The Idaho Department of Juvenile Corrections (IDJC) began participating in the Length of Stay Policy Academy to gain knowledge of evidenced-based practices that would likely reduce our average length of stay without negatively impacting community safety. In 2020, IDJC’s length of custody averaged 16.4 months, with a 24% recidivism rate. One concern expressed by internal staff is that although IDJC has indeterminant sentencing, this project would result in setting determinate timeframes rather than focusing on program completion. This resulted in focusing our eight goals toward efficient and effective practices to ultimately reduce length of stay.
The team members who participated in this effort were comprised of senior leadership and treatment professionals, both internal and external to IDJC, who have the authority and willingness to review system policies, procedures, and challenges and address them head on. The team began action planning by gathering and analyzing historical department data to identify possible areas of improvement for length of stay. We then surveyed both internal staff members and external partners to determine needs, address concerns, solicit feedback, and begin developing action plan concepts. We asked questions and gained invaluable feedback relating to length of stay perceptions and recommendations for systems improvements.
Through this process, the following overarching goals were identified:
- Work with community partners and families to improve transition of committed juveniles from the community to IDJC.
- Work with internal and external stakeholders to streamline processes related to program placement.
- Adopt and develop formal length of stay targets.
- Define program progress and community readiness.
- Identify and quantify optimal treatment dosage within facility treatment and program.
- Increase IDJC efforts to engage families.
- Develop a process for administrative review of length of stay.
- Work with community partners and families to improve transition to community and community-based services.
To accomplish these goals, several objectives were identified. Small committees comprised of internal and external stakeholders from all regions in various positions are being established, one at a time, to develop and implement each objective. This project is lead by our guiding mission to develop and maintain a system that ensures effective programming and optimal dosage for successful reintegration. We believe both our individual and average lengths of stay will be reduced by implementing these goals.
In an effort to achieve goals and integrate changes into IDJC culture, the process will focus on partnerships, staff buy-in, funding, and other resources needed to anticipate and address issues related to system changes. The implementation of staff-led teams will be critical to identifying champions for this change. Attention will be given to ensuring the foundational components of Idaho juvenile justice values are maintained, including continuing to strengthen the principles of the Balanced Approach and build on the Five Pillars of successful reintegration (targeted treatment, counseling, skills building, education, and family engagement).
Most recently, this October the IDJC hosted the 2021 Juvenile Justice Summit in Boise. We were honored to have guest speakers Susan Burke, Ruth Rosenthal, Steve Beck, and Pamela Vickery present on their experiences with length of stay, treatment dosage, and what is good for youth in residential care, their families, and safety of their communities. Approximately 100 individuals attended the summit either in person or virtually. The event was a great success, and will help drive our efforts to ensure juveniles in Idaho are receiving individualized care specific to their needs.
**Susan Burke, Director, Utah Division of Juvenile Justice Services (ret.); Ruth Rosenthal, Manager, Public Safety Performance Project, Pew Charitable Trusts; Judge Steve Beck, Third District Juvenile Court; Pamela Vickrey, Executive Director, Utah Juvenile Defender Attorneys