examination showing no trauma to the child, and a plan of home supervision. Pending his misdemeanor adjudication, Maxwell was raped in a detention facility. Misdiagnosed and misunderstood, Maxwell spent 20 of the next 24 months in detention or residential placements. In March 1999, after advocates fought placement in a program for the most serious sexual offenders, he was referred for psychiatric and psychological assessment. The reports found there was no basis for treatment as a sexual offender.

The stark realities of detention facilities traumatize children who have great promise for rehabilitation. Those who enter detention facilities without mental health issues are being diagnosed with depression, attachment disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other emotional disorders as a direct result of their incarceration. In her 1998 study of children with emotional disorders in Maryland juvenile justice facilities, Professor Deborah Shelton found detained youth self-reported emotional discomfort 92 percent above adolescents in the general population. (SHELTON, DEBORAH, PH.D., R.N., MARYLAND JUVENILE JUSTICE ADVISORY COUNCIL, ESTIMATES OF EMOTIONAL DISORDER IN DETAINED AND COMMITTED YOUTH IN THE MARYLAND JUVENILE JUSTICE SYSTEM (1996).)

These problems come not only at a personal cost to children but also at a considerable cost to Maryland taxpayers. The price tag for detention is $40,000 per year per child, with the Department of Juvenile Justice spending 70 percent of its budget on institutional and residential placement. The failed fiscal investment of these facilities and placements is best reflected by the dismal recidivism rates calculated by the department: six out of 10 children are rearrested within one year, and eight out of 10 are rearrested within three years.

Disproportionate detention of minority children

Detention should be based on objective factors, i.e., whether the child will return to court, is a danger to herself/himself or the community, and has a willing parent to provide shelter. Regrettably, factors of race, economics, and family make-up unwittingly affect detention and disproportionately so against children of color.

In Maryland, although African Americans makeup only 17 percent of the youth population, they account for 39 percent of arrests and a staggering 64 percent of the over 7,000 annual admissions to state detention facilities. Indeed, 81 percent of the youth in the state's largest juvenile detention institution, the Cheltenham Youth Facility, are African American. Founded in 1872 as the racially segregated "Private House of Reformation for Colored Boys," Cheltenham remains an unfortunate legacy of what should be days gone by.

Studies of poverty such as Shelton's clearly have shown that a turbulent home life and neighborhood have an impact on the physical and mental development of youth. School-age children with behavior and emotional problems become the youth who commit delinquent acts. Estimates for 1995 from the Maryland 1999 Kids Count Factbook published by the Annie E. Casey Foundation indicate that 171,746 Maryland children live in poverty, and "African-American children are nearly four times more likely to live in poverty than white children." One in five Maryland children living in poverty are from a single-parent family, and 40 percent of children under five years old in female-headed households live in poverty.

The effects of poverty cannot be ignored. Children living in poverty, especially those doing so year after year, are more subject to "abuse and neglect, problems in school . . . lead poisoning and developmental delays associated with pre- and post-natal malnutrition." This can lead to "learning disorders, attention problems, low self-esteem, long-term health and mental health problems and even violent behavior." In turn, this can result in "elevated school dropout rates, teen pregnancy and unemployment," as well as ". . . poor school performance, including falling behind one or more grade levels, and absence from school."

Because there are so many more children of color in poverty, it should come as no surprise that these children are more likely to enter the juvenile justice system. Nonetheless, race, economics, and family make up are not de facto evidence that a particular child has incapable parents, is a danger to commit violence, or will fail to return to court. Yet according to a 1999 article by Todd Richissin in the Baltimore Sun, "nationally and in Maryland, it has long been a pattern for justice officials to push more cases involving minority delinquents into court while dismissing those against white teens."

Poverty and its effects may provide an understanding of the type of intervention and services needed for a child or family, but these factors alone should not be substituted for the strict legal factors needed to justify detention. "Family values" is not just a middle-class virtue. Although low-income children of color may be subject to more risks, many have nurturing and capable parents and guardians. The presumption that they come from dysfunctional families, schools, or communities is a paternalistic misperception. Yet the belief that the state can better parent these "troubled" children unfortunately is all too prevalent and causes harsher consequences for children of color.

