Senator Amanda Shelton today introduced Bill 244-35 (LS) to appropriate $200,000 from the unappropriated general fund balance from fiscal year 2019 to the Department of Youth Affairs (DYA).
This was introduced in conjunction with Bill 243-35 (LS) introduced by Joe San Agustin.
These bills would appropriate funds to be used to reclassify officers at the DYA from Youth Service Workers to Youth Correction Officers and provide them with additional training to better serve the juveniles in their care.
Youth Service Workers (YSW) serve a crucial role in Guam’s corrections system. These employees at DYA handle youth offenders, with cases ranging from status violations to felonies. The Department of Youth Affairs is mandated to house the Youth Correctional Facility and Youth Service Workers are their de facto correction officers subjected to similar conditions and dangers as other corrections officers.
Corrections agencies have been strained for resources and training, and DYA is no exception. DYA has seen an increased rate of juvenile recidivism (64.5 percent in 2017 according to the most recent available data).
The bills would also provide the new Youth Correctional Officers with additional training to provide the disciplinary structure and emotional care that juveniles need to rehabilitate. Studies show investments in this kind of training and mentorship leads to reduced recidivism rates.
“The correctional officers at DYA require special training and additional skills to handle the unique needs of juvenile offenders such as an understanding of emotional and rehabilitative care," Shelton said.
"They are the people on the ground, in contact with these juveniles day to day and with better mentorship skills, they can provide the structure necessary to prevent future criminal recidivism and provide a safer environment for all employees and youth in the DYA facility. Providing DYA workers with this training and new classification is an investment in the lives of at-risk youth,”she added.