Inappropriate relationships between youth and employees of juvenile corrections organizations are a serious issue.
Among the most dangerous and destructive of these inappropriate relationships is sexual misconduct. Sexual misconduct jeopardizes the safety of youth and of the public.
Employees who compromise their professional ethics and responsibilities by engaging in inappropriate and illegal behavior undermine the justice system, further victimize vulnerable individuals, put the safety of themselves and their peers in jeopardy, and erode public and legislative support for the mission of their agency.
The purpose of a code of ethics is to acknowledge a profession's acceptance of the responsibility and trust conferred upon it by society and to recognize the internal obligations inherent in that trust.
There are two aspects to ethics:
- discernment - knowing right from wrong; and
- discipline - having the moral willpower to do what is right.
Ethics Self-Check for Employees
- If everyone were to do what I am contemplating doing, would the world be a better or worse place to live?
- Is it legal? Does my decision violate any codes, policies, procedures, rules or laws?
- Is it balanced? Is my decision fair to all, both in the short and long term?
- How will I feel about myself? Does this feel right and ethical? Can I stand by these actions at a later date?
- Will others view my actions as right or wrong? Do my actions represent the agency in a positive light? Will I be able to openly explain my actions so that others will understand and agree with my choice?
Here are some examples of events, actions, or activities that should tip you off to the possibility of staff sexual misconduct:
- Horseplay, overly familiar interaction between employee and youth
- Unusual caseload activity (transfers to or from the caseload, early terminations, unlikely violations of conditions)
- Ignoring violations or being blind to a particular youth's actions
- Unusual amount of office visits by a youth
- Unusual amount of field visits to a particular youth
- Employee isolation from other employees
- Over-identifying with a youth
- Employee in personal crisis (financial, divorce, ill health, death in family)
- Granting special favors or requests for a youth
- Employee consistently working more overtime than anyone else
- Employee being overly concerned about a particular youth
- Employee cannot account for their time
- Employee always volunteering for extra work or overtime
- Employee intervening or helping with youth's personal life, legal affairs, etc.
- Conversations between an employee and youth or between employees that are sexualized in nature or refer to physical attributes or appearance
- Employee discussing personal information with youth
- Drastic behavior change on the part of a youth or employee
- Rumors about a particular youth or employee
- Frequent absences or illnesses of a particular employee
- Employee accessing files, computer data banks, logbooks, or other records when not related to their own cases, or an excessive amount of this kind of activity
- Frequent problems with particular employee concerning off-duty activities
- Employee having more than the necessary knowledge of a youth's personal life
- Employee being involved with youth's family
Self-Help Questions for Employees
- Do you find yourself looking forward to seeing a particular youth/client?
- When it comes to a particular youth, are you reluctant to close a case or transfer supervision to another employee?
- If you run into a youth at a local restaurant or bar, do you think it is acceptable to sit down and share a meal or drink?
- Have you ever spoken to a peer and tried to convince that person to give a certain youth on their caseload “a break” because you know the youth personally?
- Have you ever failed to report, or even considered not reporting, a violation of supervision because of your relationship with a youth/client?
- Have you done anything with someone you supervise that you would not want your family or supervisor to know about?
- Have you discussed your personal life with or sought personal advice from someone you supervise?
- Do you have thoughts or fantasies of being with a particular youth or client?
- Have you ever done a “favor” for a youth, such as loaning them money or intervening with the youth's employer; or have you asked them to do a favor for you?
- Have you told a youth/client sexual jokes, or allowed them to tell you sexual jokes?
- Have you become particularly friendly with a member of a youth's family? Do you plan field visits for times when they will be home, or without any official need to see them?
- Do you find that if you knew a youth before they were placed on supervision, such as attending the same school or same church, you are more friendly with them?