Ellen Schall and the Department of Juvenile Justice

This "Innovations in State and Local Government" case begins in January 1983, when Ellen Schall is appointed commissioner of New York City's Department of Juvenile Justice, an agency in upheaval. DJJ was established to detain seven- to fifteen-year-old children between arrest and adjudication. Most of DJJ's charges are held in a 25 year old secure detention facility called "Spofford," a notoriously violent and dilapidated facility in the South Bronx. The case describes the situation as Schall walks into it. In addition to internal tensions and significant operational problems in every division, the agency has a history of bad press and feuds with City Hall. The department is also struggling with deep-seated racial and class tensions among employees, and with great confusion over its mission. The case ends with Schall planning to speak to a new group of juvenile counselors, trying to articulate her vision for the agency. The case offers students the chance to diagnose the ills of the agency and to chart a strategic course of action. Among the topics for debate: How should Schall go about assembling an executive team? How should she address the confusion over agency mission? What should she do about racial tensions? How involved should she get with the nitty-gritty operational problems of her agency's divisions?

Teaching exercises include both in-class exercises and discussion tools, and student assignments. An assignment is available for this case and is included in the teaching note. It is also available in a separate downloadable document, convenient for distributing to students. When you make this assignment available to students, please use the "teaching exercise" document, and do not make the rest of the teaching note available.

This case is provided to Electronic Hallway members through a cooperative arrangement with the Kennedy School of Government Case Program.

This teaching note and teaching exercise were written by Pamela Varley and are available on the Hallway as part of the Integrated Management Curriculum.