North Dakota Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation


Best Practice | August 11, 2006



Incarcerated youth can fall into a continuous cycle of homelessness; if they return to the streets after their release from jail there is a high probability that they will become involved in the same lifestyle that caused their original arrest. However, state juvenile justice agencies can play a significant role in preventing youth homelessness by coordinating state activities and providing youth in custody with a viable plan for reentering society.

In 1987, the North Dakota Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation created the Division of Juvenile Services (DJS), following the recommendations of a study compiled by the Children and Adolescents at Risk Commission and the Ehrenkraz Group. The division's purpose is to coordinate state systems that provide services to at-risk, deprived, or delinquent youth.

Program Summary

Effective reentry services and planning are essential to preventing homelessness among youth leaving the state juvenile corrections system. Accurate initial assessment, timely provision of treatment services and appropriate discharge planning increase the likelihood that youth will successfully reenter society. North Dakota accomplishes these tasks by coordinating state service systems and running a statewide case management program.

Across North Dakota, the Division of Juvenile Services provides intensive supervision and case management to delinquent youth under their custody. DJS operates eight regional offices and coordinates a variety of treatment services and placement options for adjudicated youth. These regional offices work with juvenile courts, county social services, law enforcement, public and private human service agencies, and schools to provide individual rehabilitative programming. Each juvenile's case is assigned to a corrections specialist prior to or at the time of commitment and that worker follows the case for the duration of the court order. Every effort is made to ensure that caseloads remain manageable, with no more than twenty-five cases per specialist.

During the intake phase, the corrections specialist conducts or coordinates any necessary assessments, evaluations or other interviews. DJS completes a thorough risk/needs assessment as a foundation for each plan, and schedules any relevant additional testing or assessment as soon as possible. Within 60 days of commitment, DJS drafts an individualized plan for treatment and rehabilitation. DJS submits this plan to the committing court and updates it every 90 days. Balancing the preference for the least restrictive, most appropriate placement with the need for ensuring public safety, the court and DJS make a decision regarding level of care.

DJS makes every attempt to keep children in the home when it is safe for the child and the community to do so. Generally, about 30 percent of the youth in DJS custody are placed in their family home. Another 10 percent are placed in treatment foster homes. However, the range of potential placements includes parental home, relative care, family foster care, treatment foster care, group home treatment, residential treatment, hospitalization or the North Dakota Youth Correctional Center1 (NDYCC).

No youth is simply released from custody. If the treatment and rehabilitation goals for each case have not been successfully addressed at the time the order is scheduled to end, the division requests that the court extend the term of commitment. In 2004, the court extended the original terms of commitment for 56 percent of discharged juveniles. Evidence has shown that longer stays reduce later recidivism rates, especially if the youth has a stable place to reenter society.

Process Improvements

  • The improvements begun by the Division of Juvenile Services have influenced all parts of North Dakota state government to ultimately improve client services.
  • Performance-based Standards: NDYCC participates in performance-based standards, a self-improvement and accountability system used in 26 states to better the quality of life for youths in custody. The standards set national goals and provide the blueprint and technique to achieve improvement and success in treating confined youths.
  • Implementing Re-entry Initiative: Using a grant under the Federal Department of Justice's Serious and Violent Offender Reentry Initiative, DJS is attempting to coordinate existing aftercare services, including housing, to ensure the successful transition of youth from NDYCC back into their community.
  • Trackers: Paraprofessional staff members, called trackers, provide juveniles with positive role models, advocacy and supervision. The tracker is available to the juvenile court, county social services and DJS corrections specialists as a prevention resource and as an added layer of aftercare for juveniles. In addition, intensive tracking services are available which include performing drug screens, monitoring home detention and monitoring youth on electronic monitoring devices.
  • Offender Management System: DJS implemented an automated information management system known as the TAG offender Management System in 1999. TAG has two major components: a community services system and an institutional corrections system. These systems are fully integrated and allow for a seamless transfer of data between the DJS regional community corrections offices and NDYCC. The system maintains a single master record with a unique identification number for each juvenile. The TAG database provides a vital link between the DJS Community Services and NDYCC staff. It also allows DJS to conduct continual statistical analysis.
  • Integration with the Child Welfare System: With the advent of the Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA), DJS prepared for implementation of ASFA's requirements by August 1 1999. DJS staff in 3 regions of the state participated in a federal review of ASFA in September 2001. Also, in 2003, all DJS regions participated in the DHS on-going review process of the child welfare system.


