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Volume 6, Issue 1 • Spring 2017

Table of Contents

Editor's Note

Facility Operations and Juvenile Recidivism

Neighborhood Risks and Resources Correlated With Successful
Reentry of Youth Returning from Massachusetts Detention Centers

Girls Leaving Detention: Perceptions of Transition to Home After
Incarceration

An Innovative Use of Conjoint Analysis to Understand
Decision-Making by Juvenile Probation Officers

“I’d Prefer an Applicant Who Doesn’t Have a Delinquency History”:
Delinquents in the Labor Market

Gender Comparisons in the Processes and Outcomes of Functional
Family Therapy

Achieving Juvenile Justice Reforms Through Decision-Making Structures: The Case of Georgia

The Benefits of Community and Juvenile Justice Involvement in
Organizational Research

Facility Operations and Juvenile Recidivism

Katy Hancock, Criminal Justice Program, Department of Community Leadership and Human Services, College of Education and Human Services, Murray State University.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Katy Hancock, Murray State University, 101-S Applied Science Building, Murray, KY 42071. E-mail: khancock11@murraystate.edu

Keywords: juvenile residential facilities, recidivism, facility operations

Abstract

Juvenile residential facilities house over 100,000 youth annually, and as processes are theoretically tied to outcomes, juvenile facility operations can affect the recidivism of these youth. The researcher sought both to examine the relationship between juvenile facility operations and recidivism and to establish the importance of how these facilities operate. Data were analyzed from rigorous state evaluations of juvenile residential facilities conducted in Florida from 2003 to 2006. These data were analyzed using multilevel regression modeling, in order to account for the nested nature of the data. The analyses indicate that program management, health care services, facility security, and intervention management have significant inverse relationships with recidivism. These results both indicate the importance of the operations of institutional facilities for juveniles and underscore need for quality health care services for institutionalized populations. The policies and procedures of these facilities, when implemented properly, can improve the lives of juveniles and strengthen public safety.

Introduction

Although nearly two-thirds of adjudicated delinquent juveniles are given probation sentences, more than 25% of adjudicated delinquent youth are ordered to residential placement (Sickmund & Puzzanchera, 2014). Across the course of a year, over 112,000 youth are ordered to residential commitment (Sickmund & Puzzanchera, 2014). How juvenile residential facilities (JRFs) operate to handle all these youth is an issue of concern. In truth, some research indicates that institutionalization may not only expose juveniles to sexual victimization, violence, and other abuse but also may increase recidivism for some offenders (Taylor, 2016). It is even reported that, while 56% of all adjudicated youth reoffend, 85% of institutionalized youth reoffend (Snyder & Sickmund, 2006). Nevertheless, there is little research on how juvenile facility operations may affect recidivism. Studying operations is critical because it is important to find out whether what is known to be “good” is what is actually practiced (Donabedian, 1966). Indeed, the existing evidence-based practice research is based upon the theory that methods are tied to outcomes (Lipsey, Howell, Kelly, Chapman, & Carver, 2010). Moreover, in their study of correctional privatization and recidivism, Bayer and Pozen (2005) concluded that the problems of for-profit managed correctional facilities in reducing recidivism were systematic, which suggests that operational issues may be affecting facility outcomes.

Literature Review

Facility operations, which are the totality of a facility’s methods, include security and control, community relationships, education services, health services, staff development, intake, and release (Pilson & Forstater, 2005). Although there is scant research on the overall influence of juvenile residential facility operations on recidivism, research has probed various factors that make up operations (i.e., mental and physical health services, management, security, etc.), as well as how these factors affect juvenile outcomes.

Program Management. Tasks in program management include setting and promoting organizational goals, maintaining relationships with the community, screening and retaining employees, and establishing rules for staff. Craig (2010) suggested that proper prison management should be studied to help address high recidivism rates, because prison managers have control over prison conditions, which affects prison outcomes. Management and problem-solving styles vary among correctional managers (Craig, 2010) and may influence whether misconduct and abuse are tolerated, whether staff feel supported in their roles, whether the prison adopts innovative strategies and policies, and whether rehabilitation is supported as a viable goal. Indeed, one of the most important factors in recidivism reduction is a therapeutic rather than control-oriented environment (Lipsey, 2009). The balance of therapeutic and control ideologies within a correctional facility is a management issue (Adams & Ferrandino, 2008) related to setting and promoting therapeutic goals and establishing rules that promote a therapeutic rather than a control environment.