In a significant study appearing in the American Sociological Review, Professor George Bridges of the University of Washington, and Sara Steen, a UW doctoral graduate and now assistant professor of sociology at Vanderbilt University, concluded that juvenile probation officers consistently portray African American and white offenders differently. African American youth were situated similarly in the study to white youth in age, crimes charged, and criminal history. Bridges and Steen reviewed reports by probation officers prior to sentencing that included facts and perceptions about the offenders, their families, and life circumstances. Probation officers depicted the crimes committed by African American youth as being caused by deficiencies in their internal attributes and character, such as disrespect for authority or the condoning of criminal behavior. White youth, on the other hand, were portrayed as victims of negative environmental factors, such as internal family conflict or association with delinquent peers.

This is crucial because internal attributes, or character flaws, are seen as making a youth less amenable to treatment and rehabilitation. Relying on the probation officer reports, the court tended to punish African American youth more harshly. Bridges and Steen found that these youths were more likely to be detained, charged with a criminal offense, tried, and committed to confined institutions or programs. Researchers caution that probation officers genuinely care for all children and are not acting out of racial hatred, but, rather, complex prejudicial norms. Nonetheless, the disparity in treatment found in the study is disturbing in light of a 1978 Washington law limiting the criteria that can be used in juvenile sentences to prior offenses, the severity of the crime, and age of the offender.

These subtle and complex racial misperceptions play themselves out in the delivery of juvenile justice in Maryland. Statistics on disproportionate representation from the Maryland Department of Juvenile Justice show that in 1995 white males and African American males had virtually identical numbers of referrals to the department. However, once formal proceedings were initiated, the disparity between these two populations became marked. Although more than 65 percent of white males receive department action not requiring a court referral, less than 50 percent of African Americans had similar informal action. Indeed, 52 percent of the black males were involved in court proceedings compared to 33 percent of the while males. An alarming 66 percent of the black males were detained as compared to 24 percent for white males.

Example: "Germaine S." is an African American Baltimore City youth who was arrested for burglary charges in August 1998. A court-ordered psychiatric report found diagnoses that included oppositional defiant disorder, learning disorder, and estimated borderline intellectual functioning. Court-ordered psychological and psychiatric reports recommended that the youth be returned home with a rigorous supervised program of services. The department's caseworker opposed these recommendations, and the court committed this youth. He waited two months before being placed in a two-month impact program. Despite successfully completing the program, he remained there for six more months until August 1999.

Detention pending placement

The Germaine S. case illustrates not only the existence of bias, but also how committed children still are subject to detention, often for prolonged periods of time. There is no maximum period of time a child must wait for placement, and yet sitting without benefit of services directly contravenes court orders for treatment. As one author wrote in 1979 in the American Bar Association's Juvenile Justice Standards,

The curse of juvenile courts has always been their lack of appropriate disposition resources for the variety of problem children they handle. The availability of detention facilities for holding juveniles indefinitely in lieu of a proper final placement thus has proved a convenient device for avoiding reform. . . . After detention of (at most) a few weeks, release or transfer to a permanent placement should be mandatory. If a juvenile justice system in fact has no resources to treat or rehabilitate, the dilemma ought to be faced in open court.

Although one could not be faulted for believing this to be a contemporary statement, it actually was included as commentary to Juvenile Justice Standards from a 1976 article by U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Patricia Wald. The problem of "warehousing" children for unreasonably long periods has not abated since this article was written 23 years ago.

In Maryland, the courts in most jurisdictions rarely intervene to issue a specific order for community-based treatment with home supervision once a commitment order is issued. In the rare instances where the court exerts this authority, the department simply can ignore the order. Without statutory authority for automatic court review, these children may sit for months waiting for placement. This particularly affects children with behavioral issues and mental health diagnoses.

Example: "Antonio L." is an African American youth who was at a youth center when he went on a self-imposed hunger strike. Exasperated staff classified his behavior as a suicide attempt and sent him to the Crownsville Mental Hospital. He was evaluated for one day, and professionals determined once again that Antonio had a conduct disorder problem, not a mental health issue. They recommended that he be returned to the youth center. Instead, the department sent Antonio to a detention facility, where he sat for more than four months.

Example: "Miguel N." was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and a special education level VI. He has been detained for 80 days after failing to return to his program. During this period, Miguel only has been referred to placements that specialize in behavior modification, but given his mental health diagnosis he will not be admitted to these programs.

