I work for a privately owned Juvenile Detention Center, and I was fairly clueless before beginning work there as to what exactly can and can not happen at one of these facilities. I would love to answer your questions to the best of my abilities, but keep in mind there are confidentiality issues that may legally prevent me from answering some questions. Please don't get upset if I can't answer your question.

Comments: 395 • Responses: 57  • Date: 

Thirstbusta168 karma

Jesus, answer some questions if you're doing an AMA.

Pacobell085 karma

Something came up. Getting back to it now.

Ravioli_Stash55 karma

Edit2: Wow OP thanks for all the insight into your profession, this AMA answered all of my questions and left me giddy with joy and not disappointed in the slightest. Edit3: statement retracted Hey thanks for doing this AMA, I interned at a public defenders office over the summer and have a few questions for the other side of the system.

  1. What do you think about the privatization of jails and prisons, do you think your own facility is benefited by being private. EDIT: (Slight rephrasing, do you think the county and the kids that are detained benefit from the facility being private)

  2. Have there been any detainees that really made you feel uneasy, even though they are only juveniles.

  3. Have there been any situations where you have said "why the hell is this kid in here"

  4. How do you feel about juveniles being prosecuted as adults

Pacobell086 karma

  1. I don't think there is any benefit to it being privately owned at my level. Possibly when you get up into management and operations, it may make a difference, but to me, I think it's just the same as working at a state facility. I can't say for sure, seeing I have never worked in one.

  2. Yes, there are some when you read their files that make you shudder. Like... how can a 15 year old do THAT!

  3. No, I don't think there have. There are times where I think to myself, "This kid needs to be somewhere more secure," or "I think they can move him to a non-secure facility", but there has never been a time where I have questioned why a kid was locked up.

  4. I don't really have feelings on that matter. If the crime is to a certain degree, then they should suffer harsher consequences than what juvenile law would provide.

Topless_Walrus22 karma

Can you describe the most memorable individual you met during your time there?

Pacobell0835 karma

The most memorable resident that I can remember came in intoxicated and had to be physically restrained twice within the first day. He was then suicidal for the next week. Once he managed to get himself in order and figured out, he was an interesting guy to learn about. He had varying views on the afterlife and the current plain of existence. He left the program not too long ago, and we haven't heard from him since, so I'm not sure how he is doing currently, but I wish him the best.

Topless_Walrus10 karma

How do you feel about the juvenile detention program? How is the success rate?

Pacobell0818 karma

There are multiple units in our facility and I actually work on the Detention program (there is also the Shelter and Secure program as well), and it's sad to say, but we get quite a few return residents. I couldn't tell you the exact success rate, but we kids who come in multiple times. It's not really the fault of the program (we are pretty much a holding area until the can go to court or another facility that is better suited for their treatment), because we don't really provide treatment.

steakhause4 karma

Which view on the afterlife particularly interested you? I just lost a loved one, and would love perspective from the most bizarre sources.

Pacobell085 karma

He believed that there are two dimensions encompassing the same space, our plane and the afterlife, they are literally all around us, we just ant see them because they are in the other dimension.

steakhause2 karma

I love it, and it really puts a great thought my head. Thank you for your time to respond back.

Pacobell083 karma

I found it to be quite insightful for a younger guy. I'm glad you found splice in it.


in 5 hours you answer 4 questions? You suck at this worse than Al Gore.

Pacobell082 karma

I'm sorry you feel that way. Bring on the downvotes.

Epicpilot16 karma

What is the youngest resident you have seen? What were they in for?

SlingerOfPoop6 karma

I'm answering some of these since I have experience with this, too. The youngest youth in our facility was 10. He was on the sex offender unit.

Pacobell082 karma

That's crazy. Our youngest SO was 12. 10? Wow.

Pacobell082 karma

12 years old. Firesetting. Another 12 year old for burglury.

CrackCity24214 karma

As someone who was in and out of juvenile detention as a teenager, the staff that actually cared and believed in me made a HUGE difference in who I am today and helping me get out of the lifestyle I was in.

No question, just wanted to let you know that no matter how much we act like we couldn't give less shits about you, you really do have the power to make a difference.

Pacobell084 karma

That makes me feel better about my job there are honestly some people who just don't feel that kids can change and they are coming in for their paycheck, but I try to keep the mindset that I can make a difference. Hearing this reminds me that there are some kids that make it out and better themselves.

caboosian13 karma

Any kids there that you absolutely loathe?

