Home Our Work Advances in Juvenile Justice Reform: Facility Closures and Downsizing

Advances in Juvenile Justice Reform: Facility Closures and Downsizing

Facility Closures and Downsizing: 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009


  • Illinois Closes Two Juvenile Detention Facilities: In his 2013 budget, Governor Pat Quinn proposed closing ten correctional facilities, including two juvenile detention facilities, based on a reduction in juvenile incarceration from a population of 1,603 in FY05 to 990 in FY12. The two facilities were shuttered in 2013, and the closures were projected to save the state nearly $21 million dollars in FY2013. The facilities had been operating well under capacity, thanks to policy and practice changes in the state (e.g., Redeploy Illinois) that have increased the number of youth being served in their communities and diverted youth from the justice system.
  • Ohio Closes Scioto Juvenile Correctional Facility: The Ohio Department of Youth Services (DYS) announced in November of 2013 that it would close the Scioto Juvenile Correctional Facility, which housed all the girls committed to the state (a total of 18) as well as 20 boys. The facility closed in May 2014 and the girls were transferred to a unit in a community correctional facility (a locked residential facility meant to serve youth locally) as well as several residential mental health facilities for girls with more intensive mental health needs. The boys were integrated into other DYS facilities. Ohio has seen a steady drop in the DYS population, from an average of 685 youth in October 2011 to 525 youth in October 2013. The closure of the Scioto Juvenile Correctional Facility leaves DYS with three state-operated juvenile correctional facilities in addition to private or county-operated facilities with whom the state contracts for beds.
  • Virginia Closes Juvenile Correctional Facility: Given the decreased number of youth committed to Virginia’s juvenile justice system, the Department of Juvenile Justice closed the Hanover Juvenile Correctional Center. The number of commitments in the state dropped 31 percent between 2008 and 2012. Closure of the Hanover facility follows two other facility closures in 2005 and 2009.

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  • Florida Continues to Eliminate Prison Beds and Increase Community-Based Alternatives: The final FY 2012-13 Florida budget passed by the legislature and signed by the governor eliminated over 300 juvenile beds and reinvested over $6 million in community-based alternatives. The state continued its move toward privatization, however; the budget included proviso language assuring 100 percent privatization of Florida’s juvenile prison system (excluding detention) by the end of the fiscal year. H.B. 5001/Act No. 2012-118, signed into law April 17, 2012; effective July 1, 2012.
  • Tennessee Closes Youth Facility: In July of 2012, the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services closed Taft Youth Development Center, a nearly 100-year-old facility housing approximately 80 youth. The youth housed at Taft were relocated to three other facilities in the state. The closure was a result of major state budget reductions and is projected to save the state $8.5 million annually.

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  • Alabama — State Reduces Number of Confined Youth: Thanks in large part to strong executive and judicial leadership, Alabama has dramatically reduced the number of youth committed to secure facilities. The average daily population of the Department of Youth Services (DYS) shrank from 1,084 in May 2007 to 490 in February 2012, a 55 percent reduction. Prior to decreasing the number of commitments to secure facilities, DYS was spending nearly 75 percent of its budget on incarcerating youth, over a third of whom were locked up primarily for status offenses and technical violations. Thanks to the money it saved on incarceration, the department was able to increase its funding of non-residential communitybased services by $2.4 million between FY 2007 and FY 2010, despite drastic cuts to the DYS budget; more than $7 million was provided for non-residential community-based programs in 2011 alone. Counties participating in the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI) drove the initial reductions in commitments in 2007. Deeper reductions statewide were inspired by the passage of juvenile justice reform legislation in 2008 and the creation of a new grant process for community-based alternatives in 2009-2010 (see separate entry under “Alternatives to Detention and Youth Prisons”).
  • Arkansas — State Reduces Incarceration of Youth: Between 2008 and 2011, overall commitments of youth to state custody in Arkansas dropped by 20 percent; commitments for misdemeanor-level behavior were reduced by 24 percent. Over the same period, the average length of stay in state treatment centers was shortened, dropping from 216 days in FY 2008 to 175 days in FY 2011. Additionally, the number of beds at the state’s largest juvenile secure facility, the Arkansas Juvenile Assessment and Treatment Center, were reduced from 143 to 100. Lastly, the number of youth committed to the juvenile justice system who are also the responsibility of the state’s child welfare system—“dual-jurisdiction” youth—has been significantly reduced, down from 62 youth in FY 2009 to only 16 in FY 2011. These changes stem from the work of a 50-member task force made up of stakeholders, agency officials, and reform advocates, which developed a comprehensive plan for reform of Arkansas’ juvenile justice system.
