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Meaningful treatment cannot happen behind razor wire.

On September 14, 2010, CJCJ staff visited the O.H. Close and N.A. Chaderjian Youth Correctional Facilities operated by CDCR's Division of Juvenile Facilities.  Our party of six was accompanied through the facilities by over fifteen DJF staff members comprising all levels of DJF personnel.  This presented us with a unique opportunity to examine DJF's progress in providing rehabilitative treatment and care at various levels of the institutional system.  We are deeply grateful for the opportunity to visit the facilities and for the efforts made by DJF staff to respond fully to all of our inquiries.

I was particularly eager to visit N.A. Chaderjian Youth Correctional Facility (Chad) as it houses all of the mental health treatment programs in DJF.  As CJCJ staff has previously , progress in the mental health area of Farrell reforms has been excruciatingly slow since the Remedial Plan was filed on August 25, 2006.  While DJF facility staff may be committed to improving the lives of the youth they serve, as Dr. Krisberg noted, "Therapy behind 'razor wire' has not proven to be an effective method of reducing recidivism..." 

Chad was built in 1991 using a 270 degree adult correctional model of architecture.  The facility is split into 12 prison-block units each comprising two tiers of cells that all face toward the correctional officers station.  The units are barren and gloomy with very little light available through the narrow windows.   Therapists walk through the unit donning stab-proof vests and officers interact with the wards through panels in the cell doors.  Like all DJF facilities, Chad is struggling to find appropriate clinical space in which to conduct their mental health programming.  Recently constructed temporary outbuildings serve as clinical space for larger groups, while smaller and individual sessions take place in staff offices.  A small office pointed out as a mental health group therapy location featured two leaks in the ceiling and a large open garbage can in the center of the room collecting the steadily dripping water.

Currently there are 16 full-time clinical positions at Chad, 3 of which are still vacant.  Due to budget cuts DJF has experienced impediments to staff recruitment and retention.  As such, group therapy sessions designed to be facilitated by a clinician with the aid of a Youth Correctional Counselor (YCC) are sometimes facilitated by a lone YCC without clinical training.  Moreover, staff informed us that much of the mental health programming and curricula remains unchanged. 

While staff at Chad impressed me with their desire to provide services to the wards in their care, Chad's mental health programming is conducted in a punitive, "razor wire" setting, without appropriate resources, adequate clinical space, or any semblance of a therapeutic environment.

~Selena Teji

Sentencing Service Program Case Specialist

Keywords: CYA, DJF/DJJ, Farrell, Selena Teji, youth

Posted in Blog, Correctional Institutions, Juvenile Justice

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