Children between the ages of eight and 17 are taken to a juvenile detention center for a number of reasons. After being picked up by the police for suspicion of committing a crime, a young person may be brought to the nearest facility for processing. Juveniles are sent to detention when a parent cannot be located to claim responsibility for the youth. When children may be in danger in the home, they are sometimes taken to a detention facility until other accommodations can be arranged. Children who are considered dangerous to themselves or others are kept under watch at juvenile detention centers.
Everyone entering a juvenile detention center is searched for weapons or drugs and personal effects are taken and kept locked up until the child is released. The intake officer reviews the arresting report or other documentation and parents are notified of the incarceration if they haven't been called already. The intake officer makes the determination whether the youth should be detained. If release is in order, the parents are asked to submit to an interview with a counselor before taking custody of their child. If the law requires, a detention hearing is set up, typically within 48 hours, and a judge determines whether the child can be released or must stand trial, undergo further interviews or be placed in foster care.
Locked detention is run much like a jail in that detainees are not allowed to leave the area and must follow the rules and regulations of the facility. Boys and girls are housed separately and may be placed in small cells or, more likely, in dormitory-style housing units. The youths wake to a loud bell each morning and must follow the routines of the facility and eat in a cafeteria with the other incarcerated juveniles. Juvenile facilities must provide schooling that consists of classroom or individual instruction. Students earn credits for class participation, which are forwarded to the proper school when the child is released. Medical care is available for inmates, but typically only for emergencies.
Youths are given time to exercise each day. Some facilities provide organized sports activities, while others just allow the youths to spend time outdoors. Visitation times with approved visitors are allowed each week. Evening meals are taken together in the cafeteria and short evening times in front of a television are built into the routine. Juveniles are given the opportunity to attend religious and 12-step meetings that are brought into the facilities by volunteers. A counselor who must report back to the court in future hearings usually follows the juvenile through his incarceration period to determine the extent of rehabilitation and probability of successful reintegration after release.