  • Arizona — Department of Juvenile Corrections Closes Juvenile Facility: In October 2011, the Catalina Mountain School was the second Arizona Department of Juvenile Corrections (ADJC) facility to close over the course of three years (the Eagle Point School closed in 2009). Additionally, two separately administered facilities—one for boys and the other for girls—now have combined management, leaving the state with only one remaining ADJC campus in Phoenix. The closures reduced the overall number of youth in ADJC facilities from 600 in FY 08-09 to a current total of around 400. Under new administration, ADJC has vowed to improve the educational, therapeutic, and transitional programming available to all youth at the remaining Phoenix facility. The Catalina Mountain School closure resulted in a $2.5 million savings in FY 2012, $1 million of which ADJC was authorized to use for structural improvements to the remaining juvenile facility. An annualized reduction of $3.8 million is expected in FY 2013 (based on the original FY 2012 appropriation).
  • California — State Drastically Reduces Youth Prison Population: Over the past several years, litigation and concern about dangerous conditions in California youth prisons resulted in media attention, stakeholder education about the problematic conditions, advocacy by a broad spectrum of organizations, and increased costs to the state for the confinement of youth. These developments have led to higher numbers of youth being treated by community-based programs in some counties, legislation restricting the types of offenses that can lead to state imprisonment, and budget realignment that redirects funds from state juvenile justice to the counties. These practice and policy changes—along with an unfortunate increase in direct files to adult court—have contributed to a dramatic drop in the population sent to California’s state youth facilities over the past fifteen years. On February 22, 2010, the California Division of Juvenile Justice closed the Heman G. Stark Youth Correctional Facility in Chino, the state’s largest juvenile prison. The state now has only three youth prisons, down from 11 in 2003. The overall population of California’s youth prisons has declined from a staggering 9,572 in 1996 to 1,082 at the end of 2011, an 89 percent decrease.
  • Colorado — Legislature Reduces Juvenile Detention Bed Cap by 57 Beds: The cap on the number of juvenile detention beds in Colorado was reduced by law from 479 to 422 beds. Bed caps on detention originated from S.B. 94 in 1991; the state periodically revises the caps as the utilization rate declines. When the cap is exceeded, the state must do an emergency release. The bed reduction also allows the legislature to reduce corresponding costs. S.B. 217/Ch. 150, signed into law and effective May 5, 2011.
  • Connecticut — Judicial Branch Closes Juvenile Detention Center: The Connecticut Judicial Branch closed the New Haven Detention Center in October 2011. This was partly due to a tight budget, but was also the result of ten years of reform advocacy, which fostered a statewide movement that increased investments in prevention and reduced the secure confinement of youth in detention centers prior to adjudication. The judicial branch closed the facility based on a lack of need for a total of three regular state detention centers; only two facilities now remain. Closing the facility preserved $3 million for programming and eliminated a total of 94 detention beds.
  • Connecticut — Law Restricts Use of Detention: A new Connecticut law restricts placement of youth in detention unless there is probable cause to believe the youth has committed the acts alleged and there is no less restrictive alternative available. The law also carves out six additional factors that allow for detention, including a strong probability that a youth will run away and a judicial finding of a violation of a suspended detention order. No youth may be held in any detention center without a judicial order to detain. H.B. 6634/Public Act 11-154, signed into law July 8, 2011; effective October 1, 2011.
  • Florida — State Reduces Number of Confined Youth: A combination of budget crises, new programs, and innovative practice reforms enabled Florida to close a number of public and private facilities over the past several years, including the notorious Dozier youth prison in 2011. Commitments to the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) dropped from 8,897 in FY 2004-05 to 5,684 in 2010-11, a 36 percent reduction. DJJ has eliminated more than 2,500 beds over the past six years, reducing its overall capacity of 6,012 in FY 2006-07 to a capacity of 3,455 as of December 2011. This reduction in commitments and overall capacity saved the state more than $130 million. Simultaneously, Florida has reduced the number of detained youth through the use of detention reform strategies. Over the past five years, Florida has reduced its total bed days for pre-disposition secure confinement by 55 percent, from 538,953 to 241,590.
  • Florida — Legislature Restricts Incarceration of Youth with Low-Level Convictions: With some exceptions, Florida courts may no longer commit youth without felony convictions to residential facilities. Exceptions include youth with three or more prior misdemeanor adjudications and youth adjudicated of offenses highly correlated with risk to re-offend. In its reasoning for the law, the legislature cites the high cost of incarceration, the ineffectiveness of incarceration, and the benefits of keeping youth connected with their families and communities. Advocates project that 680 fewer misdemeanor commitments will be made in FY 12-13 due to the new law. S.B. 2114/Ch. 54, signed in to law May 26, 2011; effective July 2011.
