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Ch.4 Developing and Maintaining a Professional Workforce

Author: Pam Clark, MSW, LSW, CYC-P

Custody work in a correctional confinement setting is not typically considered a high-status or prestigious career. However, as long as there are youth and adults in confinement, it will be an important and necessary field of work. Given the significant physical, emotional, social, and psychological development that occurs during childhood and adolescence, the quality, expertise, and professionalism of staff that work with youth in confinement are critically important. This chapter focuses on the qualifications, qualities, and characteristics of the special people needed to work with youth in a confinement setting.


The words “professional” and “professionalism” are used frequently when describing a variety of jobs, especially those that deal with difficult situations or clients. In some cases, these words are used to convey a sense of appreciation for exceptional job performance—for example, “The staff displayed a high level of professionalism throughout the emergency.” Individuals often use the term professional to reflect pride in their job—for example, “Despite the low status and unpopular working hours, institutional staffs are true professionals.”

The term professional is also frequently applied to problem situations when individuals follow policies, procedures, or orders, even though it is reasonable to believe that other action may have produced better results (discretion). Many times, this approach is an attempt to move responsibility or liability higher into the system—for example, “Despite the outcome, the officers acted professionally by strictly adhering to policies and procedures.” In these situations, professional means that the worker removed the discretion from the job and followed policies and procedures without exception.

One of the most important qualities or characteristics of a professional staff person that works with youth in confinement is the ability to effectively balance discretion with adherence to facility policy and procedure.

A Definition of Professionalism

According to Webster’s Dictionary, professionalism is “the conduct, aims, or qualities that characterize or mark a profession or a professional person.” Webster further defines a profession as “a type of job that requires special education, training or skill” and a professional as “someone who has a lot of experience or skill in a particular job or activity: someone who does a job that requires special training, education, or skill.”[1]

The following questions emerge from these definitions.

  • What are the aims of staff that work with youth in a confinement facility? How should staff conduct themselves? What are the qualities that characterize these staff?

  •  What is the correctional confinement occupation? Is it a profession? Does it require specialized education? If so, does a high school diploma qualify as specialized education? If there are no specific, college-level academic programs, what is an appropriate course of study to attain this specialized education? Is this specialized education measured by 1) a degree conferred by a college or university, 2) certification as measured by performance on standardized tests, or 3) a board or council review of education, training, and experience?

  • What are the standards for the education, training, and intellectual skills of someone that works in a correctional confinement setting? Are existing standards for doing this work minimal, or do they reflect the highest levels of attainment? Is an individual, by this definition, a professional if he or she strives to attain only minimum standards?

  • What is specialized training? How and by whom are the needs for this specialized training determined? Who is qualified to provide the training?

These questions are at the heart of an understanding of correctional confinement as a profession. Efforts by the National Partnership for Juvenile Services (NPJS), the Council for Juvenile Correctional Administrators (CJCA), the National Council on Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ), the American Correctional Association (ACA), and the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) supply critical information in these areas. Even though progress toward the definition of a profession is linked to these national professional associations, the full development of a profession is also a function of individual line workers. Without a commitment to professionalism from these individuals, the pressure on administrators, policy makers, judges, and the public to address these questions will never become strong enough.

Who is a Professional?

How would someone recognize a professional staff person in a confinement facility that serves youth if they saw one, and how would they know if that staff person were appropriate to work with youth in confinement? These staff members, as with all criminal and juvenile justice staff, have dual roles: public safety and accountability. Both of these roles involve appropriately managing the behavior of youth. If we are to effectively move young people out of the justice system, a third role applies: fostering rehabilitation and youth development.

A 2012 Report Brief from the National Research Council of the National Academies, entitled Reforming Juvenile Justice: A Developmental Approach, supports this commitment to dual roles when it says,

The overarching goal of the juvenile justice system is to support the positive social development of youths who become involved in the system, and thereby assure the safety of communities. The specific aims of juvenile courts and affiliated agencies are to hold youths accountable for wrongdoing, prevent further offending, and treat youths fairly. All three of these aims are compatible with a developmental approach to juvenile justice.

This task of supporting the above-referenced “positive social development of youths” constitutes youth work as defined by the Association of Child and Youth Care Practice, Inc.: The Association of Child and Youth Care Practice and Child and Youth Care Certification Board say,

Professional [child and youth care] practitioners promote the optimal development of children, youth and their families in a variety of settings, such as early care and education, community-based child and youth development programs, parent education and family support, school-based programs, community mental health, group homes, residential centers, day and residential treatment, early intervention, home-based care and treatment, psychiatric centers, rehabilitation programs, pediatric health care, and juvenile justice programs.[2]

Corrections Today article, “The 21st Century Juvenile Justice Workforce,” also discusses this dual role of correctional custodian and youth development practitioner, and the fact that it is often frustrating, particularly for entry-level juvenile and adult confinement facility staff that serve youth.

For entry-level employees, role duality can be especially frustrating because they see inconsistency within the organization or because they do not see their colleagues as supportive. For example, corrections-minded individuals may not perceive their treatment-minded colleagues as supportive in maintaining safety and holding youths accountable for the behavior, while treatment-minded workers may feel that corrections-minded workers treat [youth] too much like adult offenders…the attempt to blend these two mindsets is a source of frustration for juvenile justice workers.[3]

In a 1983 Michigan Juvenile Detention Association Annual Conference, Dr. Ernest Shelley[4] identified the following list of important qualities and characteristics for staff :

  • Optimism—the ability to see the positive, no matter how small, in a situation or person.

  • A deep belief in the potential of a person to change.

  • The ability to recognize change when it comes, no matter how small.

  • A deep respect for the sacredness of personhood—the belief that every person has value.

  • The ability to care deeply about others.

  • A good team player.

These are qualities of attitude that every staff member that works with youth must bring to the job.

Is This a Profession?

Work in the field of corrections in the U.S. has been increasingly recognized as a profession.[5] For example, there is a criminal justice pathway in higher education that includes specific course work and certificate programs—also available through field-specific professional associations—for those interested in working in a correctional setting.[6] Criminal justice degree programs range from two-year associate degrees to doctoral degrees. However, the course requirements for most of these programs rarely include courses or content specifically related to juvenile justice. Corroborating this, the same Corrections Today article says,

Many juvenile justice positions now require a bachelor’s degree. However, degrees in the social sciences or social work do not prepare candidates for the public safety aspect of the job, and programs in criminal justice do not address the youth development role of the juvenile justice worker. In both cases, it is possible to complete a degree without ever taking a course specifically related to juvenile justice; such courses may not even be offered for interested students. As a result, students may leave college without considering juvenile justice as an option, without an understanding of what the work entails or with the idea that juvenile justice is simply a stepping-stone to a career in adult corrections.[7]

Further evidence of the lack of recognition of juvenile detention and juvenile corrections as a profession is the absence of any listing for either of these in the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook. In this resource, there are listings for Correctional Officers, and Probation Officers or Correctional Treatment Specialists, both of which refer broadly to working with “offenders.” This, despite the fact that the needs of youth and the staff who work with them are vastly different from those of adult offenders and staff who work with that population.[8]

Leaders in the field of juvenile justice must work to ensure that preparation of the correctional workforce that serves youth in both juvenile and adult confinement facilities includes at least foundational knowledge related to the principles and practices of positive and healthy youth development. This has implications for higher education, training, and professional development programs.

Hiring Professional Staff

The recruitment, selection, training, and development of staff are all influenced by the philosophy held by facility administration, the court, and policymakers and funders within a given jurisdiction. This philosophy is often directly expressed by the words used in both the job title and the job description.

Job Title

So, what’s in a job title? For employers, job titles are typically used to categorize positions and define the hierarchy within the organization; for job applicants, they are used in a very different manner that employers should also understand. Many job applicants, at least initially, identify jobs for which they wish to apply based on the job title. Applicants may conduct an internet search or look through the newspaper for jobs according to the job title. There are many different job titles used for staff who work with youth in confinement, and this difference can affect who may be attracted to and apply for the job. For facilities that seek to hire staff to work with youth in juvenile confinement facilities, job titles such Detention Officer or Correctional Officer are inadequate to help candidates understand the job.

Many years ago, the ACA took the lead in referring to direct care line staff in juvenile detention and corrections facilities as “Juvenile Careworkers.” With this job title, the ACA recommended a positive approach to the job.

Mixdorf and Rosetti reported that juvenile care workers perform four overlapping roles: guardian, counselor, supervisor, and role model.[9] Understanding the importance of each of these roles, the term juvenile care worker is a more appropriate representation of the job than is juvenile detention officer or juvenile correctional officer. However, at the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center (CCJTDC) in Chicago, Illinois, direct care staff, previously referred to as Juvenile Detention Counselors are now referred to as Youth Development Specialists. This job title clearly emphasizes the youth development function of the staff who serve youth at the largest juvenile detention facility in the country.

