Residential Services for Detained Population

  • Description
  • Funding History
  • Proposals

Residential Services for Detained Population funds detention services for youth awaiting trial. The Department of Youth Services (DYS) aims to divert low risk youth from secure detention through the identification of more appropriate and less costly alternative placements.

DYS has a dual mission – to protect the public and prevent crime by promoting positive change while youth are in custody. Thousands of youth enter the DYS system prior to trial with the majority not ultimately committed to DYS custody. These youth return to the community after trial. Research has shown that youth who spend any amount of time in secure custody experience negative outcomes, including increased rates of recidivism. DYS has begun a reform initiative creating a multi-tiered system using programs and facilities with a range of security levels. Utilizing the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI) model developed by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, DYS aims to eliminate unnecessary use of secure detention while improving conditions in secure facilities.

At its core, JDAI demonstrates that jurisdictions can safely reduce reliance on secure detention if a plan is properly implemented and monitored. For more information about the strategies which JDAI outlines, see

DYS opened a pilot program in Worcester County for pre-trial detainees identified as low risk for failure to appear through the use of an objective risk assessment instrument (RAI). The program diverts low risk youth from secure detention to more appropriate and less costly alternatives.
Two policy/practice changes that have resulted include:

  • the placement of court liaisons in Suffolk County and Worcester County Juvenile Courts
  • implementation of a protocol which specifies the process by which a detained youth 12 and under should be handled, resulting in the majority of detained youth under 13 being diverted to foster care

Four specific populations have also been identified as likely benefiting from detention alternatives: 1) Department of Children and Families (DCF) – involved youth in detention (DYS and DCF signed a Memorandum of Understanding concerning the diversion of child welfare clients); 2) youth in detention as a result of a probation violation; 3) youth in detention as a result of a 30-day court-ordered diagnostic evaluation (68A); and 4) female youth in detention.

Detention admissions dropped 59.8 percent from 5,387 in 2000 to 2,164 in 2014. However, almost 40 percent of the kids (853) detained in 2014 were DCF involved youth. Utilizing alternative placements would keep these already vulnerable kids from spending time in a secure facility. For information on what services could help kids in the child welfare system avoid becoming involved in the juvenile justice system, see MassBudget's report on multi-system youth at

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