HD41 - Post-Dispositional Detention

Executive Summary:
HJR 587 directed the Commission on Youth to examine post-dispositional detention in Virginia. The study resolution identified six areas for inquiry: i) the role of post-dispositional detention in local service continuums; ii) the feasibility of establishing dedicated post-dispositional detention in local service continuums; iii) eligibility criteria for post-dispositional sentencing; iv) procedures to address the length of sentence, including mandatory review and time limitations on placement; v) post-dispositional detention program standards; and vi) assessment of state and local funding for detention services. To fulfill the study mandate, on-site visits were held at 20 of the 21 secure detention facilities. In addition, the Commission gathered offender profile data on all juveniles securely detained for four weeks during fiscal year 1999, and analyzed financial information from the secure facilities. These efforts were augmented by participation in a Department of Juvenile Justice's study on the funding of construction and operations of secure detention facilities.

Virginia has embarked on an unprecedented expansion of secure detention space. In the last five years, 262 beds have been added. and an additional 113 beds are scheduled to go on line by the close of FY 2000, bringing the total statewide capacity to 1,075 beds. Despite this expansion, the majority of "homes remained overcrowded. Post-dispositional detention is used as a sentencing option for up to ten days for contempt of court or violation of court order charges, or for periods ranging from one to six months as a dispositional alternative to state commitment. Longer-term (i.e., one to six months) programs require specialized staffing and best practices suggest separate housing from pre-dispositional youth. Crowding concerns have limited the use of post-dispositional programming. The DJJ has required expanded and new facilities to designate 20% of their capacity to serve post-dispositional youth; however, clarification of eligibility criteria, staffing standards and funding support has not occurred. The expanded use of post-dispositional detention will continue to be problematic until crowding is brought under control. For post-dispositional programming to be successful in lowering recidivism rates, eligibility criteria should be clarified. If a locality chooses to run a secure post-dispositional program to serve as an alternative to state commitment, General Fund support needs to be increased to offset costs.


Despite the expansion of secure detention space, the utilization rate in FY 99 was 119%. Charges of violations of court orders accounted for 43% of the detained youth, while crimes against person and weapon charges accounted for only 24% of the detained population. Overcrowding impacts the quality of programming and places staff and juveniles at risk. During the site visits, six of the facilities reported the practice of locking juveniles in their cells for up to six-hour increments as a means to manage population flow. Offense information on detainees suggest non-secure alternatives may be appropriate for some juveniles, which would relieve overcrowding while maintaining concern for public safety. In addition to minor offenders being securely detained, their length of stay is often extended due to court docketing constraints and use of case continuances.

Recommendation 1

Revise 16.1-272 of the Code of Virginia to limit the time a juvenile can be held in secure detention, if no adjudicatory hearing has been held, to 14 days if the juvenile has been detained for absconding from a facility, or for failure to appear in court.

Recommendation 2

Revise 16.1-272 to restrict the extensions of time limitations to 60 days prior to an adjudicatory hearing and 30 days after the adjudicatory or transfer hearing.


Data was gathered for four sample weeks in FY 99 on 4,930 juveniles. (*1) While detention homes submit monthly data to the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ), this data is not keyed into any statewide system in a timely manner. Detention home superintendents had valid concerns regarding duplication of the data collection effort and questioned how DJJ data was stored or used. Until DJJ has developed and maintained adequate data collection and retrieval mechanisms, the state will continually be hampered in their planning and policy implementation efforts.

Recommendation 3

The Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) should be directed in the Budget Bill to compile and disseminate to all detention homes on a quarterly basis the data collected on the planned JC 2000 system. Continued receipt of a portion of state funds for the DJJ Management Information Systems should be made contingent upon the Department's compliance with this directive.


There are a total of six detention homes in Virginia which operate long-term post-dispositional programs. However, all detention homes report housing juveniles for one to ten-day sentences for violation of probation or a court order. No facility has separate programming for these youth who are housed with the general population. Sixty-five percent of all post-dispositional sentences are for one to ten days. Many of these ten-day sentences are served during the weekend when programming is limited. Half of the facilities reported detaining 18 year olds for violation of a court order arising from a delinquency change. With violations charges accounting for 43% of the detained population, crowding issues can partially be addressed through limiting the use of detention for non-compliant behavior. Availability of funding through the Virginia Juvenile Community Crime Control Act (VJCCCA) has been used in some jurisdictions to create programming in which offender accountability is stressed, consequences are provided, but additional burdens are not placed on secure facilities.

Recommendation 4

Revise 16.1-292 to limit total length of sentence imposed for violations of court order to ten days and to prohibit the placement of adults who have violated a court order in juvenile detention facilities.

Recommendation 5

Request Department of Juvenile Justice to review local Virginia Juvenile Community Crime Control Act (VJCCCA) plans to insure that a portion of these funds is directed towards alternatives to secure detention.