On August 14, 2007, the former CEO of NPJS Earl Dunlap was appointed transitional administrator of CCJTDC. This appointment was in response to a federal lawsuit filed against Cook County by the American Civil Liberties Union. Mr. Dunlap’s task was to bring the CCJTDC into compliance with administrative standards established by the federal court in a Memorandum of Agreement. To do this, it was important to establish a new culture, including a change in job title, to help staff regard themselves and their work in a new way. When asked about the change in job title, Mr. Dunlap said the following:

The change from Juvenile Detention Counselor to Youth Development Specialist was driven by the reform effort. From the bottom up, everything needed to change, and more importantly all positions/classifications needed to reflect the value of the Vision/Mission Statement(s).

The "old" days of "childcare workers," "juvenile counselors," and “detention or corrections officers" had outlived their usefulness and did not adequately reflect what needed to be represented. The three (3) words Youth, Development and Specialist speak for themselves...Our population is youth, not children...Our focus is on a behavioral model related to impacting or developing a new direction for youth...The complex population (e.g., mental health, gang issues, etc.) demands staff with a higher level of experience, education and training focused on special skills.[10]

For staff who work with youth in adult confinement facilities, the issue of job title may be more complex and may be even more important. Staff who work in an adult confinement facility are typically referred to as “Correctional Officers,” stereotypically understood to fill a more custodial role. Although adult facilities may not find it practical to use a different job title for the staff who work with confined youth, separate and distinctly different mission and value statements for these workers could serve as reminders of the importance and value of the positive youth development function of their job. Designating staff that receive specialized training in their work with youth is also important in the context of an adult confinement facility.

Job Description

Job descriptions serve a number of purposes that include providing information for developing job interview questions and employee performance evaluations, helping employees understand what is expected of them, and providing a basis for both disciplinary action and employee recognition.

In the Job Description Handbook, Margie Mader-Clark says,

A job description is simply a clear, concise depiction of the duties and requirements needed to do the job. Job descriptions can take many forms, but they typically have at least four parts.

  • Job summary. This is an overview of the position, with a brief description of its most important functions. Because this will be the first thing applicants read, it is a great place to sell the job to the most attractive candidates (and to separate out those who will not be able to meet job expectations).

  • List of job functions. Next comes a more detailed description of duties. Listing what people have to do to perform a job might seem pretty straightforward, but it can be a legal minefield for managers who are not aware of federal and state antidiscrimination laws, including the Americans with Disabilities Act.

  • Requirements section. Here, the employer should list the education, certifications, licenses, and experience necessary to do the job.

  • Other information. This section should provide any other important facts about the position, such as location, working hours, travel, requirements, reporting relationship, and so on.[11]

Job descriptions should also address any physical requirements, including the operation of any equipment, used in the performance of the job. If operating in a union environment, the employer may need to seek union comment or approval of the job descriptions and any subsequent changes made to them. All job descriptions should close with a disclaimer that clearly states that the job description is only a summary of the typical functions of the job and that there may be other duties as assigned.

To write an effective and informative job description, facility management should first gather relevant information about the job. The facility administrator or managers and supervisors may write the first draft of the job description. However, it is important to gather and incorporate input on this draft from those already doing the job, particularly those who do the job well. This input will help to ensure the content is accurate and relevant and that nothing important is left out. A well-written job description says that facility management understands the job and what it takes to do it well, which requires that job descriptions include information about both job function, which is the “what,”[12] and characteristics of effectiveness, which is the “how,” of working with youth in confinement.[13]

Job functions include:

  • Behavioral management. Using behavioral and developmental theories to establish clear expectations for resident behavior and employing immediate positive or negative consequences as a result of direct involvement with residents.

  • Crisis intervention. Using skill and composure to prevent or minimize physical and emotional harm to residents and other staff when handling a wide variety of crisis situations (e.g., physical violence, escapes, riots, suicidal behaviors).

  • Security. Implementing the policies and procedures related to resident supervision and institutional security measures to ensure the physical presence of each resident in the facility.

  • Safety. Employing knowledge and skills in relation to emergency procedures (e.g., first aid, CPR, fire safety,  communicable disease) to ensure the well being of youth.

  • Custodial care. Assisting in the proper identification and treatment of problems relating to the physical and emotional health and well being of detained youth through the use of knowledge and skills in basic health-related areas (e.g., medical and hygiene, adolescent sexuality, substance abuse, physical or emotional abuse, symptoms of suicidal behavior and emotional distress).

  • Recordkeeping. Providing accurate and timely written documentation of both routine and special situations regarding residents, staff, and program activities through the use of observation and recording skills.

  • Program maintenance. Implementing, teaching, creating, and supplementing the facility’s daily program and activities (e.g., physical education, recreation, arts and crafts).

  • Problem solving. Creating an environment or institutional climate in which a youth’s personal, social, or emotional problems can be openly discussed, explored, and possibly resolved through effective use of interpersonal relationship skills, communication and consultation with clinical staff, and leadership in group discussions or activities.

  • Organizational awareness. Understanding, supporting, and using the philosophy, goals, values, policies, and procedures that represent the daily operations of the facility.

  • External awareness. Identifying and periodically reviewing key external issues and trends likely to affect the agency (e.g., legal, political, demographic, philosophical trends).

Characteristics of effectiveness include:

  • Balanced perspective. A broad view that balances present needs and long-term considerations.

  • Strategic view. Ability to collect and analyze information that forms an overall long-range view of priorities and forecasts likely needs, problems, and opportunities.

  • Environmental sensitivity. Awareness of broad environmental trends and the effects of these trends on the work unit. (See Ch. 3: Physical Plant Design and Operations)

  • Leadership. An ability and willingness to lead and manage others.

  • Flexibility. Openness to new information as well as tolerance for stress and ambiguity in the work situation.

  • Action orientation. Decisiveness, calculated risk taking, and a drive to get things done.

  • Results focus. Strong concern for goal achievement and a tenacity to follow a project through to completion.

  • Communication. Ability to express oneself clearly and authoritatively and to listen attentively to others.

  • Interpersonal sensitivity. Self-knowledge, awareness of the impact of self on others, sensitivity to the needs and weaknesses of others, and the ability to sympathize with the viewpoints of others.

  • Technical competence. Expert and up-to-date knowledge of the methods and procedures of the work unit.

Large facilities and jurisdictions may have human resource departments that deal with job descriptions and other employee-related matters. However, facility staff and administration should have an opportunity to provide input related to the accuracy of job descriptions. If the facility does not have a human resource department, it would be advisable to have job descriptions reviewed by an attorney, preferably one with some experience or expertise in labor law.

Job descriptions are legal documents and as such cannot include any discriminatory language. The language used in a job description is important. Statements in the job description should be concise, clear, and written in the present tense. Sentences should be structured in such a way that gender pronouns are not required. If this is not possible, gender neutral, inclusive language such as “he or she” should be used.

Job descriptions should be reviewed and updated regularly, at least every 2–3 years, or more often if job requirements change. Whenever changes are made, they should be shared with the staff to ensure their continued understanding of what is expected of them.


Recruitment is about more than just getting people to apply for the job. It is about ensuring that the people who do apply are the ones the organization or facility is looking for and needs. Good recruitment starts with two things: an accurate job description, and more importantly, employee retention—understanding what it will take to keep quality staff after they are hired. Employee turnover is costly in ways that go far beyond financial investments in training and orientation. The negative impact on organizational culture, programming for youth and the morale of both staff and youth is often much more significant than any financial losses.

Facilities are often required to first post all job openings through internal networks (e.g., county or state government systems) before looking outside the facility for candidates. The most common methods of external recruitment have historically been newspaper classified advertisements and job or career fairs, both of which can lead to a stack of resumes from individuals who are not a good fit for the job. The methods needed for recruiting in today’s multi-generational workforce vary dramatically. Knowing and understanding the differences in how and to what each generation responds is important to effective recruitment of staff.

Strategies that may be effective across generations include:

  • Advertising through professional associations—such as state detention or corrections associations—and national associations such as the NPJS, CJCA, and ACA. This form of advertising is often free or significantly less costly than newspaper classified advertisements and addresses a more specific target audience. However, publication of job listings through these sources may be delayed, so if the need to hire is immediate, this may not be the best avenue for recruitment.

  • Making everyone on staff at the facility a recruiter by asking for referrals from existing staff. These individuals know the job and what it requires. They can explain both the pros and cons to potential applicants. Quality, committed staff will likely refer only those individuals they believe are a good fit for the organization.

  • Using social and electronic media advertising. Sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook can be good sources for attracting what are referred to as “Millennials,” those born between 1980 and 2000. LinkedIn and Facebook both have programs for advertising staff positions. In addition, some newspapers offer web and print combinations to attract online job seekers.

  • Working with local media to get newspaper coverage of the positive work being done by staff and putting a face on the facility. Proactively making it easy for potential applicants to read, hear, or see the factors that make working at the facility an interesting and positive experience can dramatically increase the number and quality of applicants over time. Many facilities have representatives from the local media on the facility’s community advisory board.

