Lawmaker Calls for Youth Prison Shutdown
A California lawmaker wants to shutdown California's troubled juvenile detention facilities, instead sending young offenders back to their home counties for education and treatment. Assem. Sally Lieber, D-Mountain View, introduced legislation this week that would essentially close California's Division of Juvenile Justice.
"It's a very dramatic step, and I think one that is really needed," Lieber said. "The conditions in the Division of Juvenile Justice are absolutely deplorable."
Lieber's legislation, AB 1655, follows a new State Inspector General's report that says the Division of Juvenile Justice has failed to make substantial improvements in its Chino facility. The division is under a court order to upgrade its facilities statewide and improve conditions for youth wards.
The State Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has created a six-point plan to implement the changes, but says it will take time to restructure a trouble plagued system.
"We've been very upfront with people," said CDCR spokesman Bill Sessa. "It didn't get like this overnight, we can't fix it overnight. But we know we can fix it if we have about four years," he said.
Lieber's proposal would shift juvenile inmates to smaller, community-based facilities, a correctional model that has proven effective in other states. Gov. Schwarzenegger's budget proposal also moves toward that goal. He wants to send about 1,300 offenders in state facilities back to smaller detention centers near their homes.
"What we are really trying to do is create a system where most wards will be treated at the local level," Sessa said. "Only the wards that require the most intensive treatment would end up in the state system," he added.
California restructured its juvenile correctional system in 2005, changing the name from the California Youth Authority to the Division of Juvenile Justice.
Sessa said the corrections department has not taken a formal position on Lieber's bill.