Impact on children with mental health issues

According to Shelton's study, it is estimated that, nationwide, between 60 and 70 percent of youth in juvenile correctional facilities suffer from emotional disorders, including attention problems, anxiety, and depression. Shelton found that 53 percent of the Maryland youth in her study group had been classified for at least one AXIS I diagnosis by the Diagnostic Interview Survey for Children (DISC), and almost 19 percent were diagnosed with an AXIS II diagnosis (learning and personality disorders). Seventy-four percent of these classified youths had a dual diagnosis, and 58 percent were experiencing anxiety symptoms, feelings of apprehension, or tension caused by the anticipation of an imagined threat. High rates of anxiety may indicate post-traumatic stress disorder, especially given the 53 percent of youth who have experienced abuse and the 67 percent who had exposure to family, community, or personal violence.

Especially for low-income children, there is an alarming deficiency of services to identify and treat children before they enter the juvenile justice system.

The fact that youth with mental illness are being incarcerated at all has been raising serious concerns about the failure of community services designed to prevent such outcomes . . . a lack of community-based, preventive mental health services for youth allows many youth with emotional disorders to go undetected and untreated to the point that they suffer from disruptive behavioral symptoms and come to the attention of juvenile authorities and family courts.

Once in the juvenile system, Shelton found that only 3 percent of youth were directed to diversion or prevention programs, there was no difference in placements based on gender or age, and, shockingly, the youngest children between the ages of 12 and 14 received no diversion or prevention programming. Moreover, incarcerated children suffer from the endless bureaucratic disagreement about which agency should fund needed treatment and services. Maryland's Department of Juvenile Justice defends its position not to offer intensive services, because detention is supposed to be for a short time.

There is no mental health need that goes on hiatus while a child sits for months in a detention facility. If the court orders specified services, or if a long-term residential treatment center is justified because of the need for therapy, medications, and professional treatment, then those services must be provided.

Example: "Bertrand C.," who has a 56 full scale IQ, was last schooled in a mental health institution. He entered the Cheltenham Youth Facility in February 1999. He needs intensive mental health services and assessment for medication, as well as an evaluation to determine if he is competent to participate in the legal proceedings. Yet his next court appearance was put off for three months, and he is receiving no therapeutic services.

Example: "Abdulah M." is an African American youth who was adjudicated on sexual offenses and labeled a sexual offender. He has been at the Cheltenham Youth Facility for one year and is receiving no psychological, psychiatric, or counseling services. He also is in desperate need of special education services. However, residential staff permit him to avoid classroom work in order to perform janitorial roles, such as cleaning floors, bathrooms, and hallways. It is not surprising that he is a staff favorite.

Probation officers and residential staff are not required to receive behavioral or mental health training. The great majority do not understand treatment modalities, which require an understanding that children who are improving nonetheless will commit transgressions. They employ uniform punishment instead of graduated sanctions. They also do not understand the dangers of indiscriminately labeling children. For instance, "arsonist" is applied equally without distinction to the child who prankishly lights a piece of paper in a trash can as well as the child who carefully plans the ignition of a mattress. Both children are now "difficult to place" with a community-based service provider, group home, and even a residential treatment center.

Children become known as "difficult to place" by virtue of repeated violations, detentions, or indiscriminate classifications. Prolonged detention then is excused by the difficulty in finding placement. This situation worsens when children with mental health needs are sent to inappropriate placements, such as youth centers. These juvenile boot camps with their behavior modification approaches present an appealing option for probation officers with overwhelming caseloads and insufficient resources. In Maryland, a class graduating from a youth center results in a readily available cluster of openings for probation officers under pressure to quickly reduce caseloads. To the detriment of children, those who should not be placed at youth centers fill those slots.

Example: "Reynaldo F." is an African American youth in whose file the following notation appears:"He is 14 with emotional problems, but refer to Victor Cullen Academy anyway." He is correctly identified as having mental health needs. Nonetheless, the worker is intent on sending Reynaldo to a 12- to 18-month behavior modification program.

Example: "Gerald Y." has been identified with substance abuse and clinical depression issues and a level V special education designation. Gerald must successfully complete a behavior modification program at a youth center before he can be referred to a specialized substance abuse program. If Gerald cannot successfully complete this program, he may never receive needed counseling. Ironically, if he does successfully complete the program, the department could send him home. In either case, the result could be the same: no substance abuse treatment.

