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Comprehensive Juvenile Justice System Study
Build Out the Continuum of Services

Build Out the Continuum of Services

Research has shown that community based programs are more effective in changing delinquent behavior than incarceration. Lancaster County already has several successful community based programs, and the system assessment showed that community based programs are substantially less costly than residential programs. Expansion of existing community based programs is warranted, based on the profile of youth in secure detention. In addition, new programs are needed to expand the continuum of services available for youth in the juvenile justice system.

The expansion of the continuum would provide the County with the most appropriate level of supervision depending upon the individual juvenile's circumstances. Secure facilities would be reserved for those offenders who are a threat to society or who have been unsuccessful in less restrictive programs. The continuum would give the County the ability to move offenders to a restrictive environment if needed to ensure public safety. The ability to employ graduated sanctions is a key aspect of the continuum of services.

Specific recommendations for expanding the existing continuum of juvenile offender services includes:

  • Recommendation 7: Expand Pre-Trial Diversion Program
    The formal Pretrial Diversion program was started this fiscal year and is administered by Cedars Youth Services. Prior to the implementation of this program, the Lincoln Police Department operated an informal diversion program. The current program should be expanded in light of the offenses committed by Lancaster County youth, and the very low cost to divert youth through this program.
  • Recommendation 8: Expand Home Detention Program
    The existing home detention program should be expanded to meet the needs of the increasing detention population. Home detention is used in lieu of out-of-home placement for a portion of juvenile offenders, and has had a high rate of success since it began in 1995.
  • Recommendation 9: Expand Tracker Program
    The Tracking program implemented during the last fiscal year should be expanded to meet the needs of the increasing population. This program provides a high level of supervision in the community for youth requiring more supervision than straight probation.
  • Recommendation 10: Expand FYI Program
    The FYI program provides intensive case management to 45 families in Lancaster County. Many of the program referrals come from the juvenile probation department. The FYI program serves as a "broker" for families needing service, and coordinates services among all the providers involved with a family.
  • Recommendation 11: Expand Day Reporting Center Population
    A day reporting center program was recently started in Lancaster County. The program is designed for youth on parole who are transitioning back to the community. Located at Lincoln General Hospital, the 90 day program has a capacity for 16 youth, and a per diem cost of $20.00. Youth are required to attend the program from 3:00 p.m. until 9:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, and from 12 noon to 10 p.m. on Saturday. Functions of the reporting center are:
    1. Provide a highly structured intermediate sanction program for youth within the Lincoln community.
    2. Stabilize and serve as an alternative to institutionalization for area youth who are at risk of violating the terms of their parole.
    3. Insure appropriate, effective community adjustment for youth returning from Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Centers.

    Services include, but will not be limited, to:

    • independent living skills training;
    • anger management skills and aggression replacement training;
    • tutorial/homework assistance;
    • conflict resolution;
    • health education;
    • victim awareness/empathy training;
    • substance abuse prevention and education;
    • self-esteem enhancement;
    • recreation and physical exercise;
    • community service/restitution; and
    • mentoring through existing community resources.

    A program similar to this, with varying levels of program duration, should be piloted for selected juvenile offenders, both pre-adjudicated and as a juvenile court disposition. Similar programs exist throughout the country, with more programs being developed each year.

    The Extended Day Program in McLean County, Illinois is an example of a successful day reporting program. The program was implemented six years ago with a $100,000 grant. Offenders in the program range from low level property offenders to violent offenders. A significant number of the offenders are on home confinement and report to the program after school until 8:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. Program elements include tutoring, group sessions such as drug education and esteem building, and community service.

    Specific recommendations for new programs that will enhance the continuum of juvenile justice services include:

  • Recommendation 12: Develop New Truancy Programs

    Truancy is an indicator of future problems for youth. Research has concluded that truant students are significantly more likely to drop out of school than regular attenders. A 1989 study by Bempechat and Ginsburg found that dropouts had exhibited notably higher rates of absenteeism and truancy than non-dropouts. In addition, 75% of students who were truant in both elementary and high schools did not graduate from high school; for non-truants, the dropout rate was a mere 1%. The majority of habitual truants make the transition to dropping out. According to the National School Safety Center (NSSC) Resource Paper Increasing Student Attendance (1994), a significant 1992 study by the National Center on Educational Statistics found that:

    1. in 1992, approximately 383,000 students (4.4% of all high school students) 15 to 24 years old dropped out of grades 10 through 12 in 1992;
    2. in 1992, 3.4 million people (11%) 16 to 24 years old were high school dropouts; and
    3. in 1992, the dropout rate was 11.6% for students who were eighth graders in 1988 and who had left high school by the spring of 1992 without finishing.

