Design Guidelines for Youth Justice facilities

Design Guide.
Small-scale local facilities

There is a strong evidence base which informs how youth justice facilities should be designed to improve outcomes for justice-involved young people in custody, improve the working conditions for Youth Justice staff, and improve public safety through reducing the risk of reoffending.
The physical environment of a facility greatly impacts the procedures within a youth justice environment, the relationships between staff and young people, and ultimately a young person’s prospects of rehabilitation and community safety.

Our Design Guide outlines a scheme for a new architectural model for youth justice facilities in Victoria. It aims to make good design principles concrete, so that the designs of future facilities might have the benefit of a best-practice evidence base.

Key Principles

According to the evidence of what works in addressing a young person’s offending behaviour, to reduce the risk of reoffending it is key that facilities are: small-scale, integrated in the local community, therapeutic and capable of differentiated security.

Design principles

Approximately 8-beds in size, allowing staff to develop meaningful relationships with young people, to understand the individual motivations, risks, needs, skills and strengths of each young person, and to modify their role and behaviour based on this knowledge.


Sited close to the young person’s community to support accessibility and allow the strengthening of protective factors, including school, family, and prosocial connections. 

Differentiated and
Relational Security

Promoting approaches that encourage a therapeutic relationship between staff and young people, with measures that are adaptable to individual dynamic risks and needs, and goals, with a preference for semi-open settings.


A healthy and home-like environment, designed to reduce stress, aggressive and harmful behaviours, and promote overall wellbeing and mental health.

Benefits to the Youth Justice system and the community

The Design Guide provides for facilities capable of individually tailored and place-based responses, aligned with current best practice in reducing the risk of reoffending.

Implementing this model for facility design can contribute to the safety of young people and staff, reducing the risk of reoffending, addressing mental health needs, and addressing the number of young people on remand.
A small-scale local model for justice facilities provides the government with rapid flexibility to meet changing needs, while greatly reducing capital expenditure. Operational costs per person can be expected to be similar to current facilities, while outcomes and staff satisfaction can be expected to improve.