Message From Assistant Secretary Felice Upton

April 10, 2024
People sitting

The goal of Juvenile Rehabilitation (JR) is to provide a therapeutic setting for young people to turn their lives around. Safety and security are our top priorities; we can’t focus on rehabilitation without keeping our staff and residents safe.

Opioid Epidemic Impact Behind Bars

The country is dealing with an opioid epidemic. Many young people served by JR have a known substance use disorder when they begin their sentence at a DCYF facility. This is not unique to Green Hill, institutions across the country are hit hard by the new realities of substance use.

Drugs that manage to get into facilities come in smaller packages, and often, the drugs are more fatal. In response, DCYF staff have increased room and area searches and are conducting more testing for controlled substances to keep young people safe.

We focus on education, prevention and interception. We increased treatment levels and trained staff and young people in CPR, First Aid, and overdose treatment to equip them with the tools to save and protect lives.

We are committed to working to prosecute those who endanger our young people and disrupt their progress by introducing drugs into the facility.

For more details, please read how DCYF Continues to Combat the Opioid Epidemic in JR Facilities.

Ongoing Security Improvements

We are making ongoing security improvements to our facilities, such as fencing, better technology at entry points, surveillance upgrades, and improving screening of staff and visitors and search procedures for the young people in our care. Specifically, we limited the items allowed inside facilities to prevent contraband, conducted wellness checks for youth, and continuously improved and increased staff training.

Coordination with Law Enforcement

Law enforcement and local prosecutors make the choices to file.  In August, Green Hill was served with a warrant demanding that we turn over all evidence in the facility's evidence lockers. This included confiscated contraband from years prior that resulted in charges for some young people.

We are working on a behavior management system that will point both to positive engagement and behaviors as well as have clear and concise consequences for behaviors that do not need to be referred to Law Enforcement and can be handled internally in a way that repairs harm and builds healthy, positive skills. Such a system had not been implemented at Green Hill school prior and is an important part of the rehabilitation process. We are working to adopt an infraction system that would allow onsite resolution for behavior and some types of contraband, limiting engagement with the judicial system, as part of the approach to rehabilitation.

It is our responsibility to ensure that we are giving young people opportunities to engage in restorative justice, where they receive treatment for the harm that has occurred to them and harms they may feel responsible for. In the past year, we have been heavily engaged with community partners such as Northwest Credible Messengers and our certified peers who work for JR.

Rehabilitation of Mind, Body, and Soul

We provide treatment programs that cover substance use, behavioral health, and mental health. The young people at our facilities receive research-based therapy and SUD treatment at our facilities.

We also provide educational and vocational programs for young people to pursue. From parenting classes and financial literacy to arts education and yoga, they participate in programming that builds upon their interests and can receive degrees and complete vocational programs.

Our comprehensive approach addresses all the areas of need. We want young people to leave JR, get jobs, and achieve success within their communities.

Report Incidents of Racism 

We take all allegations of racism seriously. Please reach out to constituent relations about any incidents that you are aware of so that we can handle them accordingly.