Standards for public agencies

2020 Edition

Juvenile Justice Residential Services (PA-JJR) 14: Maintaining Safety and Security

The agency maintains a safe, secure environment where youth, personnel, and the public are protected from harm.
2020 Edition




Juvenile Justice Residential Services promote public safety by providing youth with a supportive, structured setting that helps them address their needs and develop the attitudes and skills needed to make responsible choices, avoid negative behaviors, and become productive, connected, and law-abiding citizens.
Full Implementation, Outstanding Performance
A rating of (1) indicates that the agency's practices fully meet the standard and reflect a high level of capacity.  
  • All elements or requirements outlined in the standard are evident in practice, with rare or no exceptions: exceptions do not impact service quality or agency performance. 
Substantial Implementation, Good Performance
A rating of (2) indicates that an agency's infrastructure and practices are basically sound but there is room for improvement.
  • The majority of the standards requirements have been met and the basic framework required by the standard has been implemented. 
  • Minor inconsistencies and not yet fully developed practices are noted; however, these do not significantly impact service quality or agency performance.

Partial Implementation, Concerning Performance
A rating of (3) indicates that the agency's observed infrastructure and/or practices require significant improvement.  

  • The agency has not implemented the basic framework of the standard but instead has in place only part of this framework.  
  • Omissions or exceptions to the practices outlined in the standard occur regularly, or practices are implemented in a cursory or haphazard manner.  
  • Service quality or agency functioning may be compromised.  
  • Capacity is at a basic level.
Unsatisfactory Implementation or Performance
A rating of (4) indicates that implementation of the standard is minimal or there is no evidence of implementation at all.  
  • The agency’s observed service delivery infrastructure and practices are weak or non-existent; or show signs of neglect, stagnation, or deterioration.
Self-Study EvidenceOn-Site EvidenceOn-Site Activities
  • Procedures for making housing assignments
  • Procedures for conducting searches
  • Youth/personnel supervision ratios
  • Policy regarding weapons
  • Procedures for maintaining safety while youth are off-site and/or interacting with the public
  • Procedures for preventing and responding to missing and runaway youth
  • Procedures for documenting, reviewing, and reporting noncompliance
  • Procedures for ensuring safety and meeting needs when youth are locked in their rooms
  • Documentation of youth/personnel supervision ratios for the previous six months
  • Personnel coverage schedules for the previous six months
  • Interviews may include:
    1. Program director
    2. Relevant personnel
    3. Youth served and their families
  • Review case records
  • Observe program site

Fundamental Practice

PA-JJR 14.01

To promote safety within the facility, the agency considers youths’ age, size, gender and gender identity, vulnerability to victimization, offense history, and ability to adjust to a group when making housing assignments.

Fundamental Practice

PA-JJR 14.02

When it is necessary to search youth, their rooms, or their property, trained personnel do so according to procedures that:
  1. are consistent with applicable state and federal law;
  2. define when there is reasonable cause to conduct a search;
  3. minimize the invasiveness of the search;
  4. respect youths’ dignity; and
  5. establish a process and timetable for administrative review.


Agencies should conduct more invasive searches only when there is reason to do so, and should demonstrate that these searches are: (1) conducted by qualified staff, and (2) accompanied by an increased level of administrative review.

Fundamental Practice

PA-JJR 14.03

The agency provides sufficient supervision to ensure the safety of youth, personnel, and the public at all times and:
  1. personnel-to-youth supervision ratios are based on youths’ risks and needs, and generally do not exceed 1:8 during the day, and 1:16 at night; 
  2. at least two staff members are on-duty at all times;
  3. same-gender personnel are available to provide supervision and services, as needed;
  4. on-duty personnel are awake at all times; 
  5. additional personnel are available in case of emergency; and
  6. supervision ratios are adjusted accordingly when youth participate in activities away from the program site or interact with the public.
Examples: When youth participate in activities away from the program site or interact with the public, it may be advisable to have higher ratios of personnel to youth than are necessary for daily activities at the program site.

Fundamental Practice

PA-JJR 14.04

Agency policy prohibits personnel, youth, and visitors from bringing weapons into the facility.


If agency policy allows armed law enforcement officers to enter the agency’s facilities, the agency should explain: (1) under what circumstances this practice is permitted, and (2) how safety is ensured while the armed officers are on site.

Fundamental Practice

PA-JJR 14.05

When youth have opportunities to leave the facility or interact with the public, the agency maintains safety by:
  1. defining when youth are eligible for the opportunity; and
  2. evaluating youth for eligibility and appropriateness.
NA Youth do not have opportunities to leave the facility or interact with the public.
Examples: Opportunities may include, but are not limited to: home visits, community service projects, work furloughs, meetings with mentors, and trial visits to community programs.

PA-JJR 14.06

The agency establishes procedures for preventing and responding to missing and runaway youth that address:
  1. creating an environment that provides a sense of safety, support, and community;
  2. identifying risks or triggers that may indicate likeliness to run away from programs;
  3. communication and reporting to relevant staff, authorities, and parents or legal guardians; and
  4. welcoming, screening, and debriefing when youth return to the program.

PA-JJR 14.07

The agency appropriately and consistently documents, reviews, and reports incidents of youth noncompliance in accordance with any requirements specified by the court or another party with jurisdiction over youth.

Fundamental Practice

PA-JJR 14.08

Agencies that lock youth in their rooms for routine purposes:
  1. utilize this practice to maintain safety, order, and security, rather than for purposes of discipline, compliance, or convenience, or to compensate for staff shortages;
  2. do not lock youth in their rooms for excessively long time periods;
  3. ensure that using this practice does not detract from the agency’s ability to create a culture that promotes respect, healing, and positive behavior; and
  4. ensure that using this practice does not prevent youth from spending most of their waking hours engaged in meaningful and developmentally-appropriate activities.


 Some agencies lock youth in their rooms for routine purposes to maintain safety, security, and order (e.g., during sleep, or for other defined, short periods of time). Although this practice does restrict freedom of movement, it differs from the types of restrictive interventions addressed in the Behavior Support and Management Standards (PA-BSM) insofar as it is utilized on a routine, ongoing basis, rather than in response to a specific incident that poses an imminent threat to the safety of the youth or others.   
NA The agency does not lock youth in their rooms for routine purposes (e.g., during sleep periods).

Fundamental Practice

PA-JJR 14.09

To ensure youth safety in both emergency and non-emergency situations, agencies that lock youth in their rooms for routine purposes:
  1. monitor youth at least every 15 minutes while they are locked in their rooms, and monitor youth continually while they are locked in their rooms if they are at risk for suicide or self-harm;
  2. ensure that rooms are free from safety risks and hazards;
  3. provide access to food, water, and bathroom facilities, as needed;
  4. establish safety protocols and procedures that include plans for the immediate release of youth from locked areas in case of emergency; and
  5. train personnel and youth on emergency evacuation procedures.


If the agency uses a video camera to monitor youth, it should demonstrate that personnel are able to respond immediately if necessary. When youth are at risk for suicide or self-harm, video cameras should never take the place of continuous face-to-face monitoring.
NA The agency does not lock youth in their rooms for routine purposes (e.g., during sleep periods).
Note: As referenced in PA-RPM 1, the agency should conform to all applicable safety codes, including fire codes.