Chapter 4: Planning and Forecasting for Juvenile Corrections

Elizabeth Sharp, the Chief Juvenile Probation Officer in Washington County, is concerned about the problem of substance abuse among the youth her agency serves. The Line Probation Officers report that an average of at least 75 percent of the youth on their caseloads have used psychoactive chemicals. Of these, about 25 percent have occasionally used these chemicals to the point that it has interfered with appropriate functioning (such as attending and participating in academics at school), and another 25 percent use substances habitually to the extent that it causes frequent problems in their functioning and has been associated with their delinquent behavior. Some youth have acted violently or recklessly while under the influence of alcohol or other drugs, some have engaged in theft to obtain money to buy drugs, and some have engaged in the sale of drugs or have been arrested for possession. Ms. Sharp feels her agency needs to develop intervention strategies to better identify and work with youth who abuse alcohol and other drugs and to prevent youth from beginning or progressing in their abuse of substances. She and her Officers have identified the need for more adolescent-specific substance abuse assessment and treatment services. They also would like to receive training themselves to improve their ability to work with youth at risk of or already engaged in substance abuse; they especially would like to learn strategies for relapse prevention to help youth continue to strive for recovery after they complete substance abuse treatment. However, a significant problem for the agency is the lack of funding for such services and the fact that a large majority of the families of youth on probation do not have resources to pay for treatment. Another issue is that various systems that need to address this problem jointly do not collaborate very well. Ms. Sharp would like to engage in planning activities to develop long-term strategies to change the way substance abuse is addressed by juvenile justice and other youth-serving systems in the county.

Bill Morgan is the Adminstrator of the Northeast Regional Detention Center, which serves a 5-county area composed of several small towns (under 25,000 population) and primarily rural areas. The Detention Center was built to house 15 boys and 5 girls, a size that was more than adequate when it was planned 5 years ago. However, for the past 3 years, the Center has consistently been at or over its capacity. Daily counts for the past year averaged 18, and there were days when as many as 28 youth were confined. Mr. Morgan has regularly apprised the Board of Directors of the crowding problem. While the Directors do not want to go back to their respective counties to request additional funds, they have agreed to do so if Mr. Morgan can develop a strategic plan that includes justifiable forecasts for the number of beds that will be needed for the next 10 years and program changes that can be initiated to substantially reduce any unnecessary confinement of youth in detention.

At a recent quarterly meeting of the State Juvenile Justice Agency Department Heads and Regional Managers, several issues were identified for which the system needs to engage in long-term strategic planning. One of the concerns was that the juvenile justice system needs to do a better job of addressing the needs of youth with special needs. Several of the subtopics identified included female juvenile offenders, substance-abusing youth, pregnant and parenting teens, developmentally delayed youth, youth with learning disabilities, and youth with special health problems, such as HIV and other infectious diseases. Regina Reynolds, Director of State Facilities, and Bob Burton, State Chief Probation Officer, agreed to develop a task force to study this issue and develop a strategic plan.

Jeff Johnson and six Line Officers he supervises at the Bridgeport Juvenile Probation Department are concerned that many of the youth on their caseloads have significant problems related to their education. Some youth are dropouts, many are failing academically, several have truancy problems, and others are frequently suspended or receive disciplinary actions because of disruptive behavior. In their supervision meetings, the Officers have commented that not only do the youth present problems, but the Officers also feel sometimes teachers and school administrators respond differently to students who have histories of delinquency. Often this means teachers and administrators more quickly refer youth for disciplinary actions, but in some cases, they have let troubled youth avoid consequences for their behavior. The Officers would like to explore ways to address these problems to prevent youth from dropping out, getting in academic trouble, being truant, or being involved in disciplinary incidents. They feel they should develop strategies that will not only help the youth they presently serve but also will prevent other at-risk youth from moving into delinquent behavior.

Roger Stevens, Chief Juvenile Probation and Parole Officer in Springfield, is continually facing budget cutbacks and caseloads that are too large. He feels he has lost some of his best officers in the past because caseloads are too large. These conscientious professionals have become very frustrated because they are unable to effectively manage such large caseloads and provide the quality of service they feel the youth need. Mr. Stevens wants to develop a long-term strategic plan that will reasonably forecast the numbers of clients who may be entering the probation or parole programs and develop the most effective and cost-efficient services that will meet their needs. He feels that if he goes to the County Executive and the Administrative Juvenile Judge with a well thought-out strategic plan, they will support the plan and help obtain the funding needed.

Barbara Wagner is the Victims Specialist for the Lincoln County Juvenile and Adult Probation Department. She feels strongly that both juvenile and adult offenders should be held accountable for the harm they have done and should be required to pay restitution to their victims and the community. She has successfully implemented a community service and restitution program for adult offenders-including methods for assessing victim losses; gaining support of judges to order restitution; effective collection, disbursement, and accounting systems; and enforcing when offenders do not pay their restitution. However, when applying this plan to juvenile probationers, she has run into several problems. Most of the structural elements for victim assessment, collection, and disbursement adequately serve juveniles. However, judges often do not order restitution from juveniles because they feel the youth cannot earn the money needed to pay it. Many of their parents also cannot afford to pay the amounts on behalf of their children. Often, when judges do place a condition on youth, they know they cannot reasonably expect them to meet it. The judges have indicated to Ms. Wagner that they would like to order restitution and community service for youthful offenders more often and enforce these orders if they could ensure that the youth could find jobs or, in some way, earn the money needed to pay the restitution.

The six scenarios just presented represent problems, issues, and conditions that are voiced frequently among juvenile corrections professionals. The issues, concerns, and problems illustrated in these vignettes all demand planning and forecasting—tasks that require time, skills, and information.

They also provide examples of many opportunities to implement principles of Balanced and Restorative Justice and OJJDP's Guide for Implementing the Comprehensive Strategy for Serious, Violent, and Chronic Juvenile Offenders (Howell, 1995), the latter of which includes:

  • Strengthening families.

  • Supporting core social institutions.

  • Promoting delinquency prevention.

  • Intervening immediately and effectively when delinquent behavior occurs.

  • Establishing a system of graduated sanctions that holds each juvenile offender accountable.

  • Identifying and controlling the small group of serious, violent, and chronic juvenile offenders.

This chapter will address the following areas:

  • Key elements of forecasting, operational planning, and strategic planning.

  • A 10-step process for effective planning.

  • Application of the planning process to problems, issues, or conditions frequently found in juvenile corrections jurisdictions or programs.

After reading this chapter and completing the related questions, juvenile corrections professionals will be able to:

  • Identify sources of information for making decisions that require forecasting.

  • Select a problem, issue, or condition in their juvenile corrections jurisdiction or program and follow the steps for operational or strategic planning.

  • Develop a technical assistance plan or request, if needed, for their operational or strategic planning process.

Chapter 4

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Jurisdictional Technical Assistance Package for Juvenile Corrections Report - December 2000