Week 3:
Slowly Taking Charge


Arthur Vining Davis Fellow in Adolescent Psychology

Linn County Juvenile Detention Center | Cedar Rapids, Iowa

September 16, 2018

As my third week at the Center comes to a close, I have begun taking charge in the pod setting and letting my trainer sit on the sidelines to supervise rather than lead. My first shift this week saw me earn all of the equipment and tools for the center, and this, in turn, has given me more confidence to lead the day’s events instead of following the instruction of my trainer. Now that I am allowed to carry keys and a walkie-talkie, I have the ability to access activity closets, to request another staff bring me supplies, and communicate more effectively with the staff throughout the building to ask questions and assume more independence on the job.

Earning All the Tools
Earning All the Tools

This independence has taken shape mostly in planning activities. On my night shifts, all residents have designated time in the gym for one activity and designated time after gym for a second activity. It is the youth counselor’s job to plan what the residents in their pod do in both activities, and they have to meet the theme for the day that is predetermined by the supervisor on our activity calendar. I have begun taking over this responsibility from my trainers, and I have also begun creating lessons for schoolwork for some of the residents. Occasionally there are residents at the Center who have earned their GED, and so they do not have to go to class during the week like everyone else. They still have to partake in educational or productive activities, however, and the teachers cannot do that as they already work with the rest of the residents. Here again the youth counselors are responsible for planning activities and lessons for these youth. I have made great progress with one of these kids. This week we worked on essay skills, read classic literature, and compared classic works to their movie adaptations, such as The Great Gatsby. I also planned some fun activities, including painting. Through this lesson planning with this one resident I have not only advanced my independence but I have built a stronger relationship with him.

Painting with a Resident
Painting with a Resident

Furthermore, with this increasing independence, I have learned more about the procedures that take place in the criminal justice system, including the intake process and how to collect a sample for a Urinary Analysis (UA). After an adolescent is arrested, they are brought to detention for holding until court. Each new resident must go through the intake process. My supervisor trained me on this process on the fly as a new intake had just arrived. He talked me through the pat down, the metal detector wand, and the semi-strip search process as I was doing it with the new resident. I learned how to do the intake interview, which consists of questions about the youth’s history, and how to file the paperwork. At the end of the shift that day, my trainer Roxanne walked me through the UA process as well, including how to verify the sample came from the youth being tested and how to fill out the paperwork.

Filing Intake Paperwork
Filing Intake Paperwork

Overall, this week I have been trusted with more responsibilities, and I have learned more about the procedures required to run a detention center, and this knowledge has influenced my ability to work more confidently and more independently in the field. I look forward to learning more next week!

Jamie Rhoads