Sacramento County Probation Creates First-of-its-Kind Program for Youth
Sacramento Probation's multi-sensory de-escalation room increases safety for youth


Sacramento County’s multi-sensory de-escalation room is the first of its kind in a juvenile detention facility in the United States. This innovation creates a safe, trauma-informed environment that allows residents to de-escalate without use of force or an isolation room, which helps prevent violence and increases safety. This program is a 2018 California Association of Counties (CSAC) Challenge Award-winning program. CSAC Challenge Awards spotlight the most innovative programs in California Counties.

The Youth Detention Facility actually has two de-escalation rooms that provide a safe environment allowing the residents to calm down and regulate their feelings. The youth learn to regulate their feelings and temper, a skill that will serve them well when they are back in the community. 

Commonly when a youth in a secured setting is exhibiting dysregulated behavior staff must rely on an external form of control outside of themselves to suppress their behavior.  

To better address the needs of youth, Sacramento Probation transformed an empty dormitory in a housing unit and an additional space in the facility to create two Multi-sensory De-escalation Rooms (MSDR). 

The MSDRs provides a non-threatening space designed for supportive engagement and non-adversarial interaction between the residents and staff. The walls are painted with visually stimulating murals and stocked with a variety of manipulatives designed to engage all of the senses and stimulate gross motor, fine motor and cognitive skills.  

Through an assessment process, the MSDR is used proactively to develop self-regulation skills through sensory activities or it can be used responsively as an area for residents experiencing dysregulated behavior to safely regain control of their behavior and emotions.  

The MSDR is based on applied brain research, child development and occupational therapy and has been utilized by occupational therapists in psychiatric facilities since 1975. 

The MSDR encourages the youth to interact with staff and the environment as a way of de-escalating their behavior. A youth’s ability to use available resources in the environment to calm their emotions with staff engagement is a critical step in the process of learning self-regulation.  Because of the soothing environment, the MSDR can be experienced positively by the youth as a resource. 

To learn more about Sacramento Probation’s MSDR watch this video created by the California Association of Counties to highlight the program as one of their 2018 Challenge Award recipients!