Around half a year ago, I did an AMA just like this, but something came up and I had to run off to support my coworkers with a situation (it's a never ending battle!). Many who were interested got upset and frustrated that I had to leave, even though I did end up coming back and answering all the questions. But, I digress. Here I am again, ready to answer your questions once more with no plans to leave my computer, and six additional (and crazy) months on the job under my belt. Let's go for round two. AMA!

P.S. I'm not posting a proof pictures, seeing as it's my ID and I would prefer to leave my company's name out of this. The only other thing on the ID is my name and picture. Nothing fancy.

Edit: Not that I foresee any of you knowing what company I work for, but I'll leave this here just in case. This AMA is based on my own personal experiences and opinions and is in no way a reflection of the beliefs of the company I work for.

Update: I'm not getting too many questions anymore (considering it's been up for over a day, this is not a surprise). So I'm going to leave this thing alone, but if you have any questions left, feel free to ask away. I may not answer them right away, but I will be glad to answer them when I get the chance! Thank you all for the wonderful questions.

Comments: 282 • Responses: 101  • Date: 

VirtualPickleTickle29 karma

What's the state of the psychological services at your facility? Do you find that it's an effective/important part of the process?

Pacobell0828 karma

That is a hard question to answer. We have the detention unit and the shelter unit where "treatment" isn't really a big priority. The kids are assigned counselors and they get weekly individual sessions, but treatment isn't really done. They are more liaisons between the facility and the county. We also have another unit that is more treatment based where they work through their issues and find the root of their problems. It's a joint effort between counselors, clinicians and the psychologist who visits the facility once a month. On those units, the psychological services are definitely a big help.

atetuna13 karma

Thanks for being honest. It's disappointing to hear that treatment is lacking for a class of inmates where treatment would be most beneficial.

Pacobell083 karma

Seeing as how the kids are usually there anywhere from 1 day to a few weeks, there isn't much time for treatment there. I talk to kids when they need someone to talk to and they do have weekly counseling sessions, but that's about it...

atetuna3 karma

Oh, okay, that's not as bad as I was thinking.

Pacobell082 karma

They usually get more treatment where ever they are sent after our program.

Palmass22 karma


Pacobell0816 karma

I'm sure it would be equally as interesting to hear things from a resident's point of view. For all I know, you could have been one of the kids from my program (highly doubtful, but possible!)

Millerboy197921 karma

Couple of questions come to mind... 1. Craziest situation you would never have thought you would end up in at work? 2. Is there a rewarding experience to your job? Thanks!

Pacobell0842 karma

The craziest situation that has happened at work quite honestly just happened recently. While we were physically managing a residents behavior (the nice way of saying restraining him) after assaulting a staff member, a couple of kids from his area ran out of their rooms and started to attack staff, resulting in momentary chaos.

Yes, there are rewarding experiences to my job. They come few and far between, but they do exist. Such as seeing a long term resident finally leave and move on in a positive manner (step down program, home, placement, etc.) Sometimes it's just rewarding in itself to get to know some of the kids and learn about their pasts (both the good and the bad) and actually get to know them on a level where they not only respect you, but trust you. I think that is the most rewarding feeling.

NotSoSlippery17 karma

What kind of stuff gets sneaked in?

Pacobell0841 karma

Not much honestly, we are pretty good about our initial searched. The weak point is usually family visits. Once a father managed to give his son a can of chewing tobacco and we didn't find it for a few days during a routine contraband search. The resident was reprimanded for the incident, and the father had charges pressed against him.

B00MERS00NER0 karma

In my opinion that's a bit steep for a can of chew. I get that's its not allowed but its not like its a weapon or anything.

Pacobell0842 karma

While we are not a state run facility, we are located on state property. Tobacco free on the grounds. Staff can't even smoke a cigarette at their car before coming in. In addition, he was providing a minor with an illegal substance, and would have had charges pressed against him had he been caught outside the facility as well (providing for a minor). Then there is the danger of other kids who could have a potential reaction to it and gotten sick from it had they gotten their hands on it. There was reasoning behind it.

Jadall73 karma

late 90's They passed a law in USA. They started fining minors for tobacco possesion. also I imagine contributing to delinquency of a minor, etc to adult etc if caught etc.

Pacobell0819 karma

Like I said, we had reasoning behind it. We aren't assholes just to be assholes. There is a method to everything we do.

MaloneyCH15 karma

Do you think the current prison system recovers or cause more damage to these inmates?

Pacobell0820 karma

I'm going to sound a bit snippy here, but I don't work in the "prison system". I work with youth who have committed some kind of crime and found themselves under our custodial care. That being said, we do have some similarities to prison, as well as some major differences. I can't speak for the "prison system" since I've never worked in it, but the juvenile justice system has its ups and downs. There are some kids who come in, wait for their court date, discharge and go either home or to some form of treatment, and never come back ever again. Then there are some kids who can only be described as regulars. Ones who have been there so many times, you can answer their intake questions for them on some cases. The personal record I have heard of during my time there was one kid had been to and from our program a total of 13 times. Long answer short, I guess it really depends on the kid, not the system.

TheBadJokester15 karma

1.) Describe the process right from when I would enter your facility.
2.) Are the kids (regardless of age) handcuffed when walked around or transferred from area to area?

Pacobell0816 karma

ALL detention kids are place in our detention unit by Juvenile Parole Officers or a similar officer, so I can't recall a time when a resident did not walk onto the unit in shackles and handcuffs. There is another unit in the building that doesn't require handcuffs because it is a shelter unit, but detention does.

