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"Dehumanizing" treatment of wards at DJF facilities continues

After eight years of ongoing attempts to bring California's Department of Juvenile Facilities (DJF) up to constitutional requirements, the "DJJ continues to deprive youth of fundamental rights guaranteed them by State law and this Court's orders."  The most recent document from the Farrell Litigation emphasizes that there are no longer viable excuses as to why these reforms have still not occurred.   The Prison Law Office is set to hold the defendant [Matthew Cate, CDCR Secretary] in contempt of court.  On June 1, 2011, it filed a motion claiming the defendant has been well aware of the Court's orders and has the capability and resources to follow them; however, he has continued to exercise "willful disobedience" in complying with this order. 

Ventura Youth Correctional Facility provides the most striking evidence of DJF's failure to provide adequate care to its wards.  The motion emphasizes current severe deficiencies in the areas of education and isolation of wards.  For example, while wards are required 8 hours of structured out-of-cell time per day with at least 4 hours per day devoted to educational programming; currently, isolated youth are receiving minimal out-of-cell time in areas equal in size or smaller than their cell.  The motion demonstrates the State's continued failure to provide adequate programming and rehabilitative services to youth in their custody.  The motion further highlights:

Education


~A 62% teaching staff vacancy rate at Ventura with 12% of all classes cancelled, due to their reliance on substitute teachers.  DJJ has the capacity to hire new teachers but has not done so.

~Youth on restricted programs (those not housed within the general population due to behavioral issues) are taught in "closets, showers, store rooms, and kitchen and dining spaces, or simply denied school."

Isolation 

~Youth on restricted programs received between 40 -78 minutes out-of-cell time per day.

~In January, there were 184 youth (75% of all youth at the facility) in temporary isolation programs, all of whom received an average of 40 minutes per day out of their cells.  Staff explained, programming is administered to this population, "when time permits." 

~Youth on PCP status (Program Change Protocol) were locked in total isolation for 24-hours per day without any schooling, family visits, or phone calls for up to 20 days.

~Between January 16, 2011 and April 20, 2011, there were 249 incidents of youth in all DJF institutions in isolation for at least 21 hours per day.  There were additional undocumented incidences of youth held in their cell for 18-20 hours per day. 

Experts uncovered similar conditions in 2003 during the beginning stages of the Farrell litigation.  Despite contending in 2008 that DJF "possessed the planning and management capabilities to set appropriate deadlines" and proposing a timeframe that was adopted by the Court, DJF has failed to meet its own deadlines by more than two years. 

With the most recent DJF closure of Preston Youth Correctional Facility last week, only 4 of the 11 original facilities remain, further demonstrating California's shrinking reliance on the dual system.  CJCJ's Dan Macallair emphasized the importance of the Governor's realignment on a recent KCBS radio show.  

Details of this motion are also highlighted in a recent article in The Bay Citizen.

~Emily Luhrs
Sentencing Service Program Case Specialist

Keywords: DJF/DJJ, Emily Luhrs, Farrell

Posted in Blog, Juvenile Justice, Correctional Institutions

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