Webinar on Reducing Isolation Delivers the Gold

Posted by Kim Godfrey
May 08, 2014

What do you do when a kid acts out? Is disrespectful or rude? Is visibly angry, out-of-control and maybe throws a punch?

This is an everyday challenge for all adults but especially those who work in facilities for young offenders. Their job is to control youths’ behavior, keep them safe from themselves and each other and create a positive environment for all youths and staff so rehabilitation can occur.  Working in, managing or being responsible for facilities for at-risk and delinquent youths is one of the most challenging jobs there is and one with an opportunity to have an incredible impact on young lives; perhaps a life-changing impact.

Performance-based Standards (PbS) thanks Peter Forbes, Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Youth Services, and Judy Davis, Superintendent of the Illinois Youth Center-Warrenville and PbS state coordinator, for sharing realistic and feasible practices on Friday’s webinar “Policies, Practices and PbS Outcomes to Reduce Isolation and Room Confinement,” presented by PbS for the Council of Juvenile Correctional Administrators’ (CJCA) Resource Network for Youth Correction Leadership and Professionals

The intention of the webinar was to provide some tools to change facility culture and practice from reliance on isolation and room confinement to more effective, safer ways to respond to youths’ misbehavior and Peter and Judy delivered the gold. Over 200 attendees from 41 states and the District of Columbia received detailed descriptions of how Massachusetts and Illinois recognize the negative impact of isolation and room confinement on youths and established alternative and creative responses for both youths and staff.

Peter highlighted various strategies Massachusetts used, starting with a policy directing all staff on when and where room confinement can be used, an extensive authorization process, behavior-based release plan and both local and national PbS data that measures and monitors the use of isolation and room confinement.

Judy described the five-year-old Illinois agency’s need to change from an adult-oriented culture in the facilities to using youth-focused, research-based practices as alternatives, such as time-outs, mediation and to better keep youths in school, the Ready to Learn program.

PbS has worked with both agencies for many years and we’ve seen clear evidence – the data- documenting tremendous changes in practices and better outcomes for youths and staff. One might think that less room confinement use would lead to more injuries and incidents but that is not the case; PbS data has shown that youths with a history of being locked up have increased odds of victimization including fear for safety, theft of one’s property, being the victim of physical abuse and being in a fight. Isolation is not the answer and we applaud these states for finding alternatives to manage behavioral issues.

Join CJCA for their next webinar "Dual Status Youth and their Families: Altering the Human and Fiscal Toll through Improved Youth & System Outcomes" on Friday, May 16.