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Addressing facility needs

Alaska’s juvenile justice infrastructure is an important component of maintaining public safety and often a last chance to habilitate our youth to be responsible community members. That investment not only protects our citizens today but also reduces the threat tomorrow.

In the summer of 2007, a study was commissioned to identify significant safety and security breaches within the division’s four oldest facilities. As a result of this study, Threat to Safety and Security An Assessment of Security Needs for Alaska’s Juvenile Detention Facilities , a six-year funding plan has been proposed beginning with the Johnson Youth Center in Juneau and the oldest and largest facility, McLaughlin Youth Facility, in Anchorage. The Fairbanks and Bethel Youth Facilities are included in subsequent years.

Recruitment and Retention of Staff

The Alaska Legislature has recognized the importance of funding line-level juvenile justice officers and juvenile probation staff, and has in recent years supported funding of a number of positions to field offices around the state. However, the division is challenged to provide essential and timely services if the positions responsible for these services cannot be filled. Being able to quickly hire and retain qualified staff will ensure that reports of juvenile crime receive a quick response, that victims are involved in the process, and that juveniles receive adequate supervision and case management.

This past year has been especially challenging due to the level of staff change and turnover. Staff departures result in loss of experience and skill, but also effect promoting from within to fill positions. We recently have hired several very promising employees, and we expect that staffing will stabilize during this next fiscal year.

Leadership development is a crucial focus to help line supervisors develop skills for their current position and also prepare them for promotion. Retirements and other turnover during the past years and in the next few years make leadership development a pertinent and critical goal for the long-term success of Juvenile Justice. Recognition of staff dedication to this field of work is valued.

In Fairbanks last year, three division staff were recognized for their work (from left): Bernard Gatewood, superintendent of Fairbanks Youth Facility, received the 2007 Commissioner’s Award from the Administration on Children, Youth and Families; Kathy Tenney received the Bob Rader Detention Services Worker of the Year award for her work in Nome; and Alan Mitchell, Juvenile Justice Officer, received the Citizen Service Medal for creating a poster for Mothers Against Drunk Driving media campaign.

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