Last year a few staffers from Alaska’s Division of Juvenile Justice travelled to Texas to observe the Capital and Violent Offender Group program, also known as COG, at Giddings State School.
If you follow TJJD, you know that COG is a treatment program unique to Texas JJD that involves team building, youth telling their life and offense stories, exploring their impact on victims and planning for their transition back to the community. The longstanding program has garnered positive reports over the years for helping capital offenders better understand their motivations and mistakes and reform their thinking. While COG has been in service for many years, it’s also been updated with trauma-informed techniques.
The Alaska team was so impressed with the methodology that they invited three of TJJD’s COG treatment experts to help train therapists with their department.
Last month, the Alaska DJJ flew TJJD’s Drs. Evan Norton, Jillian Erdberg and Kathryn Hallmark to Anchorage to share their expertise with 13 staff members -- an exchange that was educational and energizing for everyone.
“Many of the participants found themselves out of their comfort zone but they pushed themselves to try a lot of new techniques and approaches,” Hallmark said.
The Texas team was encouraged because they believe the COG program can become a nationally known evidenced-based treatment for traumatized youth who seriously victimize others.
The Texas clinicians also were grateful for the inside look at another department's treatment programs. Dr. Norton literally jumped into the experience, trying out the ropes course used for trust-building, and all three visiting psychologists discussed treatment approaches with their North Country counterparts.
“A tour of their facility gave us some great ideas to take home, such as neurofeedback training," Hallmark said. The group plans to followup with a virtual consultation later in the year when that program launches in Alaska.
The trio highly valued the opportunity to share information and interact with clinicians in another state, Norton said, and is deeply invested in this partnership.
While juvenile justice treatment programs were the visitors’ focus, the Texas team also feasted eyes on the majestic Alaskan scenery and then actually feasted on local cuisine involving game sausage and fresh salmon dip.
“The Alaska DJJ administrators showed us Alaskan hospitality with guided tours of the majestic snow-topped mountains and scenic highways with wildlife,” Hallmark said. "They also brought some very interesting snacks such as moose sausage and made sure that we enjoyed every meal.”