Another management factor related to recidivism is staffing. To be sure, recruiting, developing, and retaining appropriate staff is important to prevent recidivism (Auerbach, McGowan, Ausberger, Strolin-Goltzman, & Schudrich, 2010; Steward & Andrade, 2004). Well-trained and thoroughly screened staff perform their jobs appropriately and know how to handle adverse situations that may arise in a facility, such as a juvenile behaving violently, without resorting to inappropriate or abusive behavior. Violence or abuse in a facility will detract from a therapeutic environment.

Admissions. The admissions process of a residential facility includes classification of juveniles as they enter the facility to place them in appropriate housing and treatment programs. When properly placed during this process, juveniles are less likely to recidivate (Lipsey, 2009). Furthermore, prison classification instruments have been found to determine an individual’s likelihood of returning to prison, even when controlling for offender characteristics (Gaes & Camp, 2009). In addition, the wrong treatment can actually increase recidivism (Petrosino, Turpin-Petrosino, & Finckenauer, 2000). Kupers and colleagues (2009) found that appropriate classification of juveniles entering a residential facility reduced incidents of violence, staff using force, and inmate misconduct. The reduction of these behaviors helps promote a more therapeutic environment that helps reduce recidivism.

Mental Health and Substance Abuse Treatment. Research shows that mental health and substance abuse issues are overrepresented in the juvenile justice population (Burke, Mulvey, & Schubert, 2015). Lipsey and colleagues (2010) list mental health issues as a risk factor for delinquency, whereas others have found substance abuse (Cottle, Lee, & Heilbrun, 2001) and drug use (Staton-Tindall, Harp, Winston, Webster, & Pangburn, 2015) to be predictive of recidivism. Screenings of juveniles entering an institution allow identification of mental health and substance abuse issues. If such issues are effectively addressed by the institution, juveniles may be better able to participate in educational activities as they are treated and be able to better reintegrate into the community upon release. Since the provision of mental health services and substance abuse treatment leads to reductions in recidivism (Batten, 2006; Hiller, Knight, & Simpson, 2002; Kim et al., 1997), continuing to address these issues is of critical importance to the juvenile justice system.

Health Care Services. Juvenile justice youth tend to have a higher rate of physical health problems than the general youth population (Golzari, Hunt, & Anoshiravani, 2006); in fact, most youth in the juvenile justice system have unmet health care needs (Acoca, Stephens, & Van Vleet, 2014). The juvenile justice system may be the only way some lower-income youth, who are overrepresented in the justice system, gain access to health care (Golzari et al., 2006).

Notably, the provision of adequate health care services in communities has been shown to decrease recidivism (Kim et al., 1997). Studies examining the relationship between chronic illness and youth outcomes have found a link between chronic illness and both delinquency (Woods, Farineau, & McWey, 2013) and behavior problems (Gortmaker, Walker, Weitzman, & Sobol, 1990). Indeed, Woods and colleagues (2013) hypothesized that chronic health problems negatively affected emotional well-being, caused stress, and impaired behavior, thus resulting in delinquency. In addition, some scholars have proposed that chronic illness prevents children from engaging in developmentally appropriate behaviors, negatively affects school performance, and harms interpersonal relationships, resulting in delinquency (Lubkin & Larsen, 2006). As such, addressing health problems while juveniles are institutionalized may improve behavioral issues, cognition, and relationships both in the facility and after release.

Food Services. Providing adequate and nutritious meals is essential to growing youth. A lack of quality food services may play a role in juvenile recidivism. By altering chemical levels, poor nutrition can alter or even delay cognitive development, leading to impaired judgment and thus delinquent behavior. A number of studies have linked diet with behavioral issues such as violence; aggression; poor impulse control; antisocial behavior; hyperactivity; drug and alcohol abuse; and, most importantly for the current study, delinquent behavior (Benton, 2007; Fishbein & Pease, 1995; Jackson, 2016; Schoenthaler, 1983). In addition to this direct effect, nutrition may have an indirect and long-term effect on behavior through its impact on physical and mental health. Adequate nutrition is critical for youth’s appropriate physical and cognitive development (Lanigan & Singhal, 2009; Leyse-Wallace, 2013) and for establishing good mental health (Leyse-Wallace, 2013).

