RD235 - Juvenile Correctional Center Task Force: Interim Report, August 2016

Executive Summary:
This interim report of the Interagency Task Force on Juvenile Correctional Centers (Task Force) addresses those areas of consideration required by the authorizing language in the 2016 Budget Bill (HB 30) that are most relevant to the design and construction of a new juvenile correctional center (JCC) in Chesapeake, Virginia. HB 1344 (Bonds; certain capital projects) authorized funding for this new facility during the 2016 session of the General Assembly. The Task Force will cover fully all required areas of consideration, including whether to renovate or construct a second JCC, in the final report, which is due by July 1, 2017.

It is also important to note that the Task Force is focusing on just one, albeit important, aspect of the overall juvenile justice transformation that is taking place in Virginia. Specifically, the Task Force, as directed by the General Assembly, is focusing on JCCs - the most restrictive placements in the statewide continuum of alternative placements and evidence-based services that the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) is developing, simultaneous to the work of the Task Force.

In formulating its recommendations for what the Commonwealth’s infrastructure of JCCs should look like in the future, the Task Force understands the narrowly focused role that JCCs will play in the transformed juvenile justice system taking shape in Virginia. Extensive research suggests, and the Task Force recognizes, that committing juveniles to a JCC should, in almost all cases, be a last resort, to be pursued only after less restrictive and more community-based interventions have been exhausted. JCCs are just one element of the continuum of interventions DJJ provides for committed juveniles and are the most costly and restrictive placements. For that reason, they merit the kind of analysis and thoughtful deliberation that the Task Force process will provide.

The Task Force also recognizes that based on continuing decreases in the number of juvenile commitments and changes in the Length of Stay Guidelines for Indeterminately Committed Juveniles (LOS Guidelines), the official forecast for juveniles in direct care (state-responsible committed juveniles) predicts that the direct care population will continue to decline in the next several years. Moreover, a decreasing share of the committed population will require placement in a JCC as DJJ expands the range of evidence-based services and community-based placements available for committed juveniles. To finance the development of a statewide continuum of such interventions, the General Assembly, through the same legislation that authorized and established the Task Force, authorized DJJ to reinvest operational savings from the declining JCC population into community-based services.

The work of the Task Force and the development of the continuum of services and placements are linked in that a smaller number of JCC beds will create greater operational savings to invest in the ongoing development of the statewide continuum.

Although this report is focused on the design and construction of the new JCC, it is critical to note that (i) this new construction is not the addition of new JCC beds; rather, it involves decreasing the number of beds and improving the care provided for committed youth, and (ii) these “deep-end” services are part of a system response that focuses on community interventions as the preferred option whenever possible, including the provision of diversion, intensive support services, community supervision, and placement of committed youth in local community-based alternatives.

The Task Force recognizes that, as the JCC population declines, the small number of juveniles still held in JCCs likely will have a complex array of challenges including substantial exposure to trauma, behavioral health issues, educational challenges, and serious offense histories. In order to increase their chances of successful rehabilitation and reduce the likelihood of reoffending upon release, it is imperative that new or renovated facilities are built to (i) maintain safety and security of staff, residents, and the surrounding community and (ii) incorporate design features that are most likely to promote rigorous and sustained treatment and rehabilitation.

The Task Force heard presentations and reviewed research showing that the current JCCs in Virginia are larger than is either desirable (presenters and public commenters recommended that new facilities should be 2 to 10 times smaller than either of the current JCCs) or necessary (more than 40% of the current JCCs’ operational capacity is unused). For these reasons, the Task Force believes that new or renovated facilities can and should be significantly smaller than the current JCCs.

The Task Force also recommends that new or renovated JCCs be located as close as possible to the home communities of the juveniles they hold. The Task Force considered research that demonstrates that maintaining and strengthening family ties during commitment are factors associated with safety and educational advancement during and with successful rehabilitation after release from commitment. Family proximity to the facility is the best predictor of such engagement and continued contact.

For the time being, the Task Force understands that juveniles requiring long-term secure placements will continue to be served in the existing JCCs currently located in the metro-Richmond area. However, given the large percentage of juveniles committed to DJJ from the Tidewater (Hampton Roads) area, creation of a JCC in Chesapeake is imperative to the rehabilitation of these juveniles.

Up until the submission of the final report, the Task Force will continue its work planning future facilities, and that work will continue to inform the design objectives for the Chesapeake facility and may influence the interim recommendations made now. At this time, however, the Task Force is submitting this interim report with initial recommendations for design principles for the Chesapeake facility based on the service needs of the population, presentations to the Task Force from both stakeholders and national experts, and research and best practices concerning the rehabilitation of juvenile offenders. The preliminary recommendations are as follows:

Housing Units and Sleeping Rooms

• Small 8 to12 bed living units in separate buildings, which would have no more than two such units in each, built to reinforce and enable a small group treatment approach;
• Securable but minimally institutional sleeping rooms (e.g., no concrete slab beds);
• Flexible and comfortable common, multipurpose space that is on, or accessible from, the living units;
• Private, dedicated treatment and family visitation space;
• Private space for staff meetings (e.g., treatment planning and consultation);
• Outdoor space, sufficient for recreation, adjacent to and accessible from the living units;
• Single rooms for a large proportion of bed capacity with consideration for small dormitories for certain segments of the direct care population (e.g., a transition unit);
• No linear designs in housing units;
• No double-bunking in sleeping rooms; and
• No large, shared sleeping rooms.

Education Space

• Equipped with instructional technology to address academic and career readiness needs of a population ranging in age from 11 to 21 including credit recovery, enrichment needs, and access to distance learning;
• Technology infrastructure and digital space to manage online instructional and career readiness software, curriculum, assessments, performance-based projects, and data collection;
• Able to accommodate project-based learning activities, distance learning labs, and celebratory events (e.g., graduation);
• Delineated areas for diploma-seeking students and post-secondary programs; and
• Able to accommodate career readiness and post-secondary programs.

Facility Characteristics

• As small as possible, given funding limitations, economies of scale, and the need for safety and operational efficiencies;
• Trauma-responsive design and furnishings and architectural features such as:
o Open interior spaces with views to the outside,
o Natural lighting, as well as adjustable lighting,
o Ready access to outdoor spaces from housing and program areas,
o Light colors, and
o Sound absorbing materials;
• Open environment with no internal fences, inside a safe and secure perimeter;
• External secure egress areas outside the main campus;
• Sufficient space for staff to take breaks, store personal belongings, and have access to computers;
• Close proximity of housing units to shared spaces (e.g., medical, education, visitation, recreation, food services);
• Open sight lines; and
• Incorporation of elements of a welcoming and stabilizing environment, such as
o Movable furnishings that permit changing use of space throughout the day and over time while offering control over the environment, and
o Familiar and variable construction materials that do not present an overt expectation of damaging behavior.