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California Must Better Protect the Health and Safety of Youth in Juvenile Halls

Advocates are calling for the state of California to implement rules that guarantee safety for young people confined in juvenile halls and camps, allow them to see their loved ones, and afford them basic protections in recognition of their fundamental humanity.

Right now, California is deciding how, and in some cases whether, to afford youth such protections. The state is revising the Titles 15 and 24 minimum standards for over 100 county juvenile justice facilities across the state. These regulations are meant to protect young people, as they detail basic conditions related to daily life, safety, and facility conditions.

Juvenile justice advocates and work group members

While the Title 15 and 24 regulations have been traditionally enforced as the minimum rules necessary to prevent youth from harming themselves or others, these standards have often failed to incorporate juvenile best practices, research, trauma-informed approaches. However, these approaches are necessary to improve physical and mental health for young people, reduce in-custody violence, and strengthen a young person’s connection to their community. Yet the current standards often fail to recognize our youth’s humanity. For example, the regulations currently allow for youth to be issued used underwear — facilities are not mandated to provide them with new underwear or allow youth to bring their personal clothing.

A powerful state agency, the Board of State and Community Corrections (BSCC), is currently convening meetings to revise these standards. The public needs to let these decision-makers know that California’s regulations must reflect the voices of justice-involved youth and their communities, with a focus on support, protection, and services.

Earlier this year, approximately 80 youth shared their experiences in California’s juvenile justice system through an online survey. One person told of the ongoing challenges relating to clothing:

 “In regards to the clothing, it was deplorable and the distribution methods for the clothing was just unbelievable. The underwear were stained, the shirts had holes, and the socks were always torn.”

The respondents also highlighted issues with limited access to hygiene products, insufficient bedding, and use of pepper spray by staff against youth. Young people also requested an expansion of in-person visitation and communication with their loved ones, greater availability for recreation, and access to clean underwear. State regulations must incorporate these youth voices and establish strong standards that protect youth from trauma and incorporate nationally recognized best practices.

As part of the revisions process, the BSCC is convening workgroups focused on specific issue areas. It is crucial that people who have been directly impacted by California’s juvenile justice get involved in this process because, despite strong input from youth and advocates, reasonable revisions face opposition. For example, there is some resistance to updating the regulations so young people will have access to new individual underwear. On June 7th, the “Environmental Health” work group met to discuss clothing and the majority of work group members decided against offering youth new underwear due to concerns about logistics and laundry operations. If the BSCC accepts this recommendation, youth will continue to share underwear with others despite concerns about hygiene, health, and treating young people, particularly girls, with dignity.


How to Get Involved

Individuals can submit public comment letters to BSCC Deputy Director Allison Ganter (allison.ganter@bscc.ca.gov) who is overseeing this process. This public comment can give specific suggestions about what should be improved about California’s county juvenile facilities and the reasons why the suggested change is important.

In addition, the public can attend these work group meetings, which will be held at the BSCC’s Sacramento office (2590 Venture Oaks Way, Suite 200, Sacramento, CA 95833) throughout June.

  • June 7 Nutrition (e.g. diet, frequency of meals); 
  • June 7 Environmental Health (e.g. clothing, hygiene, bedding); 
  • June 13-14 Programs (e.g. recreation, extracurriculars, visitation, possible internet access);
  • June 13-14 Medical/Mental Health (e.g. assessment, access to treatment, medications, transition planning); 
  • June 19-20 Education (e.g. post-secondary options, discipline, school transition planning); 
  • June 19-20 Physical Plant (e.g. design of cells, size of living units, toilets/showers, lighting). 
  • June 21-23 Classification, Segregation and Discipline (e.g. solitary confinement, use of force);
  • June 26-28 Administration & Staffing (e.g. staff ratios, training, suicide prevention); 

For more information about how to get involved and to learn more about ongoing developments with this regulations process, please reach out to CJCJ’s Communications and Policy Analyst, Erica Webster (ewebster@cjcj.org).

See background material from our prior webinar on the regulations process >>


Keywords: Board of State and Community Corrections, Brian Goldstein, BSCC, conditions of confinement, juvenile facility, juvenile halls, Juvenile justice, Title 15 and 24, trauma-informed care

Posted in Blog, Juvenile Justice

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