The would be resident would walk through our doors and we would give them a brief overview of the program, then we would tell them what is expected of them and escort them to the unit. Once the handcuffs and shackles are off, we ask them to stand with their head and eyes straight forward with their arms at their side, so we know they aren't planning on swinging on us or doing something else dangerous. They answer a series of questions so we get an overview of their past. Then we have them walk into the bathroom and take inventory of their clothes and any markings (scars, tattoos, cuts, bruises, etc.). Then we have them take a shower and get dressed. We issue them our uniforms, which they must wear while in our program (no outside clothes are allowed). We then give them a phone call to their family and issue them a handbook so they can learn the expectations of the program. If it's after dinner, we give them a meal if they desire. They learn the rules and then they take a test to show they know what is expected of them, and then they enter general programming with the rest of the unit. Done.

jmandab01437 karma

What happens if they refuse to do something during the process? Like if they refuse to take the test.

Pacobell0811 karma

They will remain on the initial orientation status until they do. No sweat off our backs. They just won't get to do rec, watch movies, participate in group or school. All they will be allow to do is sit there with the handbook in front of them. If they fail to do that, they will process their behavior.

Flynn583 karma

What does that mean?

Pacobell082 karma

Which part? Processing their behavior means we talk about what they did wrong and what they could have done differently and create a plan as to what they can do in the future to not get themselves in a similar situation.

Flynn582 karma

That part. What if they refuse to do that?

Pacobell083 karma

They stand with their head and eyes straight forward with their arms at their side. If they refuse to do that and walk away or start moving around and becoming aggressive, they will get restrained... which is by no means fun nor comfortable.

Flynn582 karma

How long do you think they can be restrained for?

Sorry for playing 20 questions.

Pacobell083 karma

They can be restrained for up to one hour, then we have to take our hands off them. If we take our hands off them and they suddenly decide to start screaming and trying to hit us, then we can go back hands on for one more hour and repeat if necessary.

Whiskerd5 karma

Oh I've been there. Placements are called "boy schools" where I'm from. And where you work at sounds like an intake facility. Pretty much the same routine you just described. Except you left out the part after you take clothes inventory, and before the shower, where I was stripped butt naked in front of a few guards while they checked every cavity for contraband. My least favorite part, along with the showering with other males constantly.

Pacobell0810 karma

See, we don't require the butt naked search. We also have individual showers so there is less chance of sexual misconduct.

minette2239 karma

What is the social dynamic like among the residents? I imagine it is a single gender environment - do you work with males or females? Do you have experience working with both genders? If you do, or if you don't, according to your colleagues, what are the biggest differences in working with males vs females? Does your own gender change how you can relate to them?

Do you know what the longer term outcomes for the residents are? What percentage end up back in the justice system in some way?

Thanks for answering our questions!!!

Pacobell0814 karma

Negative on the single gender. There are both males and females on the unit (a frustration in itself). We usually get more males, but we do get quite a few females, so I have experience working with both.

Biggest difference between males and females? Males are usually more blatantly aggressive. When you are talking with them about their behavior, they are more likely to straight up admit to what they did, not think it should be an issue, and try to punch you in the face if you think otherwise. Females are more sneaky and manipulative. They like to look like sweet little angels so they don't get in trouble when they do something wrong. They also love to bend the rules in their favor.

I honestly can't say for sure what the long term outcomes are. Some kids come back multiple times, and some kids mess up once and then they are scared straight. It depends on the kid.

minette2237 karma

Oh, thats really interesting. Do you have residents dating? Do you get weird social hierarchies among the residents, like cliques and stuff? What are those groups most based upon? Is it "cool" to be more bad, or are kids trying to get out as fast as possible? Or, is it more like, general solidarity because they are all there together through hard circumstances?

I guess my real question would boil down to: how are residents forming their identities once they are there? Do they form a new identity once they are there? Do they try to remain exactly who they were before? The idea of being forced into a place is a pretty crazy thing to me, and its hard to imagine what a person would go through psychologically, even in an ideal situation.

Pacobell0813 karma

There is a strict no male/female interaction rule at our facility, so no dating. It does get awkward when we get a male and female resident in at the same time who used to date though. That's happened a couple times. There are some residents who know kids outside of the program and they tend to buddy up, even if we don't desire that happening. Some kids hit it off with other kids and become as close to friends as we will allow. Some kids like to be ring leaders and cause issues. Other than that, there is no real hierarchy (at least one that I can see). There is a thing we call "war storying" and the kids do that a lot. Who has the most badass/scary/mess up/epic story. So in that sense, it's "cool" to be bad. Most kids just want to get out and will do everything they need to do to make that happen. A few will just be issues because they have problems with authority or their anger.

As far as forming identities, I don't really see much of it. We try to homogenize them as much as possible. They all wear the same uniform, so there isn't the "who has the best clothes debate. We try to minimize talk about the "outside". Some kids come in quiet and leave quiet. Some kids come in an issue and get restrained right away, and the rest of the time they are angels. Some kids you just know are going to be problems. I know this answer is pretty bullshit, but it's about as truthful as I can make it: It all depends on the kid.

Final note: there was once a time where I didn't have my key card to operate the doors, so unless another staff member opened the doors for me, I was stuck on the floor. It bothered me that I was stuck on a unit where unless someone "allowed" me to leave, I was trapped. It gave me a little bit of perspective as to how the residents must feel.

qdog13429 karma

How many teens go on to be legitimately rehabilitated? Can you tell when a teen is faking pogress in hopes of an early release?

Pacobell087 karma

It isn't up to us to decide whether they are ready to leave. That's for a judge to decide. There is no rehabilitation while they are in our facility. It's more of a holding cell with some mild help in fixing their behavioral issues. We just report to the judge what happens while they are in our care and they decide the kids fate.

TheKLaMike9 karma

Weirdest/Most Extreme thing a kid you took care of got arrested for?

Pacobell0820 karma

I don't get around to finding out every single story that kids walk in with, but I have a favorite. Two kids were brought in after causing a quarter million dollars worth of damage to a hotel after tying a sheet to a sprinkler and scaring their friend into thinking it was a ghost.

TheKLaMike10 karma

Thats great! Quarter million seems like a bit too much though...

Pacobell0813 karma

That was the estimated damage when I did their intakes. I must admit, I had my two day weekend the day after their intakes and they were gone by the time I came back to work.

braydengerr3 karma

Damn. Seems so harmless minus the quarter million part.

