The American Correctional Association and Institute for Behavior and Health project: Drug testing of juvenile detainees

Program purpose

The American Correctional Association/Institute for Behavior and Health (ACA/IBH) project was designed to improve case management in juvenile detention centers through the use of drug-testing results. The project sought to learn the status of drug testing in juvenile detention centers and to assist three centers to develop model programs.

Target audience

The ACA/IBH project directed its efforts toward juvenile detention agencies, their staff, and the youth they serve.

Principal activities

Several activities were undertaken to complete the ACA/IBH project, including:

  • A national survey to assess existing drug-testing programs in juvenile detention facilities.

  • Site visits to several detention centers.

  • Development of prototype elements and policies and procedures for a drug-testing program.

  • Implementation of drug testing at three juvenile detention centers.

National survey. A written survey instrument was distributed to more than 500 juvenile detention centers across the country. A 48-percent return rate was achieved. From the 237 returned surveys, it was determined that 63 detention centers were conducting drug testing. Thirty-five of these centers were then selected for follow-up telephone interviews by ACA/IBH staff. The telephone interviews clarified and expanded upon written information provided in the survey.

Site visits. From the information gathered through the survey and telephone interviews, nine detention facilities were chosen for site visits. ACA/IBH prepared a site evaluation form for rating the facilities visited. The evaluation criteria were related to drug-testing policies and procedures, deficiencies and/or outstanding attributes of the program, and other related areas.

During the site visits, project staff gathered information and assessed several aspects of each detention center's drug-testing program through observations and interviews with staff. These aspects included:

  • Collection areas.
  • Chain-of-custody procedures.
  • Laboratory or onsite processing of specimens.
  • Use and distribution of test results.
  • Recordkeeping.
  • Data collection.

In addition, information was solicited from detention center staff about local drug use patterns, community support and involvement with the center, and staff members' support of drug testing.

Prototype elements, policies, and procedures. Information about implementing drug testing in detention centers was gleaned from the written surveys, telephone interviews, and site visits. ACA/IBH staff used this information to draft guidelines and sample policies and procedures for drug testing in juvenile detention facilities.

Implementation of drug-testing programs in three detention centers. Concept papers were solicited through a request mailed to 875 juvenile detention centers. Responding agencies outlined their applications for training, technical assistance, and limited funding to implement a model drug-testing program in their facilities. Thirteen of the detention centers submitting a concept paper were then asked to write a detailed proposal describing their drug-testing implementation plan, in-kind resources, and organizational capabilities.

Site selection. After staff review of the submitted proposals, three facilities were selected for implementation of a drug-testing program with technical assistance provided by the ACA/IBH project. The sites represented a small, medium, and large facility, respectively:

  • Madison County Juvenile Court Services, Jackson, TN.
  • Marion County Juvenile Detention Center, Marion, OH.
  • Jackson County Juvenile Court, Kansas City, MO.

Training and technical assistance provided. ACA/IBH staff conducted an initial site visit to further assess the selected sites that were then recommended for approval by OJJDP. Representatives from the three sites were brought together for a 2-day training program on drug testing that covered the following topics:

  • Philosophy and purpose of drug testing.
  • National drug-testing activity.
  • Legal issues of drug testing.
  • Intake and operations issues.
  • Drug-testing technology.
  • Drug-testing policies and procedures.
  • Use of drug-testing results.

ACA/IBH project staff conducted three follow-up site visits to each of the detention centers to provide technical assistance, collect data, and monitor the implementation of the drug-testing programs.

Information dissemination

Five articles were written and published in ACA's magazine, Corrections Today, about the ACA/IBH project activities and progress (Bara, 1994; Campbell, 1994; Dooley, 1994; Juvenile Justice News, 1993; Lashey, 1994).

Drug Identification and Testing in the Juvenile Justice System May 1998