  • Georgia — Department of Juvenile Justice Closes Four Facilities, Downsizes One: Due to drastic reductions in the number of youth held in the state’s short-term program (STP), along with state budget cuts, the Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) closed four facilities and downsized one between 2009 and 2011. The department closed the McIntosh Youth Development Campus (YDC) in FY 2009, which was a 60-bed facility for STP youth. In FY 2010, DJJ closed the Bill Ireland YDC, which had a 300-bed capacity and a $20 million operating budget. The Macon YDC was downsized by 24 beds in FY 2010 and another 56 beds in FY 2011. The YDC closures and downsizing resulted in a $26 million budget reduction from FY 2008 to FY 2011. Lastly, two 30-bed Regional Youth Detention Centers were closed in FY 2011—Blakely and Griffin. The state projects an annual cost savings of $4.5 to $5 million from the two facility closures.
  • Georgia — Good Behavior Allows Youth a Chance at Release from Restrictive Custody: Georgia’s “Good Behavior Bill” allows the Department of Juvenile Justice or a youth to bring a motion to modify custody of youth committed to the department for certain designated felonies. The law now allows the court to recognize a youth’s good behavior and academic and rehabilitative progress, and grant release from restrictive custody after a hearing on the evidence. H.B. 373/Act 69, signed into law May 11, 2011; effective July 1, 2011.
  • Missouri — State Closes Six Juvenile Detention Centers: Missouri closed six of its 15 juvenile detention centers in 2011 after extensive review by the Juvenile Detention Facilities Workgroup, created by the Missouri Circuit Court Budget Committee. Each of the six facilities had an average daily population of four or fewer youth over the course of the past year, totaling a combined average daily population of only 18 youth, yet with a combined staff of over 63 FTEs (full time equivalents). The state estimates it will save approximately $500,000 in just the first year after the closures. The jurisdictions in which facilities were closed will receive additional funding in order to develop alternatives to detention. Thanks to the reduction of state detention rates overall, the remaining Missouri juvenile detention facilities have the space to house youth from jurisdictions that have closed facilities, and will serve as regional centers.
  • North Carolina — Secure Detention Admissions Decrease in North Carolina: In 2011, secure detention admissions in North Carolina decreased 17.7 percent and commitments to Youth Development Centers decreased 14 percent from 2010 rates, thanks to a shift in Division of Juvenile Justice policy away from overutilization of costly institutions and toward alternatives to detention. The state has made a commitment to evidence-based decision making, using data to drive placement and case review decisions, adoption of graduated responses, court reviews of all detention-related decisions, and using community partners to grow alternatives to detention. The total number of juvenile delinquency complaints filed statewide decreased as well for the fourth straight year, and the rate of delinquency complaints filed per 1,000 youth ages 6-15 dropped to a 12-year low. Effective July 1, 2012, the state is instituting a detention screening tool statewide to facilitate data-driven decision making. Also in 2012, the state will fully implement graduated response grids for courtinvolved youth.
  • New York — New York City Closes Notorious Detention Center: New York City closed the Spofford/Bridges Secure Detention Center in the Bronx in March 2011. The center was notorious for poor conditions of confinement and brutal treatment of youth. The center at one point housed 200 youth; when the center was closed, only a handful of youth remained. The city estimates it will save $14 million annually from the closure. Overall detention admissions for New York City declined 17 percent between 2006 and 2010; detention admissions for the rest of the state declined 37 percent over the same time period. New York City now uses a range of alternatives to detention to provide community-based supervision and educational services to youth who have been diverted from detention.
  • New York — State Dramatically Downsizes Number of Incarcerated Youth: The New York State Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) has downsized or closed a total of 31 facilities since 2007, with four facilities closed and four facilities downsized in August 2011 alone. These closures occurred in tandem with a federal Department of Justice investigation, which found that staff in a number of New York State facilities routinely used excessive physical force against residents and that the facilities failed to provide constitutionally adequate mental health care. Additionally, advocates filed a class-action lawsuit alleging unconstitutional conditions of confinement in state-operated facilities. Over the past ten years, the number of youth referred for facility placement with OCFS declined from 2,313 in 2000-2001 to a population of 627 youth in January 2011, a 73 percent decrease. State officials report that facility closures and downsizing have saved New York State $58 million.
