Audit Finds OJJ Needs to Strengthen Oversight of Secure Care Facilities
Auditors evaluating the Office of Juvenile Justice’s (OJJ) oversight of secure care facilities found that OJJ faces staffing challenges and needs to strengthen its efforts to ensure the safety of employees and youth.
Auditors also noted that OJJ did not conduct quality assurance audits of its secure care facilities between 2010 and 2015. Those audits were resumed in June 2016, but OJJ did not ensure all safety-related action items identified in the reports were corrected within six months.
In addition, fighting and the use of physical restraints at the secure care facilities increased between fiscal years 2013 and 2017 – 52.7 percent and 111.3 percent, respectively. Auditors concluded OJJ could make better use of the data it collects on these incidents to guide the facilities on ways to address them.
Auditors found, too, that the percentage of positive drug screens among youth in the secure care facilities also has increased – from 2.3 percent in calendar year 2013 to 9.5 percent in calendar year 2017. But OJJ does not collect data on why the drug tests are given, so it cannot tell if more drugs are being brought into the facilities, or if youth are using drugs during furloughs.
Further, while the overall use of room confinement as a punishment has decreased, auditors said, the number of hours youth at Bridge City spend in such confinement has increased recently. Reducing room confinement is considered a best practice, and OJJ had introduced a Reduce the Use campaign in July 2017. Auditors also found that between fiscal years 2013 and 2017, OJJ did not address 19 percent of youth grievances within the required 30-day time frame.
Auditors noted as well that OJJ’s procedures for overseeing safety at the Ware Youth Center for female youth are not consistent with its procedures for monitoring the secure care facilities for males. For example, OJJ does not monitor medical care, room confinement, restraints, or grievances at Ware. As a result, female youth are not receiving the same protection and standard of care as males in secure care facilities.
Employee turnover, which has increased since fiscal year 2013, makes it difficult for OJJ to maintain required staff-to-youth ratios at its secure care facilities, auditors found. Bridge City had the highest overall turnover rate at 62.3 percent, while Swanson had a 30.6 percent rate.
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