New OJJDP Report Shines Light on Demographics, Conditions for Youth in Placement

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Photo courtesy of Rutherford County Government

The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention(OJJDP) recently released a new report, titled Survey of Youth in Residential Placement (SYRP) 2003. The report, released via the National Archive of Criminal Justice Data, contains information culled from a national survey conducted a decade ago, involving more than 7,000 young people in almost 300 facilities.

The report details, among other areas, survey findings about young people and their family backgrounds, their facility experiences and the quality of medical services they received while in placement.

About three-quarters of survey respondents were young males, with Caucasian, African-American and Hispanic subjects making up fairly equivalent proportions of the total population surveyed. Regarding upbringing, about 80 percent of respondents said they grew up with a mother as their primary caretaker, with about half the number of respondents stating that they grew up with a father in the same role. More than a quarter of respondents said they grew up with their grandparents as primary caregivers, while another quarter of the population reported being cared for by either a sibling or another non-parent relative as a child. When they were younger, roughly 8 percent of respondents said that they were raised by an agency or a group home.

For the above questions, survey respondents were allowed to give multiple answers.

Nearly a quarter of male respondents — representing an age range from 10-to-20 years old — reported either being a father or an expectant father, while roughly 1 percent of female respondents reported being pregnant while in placement.

About three-fifths of respondents said they lived in facilities that were not clean, while approximately three-quarters of respondents said that the food at the facilities was substandard. Almost nine-out-of-10 young people reported speaking with family members since arriving at the facilities, however, with nearly two-thirds of respondents stating that they spoke with family members via telephone at least once a week while in placement.

Approximately two-thirds of respondents said they were either on probation or parole prior to being placed in a residential facility. Among those convicted for probation or parole violations, truancy (21 percent), breaking curfew (19 percent) and running away from home (14 percent) were the most commonly cited offenses.

Twenty-five percent of respondents cited drug possession or distribution as their offenses, while 20 percent reported failing probation- or parole-mandated drug tests as their current offenses. Seven percent reported robbery as current offenses, while 15 percent said they had been charged with assault. Less than 3 percent of the total population, with parole or probation violations, reported charges stemming from raping or killing another person.

A majority of young people in placement had taken drugs before, the report finds. Approximately a quarter of youth surveyed reported using alcohol, with four-fifths reporting use of marijuana. A third reported using cocaine or crack, while a quarter said they had taken crystal meth before.

Around 70 percent of respondents did not think that staffers at the facility were “good role models,” with nearly 80 percent of survey-takers stating that they felt “something bad” would occur if they filed a grievance about facility conditions. About 72 percent of respondents reported that the punishments at the facilities were not “fair,” with 7 percent of young people reporting that they had either been beaten up or threatened by staffers.

Roughly a quarter of respondents, researchers found, reported living in fear of being physically attacked by faculty staff while in placement.

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