Pacobell0820 karma

There are some kids that I find sincerely frustrating, but there are no kids that I loathe or even have negative feelings toward. You just have to remember they are there for a reason, something has made them the way they are, or they were born that way.

SlingerOfPoop5 karma

Definitely not born that way.

Pacobell088 karma

There are kids that are born with mental illness that causes them to do the things they do. Schizophrenia, bipolar, RAD, mood disorders. We see all of these.

discrocket6 karma


Pacobell082 karma

There has been a handful of cases where I think that there are truly good natured kids, BUT that doesn't mean they haven't done something wrong and need to suffer the consequences for their actions. I just hope they learn their lesson the first time and never come back again.

thebestdj5 karma

What was the worst thing someone was in for?

Pacobell082 karma

Rape. I've not come across any murderers, but I guess that's a matter of opinion as to what you feel is a more intense crime. There have been gun charges as well.

HeyChaseMyDragon5 karma

Hi, thanks for having a pleasant attitude. I was instituotinalized as a teen and it's hard for everyone, but even harder when people are in foul moods. My question for you is, has anyone ever escaped? How long did it take to catch them?

In my day there were some grand James Bond style attempts and I constantly thought up my own escape. There was also a house dog that supposedly could catch anybody by scent who they threatened us with.

Pacobell082 karma

There was one successful AWOL that was brought back within the week, but there has never been a completely successful runaway. Occasionally they will manage to get out of the building, and start to make a run for it, but most of the time the staff is fast enough to catch up with them and restrain them and eventually return them to the facility.

AscorGames5 karma

Well, what exactly "can and can not happen" at these facilities?

What's the craziest experience you've had?

How does your average work day look like?

Do you enjoy singing along to pop music in the shower?

Pacobell082 karma

Craziest experience just happened not too long ago. One kid needed six people to restrain him, and that wasn't overkill. One less and he would have been able to fight us off. He was a strong strong kid.

The average work day is pretty mundane unless something happens. Mostly, get out of class (we provide education), dinner, showers, recreation, bed. Throw in about 5 million bathroom breaks throughout the shift and there you have it.

I enjoy the occasional tune in the shower. Not necessarily pop though.

As far as what can and can not happen, you are going to have to be more specific. Ask questions.

thatguyfred5 karma


Pacobell084 karma

In our principles that we are taught to follow, one of them is treat the residents with dignity and respect. We don't make fun of the kids or purposely antagonize them. You learn their triggers and try to avoid them. You don't make them do anything degrading, that would lower tier sense of self worth.

cynic23435 karma

Do you look out for and protect the more vulnerable kids? Or is it more a fend for yourself type deal?

Pacobell082 karma

It's mostly a "treat them all the same" kind of place. There are some younger kids that have special needs (bed wetting and nightmares) that you have to take into consideration and try to help them not be embarassed in front of the unit, but other than that, hold them all to the same standard.

theymightbegreat5 karma

Do you see the majority of your inmates as children or adults? Do you treat them likewise? How do they treat you?

Pacobell083 karma

I treat them as young adults. That sound like a cop out, I know, but I don't see them as kids, but I don't see them as fully functional adults either. I hold them all to the same expectations and hold them accountable accordingly. Some kids honestly treat you with respect when you respect them, but some kids will be nasty to you even if you brought them an ice cream cone ever day as a peace offering.

Pacobell082 karma

Not that I have, just saying.

jeanpetit4 karma

My brother works for a facility like yours. He tells me stories all the time but most are negative. Sometimes the stories are about the kids and other times it's about management.

Have you ever had to physically restrain a kid? If so, what for?

Has there been a scandal?

Pacobell082 karma

No scandal, but as far as restraints. Yes. We are trained in Safe Crisis Management and how to properly restrain a kid without injuring them or ourselves. I've been in two restraints, once for an out of control individual and once for a safety risk.

SebLiz3 karma

Describe the case and the kid that you genuinely felt he did not deserve to be in Juvenile Detention. If any.

badbluemoon2 karma

Husband is a JDC worker (/u/shouter).

Kids who are MR (mentally retarded) sometimes show up in a JDC, and clearly don't fully understand what they did wrong, or why it was wrong. It's difficult to see those kids, because the workers know that the kid would be better place with a different type of care facility. But they committed a crime and got caught, so they end up at the JDC.

