Emerging positive signs that trauma informed treatment interventions being used in youth facilities in US, Netherlands and Norway are reducing recidivism and restraints and improving outcomes for young people in custody

Mr Murray Robinson1

1Department Of Justice And Community Safety, Australia

Evidence suggests that young people in detention have experienced traumatic events in their childhood. As a corollary, these young people develop maladaptive coping and self-protecting behaviours. It is these behaviours which bring them to the attention of authorities and then into youth justice.

There are emerging positive signs that trauma informed treatment interventions being used in US secure facilities are addressing these behaviours and in turn are reducing the numbers of restraints, seclusions and levels of recidivism. The models need to be operated by qualified, pedagogical and supported teams who also work in ‘open climate’ units, characterised by mutual respect and participatory decision-making. The unit itself becomes the therapeutic milieu. Operations of these treatment teams are supported by on site clinicians and driven by inspirational transformational leaders.

The aim of this paper is to present an overview of best practice which were explored in selected facilities in Norway, the Netherlands and the United States. The full details are detailed in the findings of the Churchill Fellowship: https://www.churchilltrust.com.au/fellows/detail/4069/Murray+Robinson

These findings are informing the development of the operating models for youth justice facilities in a number of jurisdictions.  Through the fellowship, Professor Peer van der Helm sent a team of clinicians to provide training to youth justice workers on the units in Victoria’s facilities. The findings will be referenced from the unpublished paper Group Climate and work climate research in Victorian Youth Justice Centre. A joint research report: University of Applied Sciences Leiden (The Netherlands).


Murray Robinson is a qualified Social Worker who has a Masters in Accounting and an honours Social Sciences Arts degree. He is a Williamson (2006) and Churchill Fellow (2015).

He has worked in Youth Justice for over 15 years in various roles. He has been a General Manager of one of Victoria’s facilities, was the Director of Youth Justice Custodial Services for almost two years and acted as Director for the Youth Justice Policy and Community Services Branch on numerous occasions. Before starting in his current role in February 2018, he was the manager of Client Services for Youth Justice Custodial Services. He is now the General Manager of the Youth Parole Board Secretariat.

Murray began his social work career as a child protection worker before spending five years working in England in child protection, fostering and adoption. He also spent a sabbatical year working as a regional manager in MacKillop Family Services and worked for the European Union undertaking services development work in Lithuania in closing down Soviet orphanages for children in out of home care.