Juvenile Facility Staff Training

Fundamental Needs

Citing numerous links between inadequate staff training and serious problems (e.g., suicidal behaviors by residents), OJJDP's study on conditions of confinement confirmed the need for additional staff training (Parent et al., 1994). Many problems with conditions of confinement occurred in facilities where staff had deficits in specific knowledge and skill areas. The study also reinforced the belief that juvenile institutions should give priority to improving training for new staff (given the high levels of staff turnover) and adding training for all staff in the areas of adolescent health care, education, treatment, access issues, juveniles' rights, and limits or controls on staff discretion.

OJJDP's Juvenile Detention Training Needs Assessment (Roush, 1996c) identified factors that heighten the need for improved training. These factors include uneven levels of preemployment education among staff, high rates of staff turnover, lateral shifts in personnel, increasingly complex needs of juvenile offenders, worker liability issues, and development of new technologies. According to detention administrators in Michigan, scarce funding was the primary problem facing facilities that wanted to improve training (Michigan Juvenile Detention Association, 1981). More than two-thirds of New Jersey detention facilities did not even have a training budget in 1990 (Lucas, 1991). Juvenile facility staff cite scheduling difficulties (e.g., interruptions in training because of staffing problems and crowding) as the major obstacle to implementing training programs (Brown, 1982; Roush, 1996c).

Staff Training

Even though juvenile facility staff training has made significant progress over the past decade, and access to training information, resources, and services has never been better, training remains one of the highest ranked needs among line staff. One promising sign that training is becoming more widely available is the rapid growth of State-operated training academies: only six such academies existed in 1944, while today more than half of the States operate academies.

The recent overall improvement in staff training is attributable to three factors. First, knowledge about effective training in general has been applied to juvenile justice specifically, resulting in a knowledge base and technology that are specific to juvenile justice system needs (National Training and Technical Assistance Center, 1998; Blair et al., undated; Cellini, 1995; Christy, 1989). Second, professional associations and organizations -- particularly the American Correctional Association (ACA); the Association for Staff Training and Development (ASTD); the Juvenile Justice Trainers Association (JJTA) (a professional organization devoted entirely to training); the National Institute of Corrections (NIC) Academy Division (the training arm of the Federal Bureau of Prisons); and the National Juvenile Detention Association (NJDA) -- have expanded the network of skilled trainers. Third, OJJDP has provided strong leadership and support through its Training and Technical Assistance Division. Some of the contributions to training made by ACA, NJDA, JJTA, and OJJDP are described below.

Through standards that specify an annual minimum number of training hours for each category of employee at various periods in his or her employment, ACA has confirmed the importance of staff training (American Correctional Association, 1991a, 1991c). With facilities' accreditation dependent upon compliance with ACA training standards, comprehensive staff training programs have gained legitimacy, and training funds have increased. What was once thought to be an excessive amount of time for training (160 hours for new employees during their first year) is now generally accepted as a best practice (Roush, 1996c). To sustain this level of training, at least 2 to 4 percent of a facility's annual operations budget should be allocated to staff training services. For more information about accredited juvenile justice facilities, practitioners should contact the ACA Standards and Accreditation Division (800-222-5646) and request a list of facilities, contact persons, and phone numbers.

ACA has also developed useful training materials, including videos and correspondence courses. ACA training videos address topics such as facility admissions, suicide prevention, and cultural diversity. Correspondence courses through ACA address basic careworker skills, behavior management, suicide prevention, and supervision of youthful offenders. Upon successfully completing courses and passing an examination, an employee receives a certificate from ACA.

NJDA research (Roush, 1996c) has affirmed ACA's training requirements, identified five discrete training categories for juvenile justice employees, and developed learning objectives to supplement the training topics identified by ACA. Through OJJDP grants, NJDA and JJTA developed and tested two 40-hour training curriculums for line staff in juvenile detention and corrections facilities. The curriculums are based on national training needs assessment data (Roush and Jones, 1996), and the lesson plans developed follow the Instructional Theory Into Practice (ITIP) model recommended by NIC. NJDA also has developed a training implementation model intended to strengthen and expand facilities' in-house training capabilities (Roush, 1996a). Through the use of the Training Needs Assessment Inventory (TNAI) and interchangeable lesson plans, institutions can tailor training interventions to meet their specific needs.

With the development of Guidelines for Quality Training (Blair et al., undated) and OJJDP Training, Technical Assistance, and Evaluation Protocols: A Primer for OJJDP Training and Technical Assistance Providers (National Training and Technical Assistance Center, 1998), JJTA has provided basic information about the necessary components of a model staff training program. Composed primarily of staff development and training specialists, JJTA provides a national network of information on training services and technical assistance for juvenile justice trainers.