  • Working with faculty and staff at community colleges and universities to secure student internships and volunteers to offer or support programming at the facility. In addition to direct care work, internships might also be made available for students who are pursuing nursing, counseling, and other more specialized fields of work. Student interns and volunteers often become desirable job applicants, as they know the exact requirements of the job for which they are applying.

  • Hosting an open house where members of the community and potential job seekers can tour the facility and participate in a presentation on its history and function in the community. Most members of the public have very distorted ideas about confinement facilities and what goes on in them.

  • Keeping job applications and resumes from former applicants. A past candidate that was not right for one position in the facility may be a good candidate for a different position that opens up later.

Many of these strategies are what Nicole Baker and Max Carrera call “relationship-based recruitment,” which suggests that facility administrators get out from behind their desks and seek out and talk with potential job seekers one-on-one or in groups.[14] Work in a correctional confinement facility is not a traditional job or career, therefore, the work is often not well understood by those seeking employment. Speaking directly with potential job seekers allows them the opportunity to address any questions and/or misunderstandings they may have about the job.

The process and time it may take to fill a staff vacancy will vary depending on factors such as whether a human resource department versus the facility administrator does the hiring, whether hiring freezes may be in effect, and whether the workforce is unionized.


There are many elements involved in the selection of staff. Facilities may use any one or all of these steps in the process.

Pre-employment screenings. Some organizations conduct pre-employment screenings prior to scheduling or following an initial interview. These screenings can range anywhere from a simple pre-interview telephone contact to the use of a brief pre-employment screening test—either before or after the interview—that measures a candidate’s basic work-related values, or video scenarios that measure a candidate’s overall suitability for working with juvenile offenders.[16]

Interviews. The interview process is typically considered a critical aspect in the selection of staff. However, there are differing opinions as to what the structure should be and the ultimate value of interviews. Interview questions should be connected to what is contained in the job description and typically focus on the knowledge, skills, and abilities someone has or can learn to be able to do the job, whatever that job may be. These knowledge, skills, and abilities, demonstrated through qualifying experience, education, and training, can also be assessed by asking candidates questions specific to each area in both the job application and the interview.

However, most experts today agree that employers should be looking beyond knowledge, skills, and abilities at whether candidates have the right attitude to make them a good fit for the organization. Mark Murphy, Chairman and CEO of Leadership IQ, in a study of 20,000 new hires over a three-year period, found that, within 18 months, 46% of new hires failed (got fired, received poor performance reviews, or were written up). According to Murphy, these results are fairly consistent with the results from other similar studies.

In his book, Hiring for Attitude, Murphy says that, “a lack of skills or technical competence accounted for only 11% of new hire failures.”[17] The other 89% were failures grounded in attitude: inability to accept and implement feedback (coachability) 26%; inability to understand and manage one’s own emotions (emotional intelligence) 23%; insufficient drive (17%); and attitude and personality unsuited to the job or work environment (15%). In most cases, skills and abilities can be taught. Attitude cannot. Hiring someone who already has or can learn the skills and abilities needed to do the job well (aptitude), in combination with the right attitude, may go a long way in ensuring employee retention and ultimately reducing staff turnover and its related costs.

Murphy provides specific strategies for Hiring for Attitude and suggests the following:

  • The attitudes that work for your organization are unique.

  • Standard interview questions don’t assess attitude.

  • A few simple questions will reveal if someone’s attitude is right for you.

  • The grammar that people use predicts whether they’re a good or bad fit.

  • Hiring for attitude will make current employees even better.[18]

In terms of hiring staff to work with youth, a key factor will be that person’s general attitude toward youth and whether he or she believes young people are capable of changing.

References and background checks. Checks of previous employment and references are additional tools used in the selection of new staff. Agency policies vary on this topic, and there is ongoing debate about the value of the information obtained from reference checks. Job candidates typically choose as personal references those individuals they know or believe will portray them in a positive light. Employment references are becoming more difficult to obtain and may be unreliable, as many employers are concerned about being sued for anything—negative or positive—that they may say about a former employee. A written release of information that grants permission for the sharing of information about the candidate should always be obtained before contacting any reference. Because candidates may request a copy of reference reports, written notes about information obtained from references should be minimal and general (e.g., “References indicate...”) and should not identify the sources of the specific information provided.

Criminal background checks are used to determine how appropriate candidates may be for employment in a confinement setting, particularly in a facility that serves youth. Agency and jurisdictional requirements may vary. However, the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) Juvenile Facility Standards, in §115.317, require the following before hiring any staff that may have contact with juveniles: (See Ch. 5: Rights and Responsibilities: Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003)

  • The agency shall also perform a criminal background records check, and consult applicable child abuse registries, before enlisting the services of any contractor who may have contact with residents.

  • The agency shall either conduct criminal background records checks at least every five years of current employees and contractors who may have contact with residents or have in place a system for otherwise capturing such information for current employees.

  • The agency shall also ask all applicants and employees who may have contact with residents directly about previous misconduct described in paragraph (a) of this section in written applications or interviews for hiring or promotions and in any interviews or written self- evaluations conducted as part of reviews of current employees. The agency shall also impose upon employees a continuing affirmative duty to disclose any such misconduct.

  • Material omissions regarding such misconduct, or the provision of materially false information, shall be grounds for termination.

  • Unless prohibited by law, the agency shall provide information on substantiated allegations of sexual abuse or sexual harassment involving a former employee upon receiving a request from an institutional employer for whom such employee has applied to work.[19]

Drug screening is also used to determine how appropriate candidates may be for employment. In addition to pre-employment drug screening, it is recommended that additional screening be done randomly and at least annually, if not more frequently. Pre-employment health screening is also typically required and should include testing for tuberculosis.

The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) guidelines prohibit discriminatory practices in advertising, recruitment, application, hiring, and referrals.[20]

Cultivating a Professional Staff

Once the hiring process is complete, staff orientation and training are critical and should occur prior to staff being given responsibility for the direct care and supervision of youth. Proper orientation helps to ensure that newly hired staff have 1) a general understanding of where to go and to whom to look for direction and support and 2) the level of responsibility and decision-making that will be expected of them.


Orientation should be provided relative to the organization’s culture and to the facility’s vision, values, and mission. Every facility has its own unique culture, what is commonly referred to as institutional or organizational culture. A facility’s culture is evident in its values and customs, and in the attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors of those working in the facility. Facility culture is observable and is reflected in the way employees dress and behave in the workplace, and in the way they interact with one another, with the youth and families they serve, and in the community. The facility’s organizational culture is reflected in its mission statement, which communicates how the organization does its work. This mission statement should be posted in the facility and easily accessible to staff, residents, and their families. (See Ch. 8: Management and Facility Administration)


Bartholomew County Youth Services Center

Columbus, Indiana

Our mission is to respond to the community's needs with a continuum of care, programming, services and advocacy for minors in settings that are safe for both the community and the youth.

We treat each youth with respect and dignity, holding them to appropriate behavioral expectations through a system of rewards and consequences that are applied in a fair, firm and consistent manner that is conducive to their personal growth and development.

New staff must clearly understand the organizational hierarchy or chain of command at the facility. This is the line of authority and responsibility through which orders or directives are approved and passed, permissions or authorizations are granted, and grievances are processed. Depending on the type of confinement facility, the chain of command may come from officer rank (e.g., sergeant, lieutenant) or by authority designated to staff with specific job titles (e.g., intake officer, shift supervisor). Without this information, new staff members may inadvertently violate established protocols and have difficulty fitting into the facility’s culture.


The importance and value of staff training cannot be emphasized enough. Research shows that the more education, training, and experience an individual who works in a juvenile confinement setting has, the more likely it is he or she will have good communication skills, be able to effectively implement behavior management programming, and encourage and reinforce positive program participation and behavioral outcomes of youth.[21]

It is informative to look at the ACA training requirements for staff who work in specific confinement settings.

