CPI Training Leads to Positive Outcomes at Pine Hills


May 23, 2023

Pine Hills Youth Correctional Facility is a 96-bed, secure-care program for young adults ages 10-17 in Miles City, MT. In 2012 the staff of 126 employees cared for 64 young people.

Taking Another Look at Staff Safety

Employees at Pine Hills provide attendees with year-round education that is accredited by the State Board of Public Education. Offerings include:

  • One-to-one and group counseling
  • Treatment programs for sexual offenders and chemical dependency
  • Spiritual activities
  • Daily recreation
  • Life skills and work restitution programs
  • And more

In May of 2010, the American Correctional Association Commission on Accreditation for Corrections Standards Compliance conducted a reaccreditation audit at Pine Hills. Pine Hills received a 100% compliance rating score.

That same year, however, there were 48 staff workers’ compensation injury claims and a three-year average workers’ compensation claim rate of 73 per year. Most of the claims were the result of direct staff physical intervention to control a difficult situation.

Clearly there was a situation that needed to be addressed despite the 100% compliance rating score.

Case Study: Pine Hills Youth Correctional Facility

View the results that Pine Hills experienced after shifting the focus of their CPI training.

View case study

To identify the issue, Pine Hills became a member of Performance-Based Standards for Youth Correctional Facilities. This program provides a system for juvenile agencies to identify and monitor critical areas of performance and to demonstrate effectiveness using the highest national standards and performance outcome measures set by the Council of Juvenile Correctional Administrators.

Identifying Key Areas of Growth for Young Adult Success

Pine Hills focused on key critical outcome measures, one of which was the frequency of using force to control youth’s behavior.

A key discovery was that while Pine Hill had for many years trained staff in Nonviolent Crisis Intervention® training, they were not fully implementing the philosophy of Care, Welfare, Safety, and SecuritySM to staff members and those in their care.

“For years we subscribed to the Nonviolent Crisis Intervention® training, but we didn’t fully use everything the training gave us,” explained Jeffery Holland, Quality Assurance Manager for the facility. “Our primary focus was the physical elements of the program.”

Staff often refrained from any attempts at verbal intervention because they felt a need to impose their authority. Instead, rapid use of physical interventions was used—even in cases of minor incidents or noncompliance.

The overt use of force was the root cause of the high workers’ compensation claims.

Emphasizing a Safer Approach to De-escalation with CPI Training

Seeing this data, Holland knew something needed to be done.

“Our biggest challenge was to figure out how to get the training from the classroom to the dayroom,” shared Holland.

Staff needed more than just a refresher course, they needed to make a cultural shift that emphasized the Care, Welfare, Safety, and SecuritySM of individuals over a fast resolution to disruptive situations.

With the support of the Youth Services Director, Pine Hills selected six staff members to become Certified Instructors. To ensure effective delivery of training, staff were selected from a variety of departments including line staff, frontline supervisors, and managers.

In the months following, all direct care facility staff and supervisors received training. For most, this was a repeat presentation, but there was a far heavier focus on forming professional relationships with the people they serve, focusing on how to employ safe verbal de-escalation techniques.

That’s not all.

  • Staff reviewed key training concepts during monthly staff meetings.
  • Instructors visited housing units weekly during shift changes to discuss successes/growth points and to answer staff questions.
  • Instructor groups also conducted after-action reviews following any event that resulted in a use of force and provided coaching to staff as needed.

Roughly six months later, the process was expanded by training two additional staff to become certified to train the Enhanced Verbal Skills: Applications of Life Space Crisis InterventionSM program.

A Positive Culture Shift at Pine Hills

The positive Culture shift at Pine Hills wasn’t immediate. Holland shares how, “There was considerable concern from staff that this ‘new way’ was not safe for staff or youth. But through the cynicism and resistance we continued with our efforts demonstrating to staff the concept of Care, Welfare, Safety, and SecuritySM was important to us.”

“Gradually it became important to all staff and no longer was there merely the black and white, compliant and noncompliant view of youth behavior. There were recognizable shades of grey. Staff now had the ability to distinguish these shades and intervene accordingly, with tangible benefits to youth and staff.”

By changing attitudes, and focusing on training additional verbal intervention techniques, staff at Pine Hills Youth Corrections Facility were able to promote significant changes in culture.

After a year, the changes at Pine Hills were clear:

  • 80% decrease in staff injuries compared to the average over the last three years.
  • Workers’ compensation liability from staff injury claims decreased 90.5%
  • Frequency of all youth Majority Rule Violations decreased 48%
  • Frequency of the use of force decreased by 87%

Holland said he was proud of the way the new approach to training has impacted culture. He nominated his entire CPI Certified Instructor team for the Montana Governor’s Award for Excellence in Performance. The team was selected to receive the award.

Originally published in the Journal of Safe Management of Disruptive and Assaultive Behavior, Fall 2013. © 2013 CPI. Certified Instructors, log in to read more JSM articles.

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