The authors, a former Commissioner and a former Deputy Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Youth Services, offer the thesis that the serious offender represents the ultimate test in any juvenile correctional system. They portray how the Massachusetts community-based correctional system has, in its first decade, met that test, and indicate what further work must be done to ensure that the system will survive the challenge of the conservative eighties. The article traces the development of juvenile correction in Massachusetts from the establishment of the first juvenile correctional institution in 1847 through the 19705, a period marked by the rapid deinstitutionalization of juvenile offenders and construction of the community-based system, including the subsystem of secure care for serious juvenile offenders.
The authors conclude that there are several conditions essential for the preservation of community correction in Massachusetts: a sound, rehabilitative, and well-managed system, encompassing varied types of community-based care and providing small, secure units for confining the small percentage of youths who are dangerous; effective leadership; public education; and the support of community correction by all branches of government as well as the general public.
The greatest test of any juvenile correctional system is its ability to deal with the serious juvenile offender. The final measure of its effectiveness and humaneness is how well these qualities are served by practices with the serious juvenile offender. A system must protect the public as well as work in the interest of the juvenile. In 1969, the Massachusetts Department of Youth Services held 600 youths in five institutions. These institutions formed a system that had begun in 1847 with the opening of the Lyman School, the first training school in the nation, and had served the Commonwealth for over 100 years. By 1973, four of the five schools had been closed and the remaining school housed only 30 youngsters. This rapid deinstitutionalization represents one of the most dramatic changes in our national correctional history. Massachusetts broke with the modern American tradition of incremental development of social institutions. Not surprisingly, it has captured the attention of students of social change and government around the world.
The rapidity of the change produced both opportunities and problems. The necessity to deinstitutionalize was used to create a community-based system of care enabling most delinquent youths to be served at home or in home-like settings within the community. Thus, the reform held out the hope of rehabilitating juvenile delinquents without having to deny them most of their freedoms and without resort to large, impersonal institutions. The problems of the community-based system, on the other hand, stem from its abrupt birth and the innate complexity of a multifarious system.
For the 90 percent of youths in care in the 150 community-based alternatives, the system in Massachusetts has proved effective. For the serious juvenile offender, the answer is not so clear. Although the twin goals of any correctional system for delinquents, public protection and rehabilitation, are compatible in the abstract and in the long run, since rehabilitating a delinquent youth works to protect public safety, in the short run, the goals have appeared to conflict. Incarceration militates against rehabilitation, while community placement may threaten public safety.
With the advent of the 1980s, Americans have grown weary of the programs of the New Frontier and the Great Society. Only those programs that can demonstrate their immediate pragmatic value can reasonably be expected to survive. The Massachusetts community-based system is only ten years old; yet, like other social programs, it must survive public judgment in the 1980s or become a chapter labeled “experiment failed.”
Community-based correction has the potential to control the serious juvenile offender, offer him a variety of services, and protect the public. Since its inception, the Massachusetts program has made steady progress in meeting these goals. Full success will require that we meet a number of demanding conditions, but the conditions are no more problematic than were those faced successfully by the Commonwealth in its long history of social reforms.
After reviewing briefly the development of the Massachusetts system, we will comment on what must be done to carry forward the positive aspects of the Massachusetts reform in order to create a sound, strong, and singularly humane system of care and custody for juvenile delinquents.
For social change to occur, social and political conditions must be right and discontent with the present system must be high. At the time of deinstitutionalization in Massachusetts, this was the case. Social change was being supported by legislatures throughout the nation. In 1963, the federal Community Mental Health Centers Act was proposed by President John F. Kennedy, to “[make] it possible for most of the mentally ill to be successfully treated in their communities.”! This act was followed in Massachusetts in 1966 by the Comprehensive Mental Health and Retardation Services Act, which placed mental health services under the control of the local communities. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the Department of Mental Health began a gradual process of de institutionalizing patients, while the Department of Corrections began to establish halfway houses and prerelease centers for criminal offenders.
In the care and custody of delinquents, Massachusetts has always been an innovator. It was the first state to establish training schools, doing so in 1847; at the turn of the century, it became one of the first states to hold juvenile court hearings. In 1948, Massachusetts created a Youth Authority, and gave this treatment-oriented division of the justice system exclusive responsibility for the placement of committed youths.