ACA Core Jail Standards

Correctional Officer Training 
Prior to Assuming Duties (1-CORE-7B-04)

(No specific number of hours identified;
no specific training topics or hours recommended
in subsequent years)

ACA Adult Corrections Training Standards,
Correctional Officers (4-4084)

(40 hrs. Orientation and 120 hrs.
1st year, 40 hrs. each yr. after)

ACA Juvenile Corrections Training Standards,
Juvenile Careworker Training (4-JCF-6E-08)

(40 hrs. Orientation and 120 hrs.
1st year, 40 hrs. each yr. after)

ACA Juvenile Detention Training Standards,
Juvenile Careworker Training

(4.1, ID-01-14)        (40 hrs. Orientation and 120 hrs.
1st year, 40 hrs. each yr. after)

Facility policies and proceduresSecurity proceduresSecurity proceduresSecurity procedures
Suicide preventionSuicide precautions &
Signs of suicide risks
Suicide intervention/preventionSigns of suicide risk
Suicide precautions
Use of forceUse of force regulationsUse of forceUse of force regulations and tactics
Report writingReport writingReport writingReport writing
Inmate rules and regulationsOffender rules and regulationsJuvenile rules and regulationsJuvenile rules and regulations
Key controlKey ControlKey controlKey Control
Emergency plans and proceduresFire and emergency proceduresFire and emergency proceduresFire and emergency procedures
Cultural diversityCultural diversityCulture awarenessCulture awareness
Communication skillsCommunication skillsCommunication skillsCommunication skills
Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)/first aidFirst aid/CPRFirst aidFirst aid/CPR
 Rights and responsibilities of offendersRights and responsibilities of juvenilesRights and responsibilities of juveniles
 Supervision of offendersSupervision of juvenilesSupervision of juveniles
 Safety proceduresSafety proceduresSafety procedures
 Interpersonal relationsInterpersonal relationsInterpersonal relations
 Counseling techniquesCode of ethicsCounseling techniques
 Social/cultural lifestyles of the offender populationSexual harassmentSocial/cultural lifestyles of the juvenile population
  Sexual abuse/assault 
  Search and seizure 
  Rules of evidence 
Underlined text in cells contain areas of training in which the content is basically the same regardless of the facility type or population served (adult or juvenile).


Although the content of the ACA training standards for Correctional Officers in jails and adult correctional facilities bear many similarities to the content of the training standards articulated by the ACA for Juvenile Careworkers in juvenile detention and correctional facilities, it also reflects some significant differences.[22] These differences are important because working with juveniles requires some knowledge, skills, and abilities different from those required for working with adults. Juvenile work also requires a mindset and commitment to education and rehabilitation. This mindset is particularly relevant given what has been learned from research in the area of adolescent brain development. In a Fact Sheet entitled, Using Adolescent Brain Research to Inform Policy: A Guide for Juvenile Justice Advocates, the National Juvenile Justice Network says,

  • Youth will likely be in a better position to resist some of the triggers that may drive them to make unhealthy decisions if they are educated about their own development, and that of their peers, and how it can impact their behavior.

  • The guidance of supportive adults can help youth to use their positive assets to benefit the community.

  • When adults understand more about the brain development that occurs during adolescence, they may interact more effectively with youth and can provide youth with better services.[23]

This information clearly indicates the need for more specialized behavior and relationship-based training for staff who work with youth. This is particularly true for those staff who work with youth confined in an adult facility, as this area is not inherently a part of the training programs provided for these staff. (See Ch. 6: Adolescent Development)

In addition, the PREA Standards require training of all facility employees having contact with residents, which includes:

  1. [The facility’s] zero-tolerance policy for sexual abuse and sexual harassment;

  2. How to fulfill their responsibilities under agency sexual abuse and sexual harassment prevention, detection, reporting, and response policies and procedures;

  3. Residents’ right to be free from sexual abuse and sexual harassment;

  4. The right of residents and employees to be free from retaliation for reporting sexual abuse and sexual harassment;

  5. The dynamics of sexual abuse and sexual harassment in juvenile facilities;

  6. The common reactions of juvenile victims of sexual abuse and sexual harassment;

  7. How to detect and respond to signs of threatened and actual sexual abuse and how to distinguish between consensual sexual contact and sexual abuse between residents;

  8. How to avoid inappropriate relationships with residents;

  9. How to communicate effectively and professionally with residents, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, or gender nonconforming residents; 

  10. How to comply with relevant laws related to mandatory reporting of sexual abuse to outside authorities;

  11. Relevant laws regarding the applicable age of consent.[24]

PREA Standards go on to say that:

  • Such training shall be tailored to the unique needs and attributes of residents of juvenile facilities and to the gender of the residents at the employee’s facility. The employee shall receive additional training if the employee is reassigned from a facility that houses only male residents to a facility that houses only female residents, or vice versa.

  • All current employees who have not received such training shall be trained within one year of the effective date of the PREA standards, and the agency shall provide each employee with refresher training every two years to ensure that all employees know the agency’s current sexual abuse and sexual harassment policies and procedures. In years in which an employee does not receive refresher training, the agency shall provide refresher information on current sexual abuse and sexual harassment policies.

  • The agency shall document, through employee signature or electronic verification that employees understand the training they have received.

With the exception of minor language differences specific to the population being served, the requirements identified in the PREA Standards for the training of employees in both juvenile and adult confinement facilities are identical.

Resources abound that offer training and technical assistance for confinement facilities serving youth.

  • NPJS, using OJJDP grant funds, developed two 40-hour training curricula for direct care staff who work in juvenile detention and juvenile corrections facilities, the content of which can be tailored to meet specific facility and or system training needs.

  • OJJDP provides support through its National Training and Technical Assistance Center (NTTAC) to states, tribes, units of local government, and organizations that support the justice system's response to juvenile delinquency and victimization.

  • The ACA specifies an annual minimum number of training hours for each category of staff to occur at regular periods throughout employment in a facility. Compliance with ACA mandatory training standards is required to achieve and maintain ACA certification. The ACA offers a wide range of educational and training opportunities for adult correctional and juvenile justice staff.[25]

    • In addition, most states have facility standards that include recommended or mandatory training requirements for staff who work in confinement facilities. These state standards are often based on the requirements identified in the ACA standards referenced above and address training of new staff and annual training for all staff.

  • The National Institute of Corrections (NIC) offers training and technical assistance for facilities seeking to develop their own training staff and through an inter-agency agreement with OJJDP provides leadership development programs for juvenile and adult corrections personnel.

  • PREA—signed into law on September 4, 2003—established the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission. This Commission proposed standards for the prevention, detection, and response to sexual misconduct in criminal and juvenile justice settings. The PREA Resource Center (PRC) was funded through a cooperative agreement between the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) and the National Council on Crime and Delinquency (NCCD) to develop and deliver training and technical assistance programs and services related to the implementation of PREA standards in both juvenile and adult confinement facilities.

Some jurisdictions have established training academies where curricula such as those mentioned above are taught with a requirement that newly hired staff complete this training either upon hire and before beginning a facility-specific assignment or sometime within the first year of employment.

All newly hired staff who work in a confinement facility should be certified or be provided with training in the following:

  • First aid

  • CPR

  • Universal precautions

  • Suicide prevention

  • De-escalation and crisis intervention

Training in first aid, CPR, Universal Precautions, de-escalation, and crisis intervention should be re-administered either annually or as prescribed by the entity that provides the certification.

Recordkeeping—the accurate and timely written documentation of both routine and special situations regarding residents, staff, and program activities—is a critical job function for anyone who works in a confinement setting. Reports become a permanent record of a staff member’s actions in response to an incident, may be used in the course of an investigation, and may help in documenting compliance with policies, procedures, and standards. In consideration of this, training in the fundamentals of effective report writing should be provided to newly hired employees at the earliest opportunity. (See Ch. 16: Behavior Observation, Recording, and Report Writing)


Quality Assurance

Although there are many roads to quality assurance, for the individual employee who works with youth in a confinement setting, there are two primary resources available for this purpose: facility policy and procedure, and a professional code of ethics. (See Ch. 17: Quality Assurance)

Policies and procedures are designed to address all major decisions, actions, concerns, and activities that take place within a facility. Understanding and adhering to a facility’s policies and procedures is a key element in assuring quality of work. However, given the often erratic and unpredictable behavior and decision-making of youth, it would be impossible to develop policy and procedure that would address every circumstance that staff who work with youth in a confinement setting may face. Situations not specifically addressed in policy and procedure require staff discretion. Matters such as the use of restraints and isolation, or programming for youth with special needs also require discretion and judgment. Discretion is best exercised within a framework or context for decision-making. Such a framework exists within a profession’s code of ethics. (See Ch. 8: Management and Facility Administration: Policy and Procedure Manual)


Although there are a number of ethical codes of conduct from which to choose (e.g., the American Jail Association Code of Ethics, the International Corrections and Prison Association Ethical Code of Conduct), the DGS will focus on two codes of ethics commonly referred to by staff who work with youth in confinement—those of NPJS and ACA.

National Partnership for Juvenile Services (NPJS)



In 2004, the Council for Educators of At-Risk and Delinquent Youth (CEARDY), the Juvenile Justice Trainers Association (JJTA), the National Association for Juvenile Correctional Agencies (NAJCA), and the National Juvenile Detention Association (NJDA) merged their respective membership organizations under one operational structure, the National Partnership for Juvenile Services (hereafter referred to as the Partnership or NPJS). Building on years of experience, knowledge, and skill, this union allows these individual organizations to focus on their respective mission and discipline while minimizing duplication, maximizing limited resources, and ensuring sustainability.

As an educational, scientific, training and professional organization, NPJS recognizes that its membership reflects the full range of diversity in the juvenile justice system. The specification of ethical standards enables NPJS to clarify for all members and to those served by its members, the nature of ethical responsibilities shared by its members.

