Introduction to the New Jersey Juvenile Justice Commission
Protecting Public Safety | Continuum of Care | Secure Care | Community Programs
Juvenile Gang Intervention and Prevention Program | Special Needs Services | Treatment Enhancement
Community Collaboration | Research and Evaluation
The Juvenile Justice Commission (JJC) has three primary responsibilities:
The Juvenile Justice Commission was created by statute in December 1995 to bring together the disparate State and local offices responsible for the various components of the juvenile justice system. The JJC is the single agency of State government with centralized authority for planning, policy development and provision of services in the juvenile justice system.
Protecting Public Safety
Woven through all Commission efforts is its charge to protect the citizens of the State of New Jersey. Every decision is made with the understanding the responsibility to maintain personal safety, promote responsibility and build stronger communities. In order to achieve that goal, the Commission has undertaken diverse measures to address the multifaceted issue of juvenile justice.
Continuum of Care
The Juvenile Justice Commission provides a continuum of care for juveniles placed under its supervision including residential community homes, day programs, secure care facilities and parole services. Together with State law and judicial decisions, the specific needs and history of each juvenile determine his or her placement in this continuum.
The Commission operates six facilities identified as secure. Secure facilities are
full care institutions providing all services on the grounds of the facility, including education,
vocational programming, counseling and medical services. Correctional Officers are employed at these
facilities to maintain a secure setting. All facilities provide year round education focused toward the
attainment of a high school diploma, GED or college credit, as well as vocational programming. Religious
opportunities, group and individual counseling, drug and alcohol treatment, physical education, family
life and health education, and post-release planning are also provided at all secure facilities.
Residential Community Homes
Located throughout the State of New Jersey, Residential Community Homes serve youth
who have been placed in the custody of the Juvenile Justice Commission or placed on probation by the
courts. These programs are designed to provide a less restrictive setting for youth who do not require a
secure setting and demonstrate the ability to accept additional responsibility. If a youth sentenced to the
Commission does not perform well in this setting, the Commission's classification committee can reassign
him or her to another appropriate facility depending on the youth's needs. Juveniles placed in Residential
Group Centers participate in organized programming outside of the facility, including community service
projects, and educational and vocational training.
Day Programs serve juveniles placed on probation by the courts. They are a useful sentencing option for judges who determine that a juvenile needs structure and supervision, but does not need to be removed from his or her home.
While in the care of the Commission, juveniles receive educational programming, vocational training, counseling and perform community service projects.
Because of the nature of a day program, these facilities serve only those residents
from the immediate area of the facility. Day programs also act as placement sites for juveniles
who have completed a JJC Residential Program and require assistance in their transition back to their
New Jersey Juvenile Justice Commission
The New Jersey Juvenile Justice Commission (JJC) understands that gangs and gang related activities impact every community in our State. The JJC has responded with a comprehensive program that addresses youth gangs at all levels. With funding from the NJ Department of Education, the JJC has developed a cutting-edge education curriculum, entitled Phoenix, that corresponds with the NJ Core curriculum standards. This course can be tailored for youth in secure detention and JJC residential and day programs, as well as county-operated detention centers and community-based programs. The workbook- based lessons provide structure and support, and clearly identify the progress of participants. The most important goal of the curriculum is developing self-efficacy skills, thereby allowing juveniles to understand how to react to risky situations, and to think through their actions and responses to avoid future gang involvement.
To expands its reach, the JJC is forming partnerships with communities to train others in the Phoenix curriculum. The JJC is also coordinating with the local office of probation as well as the police department and is working to build a 'safety net' of resources for youth in the community.
Experienced JJC staff are also available to conduct workshops. One- day training sessions can be adapted to meet an audience's specific needs and information level. It can also be expanded to provide more in-depth training.
Special Needs Services
As the number of juveniles in the justice system nationwide identified as seriously emotionally disturbed increases, the Commission has responded. The Commission's Fresh Start Residential Community Home is specifically targeted for the treatment of 28 male juveniles with serious emotional disorders and special needs. In addition, the Commission operates a 24-bed program for juveniles with serious mental health problems necessitating secure treatment on the grounds of the New Jersey Training School.
