Merrimac Center is a 48-bed facility that provides secure detention for juveniles who are awaiting court hearings, or who have been sentenced to serve time in detention. We are operated by the Middle Peninsula Juvenile Detention Commission and serve the 9th and 15th District Court Service Units. Our focus is on the safety and rehabilitation of the youth in our care. Residents live in one of four housing units, allowing for the different programming needs of males and females as well as various age groups. All residents participate in programming geared toward behavior modification through social skills training and cognitive behavioral interventions. Services offered during their detention stay are designed to help redirect a juvenile's path in a more positive direction. We hope our youth gain insight into their current situation and use that knowledge to assist them in making better decisions, choosing a new path toward success and happiness.
COGNITIVE BEHAVIORAL TRAINING
The behavior program at the Merrimac Center is predicated upon cognitive behavioral and behavior modification interventions. The cognitive behavioral framework is a model for describing, understanding, and changing behavior. It operates on the fundamental assumption that thinking and attitudes influence our behavior, and therefore we can change behavior by changing thought patterns and attitudes.
The cognitive model uses techniques to monitor thought patterns, recognize the connections between thinking and behavior, and replace distorted thinking with rational thinking in order to foster more appropriate behavior. We challenge our residents to pay attention to the thought patterns they have and the behaviors and consequences that result from them.
BEHAVIOR MODIFICATION SYSTEM:
Point Cards: Residents earn points in five skill areas (Ignore, Talk, Area, Cooperate/Participate, Gestures). These areas are evaluated seven times each day (including overnight). New appropriate behaviors immediately receive a coupon, for which items can be purchased from the canteen (candy, soda, personal toiletries, video game play, extra phone calls & visitors, etc.). The focus is on “shaping” new behaviors by reinforcing “small steps” along the process of change. Based on their daily point averages, residents are placed on a level the following week. All privileges, e.g. bedtime, visitors, materials in their room, free time are based on their level.
- Goals: Residents also have weekly goals, which are evaluated 3 times per day. They receive a “plus” for each goal achievement; if they achieve sufficient “pluses” for their level, they can participate in a “pod plus party” on Saturdays (refreshments and recreational activity).
Time Outs: Inappropriate behavior earns a consequence by an extinction process using time outs. Every inappropriate behavior earns a five-minute time out. The resident is expected to stop the inappropriate behavior and quietly face the wall for five minutes, focusing on how to prevent the behavior from re-occurring in the future. Failure to complete the time out results in a 30 minute time out in an empty room, and then completing the original time out. For aggressive, violent or destructive behavior, a 60 minute time-out results. The last 30 minutes involves doing a Rational Self Analysis or thinking report.
Rational Behavior Training (RBT): RBT groups occur several times per week. Using “My RBT Handbook”, residents process their behaviors using the cognitive model (situation, thinking, feelings, behavior, consequences) to identify different self-talk that would result in better outcomes. They also examine core beliefs that get them into trouble with parents, teachers, and the community. The main tool is the thinking report or Rational Self Analysis, which requires the resident to analyze his/her inappropriate thinking/behavior and make changes for the future.
Social Skills Training: Using the Boys Town Press Teaching Social Skills to Youth, residents are taught 8 basic social skills (e.g., how to introduce themselves, how to take “no” for an answer, how to follow directions, how to accept positive criticism) and over 174 others.
Anger Management: Using curriculum developed by DuPage County Detention in Chicago, “My Anger is My Friend”, residents use principles from cognitive behavioral therapy models to understand the source of their anger, and learn skills for managing anger appropriately.
Addiction: The “Why Can’t I Stop” manual allows residents to examine the dynamics of addictions of all kinds and ways to deal with them.
Girls Growth Group: Designed specifically for the female population the Girls Growth Group addresses: Healthy sexuality, success in school, developing a sense of belonging, healthy self-esteem, pro-social values/skills, health family interactions, healthy boundaries/relationships, positive gender identity/role models, cultural diversity, addictive/compulsive behaviors with particular risk for females (eating disorders, cutting, running away), identifying significant past traumas and planning for resolving emotional after-effects.
