2016 Barbara Allen-Hagen Finalist Spotlight: Southwest Utah Youth Center- Detention

Posted by Patricia Rafferty
May 25, 2016

Performance-based Standards (PbS) is pleased to announce Southwest Utah Youth Center- Detention (SWUYC) in Cedar City, UT as one of the finalists for the 2016 Barbara Allen-Hagen Award in the detention category. The program was selected as a finalist for their improvement plan improving their youth behavior management and recognition system.

Through extensive use of PbS Youth Climate Surveys, SWUYC realized that their level system was confusing to youth, and that this lack of understanding was contributing to a lack of connection between behavior and consequences. The original system was points-based and largely subjective. SWUYC began by examining in detail other facilities’ level systems in an effort to better understand what methods were successful and how they might be utilized. After more feedback, staff concluded that including evidence-based materials to the new rubric would be critical in fostering youth understanding and success. These additions empowered youth and enabled them to see a path to their individual successes and also encouraged staff involvement, as they provided more opportunities for one-on-one discussions with youth and the foundation for more individualized treatment strategies. Staff also solicited youth feedback on creating additional behavior-based incentives, which have been immensely beneficial in motivating SWUYC’s youth and allowing them to empower themselves to succeed.

Beth Clark, PbS Site Coordinator for SWUYC, explains the importance of having youths teach the system to new youth during facility orientation: “youth explaining the level system to each other gives them the opportunity to have a voice. Using their own words and terminology makes it easier to understand and gives youth on higher levels the ability to be leaders in the center.” She remarks that while ongoing feedback from staff and youth was necessary and welcome, the “true key to [their] success was staff working together toward a common goal.” PbS judges observed that “it may not have been intended, but [Simplifying a complex level system to enable youth to succeed] really captures the heart of "the developmental approach" in that our interventions first must be understood by youth in order to be effective!” SWUYC continues to send “a very strong message to staff, youth and family.”

The Barbara Allen-Hagen Award was established in 2007 to honor Barbara Allen-Hagen and her retirement from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP). Her dedication to improving the quality of life in facilities for young offenders has helped drive PbS to its current success. The award is given to a correction, detention/assessment and community program who best exemplify PbS’ commitment to treating all youths in custody as one of our own by developing and implementing strategic plans to change practices that results in positive outcomes for youths, staff and families.

Winners of the award will be announced the night of the ceremony on Aug. 5, 2016. Stay tuned for more blogs about the finalists.

Southwest Utah Youth Center

Youths participating in a trust activity

Descriptions of the levels are posted