Aligning the Juvenile Built Environment with Treatment Goals
The number of youth convicted and in custody today has decreased by an estimated 41% over the past 20 years, and that’s a good thing. Most agencies agree that youth respond best to corrective intervention in community-based programs while remaining in their family home. When this intervention fails to achieve desired results, community-based programs including housing present a second tier option. If the individual fails to respond even in these programs, then they may face intervention that is more intensive in a corrections/detention facility.
The planning and design of these new facilities focus on positive outcomes by providing in-custody youth with appropriate housing and program space within a normative environment. The goal is not only to reduce stress, but also to avoid “institutionalizing” youth by dictating decisions and activities, rather than equipping them to make better decisions in the future. The more defined the treatment goals of the youth agency, the more specifically the design will respond to those goals.
In the case of the Oregon Youth Authority, they identified a treatment method known as Positive Human Development (PHD). The focus of PHD is to create constructive positive connections and participation: youth to youth, youth to staff, youth to community and staff to community. As the positive relationships grow, youth become more accountable and engage with others based on high expectations. Specific approaches and programs within this model include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Collaborative Problem-Solving, Dialectical Behavior Therapy, Effective Practices in Community Supervision and Trauma-Informed Care.
To meet the goals of PHD, the design of the space works to improve outcomes for youth, reduce future victimization and maximize use of resources. These design elements include a campus layout that supports operational requirements for staff observation of youth, appropriate use of materials that contribute to youth safety, exterior landscape area zoning provides a layered approach to transition from private to public areas, connections to nature, private enclosed courtyard space allowing youth to connect with nature and the outdoor environment.
Exterior and interior design feels “normative” by using materials, furnishings and layout of spaces that communicates a comfortable environment while still providing the appropriate level of safety and security.
Working together with agencies and communities, the goal is to restore at-risk youth to the community by elevating their experience within these facilities, giving them the resources they need to become confident, contributing members of society.