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Juvenile Justice Services redesigns visiting areas to welcome family involvement

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Division of Juvenile Justice Services recently redesigned its lobbies and visiting areas to provide a more welcoming, family-friendly atmosphere.

According to the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, removing a child from the home, even for a short time, is traumatic. The whole experience can be frightening and disorienting when entering a correctional institution. Youths are deprived of family, friends and their home environment.

Lobbies in Juvenile Justice Services facilities have been furnished to more closely reflect a home environment by providing comfortable, shared spaces for families and small children to wait, and by improving the overall safety and visibility of the setting. In addition, the institutional feel of the lobbies has been reduced by painting walls with colors that are more conducive to calming behavior.

Some of the upgrades include round tables and chairs in the visiting rooms at the Split Mountain Youth Center so families can sit around a table instead of across from each other; cartoons and a chalkboard on the wall in a visiting room at the Wasatch Youth Center so children can draw while they visit a parent in Juvenile Justice Services custody; and play areas in the visiting rooms at the Decker Lake and Mill Creek youth centers.

Facilities have created peace gardens, improved courtyards and designed comfort rooms to produce a more calming and relaxing environment. Likewise, living spaces inside secure facilities have been arranged for a home-like feel.

The changes have served not only to involve families in the process but also to better help youths modify behaviors in a more positive manner through evidence-based programs.