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Trauma and the Environment of Care in Juvenile Institutions

NCJ Number
Sue Burrell
Date Published
August 2013
8 pages
This research brief examines the issue of trauma and the environment of care in juvenile institutions.
This research brief from the National Child Traumatic Stress Network examines the issue of trauma and the environment of care in juvenile institutions. Research has shown that a majority of justice-system involved youth have experienced trauma in some form and that many of them suffer from posttraumatic stress disorder. In addition, many of these youth are often placed in out-of-home settings, including institutional confinement. The author of this paper argues that that trauma-informed model suggests that confinement and the institutional environment should be considered traumatic events and thus counterproductive to producing a positive outcome for justice-involved youth. The author presents several issues that should be considered when developing trauma-informed practices in a juvenile justice setting. These include whether staff are sensitive and alert to a young person in distress, whether youth are informed that their needs will be recognized, whether interviews about sensitive issues will be conducted in private areas, whether searches are no more intrusive than needed, and whether youth are informed about their rights and how to register complaints. The author also addresses additional ways that youth may be re-traumatized while incarcerated, such as through the use of solitary confinement and punitive disciplinary systems. Sources for developing a trauma-informed environment are presented at the end of the paper. References