The State of Alaska has made substantial progress in meeting the requirements of the federal Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act of 1974 regarding incarceration of juveniles. The act authorized the distribution of funds through the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention to states which have made progress toward certain goals: deinstitutionalization of status offenders and sight and sound separation of all types of juveniles from adults in adult correctional facilities. A more recent goal, removal of all juveniles from adult facilities, was mandated by the 1980 continuation of the act. Three types of juveniles were defined under the act: status offenders who engage in behaviors which would not be criminal if committed by adults; accused criminal type offenders who are facing criminal charges; and adjudicated criminal offenders whose cases have been through the court process.
To assure compliance with the provisions of the act the OJJDP requires monitoring of all secure facilities in which juveniles might be detained. The Justice Center, under contract with the Alaska Division of Family and Youth Services, developed the Alaska monitoring plan and since 1988 has carried out compliance monitoring activities. (The monitoring plan was described in the Fall 1989 issue of the Alaska Justice Forum.) Data for 1987-89, collected and processed by the Justice Center from 114 jails, lockups and juvenile institutions, reveal marked progress toward the goals of the act.
Legislation mandated that status offenders not be held in any form of secure confinement. A 24-hour "grace period" is permitted. As Table 1 illustrates, recorded violations of the deinstitutionalization of status offender mandate (DSO violations) have decreased dramatically with each year's monitoring. In a 1976 baseline study, 486 DSO violations were recorded in Alaska. By 1987, the first year of the Justice Center's monitoring, the statewide total of DSO violations numbered only 41, a 91.6 per cent decline. By 1988, the number had been further reduced to nine statewide, and by the next year only three DSO violations were recorded in Alaska—altogether a 99.59 per cent decrease from the baseline figure.
Regardless of their offender status, juveniles detained in any type of facility that houses adults must be separated from the adults by both sight and sound. This standard allows for nothing more than "haphazard" contact between adults and juveniles; adhering to it can be difficult in small jails and lockups because of the design of the facilities. Currently, there are two adult jails and no adult lockups designed to provide sight and sound separation. Nevertheless, Alaska shows a significant decline in the number of sight and sound separation violations. Since 1976 when 824 violations were noted, there has been a 59 percent decrease, to 336 violations in 1989.
Whereas the deinstitutionalization provision of the act addresses the handling of status offenders and nonoffenders, the jail removal provision additionally covers the treatment of juveniles accused of or adjudicated on criminal offenses. The essence of the jail removal mandate is also similar to the sight and sound mandate: juveniles will not be placed in secure detention in adult facilities. There is one exception to this provision: a "grace period" of six hours is allowed for the secure detention in adult facilities of juveniles accused of criminal offenses. (The jail removal standard overlaps the sight and sound standard, because nearly all jail removal violations are also separation violations. Thus, in Table 1 the separation data also include most of the jail removal data.) The baseline study of Alaska's jail removal violations, completed in 1980, showed 864 cases involving juveniles held in adult facilities. Appreciable and consistent declines in the occurrence of this type of violation have been demonstrated in each of the three years of Justice Center monitoring. In 1987, when the next measure was taken to chart Alaska's compliance with the removal mandate, the statewide total of jail removal violations stood at 601; by 1988, the number was 409. From the 1988 level, an additional 39.1 per cent decline was recorded in the 1989 monitoring results, with 249 of these violations. By 1989 jail removal violations in Alaska had declined by 71.2 per cent from the 1980 baseline.
In assessing jail removal violations in 1989, data were collected from, or projected for, two Department of Corrections pretrial facilities, 17 contract jails and 87 lockups in 1989. Table 2 illustrates 1989 jail removal violations by type of offender and type of facility. The status offender/nonoffender category of violations constituted 42.6 per cent of all jail removal violations for 1989.
More than 95 per cent of the juveniles in this category were in jail because of violations of alcohol laws. Federal guidelines include the offense of minor consuming alcohol as a status offense, while the State of Alaska has defined it as a criminal offense. (Underage drinking is a Class A misdemeanor under Alaska Statute 04.16.050.) This difference in definition creates problems in achieving compliance with the jail removal goal, because juveniles detained for the criminal offense of minor consuming are recorded for monitoring purposes as detained status offenders. An additional complication is presented by the protective custody statute (AS 47.37.170) which requires police to take inebriates into custody for their own safety. Juvenile inebriates are included under this statue. Most nonoffenders included with status offenders in Table 2 were protective custody cases who could have been charged as minors consuming alcohol.
Table 2 also shows that 40 of the 1989 jail removal violations were caused by confining juveniles on probation violations of various types, and 103 violations resulted from detaining accused criminal type offenders for periods in excess of 6 hours. The crimes with which these juveniles were charged varied widely and included person, property and public order offenses.
Because the three types of violations overlap, it is common for a single instance of juvenile detention to result in simultaneous deinstitutionalization, separation and jail removal violations. For example, a juvenile arrested for minor consuming alcohol and subsequently detained in an adult jail or lockup for 24 hours would result in three violations, one of each provision. Even when an instance of secure confinement does not result in a jail removal or deinstitutionalization violation, if the confinement takes place in an adult facility that does not adequately separate juveniles a separation violation is recorded. The interrelationship among types of violations also compounds difficulties in achieving compliance with the act.
While a 70 per cent decrease in jail removal violations is impressive, it has been suggested that Alaska may never achieve 100 per cent compliance with this goal. Unpredictable weather and vast distances combine to make it difficult to remove juveniles to acceptable facilities from communities where there is no alternative to the jail or lockup for their detention.
Most small Alaska communities have previously had no alternative to the jail or lockup for detaining minors taken into custody. Public Safety and municipal buildings are unlikely to have places other than cells where juvenile inebriates can stay until they are sober or where youths accused of crimes can await air transport to juvenile detention centers. Even those which do cannot assure sight and sound separation from adult offenders. In villages, where nonsecure shelters for juveniles do not exist, Village Public Safety Officers are now routinely finding community members to look after juveniles needing supervision or hiring guards to stay with juveniles in reception areas or living rooms until they have become sober or until air transportation is available. This alternative is often workable for remote locations. Nonetheless, achieving full compliance with the goals of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act will remain extremely difficult in Alaska.
Nancy Schafer is a professor of Justice with the Justice Center. Emily Read is a research associate with the Center.