  • Ohio — State Drastically Decreases Number of Youth Held in Facilities While Increasing Funding for Community-Based Programming: The Ohio Department of Youth Services (ODYS) has closed four youth facilities and downsized existing facilities since July 2009, thanks to RECLAIM Ohio—a fiscal realignment program that diverts funds from youth prisons to community-based alternatives—and reforms stemming from a 2008 class-action lawsuit (S.H. v. Stickrath, Case No. 2:04-cv-1206, now S.H. v. Reed), as well as state budget reductions. The average daily population in ODYS facilities dropped over 50 percent between December 2008 and December 2011. Through its facility closures, Ohio freed up over $57 million in operational expenses that had previously been spent on incarceration, a portion of which has been reinvested in Targeted RECLAIM and the Behavioral Health Juvenile Justice Initiative, which aim to reduce commitments to ODYS and increase the use of evidence-based programs in the community. Additional savings from the closures are being invested in the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI) and a residential treatment alternative for girls.
  • Oregon — Oregon Youth Authority Moves Youth from Secure Facilities to Community Placements: Due to budget constraints, the Oregon Youth Authority (OYA) reduced its “close-custody”—or secure—capacity from approximately 500 beds to 350. Simultaneously, the legislature allocated funding for the addition of 103 community placements. Between July and November of 2011, OYA transitioned some youth from its secure facilities into these less-restrictive community residential placements. In an effort to ensure continuity of services, despite changes in placement, youth continued to be served by the same probation parole officer they had prior to the move.
  • South Carolina — State Reduces Number of Confined Youth, Reassigns Staff to Community Positions: The population of youth confined in long-term Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) correctional facilities in South Carolina has declined by 71 percent since FY 2002-2003. Several factors contributed to the lower population: fewer delinquency referrals to court, which declined 37.5 percent since FY 02-03; legislative changes allowing “good time” credit for certain types of sentences and credit for time served in detention or a secure evaluation center before disposition; maximum utilization of alternative residential programs for committed youth who are lower risk; and improved services in the community, including intensive supervision and case management services for high-risk youth on probation and youth reentering the community from DJJ. The dramatic population reduction enabled DJJ to transfer many of the clinical staff from correctional facilities into community offices, where they now provide services to youth and families at the front end of the juvenile justice system. Reinvestment in the community is expected to save money and improve outcomes as case management services and interventions begin earlier and serve youth within their home communities.
  • Texas — State Shutters Youth Facilities, Decreases Number of Incarcerated Youth: In response to a high-profile abuse scandal, the Texas Legislature passed a reform bill in 2007 (S.B. 103), which barred commitment of a youth to the state agency for anything less than a felony and reduced the age of incarcerated young adults from 21 to 19. The law led to a drastic reduction in the population of youth committed to state secure facilities and five facilities were ultimately closed between August 2007 and August 2010. The residential population within state secure facilities decreased from 4,800 in FY 2006 to 1,798 in FY 2010, a 63 percent decline. Since 2007, the legislature has implemented fiscal realignment strategies that shift resources to county juvenile probation departments to supervise youth no longer eligible for state secure commitment, and divert those youth who are still eligible but who can be more safely and effectively served near home. Due to budget cuts in 2011, the Texas Juvenile Justice Department (TJJD) closed three additional state secure facilities and consolidated two more. The closure of two facilities in 2009 saved TJJD $115 million, $45.7 million of which was reinvested in diversion funding for juvenile probation departments.
  • Wisconsin — State Reduces Number of Detained Youth: The number of youth placed in short-term detention in Wisconsin declined 35 percent between 2006 and 2011, in part due to reduced use of the valid court order exception to hold youth who commit status offenses. The decline is due to overall system changes, including the creation of alternative services and training on evidence-based practices. Since mid-2011, over thirty county departments of human services—all of which provide delinquency-related services—have participated in initial trainings on implementing evidence-based practices at the local level, and work has begun on a curriculum to support improved practice for juvenile justice social workers and providers.
  • Wisconsin — State Shutters Two Juvenile Facilities: As of July 1, 2011, Wisconsin closed both the Ethan Allen School for Boys and Southern Oaks Girls School; approximately 40 youth were returned home and approximately 150 youth were transferred to Lincoln Hills School for Boys and a newly created Copper Lake School for Girls (on the grounds of Lincoln Hills). At the time of consolidation, fewer than 300 youth total were placed in juvenile corrections, marking a 70 percent decline in the average daily population from 2001 to 2011. The closure of the Ethan Allen facility stemmed in part from the recommendations of a governor-appointed committee, which in June 2010 affirmed its support for closing one of the facilities as a first step toward ongoing system change that would promote more effective community-based alternatives. The girls’ facility was closed due to a declining population. The programs at Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake schools have been reoriented to focus more on evidence-based practices, education, and reentry. Several local/regional secure detention centers in Wisconsin are considering the development of short-term alternatives to correctional placement that would keep youth nearer to their home communities and provide opportunities to more fully engage families.

