Week 7:

Arthur Vining Davis Fellow in Adolescent Psychology

Linn County Juvenile Detention Center | Cedar Rapids, Iowa

October 14, 2018

With the influx of residents over the last few weeks, it was only a matter of time before the stress boiled over and something happened. This week, something big happened. Tuesday night brought my first opportunity to learn how to do a lockdown. With the inclement weather this fall, storms and tornado warnings in Cedar Rapids meant the residents had to be locked down in their bedrooms for their safety until the tornado warning lifted. Trying to tell delinquent teenagers, who already hate being locked up in the Center, that they need to go to their rooms to be locked down for an undisclosed amount of time is exactly as difficult as it sounds. This learning experience would come in handy later on in the week, however.

Finally Received My Official Login Profile
Finally Received My Official Login Profile

Thursday night brought a difficult situation. An attempted riot. While I was not at work Thursday, I learned all of the details and that my training from Tuesday’s lockdown would have been excellent preparation for how to handle Thursday’s events. While the particulars of this event are confidential, the basis is a few residents from a neighboring county were frustrated with a resident from Linn County, and this frustration over something mundane boiled over into an attempt to riot against staff and fight this particular resident, 2 on 1. This situation spiraled after staff could not redirect, calm, or successfully time-out the trouble-making residents. Situations such as these prompt at immediate shut down of the remaining residents in the pod, lockdown of the Center entirely (if necessary), and a situation write-up. Depending on the event, the pod stays shut down for the rest of the night. In this case, the residents responsible were removed from the pod and no lockdown was enforced.

Despite my absence from the actual event, the tension is still palpable, and emotions are running high. Due to this, in addition to the increased workload, my supervisors prohibited my taking any pictures involving residents this week, and I agreed with this decision. My focus was instead on using my skills as a youth counselor to continue building relationships and working with the youth to avoid problems like the above in the future. I also worked to ease some of the stress my pod staff were feeling, and so I acted as a “floater” staff much of the week, meaning I drifted from pod to pod filling needs of both residents and staff, as well as responding to requests for assistance or errands over the walkie talkies. Overall, it was an incredibly busy week, and I had my eyes opened to some of the “what if,” worse case scenarios that can happen at the Center. Any illusions I may have had of this work being easy have thoroughly been corrected, and I have learned what it means to dig my heels in and do my best to get the job down right (i.e., positively) even when I want to be more stern or strict as a result of the stress. Working with juvenile delinquents is hard work, but is is rewarding work, and I am continuing to learn that with every obstacle, challenge, or difficult situation that comes my way.

Jamie Rhoads