In 1968, a federal investigation of the training schools, initiated by the Massachusetts Committee on Children and Youth, revealed serious abuse of youngsters housed within the schools. The firing of the director of the Division of Youth Services was followed by reform legislation creating the Department of Youth Services and the appointment in 1969 of Dr. Jerome Miller as the first commissioner of the new department. Miller, who was given a mandate for reform, specifically to put an end to the abusive conditions in the training schools, first attempted to humanize the institutions by introducing a rehabilitative model known as the “therapeutic community.” When these efforts failed, Miller moved quickly to close the schools. As he took on this formidable task, he had the support of legislators, including the speaker of the house and the governor, the media, and child advocates, who believed conditions in the schools were not only abusive but also criminogenic. The serious juvenile offender was seen as a by-product of the institutional system.
The Miller administration concurrently established, as the alternative to institutions, a regionalized structure for case management and alternative forms of community-based care, including group homes and tracking (individual, “mobile” counseling). After the Institute for Child Guidance at Bridgewater was closed, youths considered to be serious or dangerous offenders were placed in a secure unit at the Lyman School; later they were sent to Andros (a contracted program at the Connelly Youth Center) and the former detention centers at Worcester, Westfield, and Roslindale. This was the initiation of the secure system within community-based correction. The potential for trouble was present from the beginning, for secure care was not clearly connected to the community system in terms of the care provided, nor was planning systematic. Not surprisingly, the secure system has been the subject of heated debate since its inception.
Secure programs were difficult to establish and difficult to stabilize. There was little theory and little practice to instruct the effort. The use of free-standing secure units solely for serious juvenile offenders, which were part of a fundamentally open system, was unprecedented. Since all youths capable of relative self-control were kept in open, community, settings, each program concentrated on the most impulse-driven and violent youths. There were no suitable buildings and few experienced staff; there was no well-developed selection or discharge process; and there was ambivalence about the propriety of even securing any youths. There was also confusion about which youths to select, about proper lengths of stay, and about combining treatment with incarceration. These confounding problems were natural correlates of the emergence of a new style of care, but they were defeating to the early efforts to establish stable secure programs within the community-based system. Time was needed to learn from experience, but the problems posed by serious juvenile offenders not placed under sufficient control were too great, and the consequences too serious, for the public to permit a slow-paced development.
In 1973, the Department of Youth Services struggled with the problems of security while under attack by an angry press and angry legislators. Support for reform was eroding, under renewed conservative sentiment. Criticism focused on the allegedly improper management of the department’s finances and systems-and, more important, on the department’s failure to protect communities from the serious juvenile offender. Florid accounts of the exploits of dangerous juveniles made the headlines regularly, overshadowing the success of many community- based programs with calls for more security. The department’s reform commissioner moved on to Illinois, but the problems posed by the new system and the accompanying debate on security remained important throughout the term of Miller’s successor, Joseph Leavey; and they remain so today.
As administrators of the new system struggled to establish quality secure programs, acknowledgment of their efforts was limited and largely critical. In 1976, Dale Mann, in reviewing secure programs nationwide for serious juvenile offenders, effectively dismissed the Massachusetts program by ignoring it altogether another review of programs for serious offenders devoted only three lines to the pre-1976 Massachusetts program. The finding stated was that the problems outweighed the advantages’’ The system of secure care was viewed as neither stable nor effective. Public criticism culminated in a series of television editorials in September 1975, which attacked secure services as ineffective and inadequate in terms of the number of juvenile offenders in the programs.
In January 1976, Governor Michael S. Dukakis appointed the first author to run the Department of Youth Services. The new department was seven years old, and deinstitutionalization was five years old. It might as well have been five decades old, so radically had the environment changed since its inception. Public support for community-based correction had eroded; the outcry over public protection had reached a deafening crescendo; and the legislature was entertaining several bills to abolish the authority of the department by merging it with the Department of Corrections, ending the Youth Authority and giving direct placement power to the judiciary, and instituting mandatory sentencing to secure facilities of juveniles convicted of felonies. This trend was consistent with changes nationally. Other states had eased the waiver process. New York State had actually turned the waiver process in reverse, with its Juvenile Offender Law requiring that prosecution of all felonies committed by juveniles originate in the adult system. It is interesting to note that this legislation coincided with a significant decrease in serious and violent crimes by juveniles.”