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  • California — Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors Passes New Policy Limiting Detention of Young Children: On May 11, 2010, the Board of Supervisors in Santa Clara County, California unanimously approved a new policy discouraging the detention of children under the age of 13. The board hopes that the policy will encourage judges to send children to alternative settings, such as home-based supervision, intensive foster care, and community-based treatment centers.
  • Indiana — Department of Correction Closes Juvenile Correctional Facility: The Indiana Department of Correction (IDOC) shut down the Northeast Indiana Juvenile Correctional Facility on May 29, 2010 due to dramatic reductions in commitments to the facility—from a peak of over 100 youth in 2008/2009 to approximately 45 youth in May 2010. IDOC has worked closely with the juvenile courts to establish appropriate community-based diversion programs aimed at reducing commitments to secure confinement. Through these efforts, the overall juvenile population in IDOC facilities has been reduced from over 1,400 youth in July 2004 to approximately 750 youth in May 2010. IDOC estimates that it will realize approximately $4 million in annual savings from the closure of the Northeast Indiana Juvenile Correctional Facility.
  • Mississippi — State Further Limits Use of Secure Confinement: Building on H.B. 1494 from 2009 (see above), Mississippi law now provides that no child who has been adjudicated delinquent for a nonviolent felony or fewer than three misdemeanors may be committed to the state training school. The legislation encourages placement in the least restrictive environment for those youth committed to the state Division of Youth Services. The law will downsize the Oakley Training School and help ensure that youth who commit low-level offenses are not imprisoned. S.B. 2984/Ch. 371, signed into law March 17, 2010; effective July 1, 2010.

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  • District of Columbia — D.C. Closes Aged Juvenile Correctional Facility: During the summer of 2009, pursuant to legislation unanimously passed by the D.C. City Council, the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services closed its juvenile correctional facility for committed youth, the Oak Hill Youth Center—notorious for its abusive and violent conditions—and replaced it with the New Beginnings Youth Development Center. New Beginnings has a rated capacity of 60 beds, a significant reduction from Oak Hill’s population, which at times surged to 240 youth in a facility with a capacity of 188. The living units at New Beginnings are designed to maximize the opportunity for positive youth development in a therapeutic milieu, and provide the least restrictive, most homelike environment consistent with public safety. Based on the decreases in the number of youth the city incarcerated—which ultimately enabled the closure of Oak Hill—D.C. avoided spending over $18.5 million dollars between 2005 and 2009. (This estimate is based on figures for 2009, when it cost $311,345 to incarcerate a youth for a year.)
  • Kansas — State Shutters Juvenile Facility, Downsizes Overall Facility Population: In 2009, Kansas closed the Beloit Juvenile Correctional Facility for girls, a 66-bed facility. The state projected a savings of $1.4 million in FY 2009 from the Beloit facility closure. Overall, the population of Kansas’ juvenile correctional facilities declined from a monthly average of 410 in FY 2007 to a monthly average of 332 in FY 2010, a 19 percent decrease.
  • Louisiana — Legislature Converts Juvenile Institution into Regional Treatment Facility: The Jetson Center for Youth, closed as a juvenile correctional facility, is being converted into a regional treatment facility. Legislation sets forth requirements for the operation of the treatment facility, including overall design aligned with national best practices. The facility must have small dorms that house no more than 12 youth, and be limited to 99 youth total. The legislation mandates that the facility have a therapeutic setting, use standardized and validated risk/need assessments, use evidence-based programs, focus on staff development, involve family members, continuously evaluate its programs, and have a staff-to-youth ratio consistent with positive behavior models. While some improvements have already been made, much more still needs to be done to ensure the facility is indeed fully therapeutic and in compliance with the legislative mandate. S.B. 302/Act 253, signed into law July 1, 2009; effective August 15, 2009.
  • Mississippi — Nonviolent, First-Time Juvenile Offenders May Not Be Sent to Training School Without Specific Finding from the Court: Mississippi now prohibits courts from sending first-time nonviolent juvenile offenders or youth under the age of 10 to the state training school without first making a specific finding of fact by a preponderance of the evidence. The court must assess “what is in the best rehabilitative interest of the child and the public safety of communities and that there is no reasonable alternative to a non-secure setting and therefore secure commitment is appropriate.” The law also requires the court to make a similar finding of fact by a preponderance of the evidence before it sends a first-time nonviolent youth offender to detention for more than 90 days. H.B. 1494/Ch. 559, signed into law April 17, 2009; effective July 1, 2009.

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