Juvenile Corrections

Youth Challenge Center


The Youth Challenge Center program provides counseling, education, life skills development, substance abuse services and positive role modeling for juvenile males who have been adjudicated and committed to the Department of Corrections.


The Youth Challenge Center is located on the grounds of the STAR Academy in southwestern South Dakota. The city of Custer is approximately 4 miles from the program and is a major tourism location during the summer months. Visitors to the program may travel through the Black Hills National Forest, Custer State Park or Wind Cave National Park and experience the sight of bison, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, deer, elk and many other wildlife species.

The living area is designed in a dormitory style, housing up to 24 young men between the ages of 14 and 18 in each unit.

Program Participants

The Youth Challenge Center serves young men that have exhausted all the resources in their communities or have committed crimes that necessitate them being removed from the community. They may have committed felony or misdemeanor offenses, violated conditions of probation, have truancy or behavioral issues in school and may have difficulty in family relations. The young men that are served by the Youth Challenge Center have all been placed in the custody of the Department of Corrections (DOC) by the court system. Both Delinquent Children and Children in Need of Supervision (CHINS) may be placed at the Youth Challenge Center at the direction of the Juvenile Placement Director. Children in Need of Supervision must also be reviewed by a state level review team comprised of representatives from the Department of Social Services, Department of Human Services, Department of Education and Cultural Affairs and the Department of Corrections. Program participants are primarily non-violent offenders. Any youth that fails to abide by the rules of the program may be dismissed from the program and placed in a different environment consistent with their correctional and treatment needs.


The Youth Challenge Center program is operated solely by the Department of Corrections. Youth must be committed to the Department of Corrections by a circuit court that has determined their needs can no longer be met in the community. The Youth Challenge Center offers students a safe and structured environment to learn and address issues that have caused them problems in the past. Length of stay is determined by the treatment needs of the juvenile and involves the students participating in counseling, life-skills development, educational classes, physical activity, learning structure and self-discipline. Each student will progress through a series of levels comprising elements necessary to successfully complete the Youth Challenge Center program. Students in all levels are required to participate in educational services and counseling sessions throughout their stay.

An individualized Treatment Plan is developed for each youth within three weeks of arrival. The student, parents, guardians, Juvenile Corrections Agent and Youth Counselor are all involved in identifying strengths and needs of each student. Each plan consists of goals and objectives for the student to address during their placement. Specific time frames are established to allow students to measure their progress against the established plan.

Students are provided with clothing and essentials during their stay at Youth Challenge Center. This prevents students from potentially identifying with any gang or social status groups based on the type of clothing they may wear. Students are encouraged to maintain contact with their family, if appropriate, during their stay. Youth are allowed one phone call and one visit per week. Phone calls are provided by STAR Academy.

The amount of personal property a student may possess during the program is limited due to space availability. Parents should contact program staff prior to sending any items through the mail or transporting them during a visit to ensure it is an allowable item. The DOC will provide each student with stamps and envelopes for outgoing mail. Students are allowed to send three letters weekly. Students may receive an unlimited amount of mail but are only allowed to keep a limited number of letters in their immediate possession.

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Youth Challenge Center
Address: 12279 Brady Drive
Custer, SD 57730
Phone: (605) 673-2521
Fax: (605) 673-6004

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