NPJS and its members contribute to the analysis, interpretation, understanding, and resolution of juvenile justice issues by providing programs, services, policy statements, conferences, training, and publications.

The Code of Ethics serves to stimulate greater concern by NPJS members for their own professional functioning and for the conduct of fellow professionals within the juvenile justice system. As the ethical code of NPJS, this document establishes principles that define the ethical behavior of NPJS members.

Purpose of the NPJS Code of Ethics

The Code of Ethics guides NPJS members in their own professional functioning and advocates for the ethical conduct of all professionals within the juvenile justice system. The Partnership Code of Ethics has established the following principles and standards to guide member conduct.

Ethical Principles and Standards

Recognizing the critical role of conscience in choosing among courses of action and taking into account the moral ambiguities of life, the members of NPJS commit themselves to the following:

  • Demonstrating the highest standards of personal conduct.

Juvenile justice professionals are rarely defined by the public or the helping professions as having a high status career. Public perceptions often imply that everyone has the ability to work with at risk and delinquent youth. For these reasons, members must continually demonstrate pride in their profession and self-respect reflective of the highest level of personal conduct. This conduct specifically refers to personal integrity, honesty, and truthfulness demonstrated in their relationships between colleagues, youth and the public.

Juvenile justice professionals are charged with the responsibility to assure public safety, promote competency development and provide safe care of juvenile justice involved youth. Cognizant of this public trust, members understand that any individual or collective compromise of their integrity or self-respect can damage the ability of the juvenile justice system to accomplish its mission. The best insurance against a loss of public confidence is strict adherence to the highest standards of personal conduct.

  • Demonstrating the highest standards of professional conduct.

Progress as a profession depends not only on public trust but on professional competency. Therefore, members strive for excellence in job performance that advances the cause of their profession by gaining increased public respect in order to further the best interest of justice involved youth. Members support and encourage programs that develop knowledge, skills, and abilities directly relevant to juvenile justice services. Members demand regular and periodic feedback regarding their job performance, career goals, as well as opportunities for continuous professional development.

Members understand that the important component of juvenile justice services is the relationship between staff and youth. Members emphasize training and skill acquisition in the area of interpersonal communication.

Members are concerned with providing the highest quality of care. In keeping with this concern, members contribute to the performance improvement process consistent with nationally recognized juvenile justice standards and encourage others to contribute in this process as well. Members perform their duties in a non-intrusive and respectful manner. Members do not permit personal feelings, prejudices, animosities, or friendships to influence their decisions. Members implement programs without fear or favor, without malice or preferential treatment. Members consistently respect the personal safety and boundaries of youth and co-workers and utilize appropriate verbal and non-verbal communication skills. Members utilize the least restrictive intervention available to ensure the safety of the youth as well as the immediate community.

  • Avoiding any interest or activity that conflicts with or that produces undue personal gain through the execution of official duties.

Members refrain from any task or relationship that is or could be viewed as conflicting with job responsibilities. Conflicts occur when an individual’s obligation to meet their professional responsibility to their clients, their employer or the Partnership are at odds with the individual’s own personal or financial interests.

Members must understand their role in developing the independence of youth in their care. Therefore, members value the human worth of these youth by steadfastly refusing to behave in a manner which satisfies their personal needs at the expense of youth.

Members must not engage in any activity which may result in or be perceived as a financial conflict.

Members must abstain from voting on any matters which may create or be perceived as a conflict of interest.

  • Safeguarding the confidentiality of youth.

Members adhere to all legal requirements, standards and policies regarding issues of confidentiality for justice involved youth. Members refrain from identifying youth and discussing specific problems and incidents outside the context of their official duties.

  • Advocating for the legal and ethical rights of youth.

Members advocate for policies that ensure the legal and human rights of justice involved youth. Members educate justice involved youth, professionals and others about policies and practices that either promote or violate these rights. Members refuse to remain silent when these rights are violated, and they speak on behalf of the affected youths.

Members support the rights of justice involved youth to be served in a psychologically and physically safe and secure environment.

  • Eliminating all forms of unethical and illegal behavior.

As representatives of the juvenile justice system, members are committed to promoting legal and ethical standards of behavior. Therefore, members will confront and report illegal or unethical behaviors that occur in any juvenile justice setting. Members are committed to upholding ethical standards that transcend issues of friendship, efficiency, and loyalty to their agency.

Members do not tolerate acts of discrimination, theft, or any form of child abuse (i.e., physical, mental, or sexual), and advocate for the removal from the profession those individuals who condone or engage in such behaviors.

  • Maintaining an optimum level of physical conditioning and mental alertness.

Members realize that working with juvenile offenders is a highly stressful profession. Part of this stress derives from the potential for physical interventions. Members maintain an optimum level of physical conditioning in order to respond to physical situations in the most efficient manner. Members realize that both staff and residents are less likely to be injured when staff are trained, in good physical condition, and psychologically prepared to control any situation.

Members take responsibility for maintaining their physical and psychological wellness in order to provide optimal levels of safety, security, and helpful services for youth in their care.

Members realize that working with youth is a challenging and sometimes stressful profession. The stress that can be associated with juvenile justice service may affect the mental attitude and physical health of staff. In order to provide optimal levels of care and supervision, members consistently maintain a high degree of mental alertness and an awareness of both youth and the environment. Members also maintain an optimal level of physical fitness in order to respond safely and appropriately to situations that may require physical intervention.

Members support and encourage training and continuing education for juvenile justice staff in stress management and other mental and physical health practices. Members endorse and encourage the development of support groups among staff within the juvenile justice system to provide an appropriate forum to ventilate frustrations, to discuss problem situations, to share ideas that work, and to rejuvenate.

Adapted from the National Juvenile Detention Association Code of Ethics, July 10, 2012.

ACA Code Of Ethics


The American Correctional Association expects of its members unfailing honesty, respect for the dignity and individuality of human beings and a commitment to professional and compassionate service. To this end, we subscribe to the following principles.

  1. Members shall respect and protect the civil and legal rights of all individuals.

  2. Members shall treat every professional situation with concern for the welfare of the individuals involved and with no intent to personal gain.

  3. Members shall maintain relationships with colleagues to promote mutual respect within the profession and improve the quality of service.

  4. Members shall make public criticism of their colleagues or their agencies only when warranted, verifiable, and constructive.

  5. Members shall respect the importance of all disciplines within the criminal justice system and work to improve cooperation with each segment.

  6. Members shall honor the public's right to information and share information with the public to the extent permitted by law subject to individuals' right to privacy.

  7. Members shall respect and protect the right of the public to be safeguarded from criminal activity.

  8. Members shall refrain from using their positions to secure personal privileges or advantages.

  9. Members shall refrain from allowing personal interest to impair objectivity in the performance of duty while acting in an official capacity.

  10. Members shall refrain from entering into any formal or informal activity or agreement which presents a conflict of interest or is inconsistent with the conscientious performance of duties.

  11. Members shall refrain from accepting any gifts, services, or favors that is or appears to be improper or implies an obligation inconsistent with the free and objective exercise of professional duties.

  12. Members shall clearly differentiate between personal views/statements and views/statements/positions made on behalf of the agency or Association.

  13. Members shall report to appropriate authorities any corrupt or unethical behaviors in which there is sufficient evidence to justify review.

  14. Members shall refrain from discriminating against any individual because of race, gender, creed, national origin, religious affiliation, age, disability, or any other type of prohibited discrimination.

  15. Members shall preserve the integrity of private information; they shall refrain from seeking information on individuals beyond that which is necessary to implement responsibilities and perform their duties; members shall refrain from revealing nonpublic information unless expressly authorized to do so.

  16. Members shall make all appointments, promotions, and dismissals in accordance with established civil service rules, applicable contract agreements, and individual merit, rather than furtherance of personal interests.

  17. Members shall respect, promote, and contribute to a work place that is safe, healthy, and free of harassment in any form.

Adopted by the Board of Governors and Delegate Assembly in August 1994.

Specialized practitioners who work in a confinement setting (e.g., medical and mental health staff) may have a code of ethics meant to guide practice in those more specialized areas. Counseling staff may be guided by the ACA, the National Association of Social Work (NASW), the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT), or the American Psychological Association (APA) Code of Ethics. The code by which counseling staff may be guided will depend on any number of factors that may include the practitioner’s educational background, the professional group through which the practitioner is licensed and the individual’s personal preference.

The American Nurses Association (ANA) and the American Medical Association (AMA) both have codes of ethics; however, the National Commission on Correctional Health Care (NCCHC) says that, while nurses in traditional medical settings may only occasionally face ethical dilemmas, “In contrast, the correctional nurse may face ethical situations daily…about care delivery, caring and patient advocacy in planning and providing safe patient care.”[26] The NCCHC encourages nurses to refer to the ANA Code of Ethics, which has specific scope and standards of practice for nursing in correctional settings.