When placement fails for a youth, that failure becomes ammunition for probation officers to justify a return to detention facilities for yet another prolonged period of detention. The kids become "state grown," only able to manage their behavior while institutionalized and thoroughly unequipped to return to a productive life in the community. In Maryland, these children are released back to the community, where almost three out of four will commit a new offense. Older juveniles are recommended for waiver to adult court by the same probation officers who did not have the expertise or wherewithal to provide appropriate placement. Exasperated, they give up on these "failed" youth.

Example: The most recent evaluation of "Antoine M." diagnoses depression, schizophrenia, and alcohol abuse. Currently 18 years old, he has been in the system since he was 13. Except for one admission over five years ago on a short-term emergency basis, he has never been placed in a mental health or substance abuse treatment program. Most recently, he was placed in a high-impact behavior modification program. Antoine has never done exceptionally well, but it is no surprise. Neither is the case manager's statement to Antoine: he just wants him off his caseload.

Again, the problem is more acute for children of color. In 1995, Maryland Department of Juvenile Justice statistics show a vast disparity between the 79 percent of black males in secure commitments compared to 19 percent of white males. As the Richissin article in the Baltimore Sun explained, the issue, however, is whether these commitments are meeting the needs of youth:

Some of Maryland's severely mentally ill delinquents receive minimal psychological help and instead are locked in state training schools, or juvenile jails, and fed tranquilizers and other psychotropic drugs. At the same time, other teens-with similar offenses, criminal histories and mental problems-are placed in residential centers that specialize in treating mental illnesses. Which juveniles get treatment and which go to jail correlates highly with their race.

The article continues, reporting that in 1998 roughly the same number of white youth (120) were committed to treatment facilities as African American youth (132), yet 223 white youth "were jailed" compared to the far higher 672 African American youth "locked away with no treatment." The diagnoses of African American youth in detention facilities or boot camps include "psychosis, schizophrenia, major depression, sexual compulsion, and post-traumatic stress disorder. A number of them have attempted suicide and remain suicide risks." The cases of a 16-year-old African American youth and a 15-year-old white youth illustrate the grave problem. Both were charged with robbery and assault and battery. They both have been diagnosed with conduct disorder, impulse-control disorder, and clinical depression and as suicide risks:

The white juvenile's sentence: help at the Woodbourne Center, a residential treatment facility. . . . The black juvenile's sentence: jail . . . . "They told me it'd be good because he'd go on medication there," says the father of the black juvenile. . . . "I said, 'He needs counseling and prayer and God, not a bunch of these mind-altering drugs.' But they said he's trouble."

Recall the Bridges and Steen study, which found that white children's delinquency was attributed to external environmental factors and treated less harshly. African American youth whose delinquency was attributed to internal attributes were punished. They, too, were considered "trouble."

Although it is true that African American youth with serious mental health needs are not receiving adequate treatment, it also is important to recognize the great number of African American youth who are overdiagnosed. Misguided character flaws attributed to African American youth lead to inappropriate labels by caseworkers who do not understand specialized designations, such as those used in special education. The behavior problems explain the alleged need for detention, while the labels justify commitment at the back end, according to statistics on disproportionate representation from the Maryland Department of Juvenile Justice:

African American male youth were overrepresented at each decision point in the Maryland juvenile justice system. Their intake referral rate was 2 times more than their rate of representation in the State population. At the secure commitment point, i.e., "deep end" of the system, African American male youth representation was 4.23 times more than their rate of representation in the state population. . . . At intake, the representation of white males was equal to their population. After intake, white males appeared to be screened out of the juvenile justice system. Their index decreased from 1.13 at intake to 0.59 at the secure commitment point.

Mental health screening and accessible services

Given the extensive problems that exist in detention facilities, it is not beneficial for them to become primary sources of treatment. Screening of children who do not need to be detained would divert children out of the juvenile justice system. This benefits not only these children, but also those who must be detained. A reduced population enables the reallocation of staff and funding to provide short-term intervention and preparation of appropriate aftercare services.

Detention should be based on a thorough risk assessment, which includes appropriate consideration of a child's mental health, behavioral, and substance abuse needs. Shelton specifically recommended the implementation of "a culturally sensitive mental health assessment instrument that can be used by lay-professionals (i.e. corrections staff) and mandate its use across the system." A national survey released by the National Mental Health Association included Shelton's findings. That survey of 11 states showed that psychological services for delinquent juveniles were dramatically deficient. Senator Paul Wellstone, (D-Minn.) is using these results to propose broad federal legislation to treat delinquents for psychological and substance abuse problems.