Enriched Services

  • Day Treatment: Day Treatment is a school-based treatment for students who are at risk for out-of-home or more restrictive placement because of their behaviors. Programs provide assessment, counseling, anger management, social skills training, behavior management, and academic remediation. The programs are co-funded and co-administered by local school districts, the Department of Public Instruction, and DJS. During the recent biennium 9 sites served 330 juveniles.
  • Day Report: DJS contracts with a private provider to operate Day Report Centers in two large cities. Day reporting is designed to serve juveniles currently on probation or under DJS custody who are in need of additional supervision and structure, and who could benefit from competency-building activities. Juveniles ages 14-17 with a history of delinquent offenses are referred to the program. A special emphasis is placed on serving those who are at great risk for future placement. Program focus areas include anger management, life skills training, job skills and training, relationship issues, and values/character education.
  • Diversified Occupations: Designed after the Training Occupation Planning Program, the NDYCC Diversified Occupations is a vocational education program which combines education, vocational training and work experience. The program is cooperatively funded by each school district with vocational education funds and matched by DJS general funds. Program activities are currently located in 6 sites across the state.
  • Wraparound Services: North Dakota’s efforts to provide wraparound services to youth with serious mental health problems and their families has existed since 1994, when DHS received federal funding from the Center for Mental Health Services. DJS has worked closely with DHS to maintain a mental health care coordinator in 3 of the regional offices and continues its involvement in efforts to sustain services to youth with serious emotional health issues. DJS also participated in the development and delivery of certification training for a single plan of care process.
  • Statewide Detention Support Services Program (SDSS): SDSS provides financial incentives for the development and use of the least restrictive care alternatives for juvenile offenders. The statewide detention support services consist of three primary components; 1) Attendant Care – the constant and direct supervision of juveniles in an unsecured setting; 2) Detention – the supervision of a juvenile within the secure setting of a facility designated by the state jail inspector as a juvenile detention center; and 3) Transportation- transportation to either attendant care or detention for a juvenile who has been identified as appropriate for either of the supervision settings. DJS and the North Dakota Association of Counties, which coordinates the program, have provided training and administrative support reimbursement. There are 14 attendant care sites and six detention centers in North Dakota.
  • Restorative Justice: DJS contracts with a private provider to implement the Restorative Justice Program statewide. Restorative justice defines accountability for juvenile offenders in terms of taking responsibility for their actions and taking action to repair the harm to the victims and community. The program emphasizes how crime hurts relationships. Participating in this program can enhance the overall rehabilitative process for juveniles because they have the opportunity to meet face to face with the victims of their crimes as a step toward taking responsibility and making amends.


Outcome Improvements for Clients

Accountability for outcomes is an important element of North Dakota’s operational philosophy, and regional managers conduct performance audits of each regional office on an annual basis. Over the last ten years, DJS has had a series of recidivism rate studies. The most recent two-year period analyzed (7/1/99 – 6/30/01) shows an average recidivism rate of 15%. A survey conducted by the Texas Youth Commission in 1997 shows that North Dakota has the lowest reported statewide recidivism rate in the nation.

In addition, family-based services are designed to provide an alternative to out-of-home placement for juveniles by providing high quality professional services that will strengthen families and promote future self-sufficiency. DJS and DHS, with a portion of services secured by dollars from the local county or juvenile court, primarily provide funding. The program has been popular with families and the success ratio, as measured by preventing future out-of-home placements or involvement with the juvenile justice system, has been well above 80 percent.

For more information contact:

Lisa Bjergaard
Division of Juvenile Services
2501 Circle Drive
Jamestown, ND 58401
phone: (701) 253-3656