Performance Evaluations

The performance evaluation is just one step in an overall performance management system. This system includes the development of position-specific job descriptions; the identification of standards for performance related to the job description that can be rated such as the amount and quality of work, effort, or employee tasks necessary to reach a predetermined level of performance; and processes for addressing performance issues that may range from coaching to progressive discipline.

Writing a quality job description sets the stage for a quality performance evaluation, as the criteria on which an employee’s performance is evaluated should be directly related to the job functions outlined in the job description. In The Job Description Handbook, Margie Mader-Clark says,

Because a good job description tells employees exactly what they are expected to accomplish, employees won’t be able to argue later that you surprised them by using unexpected factors to measure their performance. And because every employee in the same position will be rated on the same performance factors, it will be more difficult for an employee to claim that you were unfairly harsh or imposed additional requirements on him or her—an argument that can form the basis for a discrimination lawsuit.[27]

Performance evaluations typically use some form of rating system. One of the most common rating systems used in performance evaluations is a numeric system. For example:

1 = Employee has failed to meet expectations.

2 = Employee is below performance expectations.

3 = Employee meets expectations with average performance.

4 = Employee exceeds expectations with an above average performance level.

5 = Employee far exceeds expected job performance.

If used correctly, this method of evaluation can be a useful tool to motivate employees. However, if the employee only receives is a numeric rating, this process is of little value. Without a descriptive narrative to put the rating in context, this scale will be of little value to the employee or the employer. Employers need to discuss with employees the overall ratings and provide specific information regarding the criteria that was used to determine the rating for 1) the employee to know what to do to improve his or her performance and 2) the employer to be clear about what the organization can do to help the employee improve and add value to the organization.

Performance issues identified in the performance evaluation should never be a surprise to the employee, as these issues should have been recognized and addressed in advance of the regularly scheduled performance evaluation. When employees have opportunities for ongoing feedback (e.g., weekly or monthly check-ins with supervisors), concerns about performance can be addressed much more quickly. Once performance issues are identified, whenever reasonable to do so, supervisors should invest coaching, mentoring, or other productive approaches to correcting employee performance. These approaches provide the employee with the opportunity to receive support and feedback and make progress on the issue, in which case, formal disciplinary action may not be needed.

When and if formal disciplinary action is required, whenever reasonable, a process of progressive discipline should be used. The goal of progressive discipline is to improve employee performance and entails the following steps:

  • Counseling the employee about the performance issue, including dialogue to understand whether any specific issues or problems contributing to the employee’s poor performance. This process is documented in the employee’s personnel file with the employee’s signature to demonstrate his or her understanding of the issue and the correction needed.

  • Written warnings outlining consequences for an employee’s continued failure to meet performance expectations and provision of a formal performance improvement plan if needed. A written warning should outline potential progressive discipline up to and including termination if corrective action is not taken.

  • Suspensions, either paid or unpaid, pending are a recommended component of a discipline progression. Suspensions should be used in response to serious workplace issues and instituted consistent with federal, state and local wage-and-hour employment laws [and labor contracts where applicable].

  • Final written warnings are a step in progressive discipline that may or may not accompany a suspension and are often a last step before termination of an employee. However, steps in progressive discipline may be combined or skipped depending on the specific situation or circumstances involved.[28]

Although a process for progressive discipline is important, it may not be appropriate in all cases; some situations may be serious enough to require immediate termination.

Ken Lloyd’s book, Performance Appraisals and Phrases for Dummies, provides a “Cheat Sheet” with the following tips for preparing, conducting, and following-up after performance evaluations. The following are key points addressed in this resource. Preparing for the performance evaluation:

  • See yourself as a leader in order to be objective.

  • Expect that the performance evaluation process will go smoothly, effectively, and productively.

  • Spend time with employees so that your feedback will be more accurate and acceptable to the employee.

  • Know exactly how the performance evaluation process works.

  • Schedule performance evaluations, planning for each of the steps needed to complete the process.

  • Collect and review all relevant information to inform the evaluation, including the employee’s job description.

  • Begin completing the evaluation form with comments about the employee’s performance before selecting performance ratings.

  • Schedule enough time for discussion and to answer employee questions.

Conducting the performance evaluation:

  • Open the discussion on an upbeat note to set a positive tone.

  • Explain the topics to be covered and the order in which they will be addressed.

  • Invite questions.

  • Focus on the employee’s performance.

  • Provide a specific rationale for the performance ratings.

  • Listen actively, rephrasing and summarizing to ensure understanding.

  • End the discussion with positive expectations, inviting questions and scheduling any needed follow-up

Follow up after the performance evaluation:

  • Set specific performance goals moving forward.

  • Set professional development goals focused on building and further developing the employee’s skills and abilities.

  • Create real goals that are specific, achievable, measurable, and prioritized, including action plans related to goal achievement.

  • Spend time observing employee performance and maintain ongoing contact, communication, and feedback.

  • Recognize quality performance, providing coaching guidance, direction, and feedback as needed.

  • Be a role model, leading by example.[29]

Though there is some controversy related to the value and importance of performance evaluations and the frequency with which they should be conducted, the ACA standards on “Performance Evaluation of Probationary Staff and Annual Performance Rating for All Staff” say that “performance appraisals shall be implemented by the Director to encourage each staff member to evaluate his/her own work habits. Annual appraisals shall be required for all non-probationary staff.” This standard goes on to prescribe the following for inclusion in a facility’s performance evaluation system, all of which have been addressed in this chapter:

  • Establishing performance standards that objectively and accurately evaluate job performance (performance standards directly connected to job functions listed in the job description; focus on employee performance).

  • Communicating to each staff member both the performance standards and critical elements of his or her position (job description, facility and program orientation, policies and procedures, post orders).

  • Evaluating staff performance during the appraisal/evaluation period (ongoing feedback and communication; performance issues addressed as they arise).

  • Recognizing and rewarding staff members whose performance warrants it (merit pay increases, promotions, facility employee recognition processes, “atta boys/girls”).

  • Assisting in improving unacceptable performance (performance counseling, mentoring, coaching, and training as needed and appropriate).

  • Reassigning, reducing in grade, or removing any staff member who continues to perform on an unacceptable level, but only after he/she is given an opportunity to demonstrate acceptable performance (progressive discipline that include demotion or termination for cause).

Practitioner Certification

Practitioner certification is gaining momentum across fields of practice and around the world, and the field of corrections is no exception. A number of professional associations, institutions of higher education, and other organizations and groups offer various levels of certification ranging from entry or basic level to professional and advanced certification.

Webster’s dictionary defines certification as “the act of making something official” and “official approval to do something professionally or legally.” Certifications in the field of corrections are primarily professional rather than legal. The following is a sampling of the professional certifications available to practitioners who work in the field of corrections.

  • NPJS sponsors the Certified Juvenile Services Practitioner (CJSP) certification. Through this process, NPJS recognizes practitioners in the field who have achieved the levels of education, training, and experience necessary to indicate a basic understanding and knowledge of the field of juvenile justice and the work required in a juvenile confinement setting. Applications and the requirements for the CJSP certificate are available at the NPJS website.

  • The ACA offers four levels of corrections staff certification ranging from Certified Corrections Officer (CCO) to Certified Corrections Executive (CCE). In addition, the ACA offers special certifications related to working with Security Threat Groups (STG), three levels of certification in healthcare, and a provisional certification (CCO/P) for those individuals who have yet to pass the CCO exam and may not have secured a full-time position in a corrections-related agency. Detailed information about ACA certifications is available at the ACA website.

  • The National Commission on Correctional Health Care (NCCHC) offers four different categories of the Certified Corrections Health Professional (CCHP) certification. Detailed information about NCCHC certifications is available at the NCCHC website.

  • The Center for Juvenile Justice Reform at Georgetown University has recently begun offering a Youth in Custody Certificate Program focused on assisting public and private sector leaders in juvenile justice, child welfare, and other systems of care that serve justice-involved youth. The goal is to affect systemic change and improved outcomes for youth in custody. Additional information about the Youth in Custody Certificate Program is available at the Center’s website.

A number of states now offer programs to that certify youth workers regardless of where they practice. State-supported youth work certification programs range from basic- to intermediate-level certification and are available in many states including Indiana, Oregon, Texas, and Wisconsin.

Since 2008, a national certification for child and youth care professionals, the Child and Youth Care—Professional (CYC-P), has been available through the Child and Youth Care Certification Board. This national certification program, established by the Association for Child and Youth Care Practice (ACYCP) is an effort to increase quality standards and the effectiveness and safety of programs serving children, youth, and families across disciplines and practice settings in the United States.

Practitioner certification provides benefits to both juvenile justice practitioners and the facilities and agencies in which they work. Benefits of certification for practitioners include professional recognition of education, job-related training, and experience and the possibility of greater access to opportunities for employment and advancement. A benefit of certification to facility and agency administrators is assurance that employees or applicants for employment that are certified have at least a basic understanding and knowledge of the field of juvenile justice, the work required in a juvenile confinement setting, or youth work in general, depending on the specific type of certification. Certification of staff may also provide facilities and agencies with some level of protection from liability.

