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Locking Up the Problem (From Reforming Juvenile Justice: Reasons and Strategies for the 21st Century, 1998, P 94-103, Dan Macallair and Vincent Schiraldi, eds. -- See NCJ-181359)

NCJ Number
Michael A. Kroll
Date Published
10 pages
The prevailing juvenile justice policy of incarceration rather than rehabilitation has led to the incarceration of nearly 9,000 youths ages 12-25 years in California Youth Authority (CYA) facilities, an emphasis on control and regimentation, minimal treatment programs, and extensive gang activity and fighting in the overcrowded facilities.
The number of CYA wards has increased by 202 percent in the past 10 years. One correctional administrator comments that the CYA wards have all experienced some form of abuse. California's juvenile incarceration of 430 per 100,000 is the highest in the country. The State now spends more than $25,000 each year for each incarcerated child. State training schools now house populations that exceed their designed capacity by more than 50 percent. The parole board came under the direct control of the governor in 1980 and has systematically increased the average length of stay from 13.5 months to 19.7 months. Youth in the correctional facilities regularly experience gangs, sexual pressure, and violence. Crowding also negatively affects the correctional personnel, who experience depression, fatigue, and physical illness. Overcrowding also jeopardizes the few rehabilitation and therapy programs that struggle to survive. Other States experiencing the same crisis have shortened juvenile sentences, but the CYA has proposed more facility construction. CYA officials state that elected officials will not change the policies until the public demands it; a class action lawsuit could achieve this result. Another State's corrections official comments that youthful offenders need respect and the decent use of power and not the indecent handling and brutality that only confirm their negative attitudes.