Master Planning -- Getting the Numbers Right

In those instances when increased capacity is necessary, deciding to build a new facility is only the first of many difficult and critical decisions that a jurisdiction must make. Because physical facilities exist for a long time, jurisdictions should make every effort to ensure that the process leading to construction will produce the best and most appropriate buildings possible.

Master planning is the most important step in the construction process (Elias and Ricci, 1997; Farbstein/Williams and Associates, 1981; Kimme et al., 1988; McMillen and Hill, 1997). Juvenile justice system literature emphasizes the importance of using planning models to make responsible decisions about bed space and construction needs (Boersema, 1998; DeMuro, 1997; Jones and Steinhart, 1994). Chinn (1996) outlines a planning strategy to find new solutions for housing habitually violent young offenders. The National Center for Juvenile Justice recommends a 10-step master planning process to address a range of problems (Steenson and Thomas, 1997); and Barton (1994), Guarino-Ghezzi and Loughran (1996), and Schwartz (1994) commend the steps in the master planning process as a strategy to effect broad systems reform. NIC conducts Planning of New Institutions (PONI) workshops and provides materials that address the construction planning process (National Clearinghouse for Criminal Justice Planning and Architecture, 1996; Taylor et al., 1996; Voorhis, 1996). PONI workshops for juvenile institutions are currently available to juvenile justice practitioners.

Responding to crowding and a need for less restrictive services, NJDA assembled teams of planners, architects, juvenile justice systems specialists, and law enforcement specialists to develop juvenile justice master plans for several judicial circuits in Illinois (Boersema, 1998). In each circuit, teams considered how many secure detention beds would be needed in the future and developed master plans with a wide range of alternatives, including construction of secure and staff-secure detention beds.4 Even though the jurisdictions described themselves as very similar to one another, the planning process revealed significant differences to key stakeholders. Given these differences, the assumption that "one size fits all" can be misleading and costly -- especially when the proposed solution requires construction of new secure beds.

The master planning process can change a jurisdiction's understanding of its needs, including the size of the facility it thinks that it needs (McMillen, 1998). In one jurisdiction, for example, a review of intake decisions prompted the chief juvenile court judge and circuit court administrator to modify the intake process for all juvenile justice system components, including law enforcement. This change led to an immediate and lasting 40-percent drop in the detention facility's average daily population. Intake data not previously considered also allowed the jurisdiction to lower its bed-space projections. Given serious structural problems with the existing facility, the final recommendation was to build a new secure detention center with a capacity that was 10 beds higher than that of the existing facility. The jurisdiction's initial request, by contrast, had been to construct a facility with almost twice the number of new beds actually needed. Without a systematic assessment by individuals outside the system, the jurisdiction would have significantly overbuilt.

Planning Team Members

Given the high cost of juvenile facility construction, a jurisdiction should carefully review the qualifications of master planning team members and make sure that the team includes the following: an architect experienced in building juvenile facilities, a planner with juvenile justice and master planning experience who is knowledgeable in data collection and analysis procedures, a juvenile justice systems specialist experienced in operating model or effective programs and services, and a local law enforcement specialist who can provide access to information and services from local law enforcement agencies.

Planning Steps

Jurisdictions assessing space needs should complete the following important planning steps:

Step 1: Form an advisory group
Each jurisdiction should form an advisory group to guide planning efforts. Whether called a stakeholders group, steering committee, community advisory group, or interagency workgroup, the group should include the jurisdiction's chief probation officer; its superintendent(s) of juvenile confinement facilities; responsible local juvenile justice advocates; and representatives from the juvenile court, local law enforcement, the public defender's and prosecutor's offices, youth-serving agencies, placement agencies for adjudicated youth, and community organizations (DeMuro and Dunlap, 1998).

Step 2: Define advisory group tasks
The community advisory group's main tasks are establishing goals for the planning process and monitoring progress toward those goals (Ricci, 1995). Establishing goals involves agreeing on those goals that will appear in a local juvenile justice system's vision and mission statements and identifying the objectives, policies, procedures, and practices related to those goals. Monitoring goals involves considering how critical decisions and outcomes will affect all stakeholders in the system. Careful monitoring will keep decisionmaking balanced and provide the accountability needed to ensure that the process remains consistent with a group's vision and mission statements.

Step 3: Collect and analyze data
Advisory groups should use data collection and analysis resources from both within and outside their jurisdictions. Although local data experts may be familiar with local systems and sources of information, consultants from outside the area may possess broader knowledge of the quality and implications of data and various analysis strategies. The planning team will oversee the data collection process, but the community advisory group should determine the quantity and quality of data to be collected. Because many jurisdictions have inadequate information management systems and important data may be hard to access or of poor quality, data collection and analysis are often tedious steps in the master planning process. To address these obstacles, advisory groups should include data collection procedures in the initial plan.

Data analysis should encompass the full range of services and programs available in the jurisdiction. According to the National Association of Counties (NACO), a jurisdiction's continuum of care may suffer when a new facility is built (Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, 1998). In jurisdictions with limited resources, a new facility can become a financial drain, leaving fewer resources for alternatives (noninstitutional) and prevention programs.

Schwartz (1994) opposes the use of architects or architectural planning firms to collect and analyze data because a potential conflict of interest between an architect's financial interests and a jurisdiction's best interests may exist when a large construction project is involved. Other practitioners, however, cite examples of architectural planning firms that have completed master plans and advised jurisdictions against building juvenile confinement facilities even when construction would have benefited the firms financially.

Step 4: Obtain technical assistance
Technical assistance regarding how to create a master plan and assess a jurisdiction's need for new or expanded facility construction is available through OJJDP and other sources listed in the "For Further Information" section of this Bulletin.

Step 5: Involve staff
Planning teams and advisory groups should involve facility staff, particularly line staff and first-level supervisors, in the master planning process (Taylor et al., 1996). Experience indicates that youth can also play an important role.

4 The term "staff-secure" refers to security resulting from the presence of and measures taken by staff members, rather than conditions created by the presence of locks or other hardware.


Construction, Operations, and Staff Training for Juvenile Confinement Facilities JAIBG Bulletin   ·  December 1999