The Detention Diversion Advocacy Program: An Overview

The impetus for establishing DDAP in San Francisco was, in part, that the city's juvenile detention system had been the focus of criticism for the past 40 years. Since 1951, a series of reports documented the city's overuse of detention and its failure to develop suitable alternative options. The three most recent reports were completed by a local community research agency, Jefferson and Associates, in 1987; the National Council on Crime and Delinquency (NCCD) in 1988 (Steinhart and Steele, 1988); and CJCJ in 1994 (Hewitt, Shorter, and Godfrey, 1994).

Picture The NCCD study noted that because of the absence of alternatives, San Francisco had a secure detention rate that ranked third in the State (Steinhart and Steele, 1988). The same study found that 63 percent of all referrals to the juvenile court were African American youth—far in excess of their proportion relative to the general population. The study by CJCJ found that the overall incarceration rate for African American males in San Francisco was 8,331 per 100,000 African Americans, compared with a rate of 3,822 per 100,000 African Americans for the Nation (Hewitt, Kubota, and Schiraldi, 1992; Hewitt, Shorter, and Godfrey, 1994). A significant reason for the high rate of incarceration was the absence of intermediate alternatives.

Overuse of detention has been attributed partly to failure of probation department staff to consider alternative options at the time a youth is taken into custody. Indeed, the juvenile probation department in San Francisco has consistently recommended detention in the majority of its cases; one study found a 77-percent detention rate (Steinhart and Steele, 1988); Macallair (1994) provides a similar report.

As demonstrated in other jurisdictions, however, when community agencies are present to advocate for alternatives to detention, secure custody rates decline. A study conducted in the mid-1980's by the Massachusetts Department of Youth Services found that advocacy by community agencies on behalf of youth at detention hearings leads to significant reductions in detention rates. When advocacy is combined with intensive case management, youth receive a range of quality services (Krisberg et al., 1988; Austin et al., 1991).

DDAP's funding under San Francisco's 1992-93 Children's Services Plan—a plan resulting from a referendum for San Francisco requiring that 1 percent of city taxes be reserved for children's services—covered startup costs and initial collaboration with five San Francisco agencies: CJCJ, Horizons Unlimited, OMI (Ocean View, Merced Heights, and Ingleside, CA) Pilgrim Community Center, the Potrero Hill Neighborhood House, and the Vietnamese Youth Development Center. Subsequent participants have included the city's juvenile probation department, the public defender's office, the San Francisco Education Services Corporation, the Log Cabin Ranch aftercare program, and the Omega Boys Club.

Disposition Case Advocacy

The concept behind the DDAP approach is disposition case advocacy, defined as "the efforts of lay persons or nonlegal experts acting on behalf of youthful offenders at disposition hearings" (Macallair, 1994:84). Disposition case advocacy is based in part on the more general concept of case management, defined as a "client-level strategy for promoting the coordination of human services, opportunities, or benefits" (1994:84). Case management seeks to integrate services across a cluster of organizations, to ensure continuity of care, and to facilitate development of client skills (e.g., job interviewing and reading and writing skills) by involving a variety of social networks and service providers (e.g., social agencies that provide specific services to youth such as drug counseling and crisis intervention) (Moxley, 1989).

Detention advocacy involves identifying youth likely to be detained pending their adjudication. Once a potential client is identified, DDAP case managers present a release plan to the judge that includes a list of appropriate community services (e.g., tutoring, drug counseling, and family counseling) that will be accessed on the youth's behalf. Additionally, the plan includes specified objectives (e.g., improved grades, victim restitution, and drug-free status) as a means to evaluate the youth's progress in the program. Emphasis is placed on allowing the youth to live at home while going through the program. If home placement is not a viable option, program staff will identify and secure a suitable alternative. If the judge deems the release plan acceptable, the youth is released to DDAP supervision.

The case management model provides frequent and consistent support and supervision to youth and their families. Case managers link youth to community-based services and closely monitor their progress. DDAP requires the case manager to have daily contact with the youth, his or her family, and significant others, including a minimum of three in-person meetings a week with the youth. The youth's family members, particularly parents and guardians, are provided with additional services that typically include assistance in securing employment, daycare, drug treatment services, and income support (e.g., food stamps).

Detention Diversion Advocacy: An Evaluation Juvenile Justice Bulletin   ·  September 1999