RD560 - Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice Transformation Plan 2020 Update
Nearly six years ago, Virginia’s Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) set out to rethink how Virginia responds to court-involved youth. What had been a system reliant on detention, incarceration, and punishment could transform, with the right investments, into a system of rehabilitation, personalized treatment, and community support. In 2016, with the General Assembly’s support, DJJ released a Transformation Plan to reallocate resources to a wider range of rehabilitative services. The plan aimed to use evidence-based practices to more effectively serve youth, their families, and communities and centered around three core operational strategies: (1) reduce the use of juvenile correctional centers by transforming intake, probation, and commitment practices; (2) reform supervision, rehabilitation, and treatment practices for youth in custody; and (3) replace large, outdated juvenile correctional centers with support from a statewide continuum of alternative placements and evidence-based services. A new goal of (4) sustain was later added to focus on continuing progress toward the transformation goals.
Since launching the plan, DJJ has achieved progress and successes in all four goals of the Transformation Plan. Fiscal year (FY) 2020 provided several accomplishments discussed throughout this report, including the following highlights:
• The juvenile justice system is experiencing all-time lows, and the impacts of COVID-19 accelerated these trends even further. Between FY 2011 and FY 2020, juvenile intake cases decreased 45.0%, new probation cases decreased 64.5%, detainments decreased 49.7%, and direct care admissions decreased 58.4%.
• DJJ is successfully diverting more youth from further system involvement. After DJJ’s first intake summit and a revised procedure, diversion plans increased from 13.0% of intake complaints in FY 2014 to 19.3% in FY 2020. Successful diversion plans increased from 10.6% of intake complaints in FY 2014 to 15.9% in FY 2020.
• As DJJ strives to divert and serve more youth in the community, juvenile intake cases decreased even more in FY 2019 (9.5%) and FY 2020 (14.4%) than in each of the previous five years (2.1% to 5.6%). This decrease indicates that crime rates have not been negatively impacted.
• DJJ’s efforts continue to show a reduction in rearrests for system-involved youth (first-time diversions, probation placements, and direct care releases), with 12-month rates decreasing from 25.1% in FY 2014 to 19.7% in FY 2019, translating to 986 fewer youth rearrested.
• Re-arrest rates for first-time diversions continue to decrease even as more youth are diverted or handled informally. Re-arrest rates for probation placements and direct care releases have remained relatively stable with slight fluctuations throughout transformation efforts, suggesting these higher risk youth continue to face significant challenges and require more intensive and therapeutic services.
• DJJ continues to offer a wide array of community-based services across the Commonwealth. DJJ’s continuum of services has over 140 distinct direct service providers; 1,666 youth were referred to DJJ’s regional service coordinators, who approved/authorized 3,398 services during FY 2020.
• An increasing percentage of committed youth are being placed in non-correctional center options. As of July 2019, alternative placements housed 41.1% of the direct care population. More than half of youth (53.0%) released from direct care in FY 2020 received treatment in these types of placements instead of a juvenile correctional center.
• Treatment and programming at Bon Air Juvenile Correctional Center continues to focus on skill building, improving behaviors, and increasing youth’s likelihood of successful transitions to the community upon release. Staff trainings include such topics as specific treatment service delivery, improving the therapeutic and trauma-informed environment, and collaborating with non-JCC placement options.
• The therapeutic Community Treatment Model and other programming improved youth and staff safety. Between FY 2016 and FY 2020, rates of aggressive incidents at Bon Air Juvenile Correctional Center decreased 60.4%, workers’ compensation claims decreased 53.5%, and costs associated with workers’ compensation claims decreased 39.8%.
• DJJ is focused on trauma-informed care and reducing punitive measures that have negative effects on youth. DJJ introduced the Reducing Isolation in Youth Facilities initiative to develop a tangible plan to reduce punitive isolation and develop alternatives to isolation.
• In an effort to increase equity and inclusion for students with special needs, DJJ’s Division of Education began using digital curriculum delivery, providing access to more course offerings across a wider range of disciplines for students.
• DJJ is focused on providing students with skills to prepare them for careers after release. Welding and heavy machine operator simulation-training programs are being offered to students at Bon Air Juvenile Correctional Center. An apprenticeship program was established to allow youth to receive on-the-job training and earn credentials.
• DJJ continued free transportation services to promote visitation with committed youth; 980 individuals participated in the free transportation program in FY 2020.
• Alternatives to correctional centers for treatment placement option for committed youth continue to expand, now including 10 community placement program sites, nine detention reentry programs, 11 residential treatment centers, and 17 group homes, for a total of 47 non-correctional center treatment placement options for youth. Of the 321 youth released from direct care in FY 2020, 170 (53.0%) did not enter a JCC.
• DJJ continues the pursuit to build smaller, treatment-oriented facilities, ideally in the eastern and central areas in order to house youth closer to their home communities. Challenges remain with finding an ideal location in the desired eastern and central regions of Virginia.
• DJJ began building a Family Support Network to sustain increased communication with families and provide networking opportunities for families.
• DJJ’s Division of Education continues to focus on delivering high-quality educational services, with 97.9% of teachers being properly licensed and endorsed.
• DJJ’s Training and Organizational Development Unit has converted training programs to an online platform to sustain training to all DJJ employees during the pandemic.
• Many of DJJ’s operational and transformation plans had to be modified due to the COVID19 pandemic, including in-person school, family visitation, group treatment services, and staff trainings.
• A total of 34 youth and 25 staff tested positive for COVID-19 at Bon Air Juvenile Correctional Center. The majority of youth cases were extremely mild and many may have gone undetected if not for vigilant testing efforts.
DJJ is moving forward with efforts that align with the Transformation Plan. In particular, DJJ focuses an increasing amount of effort on sustaining the changes implemented and continues to invest in resources such as training opportunities and leadership development. DJJ also continues to focus on delivering high quality and effective services for youth and families that are equitable and responsive to their individual needs and circumstances.