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DJJ Secure Detention

Secure Detention

The New York City Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) provides Secure Detention for alleged Juvenile Delinquents (JDs) and Juvenile Offenders (JOs), ages 10 to 15 who are awaiting resolution of their court cases. Custody and care are provided in a safe, secure and service-oriented program in DJJ's Secure Detention facilities. Childcare advocates and juvenile corrections experts have called DJJ's services a "model program for Secure Detention for juveniles."

Until 1998, Spofford Juvenile Center in the Bronx was New York City’s sole Secure Detention facility for juveniles. DJJ vacated Spofford on August 1, 1998. On January 18, 1998, DJJ opened Horizon Juvenile Center, a state-of-the-art 124-bed, Secure Detention facility, located in the Mott Haven section of the Bronx. On the same day, DJJ also opened its second secure facility, Crossroads Juvenile Center, located in Brownsville, Brooklyn.

To address the need for capacity, DJJ upgraded and refurbished three wings of the Spofford building. On December 29, 1999, DJJ re-opened the former Spofford building as Bridges Juvenile Center. Bridges is an Intake/Admissions facility with a capacity of up to 150 beds. Bridges also houses state-ready youths awaiting transfer to facilities operated by the New York State Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS). After intake at Bridges, youth who remain in DJJ's custody for longer than one to two weeks are transferred to Horizon Juvenile Center or Crossroads Juvenile Center.

Dining area in Secure detention facility

A classroom in secure detention


The Case Management System enables the Agency to monitor and coordinate services for each resident throughout his or her stay in detention. Through case management, DJJ's staff provides individualized attention to youth. Case Managers counsel youth, maintain contact with their families and their lawyer, monitor the court process and are responsible for ensuring that each youth's medical, mental health, educational and social service needs are addressed.

Case Workers are present and available in all dormitories to help youth adjust to Secure Detention, and deal with individual problems. A multi-disciplinary team of staff provide a range of services within the facility. Case Managers ensure that these services are tailored to meet each youth's needs.


Around-the-clock health and mental health services are provided to juveniles in Secure anh Non-Secure Detention through DJJ's Secure Detention facilities. All youth receive an initial health screening upon admission. A comprehensive health assessment, including a complete health history, physical examination, laboratory tests and mental health assessment, is conducted within 72 hours after a youth arrives in detention. Each resident also receives a dental exam. DJJ's Mental Health Unit includes a psychiatrist and mental health professionals, who are available to conduct mental health evaluations, and to provide counseling and other mental health services as needed.


The NYC Board of Education (BOE) operates Passages Academy, a full time educational program that tailors its curriculum to the needs of youth in detention. A fully-staffed school is located within each of DJJ's three Secure Detention facilities.

Students are grouped according to academic levels. Program instruction includes class work in an all major subjects, such as math, science and history. Passages also provides instruction in computers, art, music, physical and health education. The Academy emphasizes project work and hands-on activities for the students. Monthly projects include science fairs, poetry readings and essay contests. A comprehensive special education program, including a resource room, speech and language services and psychological counseling, is provided to students with special needs. Teachers, guidance counselors and other school staff form a team, and also help residents transition back to the regular school system, upon release from detention.

Passages academy provides instruction in computers, art, music, and physical and health education

Passages academy provides instruction in computers, art, music, and physical and health education


DJJ's full-time chaplains provide voluntary spiritual counseling and religious direction to youth in detention. Residents can attend services on weekdays, weekends and holidays. DJJ’s Chapel Program brings clergy of different religions and denominations to the institution on a rotating basis.


A recreation staff ensures that residents participate in a wide range of daily recreational activities. Outdoor yards, a gym, game, movie and billiard rooms are available. Music, art and general recreation rooms allow residents to spend time quietly and creatively. Special activities such as teen workshops, motivational speakers and sports tournaments are planned on a regular basis. Theme-months activities, such as Black History, Hispanic Heritage, Career, Health and Women's History, occur on an ongoing basis.


Many youth who enter Secure Detention leave very quickly; 35 percent are released within five days and 67percent within 30 days. All youth who arrive spend their first week or so in Intake and Orientation living units, while medical, educational and social service assessments are made. Residents participate in a formal orientation program, where they receive information about services in Secure Detention, and, when appropriate, information about State Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) facilities.

Youth who remain in DJJ custody for a longer period of time are transferred to one of DJJ's two secure facilities, Horizon or Crossroads Juvenile Centers. Case conferences, involving medical, educational, direct child care and social services staff, are held for each resident every 45 days. Follow-up medical and dental care and a full daily schedule of school, recreation and counseling provide the youth with comprehensive services and activities that correspond to his or her needs.

DJJ’s Behavior Management Program (BMP) is designed to teach residents to take responsibility for their own behavior while in detention. This incentive system promotes good behavior with rewards such as extra phone calls, later bedtimes and access to DJJ’s commissary and resident lounge. The program discourages negative behavior with penalties that restrict privileges and choices of recreational and leisure time activities.

Chapel services in secure detention

Passages Academy

Related Links
NYC Family Court
NYS Office of Children and Family Services
Office of Juvenile Justice & Delinquency Prevention
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