Pacobell0812 karma

They were with a freaking youth group from another state on the far side of the country! Imagine that phone call to their parents. Plus this was at night when this happened. They were so scared. I did their intakes. It was supposed to be a harmless joke, but they cause a felonious amount of damage...

KB116279 karma

My older brother wants to get into the field as a CO, and wants to start where you're at. What is the best thing he could do to get started? He already has finished university with a degree

Pacobell087 karma

May I ask what the degree is in? My degree is in Psychology, and I find it very beneficial when working with kids. Other fairly common degrees people I work with have earned are Sociology, Criminal Justice, Criminology, and Social Sciences. A lot of the people I work with (but not myself) have either been or are currently in the military.

As far as finding a job in the field. Look around, you might find one on your own. If not, contact your local police department, they would probably know where local detention centers are (they tend to place kids in them after all). As far as around here, there is no shortage of job openings. We are always looking for new people to fill the void. Some people are long term workers, but many just use it as a stepping stone to become a parole officer or something in that general field.

KB116279 karma

Criminal Justice is what he has obtained

Pacobell088 karma

Then he would do well in our field. Pass on that information to him.

ceslek2 karma

Is there much room for career advancement and what is the starting range of pay?

I dropped out of college and made a few silly career choices. I'd love to go back to school and get a degree to work in some field involving troubled youth.

What do you recommend I get a degree in? Will I need a bachelor's or will an associate's suffice?

Pacobell082 karma

As far as my company, entry level is a high school diploma. You can advance a certain amount without a degree, but to be a supervisor, you need at least an associates. Past that, a bachelors looks great, but it's mostly just experience and how people see you that matters. I would suggest either Criminal Justice/Criminology or a Social Science (Psychology, Sociology, etc.) Pay isn't that great... I won't even lie to you, but it's not bad. I just feel we should be paid more for the shit we have to deal with.

siracu559 karma

My mom used to threaten to drop me off at the Juvi in my town every time I mouthed out to her when I was younger. She even drove me there one day and used it as a scare tactic while we sat in the parking lot. Could she honestly have just submitted me? or was it all bullshit....

Pacobell089 karma

Depends... how much money does your mom make? I'm not sure how state run facilities operate (I work for a private company), but someone IN THEORY could check a kid into one of our programs, but it costs a pretty penny. Mostly it goes through counties and parole officers and case workers. Soooooo, she could have said you were unable to be controlled, turned over custody to a JPO and then they could have placed you there... but I doubt she could have just walked you up to the door and been like, "Hey, wanna take my kid?"

siracu557 karma

Well, she wasn't making very much, she was a part time student and did nails on the side. She had recently separated with my Dad at the time so I was always very angry with her. It made matters worse when she started seeing one of the corrections officers (or whatever it is you call the officers working in Juvi) and I feel like maybe thats where she felt she got the authority to threaten that. I was intimidated so I guess I succumbed and never really got to find out if it was all a bluff. The details get hazy considering I was 10-12 yr old kid at the time. I'm almost 24 now and she passed away when I was 14. She would say I was "out of control" even when I knew I wasn't. I was just young and upset and I still, unfortunately, hold a bit of resentment towards her for how far she was willing to take her "discipline."

Pacobell083 karma

If there is one thing that I've learned working in my field, it's that the age old thought that parents are right no matter what is a myth. There are plenty of kids who come in, not because they are naturally bad, but because they are the product of their environment. Some parents just don't want to deal with their kids, which is a shame, because then we get to raise their kids for them. It actually bothers me sometimes. It's one of the few things that get to me about my job.

siracu553 karma

That actually makes a lot of sense, and it really is a shame.

Pacobell082 karma

Then there are the parents who call in all concerned and wanting to make sure their "baby" is alright. Then when you talk to the kid, they tell you their mom hasn't talked to them in the past six months and kicked them out of the house for one reason or another. I don't care if you don't care, but don't care when it looks good to do so if you don't care all the time.

knightsinwhitesatin8 karma

I worked in a residential treatment centre for youth for a year after University. One thing that really struck me was how burnt out and pessimistic many of my coworkers were about their work with youth. This observation, plus a realization that I wanted to help youth in a different capacity caused me to quit my job and go back to school in Counselling. I'm wondering if you notice these qualities in your coworkers? How do you personally prevent burnout in your job?

Pacobell087 karma

I most definitely see this burnout in my coworkers. Not everyone is meant for the job (as I'm sure you are aware), and over time the ones who can't take it will quit or move on in another manner. Fortunately for me, there are counselor positions that I could step up to, so I don't have quit to get into that. I honestly don't know how I keep from burning out. There are some days where the world just sucks and I don't want to participate in it anymore and I don't want to leave my bed. But more often then not, I go into work motivated and ready to go.

knightsinwhitesatin2 karma

Thanks for the answer! I have nothing but respect for people who work frontline with youth. Keep doing what you're doing and know that many of us appreciate it!

Pacobell082 karma

I'm glad there are people out there who actually appreciate us. Mostly we get parents who are pissed that counties placed their little "baby" in our care and when their kid decides to haul off and attack staff and we have to put them into a physical intervention, they get mad at US saying that their kid isn't like that and it's our fault. rolls eyes

Nemortal7 karma

Would you ever segregate kids based on sexuality? And do you enjoy your job?

Pacobell085 karma

There is no need to segregate. Some kids have roommates, but we keep a few close eye on them, even at night. They shower in separate stalls with curtains drawn (with a staff member posted at the doorway), so there would be no chance of an encounter there. They must be fully dressed before they can open the curtain.

I enjoy my job very much. I honestly don't know what I would possibly be doing otherwise.

I_mead_help6 karma

Again, as a former '"customer" of a state-run facility, this was not my experience.

Group showers, similar to what you see at the gym. Obviously segregated by genders, but always with a same-sex staff member watching to make sure there's no issues. Occasionally fights would break out in the showers and they'd have to awkwardly break up naked teenagers brawling.

