Good facility design for juvenile detention should have as its core value the creation of spaces that will provide for effective intervention in the lives of youth. A design guideline published by NAATAP (Native American and Alaskan Technical Assistance Project), outlines the process; from programming needs-analysis, to space planning, to the careful selection of furnishings.

The Guideline points out some specific programming and design attributes that are particularly relevant for tribal cultures, but aside from those references this document is  predominately focused on explaining how juvenile facilities should be designed differently than adult detention facilities in order to produce more positive outcomes, and hopefully avoid escalation to more restrictive and costlier environments.   

A section of the report goes into some detail about the importance of designing-in normative environments for juvenile populations as means of prompting resident cooperation and to prepare youth for a return to community living. Normative environments are marked by the following type of physical features:

  • movable furnishings that permit changing use of space throughout the day and over time while offering some control over the environment;*
  • sound absorbing materials that mitigate the often disruptive and disturbing noise usually generated by youthful populations living together;*
  • open interior spaces, views to the outside, and natural lighting that reduce perceptions of crowding;
  • ready access to outdoor spaces from housing and program areas so that the sense of confinement is minimized while program options are expanded;
  • light colors, decorative accents and changing decorations that contribute to spatial openness, add visual variety and permit some sense of personalization;
  • spatial variety throughout the day, with changing spatial scale and shapes that reflect those normally encountered in daily experience;
  • familiar and variable construction materials that present no overt expectation of damaging behavior, often a self-fulfilling prophecy; and
  • access to varying program activities at all times with appropriate space for residents to engage in satisfying formal and casual pursuits through daytime and evening hours so that residents and staff have options and no unproductive down time.

Please be sure to share this blog with others who are interested in facility design and various design guidelines in creating a pleasant atmosphere for all intense environments.