Scott County, Iowa

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About Juvenile Detention Center:
Background, Philosophy & Components

The Center receives revenues primarily from:

  • Department of Public Instruction-
    Possible because of the school program.
  • Out of County funding-
    Counties outside of Scott County pay a per diem charge when a youth under their jurisdiction is detained.
  • State of Iowa Reimbursement-
    Based on a percentage of the Center costs per year.

Program Background

Though security is the paramount concern, the Center does not maintain control simply through the use of security hardware. Rather, involvement between youth and staff is an important behavior management tool. The Center does not profess to be a treatment program; however, staff provide individual care treatment planning, crisis counseling, living skills training and supervised recreational activities. Detention Staff consider the Center to be an integral component to the larger Juvenile Justice/Treatment system. A year-round school program is operated under the auspices of the Area Educational Agency.

A youth may be placed in a juvenile detention center if he/she has committed a serious criminal act. In most situations this criminal activity would be classified as a felony or an aggravated misdemeanor if committed by an adult. The commission of a criminal act, however, is not the only criteria sufficient to require detainment. One or more of the following conditions must also be present:

Although the Center is operated by Scott County , it receives referrals from several counties in Eastern Iowa. At present, eleven detention centers are operating in the State of Iowa—Linn County (Cedar Rapids ), Polk County (Des Moines) , Woodbury County (Sioux City), North Iowa (Waterloo), Northwest Iowa (Cherokee), Southwest Iowa (Council Bluffs), Scott County (Davenport), South Iowa (Lee and Lucas County), Central Iowa (Eldora).

Program Philosophy

The Center’s structure provides more than short-term confinement. The philosophy is to challenge youth to take responsibility for the thinking/behavioral patterns that brought about their placement, and to explore areas of growth and change needed to assure that they will not be detained again. While staff are aware of the limitations that the Center’s brief ‘Average Length of Stay’ places on it’s best attempts to meaningfully impact residents, it is hoped that through community collaboration and an intensive staff training program, real progress will be made.

Development of a rapport between staff and residents is key to creating an environment conducive to positive change. Because of this rapport, the Center has managed the behavior of youth found to be extremely recalcitrant in other environments. The involvement between staff and residents also helps reduce the frustration and anxiety felt by youth. Although the Center is not a treatment program, staff members view detention as a very important component in this Juvenile Justice/Treatment System. Because this system strives to reduce juvenile crime by actively engaging youthful offenders at all points of contact, staff members are determined to seize every opportunity to positively impact the residents.

In an effort to make use of community resources, a Speaker's Bureau has been established and guest speakers from several agencies have volunteered to facilitate group discussions on issues ranging from gang education to the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases. A clinician from the Vera French Community Mental Health Center consults and trains staff in a myriad of issues in order to enhance the services provided by the Center. Since a majority of the youth detained at the Center will be transferred to treatment programs, the Center’s structure attempts to address the negative thinking and behavioral patterns that have sabotaged past efforts to promote positive change. This allows for a rudimentary preparation for youth facing the structure found in treatment programs. At present, an effort to organize joint training for the staff of several different area agencies that deal with delinquent youth is underway. It is hoped that this will convey a clearer, more consistent message to youthful offenders as they move through the Juvenile Justice System.

Program Components

The structure of the Center consists of a hybrid of Behavior Modification and Cognitive Restructuring. All residents enter the Center on Orientation Level and must learn program rules, complete self assessment/writing assignments to progress to Blue, Green and ultimately Gold Level. Consequences for negative behaviors progress from a verbal warning, to room time, to a drop in the student’s level in the Center’s Program, and finally isolation in the control room for serious cases of disruptive or uncontrollable behaviors. Negative consequences are not intended to be personalized or excessively punitive, but rather a learning process where the youth can learn socially acceptable behavior.

The components that comprise the behavior management program are:

Education is the most highly structured of these program components. This service is provided by the Mississippi Bend Area Education Agency. The Center school is fully accredited and is taught by a certified teacher. The Center teacher initially tests all youth in mathematics and reading to assess their level of ability. In addition, education and social histories are obtained to assist in the determination of an appropriate level of competency. After the initial assessments the teacher has three options:

  1. If the youth is currently enrolled in a school system, the teacher will communicate with the appropriate person(s) to obtain current assignments. The youth will be expected to continue with regular class assignments as closely as possible given the limitations of the Center.
  2. In cases where the youth is not enrolled in a school system, the teacher assigns individualized diagnostics and prescriptive instructional lessons which are consistent with a traditional school curriculum.
  3. Youth who will not return to a traditional school environment will be assigned work to prepare them for the GED exam.

The Center observes behavior and supplies reports to juvenile court officers upon request. In addition to these reports, youth may be evaluated by the staff of the Vera French Mental Health Center upon request of the Juvenile Court. These evaluations are performed in cases where the behavior is somewhat atypical or where the court needs more input to determine an appropriate care plan. In situations where an evaluation is deemed appropriate, the youth is normally confined from thirty to forty-five days.

The recreational component is the key to the staff-resident involvement. Staff members interact with the youth in a variety of activities. Many of the activities are intended to promote physical fitness, other activities may enhance creativity. In addition to Center staff, the Center utilizes both practicum students and volunteers to interact with youth in various recreational activities.