Unfortunately, when complex, emotionally charged issues are at stake, it is difficult to achieve clarity before the public and gain the support necessary to proceed to rational solutions. Felix Rohatyn has commented that “public awareness creates the dynamics that make fundamental change possible,” but lamented that our leaders seem unable to communicate properly the nature of the problems we face.” The distortion leads to actions that do not address the actual problems. This phenomenon on has characterized the public response to juvenile justice, especially in Massachusetts.
Combined with the calls for greater severity in juvenile justice, the period from the mid-1970s to the present has been marked by contraction and a weakening of our economy, which have led to smaller public budgets and greater demands for sound management. The Department of Youth Services was doubly affected, in that it was reputed to be not only soft on crime but also notoriously weak in its management. To preserve the community-based system, a Herculean effort among administrators to develop credibility as sound managers of a safe system was necessary. Simultaneously, attempts to solve the problem by such false solutions as building a large locked institution or eliminating the department had to be combated. In order to accomplish this, it was necessary to develop a broad, visible, and orderly process for reliably identifying the serious delinquent, for defining the scope of the problem, for determining the number and type of secure facilities needed, and for defining the management reforms necessary to operate a safe and credible system. To accomplish this, a Task Force on Secure Facilities took a central position in devising a campaign of public education, encouraging aggressive and effective management within the department, and improving the separate secure units and entire secure system.
THE TASK FORCE ON SECURE FACILITIES
The Task Force on Secure Facilities, appointed by Governor Dukakis, was charged with formulating recommendations for improving secure care within a well-managed community-based system. Accomplishing this entailed identifying the serious juvenile offender, determining how large the population of serious offenders was, defining the programs required, and determining what was necessary in terms of management, organization of the system, and local environments to support the secure units. The task force included representatives from every constituency in juvenile justice.
Central to all the proceedings of the task force were the definition and quantification of the group of serious offenders. Who were they, and how many were there? A subcommittee of the task force, acting as a panel of judges and using criteria similar to the Sellin-Wolfgang Seriousness Scale, drew a sample of youths committed to the Department of Youth Services and voted on where the coded cases should be placed (i.e., in intense, moderate, or minimal security, or in secure care under the mental health system).” The subcommittee concluded that 11.2 percent of all the youths required some grade of security, with 30 percent of this group requiring mental health security. This meant that 90 to 114 beds would be required within the Department of Youth Services, and 38 to 50 beds would be required within the Department of Mental Health. These numbers applied to a state with 6.5 million citizens and an average daily Department of Youth Services population of roughly 1,600. The proportions are consistent with Mann’s research, which found between 11 and 16 percent of serious juvenile offenders to need secure confinement.” In its final report, issued in November 1977, the task force issued recommendations covering budget, management, case management, programs, and personnel.
Its general conclusions were that the Commonwealth’s commitment to deinstitutionalization and the community-based system should be preserved and strengthened, since community correction was operating reasonably well for the 90 percent of delinquents not considered serious; a small percentage of youths did need secure placement for public protection; increasing the space available in secure units without administrative reforms, making available a range of secure programs, offering well-designed programs, and providing decent physical settings would be useless; and secure and non-secure programs are “integrally and inextricably linked.”
In response to the recommendations, the department undertook to upgrade the secure system, upgrade community-based correction overall, and integrate secure care with the community-based programs. A number of objectives guided Department of Youth Services policy during the Calhoun administration: developing a range of services (from family services to secure treatment in mental health facilities); formulating a system of case review based on individual case plans; providing additional training for all staff; limiting the number of secure beds to the number recommended by the task force; ensuring public accountability and providing public education; linking the system of security to community correction; establishing close connections with other agencies (e.g., Public Health, Education, Mental Health); and acting on the assumption that community-based programs can set limits on youths’ activities and encourage responsible behavior.
The following became the policy goals of the secure system: to link case plans with a continuum of care for all residents; to involve the juveniles’ families in treatment whenever possible; to support staff through increasing personnel, training, and integration of line and clinical functions; to limit small units to the number recommended by the task force; and to provide for citizen monitoring of facilities.