Finally, certification provides increased motivation for employees to participate in training and professional development opportunities, as most practitioner certifications require ongoing training and membership in a job-related professional membership association for annual, biannual or other intervals of re-certification.

Maintaining and Growing the Workforce

Although the availability and recruitment of quality staff for work with youth in a confinement setting is a challenge, often the greater challenge is in retaining these staff. Staff turnover has far-reaching negative effects on the implementation, continuity, and consistency of programming; staff morale and burnout; budgetary resources related to higher rates of overtime and the costs of continually hiring and training new staff; and, ultimately, potential outcomes for the youth being served.

Historically, little research has been done on turnover in the juvenile justice workforce. However, in recent years, this topic has become of interest to a number of researchers and to professional organizations such as the ACA. In 2003, with grant funding from the Bureau of Justice Assistance, the ACA began a three-phase project—Discovery Phase, Create Phase, Implementation Phase—entitled A 21st Century Workforce for America’s Correctional Profession (the Project). The focus of the Project is on developing a workforce plan for strengthening recruitment and improving rates of retention of qualified correctional staff. Though the Project is ongoing, reports on Phase One and a portion of Phase Two were released in 2004 and 2009 respectively.[30]

Academic research has been conducted looking at things such as The Influence of Individual, Job, and Organizational Characteristics on Correctional Staff Job Stress, Job Satisfaction, and Organizational Commitment[31] and Predictors of Turnover Intention Among Staff in Juvenile Correctional Facilities: The Relevance of Job Satisfaction and Organizational Commitment.[32]

Some of the findings from research point out a number of factors that impact recruitment and retention about which most facility administrators are already aware.

  • Correctional confinement is an ill-defined profession not typically identified as a desirable career choice.

  • The pay is inadequate compared to other jobs in the criminal justice system.

  • Confinement facility staff have demanding hours that require 24-hour shift work and overtime.

Some of these factors are or may seem to be beyond the control of a facility administrator. The individuals that approve facility budgets rarely have a clear understanding of the staff, services, and programmatic and other needs of a confinement facility to inform their decision-making. The need for shift work and overtime in a facility that must operate 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, is beyond the control of the administrator. However, there are many things facility administrators can do to lessen the impacts of the factors they cannot control.

Based on information contained in the studies mentioned above, the following are strategies that may positively impact employee retention and grow the workforce, many of which have been mentioned previously in this chapter.

  • Develop creative recruitment materials using staff and, if appropriate, youth testimonials about the work being done at the facility (electronic formats, targeted workshops, presentations) to appeal to the various generations represented in the job market.

  • Assume that everyone you meet is looking for a job and market to those individuals who seem interested and suited to the work.

  • Develop a quality orientation and pre-service training program to effectively prepare new staff for the job, assigning appropriate veteran staff to serve as mentors and coaches to these individuals. Mentors and coaches should have clear expectations about their role and recognition for fulfilling this commitment.

  • Put in place internal and external employee recognition programs that may include judicial and media recognition of the work staff have done, material rewards such as gift certificates or premium parking, and additional training or conference attendance.

  • Use a suggestion box and electronic or other surveys, along with regular direct contact with employees, to solicit feedback about what is great and what is difficult about the their job, what they would like to have, change, or get rid of in the workplace that would make it better, etc. Implement appropriate changes and explain clearly anything you cannot do or change and why.

  • If available, provide longevity pay for long-term staff and shift differentials for those staff who work the least desirable and most difficult to fill shifts.

  • Ensure that all staff are aware of opportunities for promotion and the requirements to qualify for promotion; support the staff’s access to education and other means of satisfying requirements that may help staff become eligible for promotion.

  • Provide information and easy access to employee benefit programs such as Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) that address stress management and other issues related or leading to burnout. Ask EAP or facility mental health staff to facilitate staff training on caregiver burnout and appropriate self-care. Make direct referrals to these programs when there is a need.

  • Access the services of EAP staff in response to facility or community-based crisis situations that may impact the staffs’ ability to effectively meet the needs of youth and the facility (e.g., in the event of the suicide of a youth or staff, following the suicide of youth known to facility residents).

  • Conduct exit interviews with staff who voluntarily end their employment to better understand why they leave and what administration might do differently to increase organizational commitment and job satisfaction for employees. Exit interviews may be facilitated by a third party such as the sitting judge, members of the facility or agency’s Advisory Board, human resource staff, etc.

Building Future Leaders

Every profession must intentionally and proactively invest in building its future leadership. Generational changes in the workforce require new and innovative ideas and perspectives in leadership. (See Ch. 8 Management and Facility Administration: Leadership and Capacity Building)

The NIC 2005 publication entitled Correctional Leadership Competencies for the 21st Century: Executives and Senior-Level Leaders identifies a set of core competencies for executive and senior-level leaders, a summary of which is provided below.[33]

Self-Awareness. A key aspect of self-awareness is understanding one’s personal strengths and weaknesses, understanding why you are the way you are and knowing how your strengths and weaknesses affect others and your ability to reach your goals.[34]

Ethics and Values. Ethics encompasses the standards for evaluating right and wrong and the person qualities that sustain the ability to make and act on these judgments. Ethical standards guide decisions and focus behavior for right or wrong action.

Values include principles, qualities, or aspects of life that individuals believe possess intrinsic goodness or worth.[35] 

Vision and Mission. The vision describes what the organization wants to do or where it wants to go and projects an ideal future that may not be attainable.

The mission describes what the organization will do to achieve the vision and should be attainable and measurable.[36]

Strategic Thinking. This is the ability to recognize the relationships, complexities, and implications of a situation; anticipate possibilities; and plan what to do.[37]

Managing the External Environment. For correctional executives and senior-level managers, this involves interacting with citizens and interest groups, collaborating with other public agencies, acquiring necessary resources, maintaining a productive place in the criminal justice system, and applying effective techniques and strategies to build public and media relations.[38]

Power and Influence. Power is the ability to understand organizational politics and to influence others to achieve a desired outcome.

Influence is finding and using the most effective and prudent methods for altering an organization’s or an individual’s beliefs and behavior to implement decisions and achieve desired outcomes.[39]

Strategic Planning and Performance Management. Strategic planning is the process of developing a comprehensive plan that provides leadership, direction, and resource prioritization to ensure that the intended visions, mission, goals, and objectives of a correctional agency/organization are met.

Performance management is the process of establishing measures that describe how success in achieving the organization’s mission will be measured and tracked.[40]

Collaboration. In its broadest meaning, collaboration is a reciprocally beneficial association between two or more participants who work toward shared goals by equally distributing responsibility, authority, and accountability.[41]

Team Building. Teams are basic workplace units. Natural work teams might be shifts in a confinement facility, while project teams are shorter term and established to achieve a specific goal.[42]

In 2006 the NIC published a second report, Correctional Leadership Competencies for the 21st Century: Manager and Supervisor Levels, which identifies a set of core competencies for managerial and supervisory staff.[43] In addition to identifying core competencies, along with the key skills and behaviors related to them, the NIC also developed a knowledge base to help correctional leaders better understand each competency. The information compiled in these documents is intended to serve as a tool for use by staff at the NIC to enhance its leadership training programs and to assist individual correctional agencies to identify candidates for leadership training. In addition, “Correctional agencies/organizations will be able to use the competencies identified in these documents to improve their recruitment and selection processes, in the placement and retention of current employees, in succession planning for leadership positions, and in staff development.”[44]


The most important and valuable resources for confinement facilities that serve youth are the very special people who work and serve in these facilities. Facility administrators must identify and recruit well-qualified staff and prepare and maintain a well-trained and committed workforce.

Staff that serve youth must be able to follow facility policies and procedures, be good problem solvers, and, when the use of discretion is required, they must be guided by their own conscience within the context of an ethical code. To be effective, staff working with youth in confinement must be optimistic, believe in the ability of young people to change, and be keen observers of behavior. They must respect both coworkers and youth and show a genuine care and concern for the young people in their care.



American Correctional Association. 1991. Standards for Juvenile Detention Facilities. 3rd ed. Lanham, MD: Author.

American Correctional Association. 2002. Standards for Adult Correctional Institutions. 4th ed. Lanham, MD: Author.

American Correctional Association. 2008. Performance-Based Standards for Juvenile Correctional Facilities. 4th ed. Alexandria, VA: Author.

American Correctional Association. 2010. Core Jail Standards. Alexandria, VA: Author.

Baker, N., and M. Carerra. 2007. “Unlocking the Door to Relationship-based Corrections Recruitment.” Corrections Today 69, no. 3: 36–38.

Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Occupational Outlook Handbook.”

Campbell, Nancy M. 2005. Correctional Leadership Competencies for the 21st Century: Executives and Senior-Level Leaders. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Corrections.