The majority of detained juveniles are not charged with violent crimes; however, in FY 99 there were 607 cases of violent crime and weapons charges. Detention homes rarely receive background information on the juvenile, and housing decisions are made based on available space. While detention facilities attempt to segregate juveniles based on age, size or charge, they are often doing so without complete information. This lack of information has resulted in juveniles charged with minor offenses sharing cells with convicted sex offenders. The lack of information puts juveniles and facilities at risk.

Recommendation 6

Amend 16.1-248.1 to require the detention order to state the offense for which the juvenile is being detained, and to the extent practicable pending plus previous charges. If the juvenile is placed for violation of probation, the order shall list the juvenile's original charge.


Post-dispositional detention as a sentencing option under 16.1-284.1 is to be used in lieu of commitment to state care. The Code currently provides this sentencing option for up to 30 days for juveniles who have not been found delinquent within the previous year. Eleven of the twenty-one facilities receive juveniles for 30-day sentences, although no facility provides separate programming for this population. The purpose of the sentence, according to facility directors, is for the juvenile to serve time in confinement. Over 60% of juveniles given 30-day sentences have spent over two weeks in detention pre-dispositionally resulting in their serving slightly over half of their sentence due to Code restrictions.

Recommendation 7

Provide for 30-day sentencing to secure detention as a dispositional option under 16.1-278.8 for juveniles not found delinquent within the preceding 12 months and remove the reduction of the sentence for time served pre-adjudicatorily.


Juveniles aged 14 and older who have been found guilty of a delinquent offense within the preceding 12 months may be placed in a local detention for up to six months on a suspended commitment to the state. The goal of the sentence is to provide treatment, educational, and often transitional services in a secure community setting in lieu of commitment. There are six post-dispositional programs, with a combined bedspace of 76 across the state. All of these programs provide separate programming, case management and educational services. The majority of post-dispositional youth are housed in separate pods of the secure facility. While the Code requires the juvenile to have previously received treatment services, site visits revealed that, for one-third of the youth, their six-month sentence was their first exposure to residential care. According to 83% of the post-dispositional program directors, allowing to subtract for time served pre-dispositionally interferes with treatment plans. The placement is conceived to be in lieu of commitment and is offered as the juvenile's last chance to avoid institutionalization. Half of the facilities report courts releasing juveniles who fail to comply with post-dispositional program rules rather than committing the juvenile. Juveniles who have experienced commitment are reported to be less compliant in post-dispositional programs. Statutory provisions for bootcamp placement (16.1-278.4a) require an assessment for appropriateness by the program, as well as availability of program space as a mandatory component prior to use of this dispositional option, post-dispositional placement in local detention homes should require no less.

Recommendation 8

Amend 16.1-284.1(B) to require: 1) documented failure at post-treatment efforts; 2) the juvenile has not previously been committed to DJJ; 3) an assessment for appropriateness and acceptance by the secure facility; 4) availability of bedspace in the post-dispositional program; 5) removal of time served pre-dispositionally in factoring sentence length; and 6) commitment of juvenile to DJJ if court reviews reveal consistent non-compliance in program.


Program standards for post-dispositional programs have been weakened considerably in the last three years. Current standards only require written policies, and employment of practices which have reasonable regard for utilization and can ensure a juvenile's ability to participate in local treatment programs. Without standards requiring separate programming, facilities are given no guidance for service expectation from the state even though the placement is made in lieu of commitment. Six-month programming has different service goals than merely extended confinement and state standards should reflect these goals. All of post-dispositional program directors supported the amending of state standards to require separate programming, and to the extent possible separate housing for the post-dispositional youth.

Recommendation 9

Require through statute the State Board of the Department of Juvenile Justice develop standards for the separate programming and, to the extent possible, separate housing for post-dispositional youth. The Board is encouraged to solicit the expertise of the six post-dispositional program directors in identifying common service elements which would meet 16.1-248.1's statutory goal.


If a juvenile is committed to the state, the Commonwealth pays 100% of the costs. If a juvenile is placed in a local detention home in lieu of commitment, the average state share is 48% of the costs. Staffing and programming for post-dispositional youth is more costly than providing pre-dispositional custodial care. State share for funding the six post-dispositional programs ranges from 37% in Winchester to 62% in Norfolk. Given the current conditions in Virginia's juvenile correctional centers, the state, through its directive to expand post-dispositional capacity, appears to be supporting alternatives.

Recommendation 10

Increase General Fund support for post-dispositional services through applying the Department of Juvenile Justice's proposed state ward per diem rates to juveniles sentenced for six months (estimated cost $1.39 million for existing programs).
(*1) Partial data was received by the Richmond and Newport News Detention Homes.