A number of changes were accomplished in the secure system: Size: The number of beds available was increased through the addition of two boys’ units (fifteen beds each) and one girls’ unit (twelve beds), allowing a total of ninety-six juveniles to be placed in secure care at any one time. The capacity for secure placements under the Department of Mental Health was increased, with approximately thirty-five placements made available, with additional space committed. The size of each unit was limited to fifteen beds. Staff: An overall ratio of seven clients to four staff was established, exceeding task force recommendations. New directors were recruited for each unit. A training center operating full time to offer pre-service and in service training for all staff was opened, and an on-call team was established to relieve staff for training sessions. Staff salaries were upgraded to aid in the recruitment of talented staff. Program: The units ranged in levels of security from minimal to intense security. Greater security was provided by increasing personnel rather than by additional hardware; no unit had more than a single fence and devices such as locks were not very sophisticated. Program models ranged from social learning to psychodynamic models. An educational component was added with federal money, with the ratio of teachers to students one to four. Vocational training or assistance was added, including a shop, CETA positions, and prevocational training. Admissions: A secure treatment screening team was formed to prevent inappropriate admissions. Physical setting: All existing physical facilities were upgraded, although none was judged adequate in terms of security and programming.
These efforts, beginning in 1976, began to address the therapeutic and security shortcomings that had prompted the criticism of the Massachusetts secure system as producing more trouble than success. At the same time the secure system was being overhauled, a parallel and related effort focused on public education, administrative reform, and the expansion of programs. Financial management, case management, and a system for program development constituted the remainder of the task.
This second task, building the overall system, was vitally important, for the quality of the statewide system of programs, rather than that of any single program, will indicate the system’s capacity to deal with difficult problems, in this case, the serious offender. Reviews of programs point to the best secure care models as those contained in systems offering an array of appropriate resources and complemented by careful and efficient case management.” The necessity for a range of care and strong case management is prominent in such strong models as the Unified Delinquency Intervention Services program in Illinois, which uses a highly developed case management system, and the Minnesota Serious Offender Program, which moves youths from secure care to non-secure residential care and finally into nonresidential care. Likewise, the Vachss and Bakal theoretical model secure treatment unit would allow a youth to move within a complex containing a secure setting to supervision levels of decreasing intensity!”
Building the Overall System
The Calhoun administration took several steps to strengthen the regional case management system and program development. Case management system: Staff salaries for regional administrators and caseworkers were upgraded. The region was given final control over the child. An LEAA-funded training program was initiated for regional staff. A procedural manual for case management was developed as an integral part of the LEAA training program. A different educational component for every region was developed. A model aftercare plan for youths in security that involved regional planning was developed. Development of resources: A Bureau of Programs was established that included a model contracting system, a Management Information System, planning, evaluation, monitoring, and audit. Mechanisms to monitor and measure all development projects were established. Twenty-four different types of care were developed, and cost ranges and cost profiles for each were defined. Employment, restitution alternatives (funded by a $1,000,000 federal grant), and family-based services were among the several new types of programs provided. Financial: Close budgetary control mechanisms led to effective cost controls and deficit-free years throughout this administration. In the fall of 1978, the Dukakis administration was jeopardized by the governor’s loss in the Democratic primary. At the time, the Department of Youth Services was considering the regionalization of secure programs and construction of four small (fifteen-bed) secure facilities to replace the structures that were no longer adequate. The regionalization, which would have connected each secure facility with a regional network of services, did not occur; the new facilities were not built. Even more serious, many of the initial improvements, such as the Bureau of Programs and the fledgling case management system, so critical to overall support of the system, were not refined. The secure care aftercare policy was not fully implemented. The secure units were not completely stabilized.
This administration had recognized the need to regain support for a community-based system through proper coordination, strong management, and new programs. The work of the task force, management reforms, and program efforts were focused on accomplishing these goals. The department was opened to the community, and a great amount of lime was committed to public education. The bills to weaken or abolish the department were successfully defeated; the large institutions were not built. However, with the defeat of Governor Dukakis, our administration was weakened and the department’s progress slowed considerably. Much of our agenda, although implemented, was not consolidated; and construction of new secure facilities and the move to regionalization, critical to strengthening the secure system, never took place.