Security. Security includes fostering appropriate youth-to-staff ratios and staffing levels, and monitoring for contraband. High-quality facility security is essential to improving juvenile outcomes. For example, a low youth-to-staff ratio is important to maintain a therapeutic environment (Kupchik, 2007). Similarly, a higher inmate-to-staff ratio (more inmates per staff member) has been found to lead to higher levels of violence within a prison (Lahm, 2009) and abuse in juvenile facilities (Taylor, 2016). Abuse and violence in the facility may lead to stress, anxiety, and hypervigilance on the part of the juveniles, making it difficult for them to engage in programming that addresses recidivism. A violent prison environment (Listwan, Sullivan, Agnew, Cullen, & Colvin, 2013) and poor juvenile staff relationships (Loughran et al., 2009) have been linked to higher levels of recidivism. A safe environment with appropriate staffing would enable the facility to foster a more therapeutic environment and thus more effectively rehabilitate juveniles.

Intervention Management. Intervention management refers to case management and the delivery of appropriate juvenile programming. Case management ensures that juveniles connect with appropriate interventions and that their progress is monitored. One of the most important factors in reducing recidivism is appropriate programming that is delivered with fidelity (Lipsey, 2009). Studies have found that receiving treatment interventions can reduce recidivism (Lipsey, Wilson, & Cothern, 2000), and furthermore, that ineffective interventions may actually harm juveniles (Cecile & Born, 2009; Petrosino et al., 2000; Rhule, 2005). In addition, quality case management, which includes applying risk/need assessment instruments as intended, has been shown to reduce recidivism (Desai et al., 2006; Luong & Wormith, 2011).

Overall, it seems logical that juvenile facility operations are related to facility outcomes. The author has hypothesized that juvenile facility operations will have an inverse relationship to juvenile recidivism: Higher facility scores on operations (indicating higher overall quality) will be related to lower recidivism rates.

Method

The author performed an analysis of official data collected from 2003 to 2006 by the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice (FDJJ) on JRFs in the form of Quality Assurance (QA) evaluations of JRF operations. These evaluations served as the unit of analysis for this study. Recidivism data were collected by the FDJJ and reported in the Comprehensive Accountability Report (CAR). The unit of analysis for the current study was the QA evaluation, which made this study incident-based research. Similar to previous incident-based studies, specific facilities were included in the sample multiple times if they received a QA evaluation more than once during the study period. The sample used in the current study included 633 cases, which represented 166 low-, moderate-, high-, and maximum-risk facilities. Out of these 633 cases, 85 (13.4%) were missing, leaving a final sample of 548 cases representing 158 facilities. Most of the facilities were privately run, with 236 cases (42.1%) being for-profit companies, 228 cases (41.6%) nonprofit, and 84 cases (15.3%) run by the state.

Measures

Since 1996, the FDJJ has been training and certifying individuals to perform reviews of the JRFs. To gather QA data, a team annually conducts onsite reviews of the JRFs. The review team studies policies, procedures, and practices of the facilities through interviews with staff, youth, and management, by examining records and through observation. Facilities are evaluated on a variety of broad standards that are made up of a number of indicators. Seven QA standards serve as measures of the quality of facility operations.1 The possible range for all operational variable scores is 0 to 100.

1 For more detailed information regarding the QA standards, please contact Dr. Hancock.

Program management includes transmitting the mission statement, goals, and expectations to staff; filing appropriate reports; conducting audits of youth in residence; hiring appropriate staff; ensuring FDJJ guidelines are followed; establishing policy for incident reporting; and fostering relationships with the community.

Admissions and orientation process includes orienting the youth to the facility, receiving paperwork and making appropriate notifications to parents/legal guardians and juvenile justice personnel, and classifying juveniles so they receive appropriate sleeping arrangements and the staff are aware of each juvenile’s needs and issues.

