Administrator highlights juvenile justice center's programs, objectives
|Director Kara Freeman and Tech Two Amber Adair go over the floor plans of the Castle Country Youth Center. |
With a steadily increasing youth offender population, the Castle Country Youth Center is becoming a more important piece of the criminal justice system in Carbon County.
The center had 468 instances of admittance in fiscal year 2007, with the facility serving 272 youth in southeastern Utah.
The facility serves Carbon and Emery counties and is a large part of Castle Country's continuing mission to assist at risk youth by decreasing recidivism before they fall into problems as adults, according to Castle Country Center Director Kara Freeman.
"There are many misconceptions about our facility," said Freeman, when asked about the programs that are utilized at the local, state funded institution.
According to Freeman, the main focus of the facility is to reduce recidivism in local youth while finding out what brought them into the system and how the human services department is going to aid in getting them out.
"Our division has taken on a lot of initiatives in the past several years and one of them is a big push to utilize research based programs within the facility," said Freeman. "One is working with a gender specific model using current research based techniques to develop a way to reduce the risk for that particular group."
Statistics provided on the state's website stipulate that 39 percent of Utah's youth will have some contact with the juvenile justice system and that 70 percent of those youth will be between the ages of 15 and 17 years of age.
In Carbon County that percent is consistent. However the Castle Country center differs from other state centers in a variety of ways.
"We are a progress based detention center and we are able to do that because we have a good working relationship with the juvenile court system and juvenile probation," said Freeman.
A progressed based facility means that once a youth has been sentenced to the facility by the juvenile court they are required to complete a certain amount of work before leaving.
There are four levels of commitment, ranging from Delta to Alpha, each have certain cognitive behavioral requirements in order to advance.
"It is not about the number of days that youth serve, but more about the program requirements that they complete before they are released," said Freeman. "To leave the facility, youth would have to identify, using cognitive exercises, their thinking errors and tell their story. They further would be required to find what changes they would need to make to be successful and not repeat the same mistakes."
According to the director, the youth also are given a "smart book" which assesses their offense and helps them to understand the importance of accountability for their actions.
Additionally, the juveniles' behavior is graded on a daily basis by detention staff.
"I feel that we have a great staff at this facility, a staff that is vested in the center and has made a real commitment to the youth they work with everyday," said Freeman. "More than 50 percent of the staff here have been working at the facility since it was built in 2000."
The juvenile justice center also utilizes group programs for the youth offenders.
The group programs include three components:
All three components are used with a variety of activities that includes role playing, something that requires a strong commitment from the center's staff.
"The staff's attitude is essential to the youth and their progression," said Freeman.
Freeman, who has been director of the juvenile justice center in Price since 2005, has seen the detention from the ground up.
"I still try to interact with the kids everyday. I started as a part-timer and worked my way through the ranks," pointed out the administrator. "I feel like I can impact youth more on a global level from the position I now hold, but I still do enjoy working with youth on a one to one basis."
Freeman reported that her experience, coupled with current research results, show that boot camp or punitive based programs do not work in terms of long-term changes for young people.
"I think we have a very structured program facility. We still do have a very physically intense program, but we also try to do a lot of early intervention with kids that are served by our facility," explained the center's administrator. "It is our hope to effectively measure what type of impact we are having on the kids lives."
When the detention facility has a youth in custody for an extended period of time, Freeman indicated that it is easier for the facility to monitor the juvenile's progress.
Examples of extended stays include case management situations.
But for a short detention stay at the center, the tracking process becomes more difficult.
"You have to be realistic with detention outcomes just based on the amount of time you are able to spend with the youth. In a case management situation, you would expect to see more meaningful effects," commented the juvenile justice center's administrator.
Freeman reported that the center has initiated youth service work in the community.
The program is a voluntary service for youth and families who may be experiencing difficulties.
The community work service program is part of the center's focus on early intervention for local youth.
For additional information regarding the service, local residents may contact the Castle Country Youth Center in Price at 636-4740.
State guidelines for youth
Juveniles, ages 8 to 18, who commit acts that are illegal only due to their age, can become involved with juvenile justice just as if they had committed a felony or misdemeanor. These age specific offenses include:
Running away from home.
Continually skipping school.
Using tobacco and alcohol
Those acting beyond the control of their parents, can be committed as well as those who commit misdemeanor and felony level offenses.
The state Division of Juvenile Justice Services has an overall philosophy of balance.
According to the state, the balanced and restorative justice model is a philosophy of correctional care that emphasizes three equally important principles.
Accountability: When a crime occurs, a debt is incurred. Youth must be held accountable for their actions and restore the victim's losses. JJS will be held accountable for the efficiency of services provided to youth.
Competency development: Offenders should leave the system more capable of productive participation in conventional society than when they entered.
Community protection: The public has a right to a safe and secure community. Youth also have the right to be safe while in the custody of the Division of Juvenile Justice Services.