In the summer of 1979, our administration ended; that fall, Edward M. Murphy became commissioner of the department. He inherited a department that had been seriously hurt by a year under lame duck status.
When Murphy took office, he too encountered the legislative bills, the anger from members of the judiciary and legislators, and the media and public outcry that had plagued the previous commissioners. The debate over security intensified. The response was growing support for tougher legislation. With the strengthening of conservatism, the commitment required to preserve the community-based system was wavering.
Should Community-Based Correction Survive the Eighties? It’s Capacity to Cope with the Serious Offender
At present, some of the most prominent persons in the Massachusetts government are viewing juvenile justice in terms of the philosophy of incapacitation, arguing that, particularly with respect to the serious juvenile offender, incapacitation is the best way to control the occurrence of crimes by juveniles. Yet although the incarcerated juvenile cannot commit offenses in the community, to believe that incarceration will have no ill effects and will not create a more hostile and aggressive person is to ignore
most evidence on the effects of imprisonment. Charles Smith, Paul Alexander, and Teresa Rooney, in response to the recommendations put forth by incapacitation theorists, conclude that we are not yet sufficiently able to predict whether a person will engage in violent or serious crime to be justified in making the massive change in social policy necessary to implement a system based on incapacitation! Instead, they argue that small secure units within a community-based system of alternatives, well monitored and managed through continuous case management, have the greatest potential to protect the community in the short and long term.
Mann discusses the choice between giving up on rehabilitation and simply incapacitating offenders and “trying harder.” He argues that those who would terminate treatment because it interferes with due process are acting unnecessarily. Determinate sentences and due process do not preclude treatment. If the motive for eliminating treatment is its limited effectiveness, Mann argues that certain community-oriented types of care have demonstrated enough success to merit continued expenditures. With the Massachusetts system’s potential to handle not only juveniles committing relatively minor crimes but also serious offenders, we argue that the Massachusetts system should survive the 1980s. But for that to happen, certain conditions are necessary.
Conditions Necessary for Its Survival
The first condition for survival is the support of the public and the three branches of our government: legislative, executive, and judicial. The department has periodically lost the support of these key decision makers since the initiation of the community-based system. If the community- based system is to become humane and effective, the department must be continuously supported, even during administrative change. During a full two years of the last six, the department was weakened by a governor’s lame duck status. Critical management positions remained open, and there was little communication between administrations. As a result, many gains could not be consolidated, and each commissioner had to refocus the department.
Executive and legislative support are required to acquire new secure facilities to replace antiquated and unsafe structures. The department requires executive support to maintain operations. Extreme budgetary limitations eliminate the possibility of the best possible forms of management. The department requires the respect and cooperation of the judiciary in order to serve the juveniles requiring placement. All the evidence supports the position that providing security within a small unit that offers care as part of a range of services, where placement is guided by the principle that youths should be placed in the least restrictive alternative that is appropriate, holds the greatest potential for genuine rehabilitation. Considering the enormous financial and human costs resulting from the failure to keep even one juvenile from a lifetime of crime or incarceration, we cannot afford to abort this experiment.
We have defined conditions and work necessary for the survival of the community-based Department of Youth Services. Even more important in achieving a genuine and lasting means to reduce the problem of the serious juvenile offender are strong, persuasive leaders who are willing to be fully accountable to the public, and public tolerance, courage, and patience. A precondition for success is the support of a far-sighted government and public. Securing the trust of the three branches of government and of the public is perhaps the most basic task facing the Massachusetts Department of Youth Services.
No system has ever had more potential to serve troubled youths, and no state has been more supportive of humane systems to serve its troubled citizens than has Massachusetts. The time has come when we must recognize as a government and a community of citizens that community correction is a crucial movement in history, the preservation or loss of which will be one measure of us as humane and resourceful people. The community-based system holds out too much hope as a model for this nation to be allowed to fail. With broad support and strong leadership, in this decade of its maturity, the community-based system can demonstrate its capacity to control and rehabilitate the serious juvenile offender.
*Written by John A. Calhoun and Susan Wayne. First published in the October 1981 edition of Crime & Delinquency, a publication of the National Council on Crime and Delinquency.