Pacobell082 karma

Nope, ours are not like that. No clients are ever undressed in front of another client. Three separate stalls, so we can shower three residents at a time. The walk into the stall clothed and they exit the stall clothed.

judsonm1232 karma

Are any of the kids from such bad backgrounds that you have to teach them how to bathe?

Pacobell082 karma

I hate to say this, but we have had to give some kids lessons in how to brush their teeth, wipe after using the bathroom and yes, even how to bathe.

judsonm1232 karma

Not shocked. What were their backgrounds like?

Pacobell081 karma

Neglected. Foster families. Sexual abuse. Quite a few variables.

lilylupo956 karma

I've been told that when male officers search teenage-girls/women in general, they usually wear cameras to avoid any sexual assault claims. Does the detention center you work at enforce that as well? Or do you have enough female officers that it isn't necessary?

Pacobell089 karma

Women search female intakes. Men search male intakes. No exceptions. We don't need that kind of liability on our hands.

GregSchwall6 karma

What is the dominant race for teenagers in Juvenile Detention? And do they form "gangs" or "groups" like in Prison?

Pacobell0814 karma

Eh, there honestly isn't a dominant race. I'm from an area that is primarily Caucasian, but we get kids from hours away. So we get a pretty healthy mix. Kids from the same area tend to be friendly toward one another. It's mildly frustrating because we are near a pretty rough city that is predominantly African American, so there are gang issues and such. It's an intricate web of idiocy.

bfaithr6 karma

Someone I know is a judge and she said that a kid (12) killed committed a felony murder and got put into actual jail. The prisoners destroyed that kid. She said the next time she saw him he was on a cane and had to have his colon removed. Do you think it was fair to put him in an actual jail as apposed to Juvenile Detention? What is the worst crime a kid has committed to land himself there? Lightest crime? How long to kids stay there compared to adults who commit the same crime? How old was the youngest kid you've seen there?

Pacobell0832 karma

I find it hard to believe the story about the child being put in general population with grown adults. We have had a few older residents (16 or 17) come from the local jail due to their crimes, and they were kept separate from the rest of the inmates due to their age. If that was the case however, I think that was poor judgement on someone's part and they should have been placed in a juvenile program or segregated in the jail system.

Worst crime: Accomplice to murder. Lightest crime: Possession of paraphernalia (marijuana) Youngest kid: 11 (theft)

Kids don't usually stay long on a detention unit, it's more of a holding place until they can go to court and the court decides to either send them home, placement or treatment.

Jamesev936 karma

What do you think is the best way to rehabilitate the kids you come into contact with? Do you just know some kids are always going to be in and out of the system?

Pacobell087 karma

The best way I have found to get to the kids is to be real with them. I like using my past to explain things to them, which both shows them that I had a sketchy past at times and that I came out of it on the better side because of it. Kids hate when you lie to them and are fake with them. There are some kids (in my personal opinion) who are just born bad. Very VERY few, but there are just some kids that don't have empathy for others and they feel no remorse for what they do to harm others. These kids are doomed to the system in my opinion.

Rozzelsniff6 karma

Who are some juveniles that you will remember the most?

Pacobell086 karma

I don't have "favorites" but there are definitely kids you get to know better than others. They may not be the most memorable to the other staff, but since you really worked with them, they are the ones you knew. Then there are the kids that you just never want to see again because they were such an issue while they are there. Those are the two types of residents you remember the most.

A_Wild_Flygon5 karma

Do they have any extra curricular activities there, like sports?

Pacobell086 karma

In a sense. Daily they are give time for structured recreation. Most staff members will try to get them out to the rec yard, because they kids are better behaved when they are given the time to burn off steam, get some fresh air and play some basketball. They can play basketball and pass around a football and every once in awhile we will get a game of kickball going or something along those lines. They also have gym class every school day (Monday - Friday). They usually have outdoor activities set up for that.

Erek1254 karma

How many kids end up there for just Marijuana possession?

Pacobell089 karma

Not too many. Mostly for things like heroine, meth or cocaine use and distribution. I think there have been less than five in the past year.

jasonpaik94 karma

What's the worst encounter you've had with any juvenile? On the flip side, any really sympathetic moments you remember clearly that you wish you could've helped but couldn't?

Pacobell086 karma

There are just some clients you would rather have no encountered. I'm not going to lie and say that I enjoy every kid and feel equally inspired to change their lives. There are some kids who are just so volatile that you just want them out of the program as fast as humanly possible. I have encountered at least five of these kids thus far, each as frustrating as the next, none winning my least favorite resident award.

There was a kid who once came in and I found quite a few parallels in his past and mine and I wanted to help him as much as possible, because I knew what it was like growing up in his circumstances. However, there is a balance of being nice and helpful and still maintaining that you are going to hold him to a high standard when he fails to meet expectations.

dracythis4 karma

Since your residents are juveniles, what types of searches and how are searches performed on your residents?

I had a friend that worked with a religious institution that handled troubled youth. They allowed corporal punishment with a paddle. Does your organization allow corporal punishment?

Pacobell083 karma

Two staff members do the initial intake where the resident will remove their clothes down to their underwear to make sure that all their belongings are accounted for, and then they step in the shower and are then allowed to remove their underwear to take their initial shower. The kids are never fully nude at any time.

No corporal punishment. When a kid becomes physically aggressive, we are allowed to put them into proper techniques to prevent themselves from harming themselves or others. "Punishments" usually come in the form of loss of privileges (movies, rec, etc.) and a writing assignment to help them learn from their mistakes.

unique_nerd3 karma

Hey. I work in a lock down residential therapy center for teens. A lot of your hard times I have been through and I only been a employee for 9 months and counting.

