Juvenile Implementation Features

Implementation Features

The implementation of PBIS in secure care facilities is very similar to that in public schools. The differences involve convincing administrators and staff that a positive approach to addressing behavior and taking into account the unique milieu in which PBIS operates. If you are thinking about PBIS in your setting, consider these arguments for it:

  • Effective and efficient alternative to harsh, inconsistent, and ineffective disciplinary methods in public schools
  • Discipline in many juvenile justice facilities is often harsh and harmful (punishment mentality, inconsistency among staff)
  • Decisions about disciplinary not linked to data on youth behavior

Of course, it also is important to recognize the features of secure care settings that affect implementation. Here are several; you may think of others specific to your institution:

  • 24-hour day
  • Multiple programs in a facility
  • Multidisciplinary staff
  • Primary focus is security
  • Education personnel not in charge of discipline
  • Decisions re: youth behavior aren't data-driven

To clarify the differences between PBIS in public schools and in secure care settings, it may help to examine the systems within each. Public schools systems have these features:

On the other hand, secure care settings include these features:


One way to approach implementation in such complex settings is to do it within a single program. Because most of the experience and expertise in PBIS is in schools, most facilities have begun implementation with the education program, with the goal of expanding to other programs after demonstrating success in the education program. Regardless of where you begin, the best advice is to follow the process that has worked with SWPBIS:

  • Establish a leadership team
  • Secure administrator support
  • Secure a commitment from at least 80% of the staff
  • Conduct self assessment
  • Create an implementation action plan
  • Regularly collect and analyze data
  • Use data to make decisions
  • Evaluate impact
  • Program for sustainability

And not surprisingly, the key elements of PBIS are the same in secure care settings:

  • Clear expectations and procedures for teaching
  • Continuum of procedures for:
    • encouraging expected behavior
    • discouraging misbehavior
  • Procedures for:
    • on-going monitoring and evaluation
    • data-based decision making
    • sustaining implementation fidelity

And within the scope of the implementation effort, these points are critical:

  • A consistent set of rules for youth behavior
  • Consistent routines, especially for problem areas
  • Alter physical arrangements associated with problem areas

From here, the next steps are:

  • Teach expectations to youth
  • Clarify behaviors that should be reported to foocie ro security vs. Behaviors to be addressed in classroom or program settings
  • Identify meaningful behavior data
    • What do want to know?
  • Develop systematic way to report and review the data

And speaking of data (don’t we always?), the process of using data to make adjustments in PBIS implementation is different in secure care settings. For one thing, most juvenile facilities use behavior reports (BRs) to monitor discipline problems. These points may facilitate planning:

  • How many BRs occur
    • Per day?
    • Per week?
    • Per month?
  • Where do behavior problems occur?
    • Location
    • Time of day
    • Activity
  • How are incidents distributed among youth?
  • What is the frequency per day of administrative/disciplinary segregation?
  • How are patterns of disciplinary action distributed among youth?

just as in SWPBIS, we need to plan implementation across all three levels of prevention:


Of course, there are some obstacles that are unique to secure care facilities. But we like to think of these not just as obstacles, but also opportunities, because they present challenges for team-based planning and problem solving. This is a partial list that your team may find needs to be expanded:

  • Belief that incarceration shouldn't be "positive"
  • Use of complex, multi-level "treatment" curricula
  • Failure to systematically collect or use behavior data for decision-making
  • Lack of staff communication across disciplines - no mandate or precedent
  • Staff turnover
  • Youth turnover
  • Lack of time for training, collaboration
  • Disproportionate number of youth with disabilities, lacking literacy skills, significant mental health problems (30-75%)

So you may be asking, “Is PBIS effective? Does it work in secure care?” The answer of course depends on how well its implemented, and that in turn depends on such factors as staff buy-in and training, consistency, and administrative support. Go to the Related Tools link on this page to access the resources that have been developed to aid implementation in secure care settings.  You can also visit the Case Examples link to get information about the results of implementation in several programs. But in closing, here are some data from the Illinois Youth Center-Harrisburg that we hope will pique your interest: