Oversight of Juvenile Justice Facilities

Issued Date
April 03, 2024
Children and Family Services, Office of


To determine whether the Office of Children and Family Services adequately operates juvenile justice facilities for court-placed youth to ensure they meet State standards and regulations for the health and safety of juveniles and staff. The audit covered the period from October 2018 through August 2023.

About the Program

The Office of Children and Family Services’ (OCFS) mission is to serve New York’s public by promoting the safety, permanency, and well-being of our children, families, and communities. Toward this end, OCFS, through its Division of Juvenile Justice and Opportunities for Youth (DJJOY), is responsible for the operation and oversight of nine State-run residential juvenile justice facilities that serve court-placed youth. The nine facilities include three secure facilities, five limited-secure facilities, and one non-secure facility. OCFS must ensure that these facilities are operated in good condition and in compliance with the DJJOY Policy and Procedure Manual, conduct regular fire safety inspections, have an emergency plan, maintain sanitary conditions, and provide health screenings upon admission. Further, OCFS must ensure that facility staff are properly trained and that, when incidents  (e.g., assault, possession of contraband, self-harm, employee misconduct, restraints of youth) occur, facilities log and report them as required.

From 2018 to 2022, the number of youth in DJJOY facilities increased by nearly 74%, due in part to new legislation that contributed to an increase in youth placements in DJJOY facilities. The three secure facilities experienced an increase in their youth population of more than 200% from 2019 to 2022. As the number of youth at secure facilities rose, so did the number of incidents, increasing by nearly 84%. During this same time, DJJOY facilities – secure facilities in particular – experienced staffing shortages and large increases in overtime costs.

Key Findings

While we found DJJOY facilities are meeting State standards and regulations for the health and safety of youth and staff and meet required physical conditions (e.g., sufficient lighting and ventilation, fire safety equipment), we found weaknesses in several aspects of OCFS’ operation of DJJOY facilities. For example:

  • OCFS has not ensured that certain admission assessments and screenings, including health-related assessments, were completed and documented as required or were done within the required time frames, creating the risk of missed or delayed opportunities to identify or provide care for physical health conditions (e.g., vision or dental issues, diabetes) or mental health concerns (e.g., depression, anxiety) youth may have when admitted to DJJOY facilities. Further, these assessments and screenings can be vital because youth entering juvenile justice programs often have a history of medical neglect. We reviewed admission files for 101 youth at six DJJOY residential facilities and found:
    • 53 (52%) files lacked documentation that at least one of the required admission assessments or screenings – including those required to be done within the first week after admission – was completed. For example, we found missing medical admission checklists (which document that all the required medical assessments were completed on time) and missing history and systems review forms (used to document preliminary interviews with youth about their physical and mental health).
    • 44 (44%) of the 101 youth had at least one assessment or screening, such as the comprehensive medical assessment, completed late, including one youth’s medical assessment (which is required to be completed within 7 days of admission) that wasn’t done for nearly 9 months.
  • OCFS did not ensure that all direct care staff were current with the training to be authorized to restrain youth. We reviewed training records for 162 employees involved in restraint incidents at six DJJOY residential facilities and found:
    • 87 (54%) employees were not up to date with the training required to be authorized to restrain youth. For example, in one case, an employee was involved in a restraint incident in February 2023, but their CPR/first aid training had been expired since March 2020 – nearly 3 years before. In another instance, an employee involved in a different incident in February 2023 was overdue on their crisis prevention and management training by more than 2 years.
    • 95 (59%) employees had not completed their annual Ready Emergency Data Book (emergency procedures) refresher course, including one employee who last had the training nearly 3 years earlier. As a result, employees may not be familiar with or understand their roles in the event of an emergency.
  • OCFS did not always ensure the reviews of incidents were complete or thoroughly documented. We identified restraint incidents that were missing support that a complete review of the events had been conducted. For example, we reviewed restraint packets for 106 incidents at six DJJOY facilities and found:
    • 22 (21%) were not recorded in the restraint log at the facility, as required.
    • 9 (8%) were missing the Restraint Monitoring form.
    • 6 (6%) were missing the Administrative Review form.
    • 5 (5%) Administrative Review forms were missing evidence of approval from the facility director (or designee).

Key Recommendation

  • Review current administrative procedures and training curriculum and, where practicable, implement changes to enable staff to, at a minimum:
    • Complete admission assessments and screenings on time,
    • Meet training requirements, and
    • Complete restraint incident review and record-keeping requirements.

Heather Pratt

State Government Accountability Contact Information:
Audit Manager
: Heather Pratt
Phone: (518) 474-3271; Email: [email protected]
Address: Office of the State Comptroller; Division of State Government Accountability; 110 State Street, 11th Floor; Albany, NY 12236