Juveniles in Adult Prisons and Jails.
A National Assessment
By James Austin Ph.D.
Kelly Dedel Johnson, Ph.D.
Maria Gregoriou, M.A.
GORSKI-CENAPS Web Publications
Published On: June 10,
2001 Updated On: August 07, 2001
© Terence T. Gorski, 2001
traditional classification instruments developed for and used with adult
correctional populations do not take into account the special needs or
the maturation issues presented by youthful offenders. Prison
classification systems have been developed and validated on adult male
populations and are not sensitive to the unique attributes and behaviors
of youthful populations. These classification systems consist of both
external and internal models.
classification systems are used to determine whether an inmate should be
placed in the general population or assigned to a special management
unit. The latter consists of protective custody, administrative
segregation, mental health, and medical care units. The former results
in a designation of minimum, medium, close, or maximum custody.
Assessments are also made on the types of programs or treatment services
the inmate should participate in. Based on the custody and
program/treatment needs, a determination is made on the most appropriate
facility to which to transfer the inmate.
suggestion is for adult correctional systems either to use
classification systems that have been developed by the state's juvenile
correctional agency or to develop their own system to be used for youth
committed to their care. Such a classification system should be capable
of assessing each youth with respect to their risk to public safety,
institutional conduct, and specific program needs in the areas of mental
health, substance abuse, education, vocational training, and medical
addition to this type of an external classification assessment, an
internal classification system needs to be established for each facility
that houses these youth to ensure youthful offenders are not improperly
housed with adult inmates. Such an internal system would consist of a
plan that limits the housing units into which a youthful offender can be
placed and the types of programs in which a youthful offender can
participate within that facility.
Staff and Staff Training
for meaningful training of adult security staff on techniques for
managing youthful offenders was apparent during most of the site visits.
Typically, security staff are oriented and trained to deal with adult
inmates. Training should prepare staff to recognize and respond to the
particular issues faced by a juvenile offender housed in an adult
prison, such as the potential for victimization, the emotional effect of
incarceration on younger populations, and the way in which substance
abuse, education, health, and mental health needs are manifested among
younger offenders. This training would be particularly useful for states
that have facilities designated for youthful offenders.
these lines, it is recommended that adult facilities that house youthful
offenders be staffed with people experienced in working in juvenile
facilities. These staff are more accustomed to the nonconfrontational
methods used to control youth that rely less on use of force techniques
and more on peaceful conflict resolution.
adult facilities are trained to respond to disruptive and
confrontational adult offenders. The use of chemical agents such as mace
or pepper spray, forced cell extractions, physical restraints, and
special response teams, although typically effective with adult
offenders, may not be appropriate for juvenile populations. Most
juvenile correctional systems discourage the use of such techniques as
viable methods of controlling youth except in the most extreme
situations, and even then only when lesser measures have been exhausted.
Physical handling of a youth is permitted only when other measures, such
a counseling and crisis intervention techniques, have failed. For such
instances, officers are trained on a myriad of other measures such as
empty-hand control tactics, which include various holds, leverage,
pressure, self-defense measures, and pressure control techniques.
facilities require assistance and training in devising such techniques
that do not rely upon a massive use of force yet are effective in
deescalating volatile incidents involving youthful offenders.
surveys indicated a deficit in specialized programming for youthful
offenders. In some cases, programming such as violence interruption or
sex offender treatment is not available. In most others, existing
programming was designed to respond to these issues as manifested in the
typical adult offender and lacked a more developmentally responsive
adaptation of the curricula. Although this situation may be driven by
the relatively small number of juveniles in most adult facilities, the
lack of appropriate programming for youth in adult facilities remains a
major shortcoming in the management of these offenders.
addition to special management and programming needs, youthful offenders
need educational programming that is more structured, thorough, and
intensive than that provided in adult institutions. It is important to
ensure that facilities are both aware of and adhering to federal
mandates to provide regular and special education services to youth in
youth are required to receive regular, special, and vocational education
services in accordance with the state law for public schools, the rules
and regulations of the state board of education, and the regulations of
the 14th amendment of the U.S. Constitution and the Individuals With
Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
should be offered an average of 5.5 hours of daily instruction, 5 days a
week, by qualified teachers, in an environment that facilitates
learning. Additionally, youth ought to be assigned to grade levels with
curricula that are in accordance with their educational level, and they
should receive academic credit for their educational achievements.
should offer GED preparation and testing to qualified prison inmates and
juveniles confined in jails for at least 6 months. Youth who are in
disciplinary isolation or are otherwise unable to attend school for a
significant period of time must be provided with a reasonable level of
regulations through IDEA guarantees special education services to
juveniles (up to age 21) in adult facilities as a constitutional right.
Although there are no national figures on the number of special
education youth who are incarcerated, it is estimated at between 30 and
50 percent require this service. A recent study by Leone and Meisel
(2000) on the proportion of special education youth incarcerated in
Arizona, Florida, and Maine indicates that between 42 and 60 percent of
the juvenile populations are classified as special education. This
estimate shows the importance of ensuring that adequate special
education services are available to those juveniles who are
incarcerated. Proper identification of youth with special education
needs, exposure to special education curriculum, and teachers certified
as special education instructors should be available to juveniles in
adult prisons as well as those in juveniles facilities. Training and
technical assistance programs could be developed in partnership with the
U.S. Department of Education or the state's education system.
Behavior Management Techniques
popularity of "get tough" approaches to managing offenders,
particularly military models, need to be evaluated for their
effectiveness for youthful offenders. Further, security staff would
benefit from the development of methods to provide incentives for good
behavior and for increasing the level of engagement of the youthful
offender populations with the available programming. Here again, most
juvenile correctional systems have implemented a variety of positive
management programs that allow youth to receive increasing levels of
privileges based on good behavior. Such initiatives have proved to be
effective methods for managing juvenile populations. Yet, adult
correctional systems rarely use or have any experience with such
jurisdictions would benefit from an assessment of the type of housing
that is most effective for managing this population. For example, the
cost and benefits of separating youthful offenders from adult offenders
should be examined. Given their relatively small numbers, cost-effective
options for this type of separation should be developed. Because most
youthful offenders are managed in dormitory facilities, the specific
management issues relevant to this housing arrangement should be fully
the volatility and impulsiveness that typically underlies a juvenile's
presence in an adult facility can be contagious, correctional systems
would benefit from technical assistance focused on strategies for
mitigating these situations. Further, best practices associated with
appropriate interaction between juvenile and adult offender populations
would help increase institutional stability.
given the relative newness of this issue and the lack of knowledge
surrounding the conditions, impact, and consequences of juvenile
incarceration in adult facilities, additional research is required. In
particular, research is needed to better understand the basis for the
decision to place a youth in an adult correctional facility. We also
need to learn whether placement in an adult facility has an adverse
impact on the conditions of incarceration. Comparative studies are
required on the provision of education and vocational services,
substance abuse treatment, mental health services, and medical needs as
well as protection from harm in juvenile and adult facilities. Such
comparative studies will help determine the value of housing youth in
adult prisons and jails. If such placements are required by law, adult
facilities must know how to create appropriate program offerings and
standards of care for youth placed in their care for substantial periods
This document was
prepared by the Institute on Crime, Justice and Corrections and the
National Council on Crime and Delinquency, under grant number
97-DD-BX-0026, awarded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance, Office of
Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings,
and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this document are those
of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position or
policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.
The Bureau of Justice
Assistance is a component of the Office of Justice Programs, which also
includes the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the National Institute
of Justice, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention,
and the Office for Victims of Crime.
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