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Home > Sub-grantees > Spurwink Institute - Detention Review Specialist Initiative

Spurwink Institute - Detention Review Specialist Initiative

Michael Higgins, CEO
60 Pineland Drive Suite 101
Lewiston Hall Bldg #4
New Gloucester, ME 04260

207-688-4573 ext. 116

The DRS position was created to assist the Cumberland County Jurisdictional Team Planning group in achieving its goal of reducing the number and length of stay of pre-adjudicated youth held in secure detention, and to improve the justice process overall for youth and the community.

  • While the DRS works directly with professionals in the County to improve case processing and outcomes, and provides input on some specific cases, the larger focus of the position is to: assist Cumberland County in increasing its organizational capacity to work with youth;
  • make better use of available resources;
  • improve planning and coordination of services; and
  • promote collaboration and integration of services from multiple sources and providers.

To that end, the DRS works to both expedite youth cases and advise the Jurisdictional Team Planning group on opportunities for improved outcomes.

Following is a brief summary of activities and outcomes over the past 6 months.

  • Expanding community stakeholder support: The Pre-Emptive Strike Task Force meeting held earlier this year was designed to bring to the juvenile justice table community providers who operate within the periphery of the juvenile justice system. The intent was two-fold
    1. to engage in a meaningful discourse about some of the challenges and obstacles impacting the young adults and their families who enter detention; brainstorming about what we can offer as effective intervention and
    2. to share current research about the deleterious effects of detention and solicit strengths-based systems of support
  • Case Deconstruction: Working with Long Creek, JCCOs, Child Protective Services, and CBHS, case deconstruction has given us some new insight into opportunities and optional points of intervention to influence outcomes. This provided the group with support for the supposition that kids with low criminal behaviors but high needs are better served outside of the juvenile justice system.
  • Compiling a collection of books, articles, and research material on the juvenile justice system.
  • Suggested the implementation of regular case consultation between the CBHS/DOV liaison and JCCO’s.
  • Met with Supervisors and RCA’s from other regions to interview them on their practices and protocols to compare and contrast opportunities for Region 1.
  • Developed trainings around the changes in the JCCO’s practice – “Detention as a process not a placement” - to be rolled out to community stakeholders.
  • Identified the following barriers/obstacles impacting the detention process:
    • kids being detained without a right to release;
    • breakdown in communication and expectations with families and child protective involvement or oversight;
    • JCCOs are expected to function as case managers but are trained in the adult corrections model;
    • “old school” JCCOs vs. the “new guard”;
    • the perception of the court system and community that the juvenile justice system provides a “fast track” means to access resources for kids and families AND that it may be the best (or only) way to provide services to families;
    • the expectation by educators that the JCCOs have the best leverage to get kids to comply with school requirements;
    • detention is not viewed as a “crisis situation”, on the contrary, quite frequently kids in detention are left to “sit and wait” for a team to come together and are not prioritized;
    • detention is not always viewed as a “snapshot” moment for kids and families leading to unacknowledged and inaccurate judgments against kids and families.
  • The Detention Review Specialist made the following recommendation for changes to practice or development of resources:
    1. Peer Supervision among the DOC hierarchy on a regularly scheduled basis
    2. Developing protocols for team meetings for kids in detention
    3. Changes in JCCO trainings to encourage earlier opportunities for intervention
    4. Development of a “Family Court” model
    5. Development of a “Community Safehouse


The detention review specialist has been working for approximately eight months, and the first several months were by design dedicated to fact finding and building relationships with professionals at work in Region One. Already we are seeing reductions in the number of youth in detention, length of time spent in detention, and in the speed with which difficult and complex cases are identified and resolved.

The detention review specialist is just one factor in these changing results, but the Jurisdictional Team Planning core group believes she is a dynamic factor that will lead to lasting results.