In Maryland, legislation enacted and signed into law in May 1999 mandated a mental health and substance abuse screening process. The legislation requires a juvenile justice intake officer to discuss with a child and the parent or guardian information regarding a referral for a mental health and substance abuse screening. It also requires the intake officer to document whether the parent or guardian of the child made an appointment for a screening. Advocates and defense lawyers have noted their concern that the legislation may have the unintended effect of "widening the net" by having courts detain youth who come back with a positive mental health or substance abuse assessment or fail to follow through with the screening. There will be close monitoring of the regulations by the Department of Juvenile Justice and the Department of Mental Health and Hygiene to ensure the intended results: decreased detention and expedited delivery of needed services for children in need.

Many states currently are engaged in developing risk assessment tools and alternatives to detention in order to reduce detention populations and pinpoint needed services. A cautionary note: Although some jurisdictions have reduced their overall detention population, only one jurisdiction, Multnomah County, Oregon, has reduced the disparity of detention between white youth and youth of color.

Remedy: alternatives to detention

Too many children are detained who can and should be under home supervision, including those with emotional and behavioral problems and mental health diagnoses. Even when detention is warranted at the time of a child's intake, continued detention must be reviewed. A parent's initial unwillingness to have a child returned may be predicated on a belief that giving the child "a taste of jail" is beneficial or that the detention facility will provide needed mental health treatment. Such beliefs are common but unfounded. The need for detention must be reviewed at the detention hearing, adjudication, and disposition, with the child's lawyer taking a vigorous role in presenting evidence. A parent may be willing for the child to return or factors initially justifying detention can be mitigated by wraparound services and supervision. Children who should not be placed in detention nonetheless may need services. America's Children at Risk called on Congress and state legislatures to provide increased funding for successful alternatives to detention and programs that treat as well as rehabilitate youth. Shelton specified the need for individualized services by targeting "sub-populations," such as young offenders or female offenders, as well as the need for a "case management" model to replace the current "probation officer" model. In January 1998, the Center for Juvenile and Criminal Justice (CJCJ) inaugurated such a program in Baltimore City, Maryland, through a unique combination of support from the Department of Justice's Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), Maryland's Title V Delinquency Prevention Grant, and the Annie E. Casey Foundation. The Maryland Case Management Advocacy Project provided wraparound services for children and their families, including access to a licensed social worker, counseling and treatment, and daily visits by case advocates. The success of this program in its first year was astounding. Of 135 children accepted into the program between the ages of 12 and 21, many labeled as the most difficult cases, only 12 children were rearrested. These results were achieved at a yearly cost of $11,000, an almost 75 percent decrease of the $40,000 cost for detention. CJCJ's Baltimore City program no longer exists. The Department of Juvenile Justice awarded its contract to a service provider that submitted a lower bid. "You get what you pay for" aptly applies to this replacement program, which is fraught with problems, including the unavailability of a licensed social worker. Many lawyers have refused to refer clients to the program. However, another CJCJ program does operate across the state borders in Washington, D.C., but is not available to Maryland residents. The Oakhill Youth Advocacy Project is a case management and advocacy project that designs and implements individual case planning prior to adjudication. CJCJ case managers implement the case plan through multilevels of monitoring and supervision. This not only delivers services for youth but also provides public safety through ensuring the youth's court appearances and comprehensive home monitoring. Youths are not rejected solely on the basis of the alleged offense. Once referred, they are assessed for acceptance based on such factors as current living arrangements, needed support services, and past behavior. Accepted youths have a complete community treatment plan immediately developed. The Detention Diversion Advocacy Project (DDAP) run by CJCJ in San Francisco, California, again provides advocacy and case management for those youth likely to be detained pending their adjudication. DDAP case managers prepare a release plan that includes a list of appropriate community services emphasizing maintaining the youths at home. If the home is not a viable option, project staff will identify and secure a suitable alternative. DDAP provides frequent supervision to the youth as well as comprehensive support to the entire family. Services are "field-oriented" and require the case manager to have daily contact with the youth, family, and significant others, including a minimum of three in-person meetings a week. Additional services are provided to the youth, parents, and guardians in areas such as securing employment, day care, drug treatment services, and income support.

Remedy: safe and full-service detention facilities

For children who must be detained in state-run or contracted facilities, there must be a guarantee of facilities that are safe, healthy, and well run. To achieve this objective, America's Children at Risk specifically recommended the development of criteria for detention and encouraged its "use by courts, prosecutors and other professionals involved in the juvenile justice system." Standards should be considered as a critical tool for bringing about reforms.