Mental health and substance abuse services include screening and assessment of youth for mental health and substance abuse issues, suicide screening and prevention, and treatment for any mental health/substance abuse needs. Due to the nature of the QA evaluations during the study period, mental health and substance abuse services could not be separated.

Food services include provision of adequate and nutritious meals and keeping the kitchen sanitary.

Health services include contracting with physicians for provision and oversight of health care, screening for health conditions, prescribing and dispensing medications, and offering gynecological services where applicable.

Program security includes appropriate staff-to-youth ratios, procedures for adequate staffing, and searches for contraband.

Intervention management includes completion of progress reports and individual performance plans, provision of social and life skills education, promotion of family involvement, and implementation of restorative principles. These principles include teaching the youth the harmful consequences of their behavior and the need for them to make reparation to victims and the community.

Facility recidivism is reported by FDJJ for each facility as “the percentage of youth with a subsequent juvenile adjudication or adult conviction including adjudications withheld for an offense that occurred within one year of release” (Florida Department of Juvenile Justice, 2006, pp. 4–5).

Control variables thought to influence recidivism were incorporated in the current study.2 These included risk level of the JRF, gender of the juveniles in the facility, percentage of black youth in the facility, average age of juveniles upon entry to the facility, facility size (number of beds), and average prior seriousness (APS)3 of charges among juveniles served by the facility. Also included was the region in which the JRF was located (North, Central, and South Florida). In some cases, the management of a JRF passed from one private company to another, so the change in the organization of ownership (provider change) was also included.

2 See Bayer & Pozen, 2005; Kubrin, Squires, & Stewart, 2007; Lipsey, 2009; Snyder & Sickmund, 2006; Walters, 2012.

3 APS is a seriousness score calculated for each juvenile “by assigning point values to prior charges based upon the seriousness of the adjudicated charged offenses” (Florida Department of Juvenile Justice, 2011, p. 7). Each violent felony receives 8 points, other felonies each receive 5, misdemeanors each receive 2, and any other offenses each receive 1 point. APS is calculated by dividing the total seriousness score by the total number of youth served during the fiscal year.

Analyses

For the sake of parsimony, independent variables that did not have significant relationships with the dependent variable at the bivariate level were not included in the multivariate models. Correlation analyses indicated recidivism was only correlated with 4 of the operational variables: program management (r = −0.08, p < 0.05), health care services (r = −0.09, p < 0.05), security (r = −0.16, p < 0.01), and intervention management (r = −0.10, p < 0.05). Thus, for the final model, 4 operational variables were included in the multivariate analyses: program management, health care services, security, and intervention management.

In the current study, each JRF was managed by a provider company—either the state, a for-profit company, or a nonprofit organization. As a result of the influence the provider companies had on the facilities they manage, JRFs that were managed by the same provider company may have been more like one another than facilities owned by different companies.4 As such, the data are nested and will have to be analyzed through multilevel modeling (MLM) techniques.

4 For the current study, the ICCs ranged from 0.19 to 0.22, indicating that “provider company” accounted for about 19% to 22% of the variation in the dependent variable. Taking into account the average group size of 13, according to Barcikowski (1981), these ICCs indicate that the data are nested, and as a result, the use of MLM techniques was warranted.

Results

Descriptive Analyses

The results of the descriptive analyses for the categorical variables can be found in Table 1;5 42% percent were in North Florida, 34% were in Central Florida, and 24% were in South Florida. Finally, most (93%) of the facilities did not experience a change in provider.

5 Theoretically, more serious offenders should go to the higher risk level facilities; therefore, it is possible that APS and facility risk level are redundant variables. The results of the Welch test (F(2) = 115.41, p < 0.001) and Brown-Forsyth test (F(2) = 160.40, p < 0.001) indicated that mean APS scores differed significantly across risk levels in the expected direction. As such, risk level was removed, and the single continuous APS variable was retained in the final model.

