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DJJ Reports Steep Decline in Physical Restraint of Youth

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Tallahassee, Fla. -- A commitment by the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) to using a hands-free approach with youth has led to a dramatic drop in the use of physical restraint techniques in the agency’s residential facilities. In the past two years, use of physical techniques during conflict situations decreased 41.6 percent.

"I am proud of the residential programs that have contributed to this accomplishment," said DJJ Secretary Wansley Walters. "This data shows that facilities are adopting the best practices in behavioral management."

More than half of DJJ residential programs decreased or eliminated use of physical techniques in the past year. Youth and staff from those programs subsequently reported that they feel safer. The drop in use of physical restraint corresponds with an increase in education and training of employees to promote a restraint-free environment.

"Youth in our care often have pre-existing traumatic experiences and fundamental gaps in their socialization skills," said Walters. "Physical restraint should be used as a last resort and when the youth demonstrates an immediate threat to safety. Obtaining control by physically restraining them can interrupt or delay their treatment. Talking with angry or non-compliant youth in a firm, calm manner often defuses volatile situations and encourages them to develop self-control."

DJJ developed and implemented the Effective Behavior Management curriculum to assist commitment programs adhere to nationally recognized juvenile justice best practices. A key component of an effective system is positive reinforcement of appropriate behaviors. Other elements are:

  • a clearly articulated behavior management system that both youth and staff understand
  • defined, logical consequences for rule infraction
  • comprehensive staff training including effective communication strategies and motivational interviewing
  • monitoring staff interaction with youth for compliance with the system

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