This study assessed conditions of confinement for juveniles throughout the United States, determined the extent to which those conditions conformed to recognized national professional standards, and outlines recommendations for improvement.
The study covered all 984 public (operated by State and local governments) and private juvenile detention centers; reception centers; training schools; and ranches, camps, and farms in the United States. These facilities held approximately 65,000 juveniles on the date of the 1991 Children in Custody (CIC) census. Data for the study came from the 1991 CIC census, a special mail survey sent to all 984 facilities, and 2-day site visits to 95 facilities. Researchers measured facility compliance with 46 assessment criteria that reflected existing national professional standards in 12 areas. Data were also analyzed for selected conditions of confinement for which no national standards existed. Analyzed as well were data on selected incidents in facilities, including injury rates for juveniles and staff, escape and attempted-escape rates, suicidal-behavior rates, and selected security and control practices. The study findings yielded three major conclusions. First, there are several areas in which juvenile facilities have substantial and widespread problems, most notably living space, health care, security, and control of suicidal behavior. Second, the findings do not support the premise that high levels of conformance to nationally recognized standards result in improved confinement conditions. For many important areas of facility operation, standards did not specify outcomes that should be achieved, but rather emphasized procedural regularity. Third, deficiencies were widely distributed across facilities. Nineteen recommendations are offered to improve confinement conditions for juveniles. 16 figures, 127 tables, appended supplementary material, and a 53-item bibliography
Date Published: August 1, 1994