 

Table 1. Descriptive Statistics for Categorical Variables

n

%

Gender

   

Female

112

20.4

Male

422

77

Coed

14

2.6

Region

   

North

229

41.8

Central

186

33.9

South

133

24.3

Provider Change

   

No Change

509

92.9

Change

39

7.1

 

Table 2 lists the descriptive analysis for the continuous variables. As shown, the means and standard deviations of the operational variables placed most facilities as scoring between 50 and 80 on a scale of 100. Furthermore, the mean for APS was 20.87, meaning that on average, juveniles in a facility had at least three prior charges; the minimum was 7, which could indicate having a number of minor charges. The mean for percentage black indicated that, on average, the juvenile population of a facility was nearly one-half black. The average age of juveniles showed most juveniles were between the ages of 15 and 17. These numbers coincided with the average age and race of juveniles in residential facilities nationally (Hockenberry, 2013; Rover, 2014). Facilities ranged in size from 6-bed to 350-bed facilities. Finally, most facilities had about 25% to 50% of juveniles who completed their program recidivate; some facilities had no juveniles recidivate within 1 year, while a few others had all recidivate.

Table 2. Descriptive Statistics for Continuous Variables

 

Mean

SD

Min.

Max.

Range

Facility Operations

         

Program Management

61.9

11.85

13.89

99.42

85.53

Admissions

65.47

12.05

17.78

100

82.22

Mental Health/Substance Abuse

57.75

17.9

8.83

100

91.17

Health Care Services

62.87

13.31

9.09

92.93

83.84

Food Services

67.04

13.18

0

100

100

Security

59.6

11.22

17.78

90

72.22

Intervention Management

61.08

14.15

8.33

99.28

90.95

Control

         

APS

20.87

8.43

6.8

60

53.2

Percentage Black

46.13%

17.06%

0

100%

100%

Average Age

16.16

1.05

12

19.8

7.8

Number of Beds

56.48

47.59

6

350

350

Outcome

         

Recidivism

38.79

14.83

0

100

100

 

Multivariate Analyses

The results of the 5 multilevel regression models of operations on recidivism are shown in Table 3.6 Recidivism was regressed individually on program management, health care services, security, and intervention management in Models 1 through 4, respectively. As hypothesized, for each model, scores on the operational variable had an inverse relationship with recidivism. Higher-quality operations were related to lower recidivism.

6 The tolerance of the study variables ranged from 0.131 to 0.929, and the VIF ranged from 1.077 to 7.627; a tolerance below 0.10 or a VIF above 10 indicates issues with multicollinearity (Pallant, 2007); as such, multicollinearity should not be a serious problem. The rhos for the models indicate that the group-level variable, “provider company,” accounted for about 13% to 15% of the variation in recidivism for the different models.

Table 3. Results of Regressing Recidivism on Operational Variables

 

Model 1

Model 2

Model 3

Model 4

Model 5

β

SE

β

SE

β

SE

β

SE

β

SE

Program Management

−0.09*

0.05

−0.03

0.06

Health care

−0.13***

0.04

−0.10*

0.05

Security

−0.16***

0.05

−0.12*

0.06

Intervention Management

−0.08*

0.04

−0.001

0.05

Gender

                   

Male

10.0**

3.51

10.86**

3.49

9.46**

3.49

10.14**

3.51

10.28**

3.48

Female

−4.89

3.64

−4.09

3.62

−5.11

3.62

−4.72

3.64

−4.31

3.60

Region

                   

North

−0.69

1.41

−0.41

1.40

−0.57

1.40

−0.62

1.41

−0.23

1.39

South

−2.02

1.62

−1.89

1.60

−2.23

1.61

−1.99

1.62

−1.93

1.59

Provider Change

1.79

2.05

2.03

2.03

1.93

2.03

1.77

2.05

2.29

2.04

APS

0.13

0.08

0.16*

0.08

0.17*

0.08

0.13

0.08

0.18*

0.08

Percentage Black

0.17***

0.03

0.16***

0.03

0.16***

0.03

0.17***

0.03

0.16***

0.03

Age

−4.12***

0.56

−4.10***

0.55

−4.07***

0.55

−4.13***

0.56

−4.04***

0.55

Beds

0.03*

0.01

0.03*

0.01

0.02*

0.01

0.03*

0.01

0.03*

0.01

Constant

92.71***

9.94

93.74***

9.73

96.28***

9.88

92.30***

9.86

98.74***

11.04

rho

0.14

0.05

0.14

0.05

0.14

0.05

0.15

0.05

0.13

0.05

Log Likelihood

−2125.98

 