Juvenile Sex Offenders
In 2000, the Commission received funding to allow private providers to designate a total of 12 beds for juvenile sex offenders. These services are designed to complement the Pinelands Residential Community Home. Pinelands currently provides residential treatment for 18 males between the ages of 14-18 with a history of sex offenses.
The Commission has implemented a comprehensive system of substance abuse assessment for juveniles sentenced to its custody. Preliminary data from these assessments has confirmed the prevalence of substance abuse problems among sentenced youth. In response, the Commission has taken steps to expand and improve its substance abuse treatment services.
The JJC operates a residential program designed specifically to treat female substance abusers. The DOVES Residential Community Home (Developing Opportunities and Values through Education and Substance Abuse Treatment) shares space with Valentine Residential Community Home, a female residential program, serving up to 10 female substance abusers.
In addition to a secure substance abuse treatment unit located on the grounds of the New Jersey Training School serving 52 males, the Commission has two residential group centers that serve male substance abusers, Campus RCH and Ocean RCH. Residents participate in the New Freedoms Cirriculum to help break their addiction and remain substance free.
The Commission is continually identifying ways to enhance programming efforts to achieve better outcomes, most vitally, to achieve greater reductions in offender recidivism (e.g., re-arrests; adjudications/convictions on new charges after release). The Commission has sought out and identified research based treatment interventions and strategies that address the risk factors associated with delinquency. The Commission is implementing these interventions in a small number of community residential programs. The hope is that these "pilot programs" can serve as laboratories for change. If the Commission can demonstrate, through systematic evaluation that these new interventions lead to better outcomes than its traditional approaches, the new interventions will be introduced in other settings.
Among the initiatives already implemented or planned are: the incorporation of Aggression Replacement Training (ART) which teaches youth how to deal with problematic situations; the use of a structured risk and needs assessment instrument known as Youth Level of Service/Case Management Inventory which helps the Commission better serve the individual needs of each youth; incorporation of a cognitive behavioral curriculum known as New Freedoms in specialized substance abuse programs which assists youth in remaining drug free after release; the incorporation of a family intervention/parent training component to help address family-related problems that place youth at greater risk of continued offending; and the extensive training of staff to implement these new initiatives.
When juveniles are released from the custody of the Commission, they continue to be monitored by JJC Parole staff. As part of the Commission's ongoing efforts to continue to reduce recidivism, the Commission encourages young people to develop ties to their community.
Mentors and Community Team members are drawn from the neighborhoods and communities where the youth reside, creating valuable bridges to resources as well as a sense of citizen ownership for the prevention of criminal activity in their neighborhoods. All mentors receive training and support from the Commission's Juvenile Parole and Transitional Servies Offices and work closely with parole officers and social workers. The Commission hopes to expand its links to faith- based organizations and increase its volunteer community mentoring efforts.
Research and Evaluation
Consistent with its mandate to protect public safety, the Commission has expanded its capacity to evaluate the performance and outcomes of its facilities, programs and contracts through its Research and Evaluation Unit.
The "bottom line" outcome for any correctional agency is to reduce offender recidivism. Consequently, a major component of the Commission's current research and evaluation effort is to systematically examine recidivism rates of Commission youth. In addition to its focus on recidivism, the Commission is examining program outcomes related to personal growth (e.g., reduction of antisocial attitudes, improvements in anger control) that are conducive to more productive and law-biding adult lives.
The Commission utilizes this information to make informed policy decisions regarding the most efficient use of its resources. In addition, results of the research serve as much needed feedback for program administrators allowing them to facilitate program refinements where the need is indicated. The focus on outcomes includes a recent initiative to examine the performance of contracted services, as a way to make informed decisions with regard to contract continuation. The findings of one recent recidivism analysis resulted in a redirection of contract services and dollars toward those types of offenders for whom outcomes were most positive.