Northern Virginia Juvenile Detention Essay, Research Paper
The Northern Virginia Juvenile Detention Home
The Northern Virginia Juvenile Detention Home was established to provide safe, secure custody for juveniles being charged with a crime, or are awaiting court action. The majority of children are held pending court disposition or transfer to another jurisdiction or agency. A few children may be held temporarily for as long as three months. Currently the referrals come from the Juvenile Courts of Arlington, Alexandria, and Falls Church.
In 1960, Northern Virginia built the home for the sole purpose of housing all of its juvenile delinquents. Over the course of thirty years, the home’s size became the cause for concern to the Juvenile courts. Although there had only been one escape in the prior thirty years, The Juvenile Detention Commission of Northern Virginia felt that the home was too small. To deal with the growing cause for concern, a second detention center was built in Fairfax City. This home was to serve most of Fairfax County, splitting the duties with the older, original Northern Virginia Juvenile Detention Home. Formerly the NVJDH housed up to 80 youths in its one and only building. After splitting from Fairfax in 1992, the home increased its size by adding two newer, more modern buildings. Although larger and more modern, the newer home was built just to house up to sixty juveniles. There are quarters for up to fifty boys and ten girls.
The judicial process for a juvenile charged with a crime, and awaiting court, begins at the NVJDH. The detention and judicial process is split up into three sections. These three sections most frequently add up to an automatic thirteen months of Detention home and court procedures. For the first three months on the juvenile’s detention, it is spent in the NVJDH. This is where the juvenile receive social, emotional, cognitive, and other therapeutic recreation until their court hearing. If found guilty of the charge or charges, the juvenile is then sent to The Diagnostic center in Washington D.C. for a period of one month. This is where they are tested and evaluated to determine their personalities, and other mental testing. After the Diagnostic Center, they are sent to The Learning center in Richmond Virginia to serve their designated sentence. Between the three Juvenile centers, there is a waiting period, called “Dead time”. This is the time where the juvenile waits to be sent to the next facility. Usually this “Dead time” is server at the NVJDH.
While in the Northern Virginia Juvenile Detention Home, the juveniles are put into an environment similar to the outside world. They continue their education inside the facility, although it doesn’t count towards regular curriculum needed for school graduation. The juveniles are urged to work for their GED’s. An average of ten kids graduate each year from the Home with their GED. The Alexandria school system is where the teachers are provided.
Chip Coleman, Director of Recreation and Volunteer services, helps provide a healthier lifestyle for the juveniles in the Home. His plan is to implement what he calls Therapeutic Recreation. This recreation challenges the juvenile social, emotional, cognitive, and physical domains. Social challenges are recreation that helps the juveniles learn to deal with others. For example, once a month the Home has casino night. All the juveniles are places in an environment similar to a casino. They are given play money and are expected to increase their holdings. This is to teach them money management and social control.
Art is the approach taken to challenge the emotional side of the juvenile. They are asked to draw something and try to communicate how it makes them feel hen they see what they have produced. Mind puzzles, mazes, and other such recreation that requires deep thought is considered cognitive challenges.
The juveniles’ physical domain is fed with constant exercise. One on the goals of the home is to “make the kids to tired to be bad.” For this purpose there is a large modern gym connected to the newer building. Inside the gym there is a full basketball court, a weight center and aerobic equipment. The Home also provides access for the young males to play a local men’s basketball team every Sunday night.
Along with the demands of keeping the juveniles active, come the demands of keeping proper social order among the juveniles. The Juveniles currently in the home are split into four units. The first unit, Unit One, consists of sixteen and seventeen year old males. Age is not the only determining factor for being placed in a unit. Unit one is for juveniles with a leadership type personality. These juveniles are usually in for more serious crimes and are, or have been leaders of groups or gangs.
Unit Two consists of sixteen to seventeen year old males who exhibit the qualities of a follower. These are the kids who are being charged with less serious crimes and have usually been caught committing gang type crimes.
The third unit, unit Three, consists of all current females in the home. Also in this unit, are young males between the ages of nine to thirteen. The main reason for mixing these two groups is to create a brother, sister type relationship between the juveniles.
The final unit is Unit Four. This unit consists of the fourteen to fifteen year olds that “just don’t fit in.” They are too young to relate to the older males, and too old to be placed with the younger males.
With the four-unit system the NVJDH provides privileges and punishments depending on the behavior displayed in each group’s Therapeutic Recreational sessions.
Along with placing each individual juvenile in a group, the home has a three level behavioral program. This program is the base for which the juvenile’s privileges and punishments are implemented. When a juvenile enters the home, he/she is considered a level three, which is the lowest level in the program. Level three means that they are not subject to certain privileges as other juveniles. For example, the home allows the juveniles to watch “Monday Night Football.” Level three juveniles must go to bed at kickoff. Level two juveniles are allowed to watch until halftime, then they must go to bed. Level one, which is the highest behavioral level a juvenile can achieve, may watch the entire game. This system is how the juveniles prove that they exhibit behavior that will move them into a different level. If the juvenile exhibits good behavior in all environments and recreational activities, they may move up to the next level. This is similar to what happens with negative behavior. If there is any poor behavior by a juvenile or groups of juveniles, their level status may be lowered.
The Goal of the Northern Virginia Juvenile Detention Home is three fold. First, “To provide an environment which insures custody and control of the children.” Second, “To insure physical well being of staff, children, and environment.” Finally, “Obtain a balance between the mind and body which provides a positive attitude towards self, others, and environment”.
With the newer, more modern buildings, the NVJDH seems to be achieving all three of their goals. All entry and exit doors are controlled by an electronic badge system. Each card is designated to an employee, and can be turned off instantly if the card is stolen.
The individual rooms are designed to prevent harm the juveniles may attempt on themselves. Cameras are placed in each room unbeknownst to the juvenile. With these cameras, the security office in the home has a twenty-four hour watch for all of the sixty kids. Since the inception of the newer buildings in 1994, there has only been one successful suicide, and no successful escapes.
“The average period of Detention is from one to three months. During this time every effort is made to provide an atmosphere that will be conducive to the future rehabilitation of the child. The daily program is planned so as to give ample opportunity for the successful expression of individual talent and abilities. The social, academic, religious and medical need of the children are well provided for in the structure of the daily program.” Chip Coleman, director of recreation and Volunteer Services.