Campbell, Nancy M. 2006. Correctional Leadership Competencies for the 21st Century: Manager and Supervisor Levels. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Corrections.

Christy, J.T. 1989. “A Curriculum for Training Detention Staff.” Journal for Juvenile Justice and Detention Services 4: 23–29.

Howe, M., E. Clawson, and J. Larivee. 2007. “The 21st Century Juvenile Justice Workforce.” Corrections Today 69, no. 1: 34–39.

Indiana University. “Progressive Discipline.”

Lambert, Eric G., and Eugene A. Paoline. 2008. “The Influence of Individual, Job, and Organizational Characteristics on Correctional Staff Job Stress, Job Satisfaction, and Organizational Commitment.” Criminal Justice Review 33, no. 4: 541–564.

Lloyd, Ken. 2009. Performance Appraisals & Phrases for Dummies. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

Mader-Clark, Margie. 2008. The Job Description Handbook, 2nd ed. Berkeley, CA: Nolo.

Mattingly, Martha A., Carol Stewart, and Karen VanderVen, eds. 2010.Competencies for Professional Child & Youth Work Practitioners, (Revised). College Station, TX: Child and Youth Care Certification Board.

Matz, Adam K., James B. Wells, Kevin I. Minor, and Earl Angel. 2013. “Predictors of Turnover Intention Among Staff in Juvenile Correctional Facilities: The Relevance of Job Satisfaction and Organizational Commitment.” Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice 11, no. 2: 115–131.

Merriam-Webster, s.v. "certification."

Merriam-Webster, s.v. "profession."

Merriam-Webster, s.v. "professional."

Merriam-Webster, s.v. "professionalism."

Mixdorf, L., and R. Rosetti. 1992. Responsibilities and Training (From Juvenile Caseworker: Resource Guide. NCJ 138674). Washington, DC: National Criminal Justice Reporting Service: 14–19.

Murphy, M. 2012. Hiring for Attitude: A Revolutionary Approach to Recruiting Star Performers with Both Tremendous Skills and Superb Attitude. New York: McGraw-Hill.

National Commission on Correctional Health Care. 2014. “Ethical and Legal Issues.”

National Juvenile Justice Network. 2012. “Using Adolescent Brain Research to Inform Policy: A Guide for Juvenile Justice Advocates.”

National Research Council. 2013. Report Brief: Reforming Juvenile Justice: A Developmental Approach. Washington, DC: The National Academies.

PREA Resource Center. 2012. “Juvenile Facility Standards.” Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, 28 CFR 115.5–115.501.

Roush, D.W., and J.D. Hudzik. 1994. The Indiana Youth Care Worker Inventory: A Training Needs Assessment Report and Implications for Juvenile Detention Training. Indianapolis, IN: Indiana Criminal Justice Institute.

Roush, D.W. 1996. Juvenile Detention Training Needs Assessment: Research Report. Washington, DC: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

Workforce Associates, Inc. 2009. Correctional Workforce Project: Phase II Report of a Survey and Analysis Commissioned by the American Correctional Association. Indianapolis, IN: Author.



Adler, L. 2013. The Essential Guide for Hiring and Getting Hired. Lexington, KY: Workbench Media.

Roush, David W. 1996. Juvenile Detention Training Needs Assessment: Research Report. NCJ 156833. Washington, DC: Office of Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention.

Roush, David W., and Michael McMillen. 2000. Construction, Operations, and Staff Training for Juvenile Confinement Facilities. NCJ 178928. Washington, DC: Office of Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention.

Workforce Associates, Inc. 2004. A 21st Century Workforce for America’s Correctional Profession. (Phase I). Indianapolis, IN: Author.



[1] Merriam-Webster, s.v. “professionalism.”

[2] National Research Council, Reforming Juvenile Justice, A Developmental Approach, (Washington, DC, The National Academies Press, 2013).; Martha A. Mattingly, Carol Stewart, and Karen VanderVen, eds. Competencies for Professional Child & Youth Work Practitioners, (Revised) (College Station, TX: Child and Youth Care Certification Board, 2010).

[3] M. Howe, E. Clawson, and J. Larivee, “The 21st Century Juvenile Justice Workforce,” Corrections Today 69, no. 1 (2007), 34–39.

[4] Ernest L.V. Shelley, Ph.D., is best remembered as a champion of volunteer services who served the correctional community in Michigan. He developed treatment programs for the Michigan Department of Corrections and concluded his professional career as the chair of the Department of Psychology at Olivet College in Olivet, Michigan. After retiring, Dr. Shelley remained active through volunteer service, speaking engagements, and his writing. He influenced many people in juvenile detention and corrections through his dynamic teachings and his affable personality. He was awarded posthumously the 1986 C.A. Zott Distinguished Service Award from the Michigan Juvenile Detention Association

[5] See the following sampling of websites related to corrections as a profession,

[6] Sampling of certification websites;

[7] Howe, Clawson, and Larivee, “The 21st Century Juvenile Justice Workforce,” 35.

[8] Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Occupational Outlook Handbook.”

[9] L. Mixdorf and R. Rosetti, Responsibilities and Training, (Washington, DC: National Criminal Justice Reporting Service, 1992).

[10] Personal communication with Earl Dunlap dated October 16, 2013.

[11] Margie Mader-Clark, The Job Description Handbook, 2nd ed., (Berkeley, CA: Nolo, 2008).

[12] J.T. Christy, “A Curriculum for Training Detention Staff,” Journal for Juvenile Justice and Detention Services, 4 (1989): 23–29.

[13] D. W. Roush and J.D. Hudzik, The Indiana Youth Care Worker Inventory: A Training Needs Assessment Report and Implications for Juvenile Detention Training, (Indianapolis, IN: Indiana Criminal Justice Institute, 1994).

[14] N. Baker and M. Carerra, “Unlocking the Door to Relationship-based Corrections Recruitment,” Corrections Today 69, no. 3 (2007): 36–38.

[16] One example of video-based testing currently being used at the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center is IMPACT offered by Ergometrics, which may be found at

[17] M. Murphy, Hiring for Attitude: A Revolutionary Approach to Recruiting Star Performers with Both Tremendous Skills and Superb Attitude, (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2012): xi.

[18] Ibid., 207–209.

[19] PREA Resource Center, “Juvenile Facility Standards,” 28 CFR 115.317, (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice).

[20] EEOC Prohibited Employment Policies/Practices may be found at

[21] D.W. Roush, Juvenile Detention Training Needs Assessment: Research Report, (Washington, DC: OJJDP, 1996).

[22] American Correctional Association, Standards for Juvenile Detention Facilities.; Standards for Adult Correctional Institutions.; Performance-Based Standards for Juvenile Correctional Facilities.; Core Jail Standards.

[23] National Juvenile Justice Network, “Using Adolescent Brain Research to Inform Policy: A Guide for Juvenile Justice Advocates,” (2012).

[24] PREA Resource Center, “Juvenile Facility Standards,” (28 CFR 115.31 – Employee Training) (Docket no. OAG-131, 2012).

[25] For more information about American Correctional Association facility standards, see

[26] National Commission on Correctional Health Care, “Ethical and Legal Issues.”

[27] Mader-Clark, The Job Description Handbook, 19.

[28] Indiana University, “Progressive Discipline.”

[29] Ken Lloyd, Performance Appraisals & Phrases for Dummies, (Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2009). The entire Cheat Sheet may be found at

[30] Workforce Associates, Inc., A 21st Century Workforce for America’s Correctional Profession, Phase One, (Indianapolis, IN: Author, 2004).; Workforce Associates, Inc., Correctional Workforce Project: Phase II Report of a Survey and Analysis Commissioned by the American Correctional Association, (Indianapolis, IN: Author, 2009).

[31] Eric G. Lambert and Eugene A. Paoline, “The Influence of Individual, Job, and Organizational Characteristics on Correctional Staff Job Stress, Job Satisfaction, and Organizational Commitment,” Criminal Justice Review 33, no. 4 (2008): 541–564.

[32] Adam K. Matz, James B. Wells, Kevin I. Minor, and Earl Angel, “Predictors of Turnover Intention Among Staff in Juvenile Correctional Facilities: The Relevance of Job Satisfaction and Organizational Commitment,” Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice 11, no. 2 (2013): 115–131.

[33] Nancy M. Campbell, Correctional Leadership Competencies for the 21st Century: Executives and Senior-Level Leaders, (Washington, DC: National Institute of Corrections, 2005).

[34] Ibid., 25.

[35] Ibid., 49.

[36] Ibid., 69.

[37] Ibid., 89.

[38] Ibid., 113.

[39] Ibid., 129.

[40] Ibid., 153.

[41] Ibid., 187.

[42] Ibid., 205.

[43] Nancy M. Campbell, Correctional Leadership Competencies for the 21st Century: Manager and Supervisor Levels, (Washington, DC: National Institute of Corrections, 2006).

[44] Ibid.

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