Magazine article Corrections Today

The Louisiana Office of Juvenile Justice's Reentry Programming Works

Magazine article Corrections Today

The Louisiana Office of Juvenile Justice's Reentry Programming Works

Article excerpt

Louisiana is in its sixth year of dramatic reform to the state's juvenile justice system, moving from an adult correction model to a rehabilitative, youth-focused system. Since 2006, the Louisiana Office of Juvenile Justice's (OJJ) policies have been required to reflect individualized service plans for youths, based upon ongoing treatment and assessment, including policies supporting evidence-based programming for youths in out-of-home placements. Because resources and access to treatment vary in each community, OJJ's model for reentry must be a "solutions-centered" model of early identification of reentry services. The services must include strong coordination with families, courts, district attorneys and targeted community assets. OJJ's reentry programming (also referred to as after-care or community transition) is a strategy aimed at reducing additional crime and recidivism, resulting in cost savings in both financial and human capital. The guiding principle for reentry is to maintain individualized treatment gains and continue to build assets and prosocial skills in youths returning home from residential placement so they avoid the behaviors and situations that brought them to court in the first place.

Secure Care and Prerelease

Much of the effort to shift how the state deals with adjudicated juveniles has focused on three secure-care institutions and their implementation of the models of confinement from Missouri's Department of Youth Services. There are no restraints, armed officers or mace. Buildings have been converted and dorms built in order to foster a family-type atmosphere with groups of 12 youths and two adult youth workers. After more than six years into the reform movement, the reentry plan for the prerelease phase for secure-care juveniles in Louisiana is comprehensive, including extensive and ongoing assessment, intense supervision, multiple evidence-based treatment models, education and some vocational training programs. In addition, 011 has been effectively managing its budget to deal with the funding pressure of providing year-round schools, medical and dental care, sex offender treatment and mental health/substance abuse treatment on-site 24 hours-a-day, seven days-a-week.

Nonsecure Care and Prerelease

Youths in nonsecure custody also receive full assessments upon intake. OJJ develops individualized intervention plans (IPPs), all of which contain a section for reentry planning, for each youth. Regional offices have social workers to ensure the plans are updated and accurate. Because most local school districts enforce zero-tolerance and other stringent discipline policies, many residential/group homes under contract with the juvenile justice system have onsite schools and on-site counselors. All are required to use certified teachers and to teach a curriculum that includes life-skills for youths in their care. Treatment and education goals are implemented and monitored by the social workers and probation and parole officers (PPOs) located within the regional office. Face-to-face meetings between each youth and his or her PPO takes place at least monthly, with staffings every other month. Staffings are meetings that include the youth, the parent, the PPO, the residential provider, the case manager and a social worker or counselor familiar with treatment goals.

In order to keep track of all these systems and policies, OJJ has an electronic, Web-based youth tracking program, used by all PPOs to enable the agency to capture and report on youth placement, as well as a case-management component to track referrals and provider outcomes. Data in the system include all placements and activities for each youth under supervision or in custody.

Reentry Phases

With all of the above components in place and working properly, OJJ has identified four phases for reentry. They are as follows:

Phase one. Entry into secure care entails intensive assessment and evaluation; assignment to a reintegration/transition team; the development of a treatment profile (to include demographic information, education and vocational assessment, medical evaluation/assessments, psychosocial assessments, and administration of the Structured Assessment of Violence Risk in Youth, and the development of a preliminary reintegration plan. …

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