Community-Based Alternatives to Secure Detention and Incarceration
Definition. Alternatives to secure confinement are special programming approaches designed to prevent less serious offenders, status offenders, and nonoffenders from being placed in secure confinement. The concept of secure confinement alternatives is based on the premise that time spent in secure confinement may do youths more harm than good.
Brief Literature Review. A significant body of research indicates that secure confinement (i.e., detention or incarceration)
For youth, detention is associated with the risk of physical and psychological injury, as many detention facilities are understaffed (Holman and Ziedenberg, 2007), and “crowded and unsafe” (National Juvenile Defender Center, 2006:4). Status offenders also are at risk of being housed with seriously delinquent youth (National Juvenile Defender Center, 2004) and of developing more deviant attitudes and behaviors through exposure to other status offenders and to delinquent youth (Holman and Ziedenberg, 2007). In addition, detained youth “are more likely to have difficulty transitioning back into community, home, and school settings, and are more likely to be arrested again…[and] to be formally charged, adjudicated, and committed to a juvenile corrections institution” (Munson et al., 2008:5). Detention also negatively affects education and employment (Munson et al., 2008; Holman and Ziedenberg, 2007).
Alternatives to secure confinement give youth the benefit of remaining in their communities with greater access to needed resources (i.e., necessary mental health treatment, and educational, vocational, and medical services) without endangering the community and at much less expense then secure confinement (OJJDP, 2001:37). In addition, the many problems associated with reentry are avoided because a youth is never removed from his or her community for a long period. Finally, this approach increases the availability of secure beds for the most serious and violent offenders by keeping less-serious offenders at home or in their home communities (OJJDP, 2001: 37). For more information, see Alternatives to the Secure Detention and Confinement of Juveniles.
There are several types of secure confinement alternatives, and many alternatives can be used instead of either detention or incarceration. Examples of alternatives to secure confinement are described briefly below.
Home confinement [back to top]
Home confinement or house arrest is a community-based program designed to restrict the activities of offenders in the community. Offenders live at home, go to work, run errands, attend school, and fulfill other responsibilities. However, they are closely monitored (electronically or through frequent contact with staff) to ensure that they comply with the conditions that the court has set. They are restricted to their residence for varying lengths of time and are required to maintain a strict daily schedule.For more information, see Literature Review: Home Confinement.
Day (or evening) treatment [back to top]
Day (or evening) treatment is a highly structured, nonresidential, community-based alternative that provides intensive supervision to ensure the community’s safety, and a range of services for offenders to prevent future delinquent behavior. Offenders must report to the treatment facility on a daily basis at specified times (either during the day or in the evening) for a specified period (generally at least 5 days a week) but are allowed to return home at night. The program may provide special weekend activities. Services may include individual and group counseling, recreation, education, vocational training, employment counseling, life skills and cognitive skills training, substance abuse treatment, and referrals to community resources.
Shelter care [back to top]
Shelter care is an alternative that offers residential care for youths who need short-term placement (i.e., for 1 to 30 days) outside the home. Shelter care is used for juveniles who require more intensive supervision than that provided by nonresidential options, and for youths who have no available parent or family member. Facilities may be staff secure or nonsecure. Staff monitor youths 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and provide a full schedule of structured educational and recreational activities.
Specialized foster care [back to top]
Specialized foster care is a treatment model in which families are recruited and trained to offer placement and treatment for youth with a history of chronic and severe delinquency. Foster care parents typically receive special training on the needs of youth involved in the juvenile justice system, and have access to additional resources to address special situations. Usually, youths are closely supervised at home, at school, and in the community. Foster care parents provide one-on-one mentoring, and consistent discipline for rule violations.
Intensive supervision programs [back to top]
Intensive supervision programs (ISPs) are a community-based, nonresidential alternative that provides a high degree of control over offenders to ensure public safety, without the additional costs associated with confinement. ISPs have small caseloads, strict conditions of compliance, and high levels of contact and intervention by the probation officer or caseworker. ISPs typically use a variety of risk control strategies (e.g., multiple weekly face-to-face contacts, evening visits, urine testing, electronic monitoring) and deliver a wide range of services to address offenders’ needs. ISPs generally fall into two categories: those that serve probationers who have been assessed as high risk, and those developed specifically as alternatives to institutionalization.
OJJDP Deinstitutionalization of Status Offenders
Best Practices Database
The OJJDP Deinstitutionalization of Status Offenders Best Practices Database was created and developed by
Development Services Group
under Cooperative Agreement #2008-JF-FX-0072.