States ask DSG to take Measure of their juvenile facilities

DSG has performed critical evaluations of juvenile justice systems at the state level, most notably in behalf of Colorado and Maryland. The depth of this work was tantamount to auditing or investigative reporting, but at the states’ behest.

For the Colorado Division of Youth Services (DYS), DSG in 2018 completed a performance evaluation of the statewide secure detention and commitment facilities. We conducted a process evaluation that compared actual facility practices with then-current DYS policies, qualitative comparative analyses that compared DYS practices in Colorado’s facilities with best practices in other state jurisdictions, and quantitative comparative analyses of DYS outcomes in Colorado facilities as compared with those of other states.

To achieve this, our staff and consultants held in-depth interviews with 364 facility staff members, 163 youth residents at the facilities, and 58 focus group members. DSG also surveyed 500 facility staff members. The final report made 5 major overall recommendations and 85 more-specific recommendations by chapter (by category). In addition, DSG provided 10 facility-specific reports, an in-depth analysis of the capacity and content of treatment programming, and a comprehensive report on DYS staffing and personnel, which concentrated on facility culture and climate, staff demographics, turnover and retention, and recruitment and selection. DSG completed the entire project in seven months, as required by the Colorado Legislature.

Both the interview process and the final report made DYS midlevel staff feel they had “been given a voice,” a comment stated verbatim or in various ways repeatedly.


For the Maryland Department of Juvenile Services (DJS), DSG first conducted a gap analysis of facilities statewide and then developed a Facilities Master Plan for restructuring the system. A gap in service delivery was defined as more youths in need of particular service than the system’s current allotted capacity. Conversely, a surplus in service delivery was defined as fewer youths in need of particular service than the system’s current allotted capacity.

We based the Maryland study on a qualitative and quantitative analysis of the then- current population of DJS youths and a forecast of the future DJS population. The central feature to the study compared the residential service capacity of the Maryland Department of Juvenile Services with the service needs of the juvenile justice population.

The final report included a comprehensive assessment of then-current state and community-based programs and services, an assessment of the DJS’s  Strategic Plan, detailed projections of classifications of youths to be served by DJS and the range of services recommended to be provided, and estimates of the impact of policy and practice reforms on factors such as costs, recidivism, length of stay, and facility programming for effective, holistic, family-based, individualized intervention and treatment strategies.

We Also Do Other Work for Maryland

DSG also does smaller, more discrete tasks for Maryland’s Department of Juvenile Services. For example, we conducted a feasibility study to develop performance-based standards for state-operated services and programs and providers under contract to the department.

At the adult level, DSG developed a corrections research agenda for Maryland’s Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services. As part of the project, we conducted a problem identification and needs assessment, using extensive focus group sessions with agency and department personnel.

…And Other States

We have worked with numerous other states’ juvenile and adult systems, namely,

  • For Connecticut, DSG developed recommendations to support compliance with the core performance standards of the American Correctional Association.
  • While working for the National Institute of Justice, DSG evaluated the impact of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s (CDCR’s) GPS system for monitoring high-risk sex offenders. Our study evaluated the impact of GPS monitoring on the recidivism of sex offenders.
  • For the Virginia Department of Corrections’ Division of Youth and Family Services, DSG conducted an impact evaluation and recidivism study of law-related education (LRE) court diversion programs. The LRE program, implemented in five Virginia counties, served first-time juvenile offenders in lieu of probation.

For More Information About our work with Juvenile Justice Systems

Contact DSG President Marcia Cohen at 301.951.0056 or