Restorative Justice: Using the ”Restorative Justice Guide” residents look at the implications of bad choices and irresponsible behavior. They examine the harm they may have caused to themselves, to their friends, family, teachers, and the community. The residents learn skills to make better decisions, start to understand the “ripple effects” of their choices and behaviors, and develop a relapse prevention plan to keep them away from bad choices and pre-criminal/criminal behavior.
Moral Decision Making: Residents learn the four stages of moral decision making, and then work through real life problem situations, determining what they would do and how this reflects a particular stage of moral decision making. The goal is to move their decision making to higher stages of moral appropriateness, from power/control to concern for society and systems.
Risk Management: This group looks at the “risks” in the youth’s environment that are a set-up for going to back to using drugs and committing crimes. Residents identify their specific risk factors and ways to effectively manage them.
When juveniles fourteen years of age or older are found to be delinquent of offenses that would be punishable by sentences to a jail or corrections facility for an adult, and meets other related criteria, the Court may sentence the juvenile to 31 days up six months to a local secure detention facility for the purpose of treatment.
The Merrimac Center’s Post-Dispositional treatment program, Developing Alternatives for Youth, (D.A.Y.) is an alternative for juvenile offenders who meet the program criteria and who may benefit from local, short-term confinement and treatment while in a controlled setting. The program is co-ed and has a capacity for 10 placements. A Treatment Coordinator serves as a case manager for the program. The program staff works closely with the court staff to identify appropriate services, referrals and placements. The D.A.Y. Program focuses on providing alternative coping skills for youth and assisting them on their path toward positive experiences. It is an individualized educational and treatment program that is structured for residents that have not been successful in community-based programs or other types of residential programs. The program’s approach contains an educational component that develops knowledge, life skills, career options and vocational abilities that will lead to a more disciplined lifestyle while also adhering to the cognitive behavioral model utilized throughout the facility. There are also opportunities to participate in therapeutic group sessions, community based services, to work in the community, participate in volunteer projects, structured recreational outings and transitional release assignments. The overall program will assist youth in developing a sense of self worth, a better understanding of their role in society and promote positive social interactions.
The emphasis for program completion is reaching treatment goals combined with improved behavior. The program also provides transition services to help the residents and the families succeed after release.
A teacher specializing in vocational education and life skills is assigned to this program. In addition to the regular education program, career interests, getting a job and succeeding in a job, and preparing for independent living are part of the curriculum. Students learn how to use technology in the workplace and for research. Upon completion of the program, a student has a portfolio displaying their knowledge, skills and abilities. This teacher also serves as a transition teacher, integrating the student back into the home school, college, or workplace. Some students may work or volunteer in the community and participate in job shadowing. This teacher also prepares eligible students for the General Equivalency Diploma (GED).
Each juvenile receives a physical and mental health screening at admission. Colonial Behavioral Health provides emergency mental health assessments. Ongoing therapy and case management is also provided onsite by their mental health clinician.
The mental health clinician assesses residents who have potential mental health or substance abuse issues, admissions who have been identified in the community as needing mental health services, and residents referred by staff who have observed troublesome behavior. The clinician provides individual and group counseling and education, refers residents and families for service in the community, informs the court of juvenile mental health needs, and works with the courts, family and mental health system to obtain emergency hospitalization if needed. Case management services assist with the transition back to the community or other placement when alternative services are an on-going need.
MERRIMAC CENTER EDUCATION
The mission of the Merrimac Center Education Department is to provide a positive academic experience by offering an environment which facilitates individual learning, confidence, character building, and the ability to work with others in order to prepare students for their next educational setting.
- Ensure continuity with the student's current course of study
- Remediate if necessary
- Provide successful academic experience
- Prepare students for their next educational setting
- Build character
- WJCC (Williamsburg James City County) school system staff, including seven certified teachers, one guidance counselor, one principal and one administrative assistant
- Evaluate and assign appropriate grade-level courses to students upon intake
- Focus on SOLs and critical thinking skills
- Meet IEP and remediation needs
- We offer a GED and post-GED curriculum
- Merrimac is a certified GED testing site
- Volunteers are available for individual tutoring (William & Mary students)
- Character education
- Unit Reading Program
- School Library
- Information about Merrimac's post-secondary program is coming soon
An Executive Committee meeting of the MPJDC has been scheduled for Friday, May 26th, at 11:00 AM. It will be held at the Merrimac Juvenile Detention Center, and the agenda may be found HERE.