Memo for fiscal year 2022, updated 2021-03-11

[Archived] Question # 32: What is the status of the regional NVJDC use and alternatives study?


What is the status of the regional NVJDC use and alternatives study? (Wilson)


The Northern Virginia Juvenile Detention Center (NVJDC) is a secure juvenile detention facility located at 200 South Whiting Street in the City of Alexandria. It is one of 24 similar centers in Virginia and it is operated by Arlington County and the Cities of Alexandria and Falls Church through a Juvenile Detention Commission, as provided by State statute. NVJDC is regulated by the Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ), which also provides partial funding to operate the program. The Center was audited in January 2018, with status reviews on 5/7/2018 and on 8/7/2018. A monitoring visit was conducted on 7/30/19. An audit was scheduled for January 2021 but is pending due to the pandemic and conversion to virtual auditing. Self- audits and monitoring visits are conducted in years that an audit does not occur. The DJJ Certification Unit has regular contact with centers, as needed.

Rationale for study
The utilization rates for the Northern Virginia Juvenile Detention Center dramatically declined over the past ten or more years. Lower utilization, and the fixed costs associated with operating the secure facility, have led to an increase in the per diem costs to the jurisdictions that place youth at the facility. Fairfax County, and other jurisdictions in Virginia, have experienced similar declines in utilization of their secure juvenile detention facilities. This has led to surplus capacity of secure juvenile detention in the Northern Virginia Region, indicating the potential for further regionalization. As part of its FY2018 adopted budget the Alexandria City Council requested a “regional review of juvenile detention services…” The Arlington County Board and the Falls Church City Council agreed to support this review.  

Total Bed Days by Jurisdiction (reflecting local use only)

FY Arlington Falls Church Alexandria All Jurisdictions
2006: 10,979 498 8,615 20,092
2011: 8,244 172 5,569 13,985
2016: 3,780 54 4,496 8,330
2019: 2,893 102 2,579 5,574
2020: 2,979 50 1,432 4,461

The City of Alexandria served as the contracting and fiscal agent for the study.  The study’s project team primarily consisted of the Court Service Unit Directors from the City of Alexandria and Arlington County/City of Falls Church and the Executive Director of the Northern Virginia Juvenile Detention Center. The City advertised a Request for Proposal in December 2018. In July 2019, The Moss Group was awarded the contract and the study commenced on July 29, 2019. The final report was presented to Council by The Moss Group on October 19, 2020. An additional community presentation occurred on November 5, 2020. Further regionalization was not determined to be a viable alternative. Based on the key findings, The Moss Group offered several recommendations - including 4 major areas - for keeping the Center open (action items are listed below each element).

Moss Group Recommendation 1
The Center might explore co-locating much-needed, community-based programs and services (such as mental health treatment, substance abuse services, youth mentoring, and/or a CPP for boys) at the facility to help offset current operating costs by putting underutilized space to more effective use, and generating additional revenue, and increasing positive outcomes for youth and families.

Action: Since the completion of the study in November 2020, the Project Team has organized discussions with key stakeholders relative to potential repurposing of the Center, to include the Alexandria City & Schools Staff Group, the Alexandria Best Practices Court Committee, and the Northern Virginia Juvenile Detention Commission. Center leadership has consulted with the Department of Juvenile Justice.

It should be noted that, in response to a need and recommendation noted in the study, a full-time Mental Health Clinician was created, which is in the process of being filled, to serve all youth in order to increase positive outcomes for youth and families, serving the mental health and developmental needs of youth. The Clinician provides therapeutic and case management services to residents in Northern Virginia Juvenile Detention Center. The Clinician is responsible for the assessment, development and implementation of client therapeutic treatment plans; provides and documents case consultations, one-to-one counseling for clients, therapeutic groups, and crisis intervention services and additional responsibilities which include writing clinical documents; effectively presenting clinical information; maintaining client records; assisting with discharge planning; and developing therapeutic activities and groups. The Clinician acts as a liaison to referral sources, providers and other agencies as needed.  The Clinician must have a master’s degree in social work, mental health, counseling, psychology, or related field. Licensure is required (Ph.D., Psy.D, LPC or LCSW) and at least 2 years of experience working with juveniles in the criminal justice system.  The staff member must be available to work evening and weekends. Additionally, medical and psychiatric care (if needed), is of paramount importance. Medical and psychiatric treatment needs are coordinated by the Center to ensure optimal care is provided.  While there are no physicians or psychiatrists on staff, needs are assessed by staff, including nursing, and by contract (physician/psychiatric). Family and partner involvement support these services.

Moss Group Recommendation 2
Given that staffing costs represent 84.2% of the overall Center budget, the management team could consider implementing staff changes recommended on the basis of TMG’s staffing analysis.

Action: Center leadership, in consultation with the Commission, has adjusted and reduced staffing levels for administration, programs and operations. The Center has moved to outsource some administrative functions. The total cost savings of these strategies is estimated at over $300,000. 

Moss Group Recommendation 3
In addition to performing a more comprehensive analysis around the facility’s short and long term capital needs and their impact on the budget going forward, Center leadership might also obtain the services of an architectural firm to assess the current facility layout and develop a design that is more in line with both normalization and service co-location.

Action: The Center has contracted with The Moseley Group, an architectural firm, to perform a capital needs and improvement assessment and recommendations to modernize & normalize the facility.  This review includes consideration of utilization forecasting and is being addressed through a trauma-informed lens. The firm and Center are including consultation with the Georgetown University Center for Juvenile Justice Reform and Center Children’s Law & Policy (CCLP) relative to best-practice recommendations.

Moss Group Recommendation 4
Consider developing a formal relationship with the Annie Casey Foundation, specifically participating in the Juvenile Detention Alternative Initiative [JDAI].

Action: The Court Service Unit Directors consulted with the Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice JDAI Coordinator.  It was determined that, at this time, while there is work that should always be done to reduce incarceration, the work currently being done in the localities (e.g. prevention, diversion, community partnerships) is such that a focus on detention reform (e.g. CCLP – above) would be a good focus rather than JDAI, at this time.  Feedback, to include reports received, will be shared with partners.

Present and future plans
The Court Service Unit Directors and the Executive Director of the Center, together with the Commission, presently and will continue to work together to take action on opportunities for efficiencies and effective services for youth and families at the Center, to create future plans regarding programs, operations and physical space and to ensure the Center offers optimal, trauma-informed, equitable services for youth community members and their families who are in need. The team is prepared to receive feedback, guidance and direction from leadership and will provide regular updates, as directed, including quarterly reports to the respective City and County Manager’s Offices of each jurisdiction. These reports will be provided to City Council when received. 

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