−2122.34

 

−2122.23

 

−2125.69

 

−2119.00

 

LR Test Statistic

221.39***

228.69***

228.89***

221.99***

235.37***

Note. *p < 0.05, **p < 0.01, ***p < 0.001

Model 5 regressed recidivism on all 4 operational variables to examine which operational variables were the most important. As shown, only health care services and security achieved significance, suggesting that once health care services and security were accounted for, the impact of program management and intervention management on recidivism was reduced. Across all 5 models, facilities housing males had higher recidivism scores than coed facilities, the reference category. In addition, facilities housing a greater proportion of black youth or younger youth and facilities with more beds had higher scores on recidivism. Finally, facilities housing more serious offenders (higher APS scores) tended to have significantly higher recidivism scores. All of these relationships are in agreement with previous literature on these variables (Bayer & Pozen, 2005; Farrington & Nuttall, 1980; Moffitt, 1994; Reisig, Bales, Hay, & Wang, 2007).

Discussion

Four operational variables were found to be significant predictors of recidivism: program management, health care services, security, and intervention management. In the full model, health care services and security were still significant predictors of recidivism. These findings illustrate a relationship between facility operations and outcomes, thus indicating the critical importance of studying and improving facility operations.

Health care services have an inverse relationship with recidivism, even when accounting for the provider company variable and the other operational variables. This relationship may exist for a number of reasons. As stated previously, health problems are thought to impair emotional well-being and behavior, cause stress, hurt development, and negatively affect educational performance and interpersonal relationships (Lubkin & Larsen, 2006; Woods et al., 2013). The juvenile justice system may be the only contact that some youth have with appropriate health care services. In fact, one study found that two-thirds of youth admitted to a detention center did not have regular medical care; half of the youth said their families were unable or unwilling to ensure medical follow-up (Feinstein et al., 1998). Dealing with neglected physical health problems may result in youth’s improved day-to-day functioning and help them engage with staff and respond to intervention programming. In addition, health care services also include the provision of health care education. Thus, youth attending facilities with high-quality health care would be equipped with the skills to maintain improved health once released from the facility, perhaps improving their behavior in the community. Moreover, health care services allow staff to show concern for youth, which can help foster a therapeutic environment and subsequently reduce recidivism.

Juvenile facility administrators should make efforts to improve health care services by enhancing health screening, effectively coordinating between the facility and the community into which juveniles will be released (Conklin, Lincoln, & Flanigan, 1998; Potter, 2014), addressing the unique needs of females (Parsons & Warner-Robbins, 2010; Watson, Stimpson, & Hostick, 2004), and heightening the use of medical technologies (Watson et al., 2004). For example, increasing the use of telemedicine in correctional institutions may not only improve and coordinate health care, but may also save money (Watson et al., 2004).

Another important step would be refining and expanding health education for juveniles. Health care promotion and education among inmates has been shown to reduce health risk behaviors and increase use of community resources upon release (Grinstead, Zack, & Faigeles, 2001). A reduction in risky behaviors may improve the health of juveniles and allow them to better engage in school and community activities once they are released. The increased use of community resources (e.g., after-school programs, vocational programs, and church activities) may help to integrate and connect juveniles with their communities, thus reducing recidivism.

Also of note, even controlling for provider and other operations, high scores on the quality of facility security are also found to be related to lower rates of recidivism. One aspect of security is staffing, including policies for appropriate staffing,7 maintaining an appropriate youth-to-staff ratio, and searches for contraband or weapons. Having appropriate staffing enables youth to be effectively monitored, which reduces opportunities for misbehavior and disorder within the facility. Indeed, problems in the prison environment, such as lapses in security, in­adequate supervision, and youth access to contraband, may offer ideal opportunities for violence and misbehavior within the institution (Wortley & Summers, 2013).

7 Policies for appropriate staffing refers to scheduling policies, including having contact information for staff when more coverage was needed, creating policies for shift rotation, having at least one staff member on duty who was the same gender as the youth served, and making sure schedules were posted where staff can see them.