Pacobell082 karma

It's difficult, because they deserve to be out of society, but they don't need to come a JDC. They are just stick between a rock and a hard place.

IvanaTinkle03 karma

I spent some time in San Bernardino Juvenile Hall when I was 15. Guards didn't hesitate to use pepper spray, they sat in front of the showers and timed us with a stopwatch (5 mins), made inmates give other inmates lice treatments, forced us to wash our dirty underwear in the sinks with the same soap we washed up with, etc. Is that normal for juvenile detention? I've always wondered about that.

Pacobell082 karma

We give them the 5 minutes as well. We actually do not use any mechanical or chemical forms of control. We have medical staff that takes care of any medical needs (including lice) and as far as laundry, we have a washer and dryer for that.

RanierVonCroy3 karma


Pacobell081 karma

I haven't done anything like that consciously. I'm sure there have been times where I accidentally allowed something like that to happen, but I just didn't realize it at the time. I know I get on some kids more about certain things, but that's because they habitually keep breaking the same rules.

benjamin2583 karma

What behaviour management strategies did you see as successful with the most difficult individuals? Examples would be great.

Was there an organisational mindset that you were there to discipline them, or more so supporting / preparing them for life outside?

Pacobell082 karma

Behavioral management is really based on the kid more so than the staff. Some kids will get processed and accept their punishment and be done with it. Some kids with repeatedly do the same thing over and over and they are obviously not learning their lesson. I have not come across one of those kids yet, but I know they exist.

I have the mindset that I want to support them and help them move on with their lives, but there are some people there who are just there to adress their behavior (which is a necessary thing too) and those people in relation with people like me make for an effective program.

kaci8082 karma

only 1% will make it out of that system. All others will be in that FOR THEIR WHOLE LIVES. Do you feel like you are a failure?

Pacobell081 karma

Nope, we do what we can. It's the choices that they make that determine where they go in life. If we can save one kid, then I feel we are doing something good.

kicheko2 karma

Are you trained in a trauma-informed model of care?

Pacobell082 karma

We are actually. We have a specific program taught during orientation that provides us with a trauma-informed model of care that we practice on a daily basis in the work place.

LogicalEmpiricist2 karma

How do you feel about your participation in a system that locks children in cages for violating arbitrary rules in exchange for stolen money?

Pacobell082 karma

We don't lock them in cages. That's one of those things that I was confused about. Our facility used to be a medical facility and we use the same rooms they used to use. So in fact, the kids sleep in refurbished hospital rooms.

iamslm222 karma

A: You're answering like no questions. B: You haven't given any sort of proof at all.

Pacobell081 karma

I have provided proof to the mods. I would post my badge, but I don't want to provide my facility and the only other thing on the badge is our photo.

LawSchoolMama1 karma


Pacobell082 karma

There is one kid who was in for rape. He seems so completely normal, and that freaks the shit out of me. Like, I've always pictured rapists as people you can look at them and just know, but he looks like a normal kid. I don't know why it bothers me, but it does.

KKKKlaus1 karma

How do you feel working for a corrupt private system of mass incarceration? Do you get a major portion of the funding in your salary?

Pacobell080 karma

It's far from mass incarceration. I make 11 dollars and hour, you probably make more money then I do. I do it to change a kids life. More of an internal incentive than a monetary one.

nate8001 karma

Thanks for not answering anything, dickhead.

Pacobell081 karma

Ouch. Harsh. I'm back btw.

Maskingtapeman1 karma

How much of "Sleepers" is accurate?

Pacobell082 karma

I have never seen it. I'll watch it an respond later.

coolaswhitebread1 karma

Are there any children that you have developed even a minor positive relationship with?

Pacobell081 karma

There are a few. Some kids won't open up to certain staff and there are some kids that will only open up to one or two staff members. I tend to be that staff member they open up to. Occasionally they will call in once they discharge, just to let us know how they are doing, and most of the kids ask to talk to me specifically. That makes me feel like I've been a positive influence.

bellekid-11 karma


Pacobell085 karma

I would post a picture with me and my work badge, but I would rather keep the program that I work for unnamed and the only other thing on our badge is our name and picture... sooooo yeah.

bellekid-15 karma

You can privately send it to the mods. Otherwise your post will be removed.

Pacobell0813 karma

Already have. :P