Pacobell082 karma

I'm glad to see other redditors don't mind the everyday struggle. I honestly think the worst part of my job is the low pay and appreciation. What about you?

unique_nerd3 karma

Can't agree with you more. I'm 23, fresh or of college and this was my first job when I graduated. At first I thought the pay was great, I was making more then I ever had, but now I can't figure out how I'm ever going to afford my own place. As far as the appreciation, from the girls I work with I understand, but the higher ups are the ones that hurt the most. Especially when most of them leave mid day knowing all the chaos happens during 2nd shift

Pacobell082 karma

I think the worst part of it is the fact that the supervisors USED TO BE FLOOR STAFF! They should know the struggle, but they seem to have forgotten what we have to struggle with on a daily basis.

unique_nerd2 karma

Agreed. And when you try and ask for assistance some look at you like you're being ridiculous and should be able to handle the situation yourself

Pacobell082 karma

I have to admit, our supervisors are willing to help us out when we need it, but I view them as overly critical sometimes. Some of them are just plain nasty though.

unique_nerd2 karma

My biggest complaint with ours is that all he cares about is numbers. He brings in the ones we really can't handle who end up being sent somewhere else just for the money

Pacobell082 karma

We refuse to FTA (Failure To Acclimate) a client. It's not how we do things. We are the ones who get THOSE kids.

unique_nerd2 karma

We deal more with the psychology. That's useless with the ones who have nothing wrong mentally and just enjoy causing trouble

Pacobell081 karma

Just the same, we deal with behaviors. The ones who come in mentally ill are the ones we flat out can't help.

NAD1A3 karma

When were you the most terrified during your job?

Pacobell086 karma

The aforementioned situation where the residents left their rooms to assault staff. Fortunately it was only a handful, and not the entire unit.

Rtouty223 karma

Is sexual assault a problem as common as regular jails?

Pacobell081 karma

I can't speak for other facilities and programs, but we don't have a problem with that. Even with our sex offender unit, we have laser nets in their rooms that if one kid walks from their side of the room to their roommates side, it will set off and alarm and a light will flash at their doors, which let's us know they either need to use the restroom, or we need to go pull this kid out and deal with the situation.

thatshittycoder3 karma

Simple question, but do you like your job? What are the upsides and downsides of it?

Pacobell081 karma

I enjoy my job very much. The upsides are plentiful, among getting to know the kids and hopefully make a positive impact upon their lives, getting to play basketball with them when we go out for outdoor rec, learning from them (which happens more than I'd actually like to admit, they can be quite insightful). The downfalls are things among, the kids who just refuse to alter their behaviors because no matter what someone else says, they are RIGHT and you are WRONG.

Crazywhite3523 karma

I bet those kids in there fight alot huh?

Pacobell086 karma

Negative. We don't allow it. We will restrain them if they become physically aggressive toward another resident or staff. We don't leave anything to chance when it comes to physical aggression.

Crazywhite3523 karma

I see. I was DOC as a kid and we fought each other and guards.

Pacobell082 karma

We don't allow that to happen. They may get one or two punches in... maybe... but they will ended up getting restrained and that'll be the end of that.

Crazywhite3522 karma

Do you guys have a confinement for them or some other sort of program for the misbehaving kids?

Pacobell081 karma

If a kid misbehaves, it usually results in loss of privileges, like movie night or rec. along with receiving a writing assignment so they can work through why they did what they did. We don't use confinement.

Crazywhite3525 karma

Its good that your "institution" tries to find other ways to discipline the kids instead of locking them up and forgetting about them. Believe me when I say, that stuff just makes them worse!

Pacobell082 karma

I would believe it. I get stir crazy when I don't leave my house for too long, which has a strong internet connection, netflix, and my cell phone. I could only imagine what being locked in a room for days on end would do to someone.

crimsonjustice3 karma

Hey, I'm currently studying criminal justice and recently took an introductory class on corrections. I just wanted to say thank you for doing what you do! It seems very difficult and I am glad you enjoy it.

Pacobell081 karma

Not a problem. Maybe someday you'll join the ranks of the under appreciated as well?

MonsterScotty3 karma

Whats the most dangerous kid you have had to deal with?

Pacobell085 karma

A kid who raped multiple women, but felt absolutely no shame, regret, or even empathy for what he had done wrong.

MonsterScotty2 karma


Pacobell081 karma


inpizzawecrust2 karma

Was he a troublesome inmate, or more reserved?

Pacobell081 karma

Very charismatic. Liked to talk to people, especially female staff. He was a chronic liar and you couldn't trust a word he said.

itsjustmine2 karma

I work at a detention facility as well. After reading some of your answers, it seems that our respective facilities work differently. Our initial intakes usually come from the outside in violation of probation or serious offenses anywhere from aggrevated assaults to murder. We hold them until their "big" court as the juveniles like to call it. When we do the initial intake we do pat downs and then a strip search to make sure they do not carry anything with them into the facility (you'd be surprised what has gone in). Females do female intakes and males do males intakes. They have a intro to the rules and expectations. And they also take a physochological test to see if we need to take precautions on multiple levels (drug abuse, mental disorders, suicidal, etc). They do not have roommates. They have school Monday - Friday. Everyday they go to gym. Only one person showering at a time. We take precautions to the max when we can. We still have fights but they're rare, the juvenile mainly have verbal aggression towards each other. Sorry it's long

Pacobell082 karma

It sounds like we operate similarly, but differently as well. I don't care that it's long. It's nice to see how other people do things. I take the opportunity to go on support trips to our other facilities whenever I can. I swear I'm not bragging, but we are undeniably the best and most efficiently run facility in our company. If another facility to struggling, they come to us to send support so their staff can model us.

theDarkDescent2 karma

I also worked in a facility that sounds exactly like yours. No matter how bad a day I've had at a job since then, it's never been worse than the every day type of stress from that job. It didn't help that we were severely understaffed, and my one coworker (2:14 ratio of staff:residents) was an alcoholic who refused to enforce any restrictions the kids earned during the week. Basically they could do whatever they wanted without fear of repercussions

On one hand it sucked, because almost all the kids had horrible parents, and it was hard to blame them for acting the way they did sometimes. On the other hand, a lot of them were just straight up assholes and would shit on you given the chance no matter how much you tried to help them.

