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Juvenile Facility Staff Responses to Organizational Change

NCJ Number
Alexandra Cox, Ph.D.
Date Published
October 2013
38 pages

This report discusses the effects of reforms implemented at juvenile justice facilities in New York State.


This report uses the findings from two studies to discuss the effects of reforms implemented at juvenile justice facilities in New York State. The two studies, conducted over a period of 3 years, examined the experiences of young people and staff members as reforms were implemented at the facilities. This report highlights five key themes that resulted from these studies: 1) the critical role of frontline work in organizational change; 2) myths about frontline workers; 3) resistance to organizational change was found to be deeply rooted in issues of fairness; 4) perceptions of violence were often connected to perceptions about control; and 5) juvenile justice staff were often perceived to be resistant to rehabilitative practices when in reality a number of them were deeply invested in the processes of treatment for change. These findings indicate the need for decision makers to be more aware of the contributions made by the individuals who work directly with incarcerated youth and about how these individuals are treated. The findings suggest that staff members' perceptions of how they are treated can affect how they treat the young people under their care. Recommendations for improving juvenile justice facility reform are discussed and include treating juvenile justice institutions as complex organisms, creating clear processes for building institutional reforms and sustaining them, building clear and strong communication strategies to lessen the distance between frontline staff and management, clarify reform plans and goals with frontline staff, build a strengths-based environment for youth and staff, and recognizing and supporting economic transformation for rural and urban areas. References