Putting a New Spin on Custody: New Initiative in New Jersey Places Officers on Bikes

By Beyer, Howard L. | Corrections Today, April 2005 | Go to article overview

Putting a New Spin on Custody: New Initiative in New Jersey Places Officers on Bikes


Beyer, Howard L., Corrections Today


The New Jersey Training School (NJTS), located in Monroe Township, is putting a new spin on custody. As a result of a new initiative, relationships between juvenile officers and residents have dramatically improved, while response time to emergencies has been cut significantly. How are they doing it? On bicycles.

For more than a year, juvenile correctional officers who volunteered for the assignment have been crisscrossing the 100-acre NJTS campus on its paved roads and walkways--and for emergencies, crossing through the grass--on bicycles. The Campus Patrol has provided greater access to the various facilities that are spread across the campus, including a school (complete with a gym and a pool), an industrial building for vocational trades, a hospital, a chapel, separate visit and dining halls, a community center, two greenhouses, an administration and central command building, nine housing units, a power house, storerooms and other facilities. Needless to say, patrolling the facility is a formidable task.

The New Jersey State Reform School, as it was known, was established in 1865 through legislation following a plea from Gov. Joel Parker to establish a facility for youths who had broken the law. Parker requested a facility for juvenile males that would, "soften his pliant nature rather than render him more obdurate." Then, like now, the facility focused on rehabilitation rather than punishment. In October 1867, the first juveniles came to what would later become the New Jersey Training School. Nearly 140 years later, the New Jersey Juvenile Justice Commission (JJC) continues to take innovative steps that expand on that original concept of focusing on education, vocational training and the personal growth of each youth.

About the Agency

Created in 1995 to bring together services for delinquent youths, JJC is the single state agency responsible for providing juvenile rehabilitation and parole services. JJC cares for New Jersey's high-risk and increasingly vulnerable youths. The agency has a unique and pivotal opportunity to redirect the lives of the youths in its custody. JJC operates six secure care facilities and 22 residential community homes and day treatment facilities. In addition, the agency is responsible for parole and transitional services for youths when they return home from JJC custody.

The agency is responsible for more than 2,000 youths, comprising approximately 1,000 committed youths, 300 probationers and 800 juvenile parolees. JJC residents range in age from 12 to 23. The typical resident is 17 years old at the time of admission, and more than 90 percent are male.

NJTS is JJC's largest facility, housing approximately 300 youths. The sprawling campus is enclosed by a secure perimeter fence that is continuously maintained by a roving vehicle. JJC employs more than 200 law enforcement officers at NJTS, who not only maintain a secure facility, but help rehabilitate youths.

A positive and trusting relationship between the officers and the youths is essential. JJC is proud of its highly trained law enforcement staff, and the agency is committed to realizing the potential of the youths in its care, thereby helping them change the direction of their futures. JJC's dedicated and experienced juvenile correctional officers play a critical role in fulfilling this mission every day.

Education is the foundation of JJC's rehabilitation efforts. Students are engaged in academic and vocational training every day of the week, and often on Saturdays and Sundays. JJC strives to meet each student's individual educational needs by offering a vast array of learning options to them. Many are nontraditional in nature and satisfy the demands of New Jersey's Core Curriculum Content Standards and Alternative Education requirements. Vocational opportunities at NJTS include a sign shop where students design T-shirts, decals and signs; an auto body shop; a horticulture program; an optical lab where students makes eyeglasses for JJC and the Department of Corrections; and courses of study in woodworking, culinary arts and baking, and plumbing. …

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