Pacobell082 karma

Preach! That sounds just like us. Understaffed... but at least most of my coworkers are fairly competent. The kids can be alright, but a lot of the time I think that most of them are just flat out faking.

UndercoverRedditCop2 karma

I was in a juvenile facility less than a year ago. Shackles, the cell and everything. My question is has there ever been one juvenile that stood out among the rest in a positive way?

Pacobell081 karma

Plenty. Not every kid is bad. I tell new staff that all the time. Sometimes kids just make bad decisions, and they need some time and a little fear to put them back on the right path. I can't really pick out one particular resident that stands out, but there are a good handful that I know will do well in life after lockup.

Thachiefs4lyf2 karma

Sorry your probably gone, but, is there a large gang atmosphere or is it developed later on in their lives?

Also how many of these people do you see serving large prison sentences later in life?

Pacobell082 karma

Personally, we haven't had much of a problem with gang atmosphere, just some kids from a big city who all knew each other and kind of clique'd up.

EuphoricFedoraDude2 karma

What is the worst crime that you know that a prisoner has done, in your detention center?

Pacobell081 karma

Murder. Or rape... I guess it's a matter of which you view as more heinous.

Pacobell081 karma

Murder. Or rape... I guess it's a matter of which you view as more heinous.

Ninjaturdhole2 karma

The movie "Dog Pound" (About a Youth Detention Center, for those of you who don't know) if you have seen it, is it a realistic movie? Or is it not as crazy in real life?

Pacobell082 karma

I'll have to add it to my list of movies/books recommended to me through this AMA. Thanks for the idea!

magnetic-matchbook2 karma

Have you read the book Violence 101, and if so how do you think the treatment of the main character compares with the usual treatment at your detention? If you haven't read it, its worth a read. Kind of a modern day clockwork orange.

Pacobell082 karma

Adding it to my reading list. I'm always up for a good book. But I have yet to read it so I can't tell you how it relates. I apologize.

panic_at_the_station2 karma

Have you ever seen the film Manic with Joseph Gordon Levitt?

I was wondering how similar that is to what you do (or accurate, for that matter).

Pacobell081 karma

I'll have to find it and watch it and let you know... sorry I can't answer this one right now.

hoodyuplod2 karma

how does the most horrible juvenile inmate there behave ?

Pacobell082 karma

The most horrible resident that I've encountered actually had a mental disability and uses it to their advantage, such as "I can't do that. I don't know how I'm supposed to do that." or "I'm allowed to walk around, I'm special." It's terrible to say that a resident with a mental disability is our worst client because... well... they have a mental disability! And I would never say it's the resident's fault... in fact I blame the county for placing the resident in a place that is doing no good and forwarding no progress. The resident should be in a mental health facility. Not a behavioral facility.

Toxcrew-Talamander2 karma

Is this picture of one of the clients in the facility you work in?

Pacobell081 karma

Hahahahahahaha! Nooooo that's a picture I pulled off of a Facebook post, but nice try.

Toxcrew-Talamander1 karma

oh...okay haha

Pacobell081 karma

I didn't know if you were serious or just trying to prove a point. haha

ThatGirlYouMarried2 karma

Generally, how long do your residents stay? Also, what do you do to help them? I know there is counseling, I mean outside of that.

Pacobell081 karma

Usually anywhere from a day to a couple weeks. Rare cases stay for months at a time. I try to get around to each kid and get to know them. They like it when people take an interest in them since most of them have been neglected most of their lives.

trippydreamz2 karma

Unfortunately, I have spent my fair share of time in Juvenile Detention in Oakland, CA. After getting in a fight I was put in solitary confinement for 3 days and it was pitch black for 2 of the 3 days so I began to hallucinate from sensory deprivation and ended up getting in more trouble for banging for someone to turn the light on.

Pacobell082 karma

That sounds horrible. I wouldn't be able to work for a company that uses solitary confinement. That's cruel punishment in my opinion.

ThePrecariat2 karma

what do you find the mean average cost to a youth, or youths family is to go through your company? That is; how much money do they end up paying all together?

Pacobell082 karma

Families didn't usually pay, it was the county. They have plenty of money set aside for juvenile corrections so they don't have to pay a huge bill for locking up adults when they make a big mistake later in life.

newpersonanon2 karma

18 year old here who has been very privileged in growing up. Now from what I know about this world and about people I have to presume that the kids who come into where you work mostly are kids that come from broken homes, poverty stricken areas, families with no "good" role models, etc. This has to be true to a large percent of the inmates, I think. Is this true do you think? What is your opinion on the circumstances and the cards dealt to the kids in the program you work at? Thank you for your time and your help to society as well.

Pacobell081 karma

I would agree, most kids that come in there don't have the greatest starts in life. Many have the worst start possible, and all they are trying to do is play the hand they were dealt. There are some kids who come in from great families, and they just mess up or they are so spoiled that they think the world owes them something. They are usually the ones who struggle the most.

newpersonanon2 karma

Such a terrible world we have. You know I am quite interested in psychology among other things and well intelligence is a part of psychology, which you majored in if I am correct. And how race effects intelligence is something interesting and is the subject of some debate. If your memory is good enough how would you rate the general intelligence of those white kids in your program who come from terrible backgrounds against those African-Americans who come from terrible backgrounds? Obviously this is a challenging thing to do and a tricky a topic. What are your thought on how race affects intelligence?

Pacobell082 karma

I feel the need to restate that this is solely my opinion and not a reflection on anyone else...

The best way I look at this is to view what environment the kids would come out of from terrible environments based on race. Most white kids who come from terrible environments are usually white trash / redneck kids where as black kids are usually coming from the hood. Two very different lifestyles. The kids who are white trash tend to have grown up with some basic education and some caring family member (at least one) to push them to something better. The black kids coming from the street usually had friends and family who pushed them, but instead toward negative influences and few if any were properly educated or cared about education.