Violence and misbehavior may subsequently create situations that foster criminal learning or result in psychological stress, leading to hypervigilance or PTSD after release, making conforming behavior difficult. In fact, Burdick-Will (2013) found that violent crime in schools had a negative effect on test scores. It is plausible that disorder and violence that may result from poor facility security creates fear and stress, which could inhibit how well juveniles engage in programming. This situation would thus decrease the effectiveness of any intervention offered by the facility. As such, facility administrators should be sure to support and enhance measures to maintain safety, structure, and order within their facilities, by hiring skilled staff, working to reduce turnover, and offering in-service trainings to prepare staff to deal with threats to safety and order. Indeed, prior research has shown that high staff turnover reduces the impact of intervention programming (Lipsey, 2009) and that educated staff are more effective (Berg, 1990) and more supportive of the rehabilitative ideal (Robinson, Porporino, & Simourd, 1997).

Although program management, health care services, security, and intervention management were individually related to recidivism, when analyzed together in one model, only health care services and security remained significant predictors of recidivism. Scant literature on operations may help explain this finding, but there are a number of possible explanations for the relationship found in Model 5. First, it is possible that if an individual operation is managed well, overall program management is no longer important. This would suggest that overseeing individual operations, such as health care services or admissions screening, need not be heavily emphasized in the facility director’s job. Although supervising operations is important to avoid a breakdown in services, the different operations need not be micromanaged. Periodic reviews by the facility director may be sufficient to maintain the quality of operations.

Regarding loss of significance of intervention management, one explanation is that addressing the physical, health care, and security needs of youth may allow them to better cope with higher-level problems, such as conflict resolution and other criminogenic issues, rendering intervention management less important in predicting recidivism. The idea that basic needs must be satisfied before higher-level needs has been discussed in the literature for quite some time. For example, it has been suggested that recidivism rates will remain high among adult ex-offenders if their basic needs such as employment and housing are not met (Williams-Queen, 2014). In addition, according to Maslow (1943), a human’s higher-level needs could not be addressed until lower-level needs were satisfied. Maslow believed the lower-level needs were those of the physical body and the need for safety. Clearly, health care services address some of a youth’s physical needs. Security addresses at least some of a youth’s need for safety, for example, through the restriction of youth access to weapons in the facility. Therefore, fully adequate health care services and security, which are among a youth’s most basic physical and psychological needs, may improve a youth’s behavior regardless of the quality of intervention management. The synergism among health care services, security, and recidivism supports the idea that earlier failures to address the basic needs of juveniles may have played a role in their initial delinquent behavior and underscore the importance of improving access to health care in the community.

Implications and Directions for Future Research

An important avenue for future research would be to examine how different operational variables interact with one another, as well as which ones are most important and how they can be improved. For example, admissions was not found to be significantly related to recidivism. However, it is possible that the juvenile court, in a sense, classifies the youth before admission by selecting the facility and program to which the youth will be sent, making classification during admission process unimportant in predicting recidivism.

To reiterate, program management and security, both of which include staffing issues, were found to be related to recidivism. As Lipsky (1980) asserted, fidelity to organizational policy depends on the discretion of front-line staff. Staffing should thus be investigated in more detail to see how it affects juvenile facility operations and outcomes. Moreover, although food is a basic need just like health care, youth do get fed in the community, whether or not the food is high quality. Health care, however, may not be available in the community, so addressing it in the JRF may well have a more significant impact on youth outcomes than food services. Thus, a more detailed investigation of juvenile correctional operations and their impact on outcomes is critical.

Conclusion

The results of this study underscore the importance of facility operations in serving delinquent youth and indicate that more focus should be placed on such research in the future. Indeed, as these facilities come into contact with a large number of disadvantaged youth, they become an opportunity to help serve some of the basic physical and psychological needs of youth who might not otherwise receive treatment. A greater understanding of how facilities operate and which operational factors help them achieve their goals will not only serve to improve the lives of countless youth, but it may also reduce recidivism, thus protecting the safety of the public.

About the Author

Katy Hancock, PhD, received her master’s degree in criminal justice in 2010 and her doctorate in public affairs/criminal justice from the University of Central Florida in 2014. She is now an assistant professor in the criminal justice program at Murray State University and conducts research on juvenile justice and health care. Dr. Hancock also volunteers with and serves on various boards and organizations related to juvenile justice and child welfare.

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