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DJF has begun to implement some cognitive-behavioral evidence-based treatment programs in their facilities. These model programs include Aggression Replacement Training (ART) and CounterPoint. Both programs are designed in a similar format with the goal of skill acquisition: first the facilitators teach and model relevant skills, then the youths role-play these skills, and eventually the youths are required to practice the skills in their natural setting. The aim is that youths internalize these skill sets to cope with various life challenges. A fundamental part of these cognitive-behavioral programs is the opportunity to practice the skills learned outside the group sessions, as homework within the youth’s daily lives. But how successful can these programs be in an institutional setting such as ?

The Integrated Behavioral Treatment Model (IBTM) for DJF was detailed in both the Safety and Welfare Remedial Plan and the Mental Health Remedial Plan in 2006. It envisioned an overarching therapeutic environment facility-wide, in which all staff model pro-social skills at all times, and youths are taught the individualized skill sets they need. This rehabilitative environment would allow wards to practice and reinforce the skills taught through the implemented model programs, during their daily institutional lives in the living units and other communal areas. Thus a key focus of the IBTM is to create an environment conducive to skill acquisition. DJF was required to submit a detailed description of its IBTM and accompanying manual by November 15, 2008 however it failed to do so. 

In July 2009, the court referred the entire IBTM development project to court-appointed experts because of epic delays and failures by DJF. The IBTM outline was filed with the court on May 27, 2010 and indicated that DJF must now establish an implementation plan. On October 1, 2010 DJF submitted the implementation plan to the court. In it DJF outlines its plan to pilot the IBTM in two units of O.H. Close Youth Correctional Facility before expanding the IBTM to other facilities. This pilot project will take an estimated twenty-four months to implement. 

Meanwhile, without this overarching environment in place youths do not have an opportunity to complete a fundamental step in their treatment program. For example, youths in the Intensive Behavioral Treatment Program (IBTP) cannot practice social skills when DJF staff are only required to provide three hours of out-of-cell time per day. DJF wards cannot safely practice their skills while violence remains so prevalent in the living units and schools. Moreover, staff cannot model skill sets they have not yet received training for. Further, there is no forum in the communal areas for skill acquisition when youths spend their time idly with little stimulation or engagement by staff. 

In conclusion, the facility environment at DJF is currently not conducive to skill acquisition and retention despite the implementation of model programs because DJF still employs an overarching correctional model of congregate care. 

~Selena Teji

Sentencing Service Program Case Specialist