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Advances in Juvenile Justice Reform: Screening and Assessment

Screening and Assessment: 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 


  • South Carolina Expands Authority for Community Evaluations of Youth: A new South Carolina law relaxes the requirements for court-ordered residential evaluations. Prior to disposition, all youth in South Carolina who are adjudicated delinquent must be evaluated; evaluations can take place either in the community or the court may commit a youth to the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) for up to 45 days for evaluation in a secure facility. The new law allows evaluations in the community for youth who have been ordered by the court to have a residential evaluation unless the underlying order has found the youth to be a flight risk or a risk to public safety, or if the underlying charge is a felony. The new statute also makes it clear that a community evaluation is equivalent to a residential evaluation, even if they are not identical. S.B. 300/Act No. 227, signed into law and effective June 18, 2012.
  • Washington — Youth Entering Detention Must Be Screened for Developmental Disabilities: By December 31, 2012, counties in Washington State were required to develop and implement detention intake and risk assessment standards for determining whether youth are developmentally disabled. The requirement aims to help the state meet its goal of keeping youth in the community prior to adjudication whenever possible by accurately assessing their risk and needs, and of providing safe and rehabilitative care for youth in detention. S.B. 6157/Act No. 120, signed into law March 29, 2012; effective June 7, 2012.

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  • Connecticut — Education Screening Tool to Be Implemented for Youth Entering Detention: The Connecticut Judicial Branch/Court Support Services Division commissioned Yale University to develop an educational screening tool for youth entering detention centers, in order to determine their grade equivalent for reading and math based on Connecticut standards. The tool has been validated for use in detention centers and is now available to educators. The developers of the tool are currently working to refine the instrument to make it more user-friendly and thereby broaden its use across the state.
  • Missouri — Supreme Court Mandates Use of Juvenile Detention Assessment Instrument: The Missouri Supreme Court mandated that as of January 1, 2012, all youth facing detention receive a risk score through Missouri’s new juvenile detention assessment instrument in order to determine their pre-adjudication placement. The court states that generally youth should not be held in secure detention unless they present a risk to public safety or may fail to appear in court for their hearings. The instrument is to be used to assist in making a decision as to whether a youth should be placed in a secure detention facility, placed in an alternative to detention, or released. The instrument is a written checklist used to rate each youth for specific detention-related risks and was developed to address the inappropriate detention of youth based on race, gender, or offense. The court’s order also directs the state courts administrator to provide training to all circuits on the use of the instrument, and requires circuits using the instrument to keep and report data. Court Operating Rule 28, April 8, 2011.

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  • Washington — Clark County Institutes Screening for Youth Referred to Truancy Program: As part of its work through the MacArthur Foundation’s Models for Change initiative, Clark County, Washington instituted the use of the MAYSI-2 (Massachusetts Youth Screening Instrument) for all youth referred to the Clark County Truancy Project. The use of this instrument has allowed the county to more quickly identify the needs of the youth referred to the program and then appropriately link those youth to relevant services in the community. The program has instituted a new database to track how many youth are effectively connected to services. The Clark County Truancy Project was one of the first programs to test the MAYSI-2 with status offending youth; the instrument is now also in use at the neighboring Cowlitz County Truancy Program.
  • Wisconsin — Lawmakers Improve Data Sharing in Order to Increase Effective Detention Screening: A new Wisconsin law allows detention intake workers access to prior adjudication histories in order to make more appropriate detention decisions. In 2008, Wisconsin counties faced a significant hurdle when attempting to introduce detention screening instruments, a best practice to ensure equitable decision-making about whether youth should be detained. Because of juvenile confidentiality laws, county officials could not access data on prior court adjudications or court involvement related to child welfare or delinquency issues. This information can be an important element in screening youth for placement in detention and elsewhere because it enhances the safety of the youth and the community. S.B. 375/Act 2009-338, signed into law and effective May 13, 2010.
  • Wyoming — Officers to Conduct Risk Assessments of Youth in Detention: Wyoming law now requires law enforcement to screen youth taken into custody with a uniform juvenile detention risk assessment instrument designed by county sheriffs. The Department of Family Services must collect and analyze data on the application of the risk assessment instrument, and report annually to the legislature. The instrument is now in use across the state, and data from completed assessments and existing detention censuses shows that the majority of youth are placed in detention for probation violations/revocations, warrants, and/or awaiting hearings/placement. A report submitted to the legislature in January 2012 acknowledges that a large portion of such youth do not belong in a secure facility for reasons of public safety or flight risk. The report encourages communities to consider serving such youth through alternatives to detention. The law additionally requires law enforcement to notify a youth’s parent or guardian as soon as possible—and no later than 24 hours—that the youth has been taken into custody. The law prohibits holding a youth under age 11 in a hardware-secure juvenile detention facility. H.B. 12/Ch. 22, signed into law March 4, 2010; effective July 1, 2011.

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  • Louisiana — Office of Juvenile Justice Adopts Standard Screening and Assessment Tool for All Adjudicated Youth: In partnership with the MacArthur Foundation’s Models for Change initiative, the Louisiana Office of Juvenile Justice (OJJ) adopted the Structured Assessment of Violence Risk in Youth (SAVRY) as the tool used to assess all youth placed in state custody. The SAVRY tool, which has now been implemented statewide, allows OJJ to create individualized plans for rehabilitation services for each youth based upon risk and need. Using the tool, OJJ can inform the sentencing judge if community-based program options are more appropriate for youth sentenced to secure confinement. The statewide use of the SAVRY will provide OJJ with data that will inform the development of the continuum of care for adjudicated youth.
  • Washington —  Pierce County Modifies Detention Risk Assessment Instrument to Limit Unnecessary Detention Holds: The MacArthur Foundation’s Models for Change Executive Steering Committee in Pierce County, Washington voted to remove domestic violence charges as an automatic hold on its detention risk assessment instrument in June 2009. This change allows youth charged with domestic violence to be evaluated for detention on the basis of their risk factors, rather than being automatically incarcerated because of the nature of the charge.

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Photo: Paul Vladuchick, under Creative Commons License