During the 1999 legislation session, the Maryland State Assembly passed a bill requiring the Department of Juvenile Justice to present a report for the development of standards for juvenile detention facilities based on the Institute of Judicial Administration and American Bar Association Juvenile Justice Standards. The legislation required standards that would include policies favoring nonsecure detention alternatives to allow for the least restrictive interim status, a requirement for educational, health, mental health, and substance abuse services, and a model for independent monitoring of the department's implementation of the standards.

Former Department of Juvenile Justice Deputy Secretary Jack Nadol made this report his top priority, and, working with members of Maryland's Juvenile Justice Coalition, including the author, and top Department of Juvenile Justice administrators, produced the Proposed Maryland Standards for Juvenile Justice (final draft, November 12, 1999). These standards promulgate a comprehensive and holistic approach to running detention facilities, including the design and programming of facilities, administration, personnel training, code of conduct, educational and recreational programming, alternatives to secure detention, appropriate use of isolation and room confinement, and a monitoring and disciplinary system.

To provide for oversight independent of the Department of Juvenile Justice and ensure implementation of appropriate policies and practices, the Maryland State House in the 2000 legislature will consider legislation to implement an independent statewide commission on juvenile justice. The commission would oversee advocacy boards and independent monitors to provide an independent means for on-site inspections, addressing grievances, and recommending training, rules, and legislation to the department, governor, and state assembly.

For children with mental health needs, there should be not only an increase in the availability of mental health clinical services within the Maryland juvenile justice system but also, as Shelton notes:
  • Ongoing training to all personnel so that they become familiar with diagnoses, symptoms, special needs of emotionally ill youth and basic intervention strategies useful for working with youth suffering from mental disorders. Basic functioning of staff has the potential to shift beyond the "correctional" nature of their current scope of work to maximize the impact of the time for all youth who are under the care of the juvenile system.
  • . . . interagency collaboration for development of a seamless system that would more efficiently meet the mental health needs of youth. These youth are multi-system youth, and recidivism through the systems can be addressed only through interagency collaboration.

Remedy: expedite pending placement

Hands-on case management best serves children not only when they enter the system but also once they are committed and await placement. States must be compelled to immediately implement commitment orders that call for programs of assessment, counseling, or other needed services.

To this end, the Maryland Juvenile Justice Coalition is advocating the passage of legislation to be introduced during the 2000 legislative term in the Maryland State Assembly. The legislation would limit the amount of time a juvenile spends in detention after commitment-yet prior to placement-by requiring that the child be removed from detention within 15 days after disposition. A one-time extension of time up to 30 days would be allowed. Passage of this legislation will force the Department of Juvenile Justice to begin an earnest assessment and referral process for placements prior to adjudication and disposition. Failure to find a suitable placement will not mean the child is relieved from commitment to the department. Rather, the child will be ordered removed from detention to await pending placement at home, in a community-based program, or in another suitable committed program.

Children who receive probation violations or do not successfully complete a committed program and are placed in a detention facility similarly would be covered by this proposed legislation and protected from languishing without services ordered at disposition by the court.

When the first cases were called in the inaugural juvenile court 100 years ago, children did not have the advantages of modern medicine or psychology. However, they did have the benefit of visionaries who preached the idea of rehabilitation and had the fortitude to see it institutionalized in the practice of law. It is now time to come "back to the future," bringing forth the principles of the past with the knowledge of today's specialists in the legal, mental health, and medical fields.

Professions that affect the delivery of juvenile justice must be committed to examining misguided assumptions and practices that too often deny effective rehabilitation and treatment. The know-how exists to develop individual rehabilitation plans and community treatment programs that ensure a healthy future for youth, taxpayers, and communities. N

Stacey Gurian-Shermanis a lawyer and advocate specializing in public interest law. She serves on the Steering Committee of Maryland's Juvenile Justice coalition. She was former acting director of the ABA's Commission on Homelessness and Poverty, and served on the Steering Committee on the Unmet Legal Needs of Children. In 1998 she worked with former ABA president Jerry Shestack as project director for the national conference "In Pursuit . . . A Blueprint for Disability Law and Policy." She welcomes comments at StaceyBen@aol.com.

 
Return to Spring 2000 Table of Contents

Return to Criminal Justice magazine home page