Answer: the white kids tend to have a better general intelligence, but that is obviously not always the case. Side note to go with this, I am in no way, shape or form racist or discriminatory in my personal or professional life. This is merely my personal observation.

newpersonanon2 karma

Very interesting. And I was in no way, and I don't think you were either, trying to be rude or mean towards any skin color. So what are the kids in there allowed to do for "fun"? Are there any kids who you think simply made one bad mistake and their lives will be ruined for it? Most of the kids in there are kids who were just on the wrong side of life totally, right? I ask this because I myself almost made very bad decisions in my life that could of, just a mere few months ago, sent me to a place similar to where you work. And it's all very interesting and thank you for answering my questions and being so nice.

Pacobell081 karma

They get to go outside for rec if there is good staff coverage, no issues in the building and the weather permits (so most of the time). Otherwise, they have indoor rec, where they can play dominoes and board games. Some kids just make one bad mistake and that's it and it is unfortunate. One kid was driving his friend around and his friend pulled out a gun and shot someone on the street. The kid had no idea about the gun or the guys intent. He will probably be locked up for a few years because of it...

PsibrII2 karma

Nature of the beast, white kids are better at book smarts, all the others are better at social cohesion, and learning to work with a group.

Pacobell081 karma

I would agree. The African American kids are usually great at team builders and organized sports where the white kids are usually quick to pick up on the program.

Thenightmancumeth2 karma

Have you ever come across someone who might not be able to be "saved". Perhaps you can just sense that they are destined for a life of prison.

Also, how many kids do you think you see dont have fathers, or parents. Percentage wise?

Pacobell081 karma

There are some kids that just don't want to be saved. As I tell the kids at work all the time, I can give them every single tool for success in the world, but unless the take it and use it, thy might as well be digging a hole with a baby spoon.

That_Awesomeguy2 karma

Have you watched a movie called Dogpound?

It's about Juvenile Detention centre and the shit they have to go through. I highly recommend watching it!

Pacobell081 karma

Someone else had recommended I watch that through this AMA. I've added to my list. Thank you for the input!

mr_tonto2 karma

My professor always gave us the advice every class, "if you let your guard down for one second, you're gonna have a pencil in your ear".... Ex-Juvenile CO

Pacobell081 karma

During a restraint the other day, kids from that kid's area all came out and started to attack staff. Perfect example.

mr_tonto1 karma

How old are kids in the kids area

Pacobell081 karma

We can take kids anywhere from 10-18 and sometimes older if they are deemed to be still mentally a child.

mr_tonto1 karma

What's the story on the youngest yet most disturbing child that walked through

Pacobell081 karma

12 year old girl who sexually offender her younger brother and sister. I never found out the full story, but that's probably for the best.

mr_tonto1 karma


Pacobell081 karma

And you never had to meet her. It was disturbing. She was completely normal. Smart, likeable, funny, and outgoing. Meeting her in any other situation, you would have thought she was a normal 12 year old girl.

ilikewc32 karma

I'm studying for my msw in California. As a social worker, what can I do to help keep these kids accountable and help meet their needs and not be the type of social worker that staff typically hate?

Pacobell081 karma

Whenever we observe them doing something they are not supposed to, we pull them away from the rest of the unit and process their behavior (talk about what they did wrong and how they can fix their behavior in the future). Their behavior is our primary concern.

theJasperK2 karma

Do kids have Internet acces? And how do you make sure kids don't have sexual encounters with each other, and what about when they take it it their own hands? Do you have any contact with former clients that have gotten out? And what's the ratio between kids and personnel?

Pacobell081 karma

They are allowed to go to the computer lab (supervised of course) on occasion for school. We walk the halls of the units and keep a close eye on the kids even at night to make sure they are not doing anything inappropriate with each other. Sometimes kids who have left will call in. It's pretty heartwarming when they ask to talk to you specifically because they want you to know how much you've changed them for the better. There are up to 18 kids on a unit and we have between 2-4 (sometimes 5) staff on a unit at a time. 3 is usually the magic number.

willb21072 karma

I'm not sure if you've seen the TV series 'Orange is the New Black', but if you have, do you think that their depiction of custodial punishment is fair - more specifically, that officers can turn a 'blind eye' to some abuse or problems? I understand it might be different in juvenile detention.

Pacobell081 karma

I have seen Orange is the New Black, and thoroughly love it. I try to be as fair with residents as I can. In fact, if one of the good kids messes up, I tend to be harder on them because it's out of the ordinary and concerning as to why they are stepping out of line.

laodmouth102 karma

Do kids push the tough personality a lot. And have u witnessed any kid who miss their family and wants out but doesn't regret what they did?

Pacobell081 karma

Kids always have the tough persona, especially the male residents. They want everyone to think they are "hard" and that nothing will phase them. Some kids just really want to get back home, but most of them will admit they messed up. The closest thing to your question that I see is when kids don't think they have done anything wrong. They are confused as to why carrying around drugs and assaulting a police officer has landed them on our unit.

laodmouth101 karma

Thank you for your response. It has always sparked my interest. I am not using it for research purposes but the question itself is out of curiousity given that I used to hit my head against a wall as a kid as measures of showing im tough.

Pacobell081 karma

It's unreal what some kids will do to show that they are tough, but deep down, they are just trying to prove themselves.

gingerbreaddan2 karma

I took a class on urban gangs this semester. Since many gang members are youths, they often end up in juvenile facilities. We had a number of ex-gang members come to class to discuss their experiences in prison, including in juvenile detention. Can you comment on a few of the topics we covered in class please?

  1. Gang members in the juvenile system view it as a "finishing school" and often start fights just to increase their street rep when they get out of juvenile detention. Do you find this to be the case?
  2. Sexual assaults are more prevalent in juvenile detention than in adult prison. Does your facility experience a significant amount of sexual violence? If so, how do you deal with those attacks when they occur?

Thanks for doing the AMA!

