Chapter 5: Case Assessment, Classification, and Management

Kyle is 13 years old and was brought to the detention center with several peers after they were arrested for vandalism. They had defaced signs in a park and deliberately scratched and broken mirrors on vehicles. Kyle has had no previous contact with the juvenile justice system. The school reports that until this year his grades were average, but his work declined in recent months. A urinalysis indicated that Kyle has not used any illegal substances recently, but he and the other boys involved in the incident said they sniff paint on occasion. Kyle's mother reported she and her husband divorced a year ago, and, as a single mother, she has had increasing difficulties managing Kyle and her other children. Kyle was released to his mother pending further processing of the case to determine the best disposition.

Jennifer is 15 years old and was arrested for prostitution. There is a record at protective services of involvement with the family because a relative sexually abused Jennifer and a sister. During intake at the local detention center, Jennifer's urine screen tested positive for marijuana. She reported that she began smoking cigarettes, using drugs, and drinking alcohol around age 11. When her family was contacted, they said Jennifer frequently runs away and had not been home for several days. Although Jennifer is enrolled in school, she is often truant and makes very poor grades. Jennifer has never been arrested before, but her parents did arrange for her to spend 6 months in a private treatment center. She claims her best friend is a 21-year-old male who is homeless and has a record of drug-related offenses. Jennifer's parents felt it was not best for her to return home, and she was placed in a nonsecure emergency shelter until her case is arraigned.

Brad is 17 years old and was arrested for armed robbery. He was with two other males, ages 19 and 20, when they robbed a gas station attendant at gunpoint. Brad was processed and lodged in the local juvenile detention center. Brad's urine screen tested positive for amphetamines. His records indicate a lengthy list of juvenile crimes, beginning with status offenses at age 11. His first arrest for a delinquent offense was at age 13. Brad quit school at age 16 but had only completed about half the credits needed for ninth-grade work. School reports also indicate frequent disciplinary problems, including fights with other students and one incident in which he hit a teacher. His mother has had recurring hospitalizations for a mental illness, and Brad has been placed in various foster homes at these times. After his last arrest, Brad was placed on probation, but his record of compliance with court orders was poor.

Mr. Roberts, Chief Probation Officer, wants to apply a more systematic and scientific process to the supervision and treatment of youth placed on probation. Presently, youth are randomly assigned to probation officers, and it is up to each officer to evaluate them and determine what level of supervision they should receive (i.e., how frequently they should report to the probation office or receive an unannounced home visit) and to which services and programs they should be referred for treatment.

Youthville, a secure custody facility for serious juvenile offenders, is under a court order to reduce its population because of overcrowding. The staff must determine which youth can be released on probation without jeopardizing the community's or the youth's safety.

The characteristics and situations of youth entering the juvenile justice system are quite diverse, as the first three examples illustrate. Youth may enter the juvenile justice system as a result of committing acts that are considered status or delinquent offenses, including property and violent crimes. Youth range in age from early to late adolescence. Some have previous records of juvenile justice involvement, while others do not. Many have problems with school, family, drugs and alcohol, and/or peer relationships. At the same time, as depicted in the last two illustrations, there are significant challenges facing juvenile justice professionals who must protect the public, effect changes in youth, and manage resources wisely. This chapter provides an overview of case assessment, classification, and management and addresses these processes from the perspectives of intervening with individual youth and managing organizations. Juvenile corrections programs vary in their purpose and structure. Some operate in an open community environment, while others are institutional in nature. These programs face many issues related to the management of populations and resources.

There are at least three ways in which a diverse population of youth could be channeled through the juvenile justice system:

  • They all could be handled in the same manner, receiving the same dispositions and services.

  • They could be dealt with randomly, depending on the personal beliefs, skills, and interests of the juvenile justice personnel with whom they come in contact.

  • They could be assessed, classified, and directed to the programs and services that are most appropriate for them and will provide the level of supervision needed to ensure public safety.

The first option is impractical and the third is the most desirable situation. However, in many instances, case decisions are made much like the second description. Case assessment, classification, and management are the components of the process of appraising and "sorting" youth into various groups and then making decisions about their placement for custody, supervision, and treatment based on these findings. This chapter provides an overview of case assessment, classification, and management. Specifically, the following areas will be addressed:

  • Rationale for case assessment, classification, and management.

  • Description of the processes.

  • Assessment, classification, and management decisions needed at various junctures of the juvenile justice system.

  • Tools, personnel, and other resources required for effective implementation.

  • Potential impact of implementation.

  • Questions to consider and steps to take toward implementation.

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

  • Outline the steps and procedures to be taken in developing a case assessment, classification, and management system for their jurisdiction or program.

  • Develop a purpose statement for implementing a case assessment, classification, and management system.

  • Identify the specific programs for which assessment, classification, and management systems will be developed.

  • Explore assessment instruments, classification strategies, and management systems and evaluate them for their jurisdiction or program.

  • Describe both advantages and disadvantages that adoption of a case assessment, classification, and management system will have for the jurisdiction or program.

  • Develop a plan for implementation or further technical assistance.

Chapter 5

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Jurisdictional Technical Assistance Package for Juvenile Corrections Report - December 2000