Detention facilities (also called homes or centers) are community-based, residential facilities that provide temporary care for delinquents and alleged delinquents requiring secure custody pending court disposition or placement, or who are placed in the facility by the court as a sanction once found guilty of an offense. While detention is meant to be a short-term predispositional placement, detainees participate in structured programs including school, recreational activities and, in some facilities, limited therapeutic activities. Detained youth also receive medical and mental health screening and services, voluntarily participate in religious activities and may have structured visits with parents or guardians. Detention is not intended to provide treatment or change a child's life. It is to ensure that youth are present for court, without harming themselves or others while awaiting a court date.
Criteria for detaining youth are limited (§16.1-248.1 of the Code of Virginia). A judge, intake officer or magistrate must find probable cause that the youth committed an alleged act and
All of the secure detention programs in the Commonwealth are owned and operated by local governments or multi-jurisdictional commissions. DJJ provides partial funding for construction and operations and serves as the regulatory agency of these facilities.
Some detention facilities provide secure custody and services for post-dispositional delinquents as an alternative to state commitment as an option for judges pursuant to §16.1-284.1 of the Code of Virginia. More than half of the detention homes in Virginia have post-dispositional "programs", where secure beds are designated for juveniles serving up to 180 days locally. Juveniles placed in post-dispositional detention programs are provided separate services for their rehabilitation, and such services are individually tailored and coordinated by the detention home, the Court Service Unit, local mental health and social services agencies, and the juvenile's family.
Over the past decade, most existing detention facilities have been expanded and a number of new facilities have been built. The rise of direct supervision as an operational philosophy has resulted in homes designed with several “pods” rather than the old “loaded corridor” designs. The pod design, individual sleeping rooms surrounding a multi-purpose “dayroom”, allows for flexibility in classifying detained juveniles and in providing programming for these youth.