Pacobell082 karma

We have been fortunate to have not encountered too much gang affiliation since I've worked there. However, we did pick up quite a few kids from a larger city recently who all knew each other and used their time in there to try to up their status. It usually failed due to the staff intervening on their negative behavior, in which they look fairly foolish because they knew better than to mess with the staff members, because they would put themselves in a position where we would have to put our hands on them to manage their behavior, which they view as quite embarrassing.

Additionally, we have had no instances of a resident sexually assaulting another resident during my time there. Previous to that, I'm not sure when the last instance would have been. The most that happens sexually would be on resident masturbating in their room when they have a roommate.

gingerbreaddan2 karma

Interesting. Thanks for the response!

Pacobell082 karma

Of course, thank you for the digging questions! I like these more than, "Do you like your job?" Makes me think more.

Spiritually_Obese1 karma

I was locked up as a juvenile once for 11 days. Ask me anything, OP!

Pacobell082 karma

11 days? You were one of the lucky ones who go out quick! We have some kids who have been there for months. Were there any guards that you legitimately liked? Is it as bad as everyone makes it out to be? (Don't forget, I was a kid once and I heard the horror stories.)

Spiritually_Obese1 karma

Well, it was 11 days, but as the really bad kids were teaching me, my charge was basically a Disorderly Conduct charge and I should've been in their overnight tops. But my PO was teaching me a lesson basically, with the blessing of my mom. My dad was not too down with the whole thing.

Yes there were a few guards that were OK. They were generally cool to me ..they let me have an extra few minutes to take my contact lenses out at night and they stored them for me. This was something they were not used to dealing with, although I know it sounds small. Basically the guards liked me b/c I was good at basketball, which we were allowed to play for one hour per day, usually. That or volleyball, but b-ball ws preferred. So I remember this Mexican guard named Perez that was definitely more friendly to me bc of my bball skills (I was on my high school team.) He was like "S_O! You're pretty good for a white boy!"

Was it as bad? No...not really. It was boring, for sure. We had books we could read. I read The Stand in there, which was great b/c 90% of the books were cartoon books like Garfield, etc...and i flew threw those so quickly I almost didn't have anything to read. They made us go to sleep at like 8 o'clock though, although those of us that behaved well got to stay up til 9pm with snacks.

There was one riot while I was in there b/c they wouldn't let this kid leave his cell to go to the bathroom. And he prompted a riot, so they put us on lockdown. Also, the beds suck. The blanket is too small and it's scratchy wool. And there's a speaker in your room for them to make announcements and, worse, a freaking light shining in there 24/7 for when they need to peak in at you. This made it very hard to sleep. Also, they woke us up at like 5am for a piss call, and I never had to go that early. They'd drag us out of bed and I would be so tired, and you'd have to wait in line for the bathroom. you weren't allowed to say "I don't have to go."

Then they sent us back to bed! Then at wake-up, we had 4 minutes exactly for shitting and showering. And the toilets had no seats, which was gross, although we had urinals for pissing in. but still...

all in all it wasn't horrible. We played cards...we talked...just were bored...but i was one of the lucky ones. alot of kids in there were in for much more serious crimes. I was very naive...i was just in there for drugs...i didn't really know about kids who were on the fast track to a life of prison, etc.. there was one kid who molested 3 young kids. there were car that looked like was kind of crazy.

Pacobell081 karma

I'm glad you figured your path out quick then. It sound similar to us. The kids hate the light in their room, but that's the only way we can make sure they are alright. Lucky for them we have a dim light as well, so they don't have to sleep with the bright light on. Most of the kids complain about being bored, which sucks because if they are doing well, I'll give them more recreation and maybe even a movie.

Drethos-2 karma

Why do they let you work if you're in juvenile detention?

Pacobell083 karma

Your question confuses me sir.

warpg8-4 karma

How does it feel to know that not only has your life degraded to the point where you have to make your living being a cop, but you're also a cop that is so shitty at his job that you've been pigeon-holed into literally babysitting?

Pacobell082 karma

I guess if you want to look at it in a pessimistic way, that could be a viewpoint. I'm not really a cop, cops bring us the kids, we just help them develop in the behaviors. Having a bachelors degree in Psychology, I could work plenty of other different places (counseling centers, crisis centers, even further my training to be a psychologist) but I am quite happy doing what I am doing and I choose to not leave, even though I've been offered other higher paying jobs. I just enjoy changing lives, and this is where it starts.

warpg8-4 karma

You're also working in support of a self-defeating, circular system that doesn't work. There is absolutely no proof that detention centers act as a deterrent to repeat offenses. There is no proof that detention centers help to rehabilitate anyone.

If people like you would stop working for the detention centers, your involvement would no longer help to validate their existence, which is, in and of itself, a huge drain on society. Corporations receive government subsidies (read: public funds) to build and run their detention centers at a huge monetary cost. The fact that people like you are willing to work for them only helps them continue draining public coffers and filling the pockets of the already super wealthy. These are the same people that pay lobbyists mountains of cash for mandatory minimum sentencing on minor drug offenses. They get a return on that investment.

With a bachelor's in psychology (massive throwaway liberal arts degree that may as well be a blank sheet of paper saying "look mommy I did good!" in crayon), I'm not surprised that you're somehow simultaneously naive and self-satisfied.

TL;DR: Thanks for helping propagate the problem, maybe you should consider a graduate degree and subsequently a career that actually matters.

Pacobell081 karma

Alright then, I'll let you have your turn to speak. What would you suggest we do with kids or even adults who are a danger to society and could potentially harm you, your family or someone else you care about? I also think you are confused as to what I do for a living. Kids come through the facility on their way to be sentenced at court to go to a treatment facility or placement. There is also some kind of psychology in there with the fact you feel the need to degrade others sense of self to up your self esteem for some unknown reason. Just my observation. Your turn, sir.

Ratherunique99-10 karma

My brother has the same job so I have no questions at this time.

Pacobell085 karma

Gotcha, if you are curious about any differences between what I do and what he does, ask away!