NIC has also developed a 27-step training implementation strategy. Combined with Training, Technical Assistance, and Evaluation Protocols: A Primer for OJJDP Training and Technical Assistance Providers, this strategy provides sufficient knowledge to generate a comprehensive staff training program. Facilities can secure information on the entire network of resources available by referring to the Training and Technical Assistance Resource Catalog, updated and published annually by the National Training and Technical Assistance Center, or by calling the center at 800-830-4031.

In 1990, OJJDP entered into an interagency agreement with the NIC Academy Division to provide leadership development programs for juvenile detention and corrections personnel. Under the agreement, NIC offers correctional leadership development (CLD) programs for new chief executive officers, managers, and supervisors. OJJDP produced a video on leadership in juvenile justice based on NIC's leadership development curriculum. NIC's training-for-trainers workshop, which uses the ITIP model, is rated by juvenile justice practitioners as one of the best programs for developing foundation skills for trainers. OJJDP also provides technical assistance resources for line staff training through NJDA's Center for Research and Professional Development (517-432-1242) and for management staff training through the NIC Academy Division (800-995-6429).

Six Major Steps to Implementation

Several important steps must be completed to construct a model staff training program. As in the master planning process, a facility should begin by articulating vision and mission statements. The subsequent steps are described below.

Step 1: Conduct a training needs assessment
A facility should first conduct a training needs assessment to identify gaps between the knowledge, skills, and abilities needed to perform jobs effectively and the knowledge, skills, and abilities currently possessed by staff members. The larger the gap, the greater the training need. Assessment instruments and procedures can be used to collect this information, and juvenile justice trainers are available to conduct needs assessments for agencies and organizations.

Step 2: Develop a formal training plan
Based on information revealed by its needs assessment, a facility should formalize its training strategy. This strategy generally takes the form of training policies and procedures in which the facility identifies who the trainers will be, what types of training will be offered, which staff members will be trained, and how many hours of training are to be provided annually for each position. Training policies and procedures should also establish minimum training requirements for staff at different levels and identify any administrative, professional, and/or statutory standards or requirements that the facility will meet.

Step 3: Adopt, adapt, or develop a core curriculum
Based on the training needs identified and the training plan developed, a facility should adopt, adapt, or develop a core curriculum as its primary training vehicle. Several curriculums are available, including three developed by OJJDP grants: the National Detention Careworker Curriculum, the Juvenile Corrections Careworker Curriculum, and the National Training Curriculum for Educators in Juvenile Confinement Facilities. To obtain copies of these curriculums, practitioners should contact NJDA, listed in the "For Further Information" section.

Step 4: Adopt an action strategy
A facility should next adopt an action strategy for delivering training services. As discussed above, a majority of States have training academies responsible for training all personnel in State-operated juvenile correctional and detention facilities. Facilities not covered by a State training academy are responsible for devising their own training delivery strategies.

Responding to the need for a training delivery strategy for locally operated juvenile facilities and facilities in States without training academies, NJDA developed and tested a training implementation strategy. NJDA's strategy includes developing vision and mission statements, conducting a training needs assessment, developing a formal training plan, and selecting a training curriculum. NJDA's strategy also addresses identification of key staff members (middle managers, shift supervisors, and lead workers) to serve as staff trainers. After completing a basic training curriculum in a separate training workshop, these key staff members are divided into two groups: trainers and mentors. Trainers complete a 40-hour program on building training foundation skills using the NIC model. Mentors (those key staff who do not want or should not have staff training responsibilities) receive training on mentoring so that they can help guide new employees through the training process. The NJDA strategy has proven successful in strengthening in-house training capabilities.

Step 5: Schedule training
The next major step is to schedule training, a task that is extremely difficult when a facility lacks sufficient resources to provide coverage for staff members attending training. The NJDA makes scheduling easier by expanding the cadre of in-house staff trainers.

Several scheduling strategies have been successful. The Cook County Temporary Juvenile Detention Center (Chicago, IL), for example, has a full-time training staff devoted to organizing and delivering training services that meet ACA standards. To improve ongoing training efforts, particularly in-service training, at the Bexar County Juvenile Detention Center (San Antonio, TX), Kossman (1990) implemented an innovative, four-shift staffing pattern. Instead of the routine three-shift (a.m., p.m., and night) scheduling assignments, he added a fourth shift as a replacement for those shifts attending staff training. Using the four-shift pattern, Kossman reported reductions in overtime costs and a greater commitment to training.

Step 6: Evaluate training
As a final step, facilities should evaluate training. Evaluations should include trainees' reactions and suggestions for improvement and plans or commitments to implement training lessons in daily practice. Facilities should conduct evaluations on an ongoing basis to determine whether staff behavior and institutional practices have changed as a result of training and whether the direction of any change is compatible with the goals of training. Results of evaluation efforts also provide information about the nature and extent of a facility's training needs. This information, in turn, becomes data for training needs assessment. The process has now come full circle, with evaluation data guiding future training needs assessment, annual revisions and modifications to the training plan, and updates to a facility's training curriculum.


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