    Compounding the issue of truancy, a strong correlation has been found among youth between high unexcused absences and delinquent activity.

    A variety of programs have been developed throughout the country to deal with chronic truancy, but most include elements of mentoring, crisis intervention, family counseling, and academic counseling. Costs for these programs vary widely, depending on the individual youth, the level of volunteer effort, the duration of involvement, and other factors. Some truancy prevention programs require a short stay in detention for violation of court ordered school attendance. Other programs focus only on community supervision as a means of ensuring a youth remains in school.

  • Recommendation 13: Develop After School Programs

    After school programs are needed to bridge the gap of time between the end of the school day and the time when parents/guardians arrive home from work. These types of programs are essential components of a comprehensive strategy to reduce juvenile crime, since most juvenile crime occurs between the hours of 3:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

  • Recommendation 14: Develop Specialized Foster Home/Professional Parenting Homes

    Currently, Lancaster County only has two specialized foster homes. Additional specialized foster homes or a professional parenting program is needed. A professional parent assumes the role of community resource advocate and may assist the Court in the long term planning process. Both programs are often used for special needs and difficult to place youth.


Table 5-1 shows the detention forecast that was discussed in Section 4. The detention forecast was developed using the historic average daily population in secure detention. The system assessment and set of recommendations outlined above would reduce the need for detention beds by diverting youth to expanded or new community based programs. As a result, Table 5-1 shows the bedspace capacity reduction that would result from diverting 15% of the baseline detention forecast population to community based programs and programs for youth requiring mental health and crisis intervention.

As shown in Table 5-1, a total of 77 beds would be needed by the year 2012, and 90 beds by the year 2017. This assumes that the organizational changes and enhancements, and the community based alternative recommendations will be implemented. If they are not, Lancaster County would have to plan for 91 beds over the next ten years, and close to 110 beds by the year 2017.

It should also be noted that the growth in community based programs shown in Table 5-1 is in addition to the normal growth that will occur in the existing community based programs.

The specific recommendations related to detention and other bedspace requirements include:

  • Recommendation 15: Develop Mental Health/Crisis Beds

    Lancaster County has a need for mental health crisis beds in addition to traditional detention beds. The number of youth requiring "Crisis" beds has been tracked by Lincoln General Hospital. During the period from January through October 1996, 345 youth were admitted that would meet Emergency Protective Custody (EPC) guidelines. The average stay in 1996 was 9.4 days, for an average daily population of 10.7. During the period from January through September 1997, 251 EPC category youth were admitted. The average length of stay in 1997 was 7.1 days, for an average daily population of 6.6. The 1997 numbers are lower due to a gap in data collection when the legislature changed EPC guidelines.

    A total of 10 beds are needed to meet the needs of youth requiring mental health crisis intervention. These beds would be allocated for children who are screened as emergency protective custody (EPC) status. These beds would not be part of the detention center.

  • Recommendation 16: Develop New Detention Capacity

    The overall recommendation assumes a 15% reduction in the 20-year projected detention need of 106 beds, for a total of 90 beds. This is the minimum anticipated reduction that would be derived from enhancing existing community-based programs and implementing additional needed programs. An additional 10 bed reduction in detention bed spaces would be achieved by developing the 10 Mental Health/Crisis Beds described above. The remaining detention beds would be allocated as follows:

    • Secure Beds - A total of 60 secure beds are needed for serious and/or chronic offenders.
    • Staff Secure Beds - A total of 20 non-secure beds are needed for those offenders who do not warrant secure detention, but require, temporary out of home placement.

    The cost of an 80 bed detention facility will vary, depending on decisions to reuse all or a portion of existing buildings, all the way through totally new construction. Costs will also vary depending on decisions related to collocation of secure and staff secure detention.

    Table 5-2 shows the cost estimate for a 60 bed secure detention facility, and a 20 bed staff secure facility. The total project cost of $9,389,800 could be reduced by collocating the two facilities. It should also be noted that the costs shown in Table 5-2 are capital costs only, and do not include the cost of any land acquisition (if necessary) or the ongoing operational costs. Using the current per diem cost of $145 per day, the estimated annual operating cost of an 80 bed facility would be $4,234,000 annually, based on 1998 dollars.

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