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New report, same problems: DJF's prolonged progress

Last week, just prior to the Farrell hearing, the Office of the Special Master released the 18th report documenting DJF's efforts to comply with the remedial plans' minimum standards of care.  It covers the following:


"¢ Ventura Youth Correctional Facility (VYCF) audit
"¢ Sexual Behavior Treatment Program (SBTP) update
"¢ Integrated Behavioral Treatment Model (IBTM)
"¢ 'Use-of-force' report
"¢ Closure of Preston Youth Correctional Facility

In her report, Special Master Campbell consistently commends DJF for reaching substantial compliance in initial areas such as developing plans, monitoring tools, and program subcommittees, and follows by emphasizing the lack of necessary agency-wide understanding to bring about the intended reforms.  Campbell reports "while progress is being made in implementing the [Safety and Welfare] remedial plan's prescribed action steps, it is unclear whether sufficient progress has been made to reduce fear and violence to levels that support rehabilitative efforts," which is the entire goal of the lawsuit.   In the 17th Report of the Special Master (March 2011), aspects of the Safety and Welfare Remedial plan found in 75% substantial compliance, were largely steps necessary in order to prepare for implementation.  During last week's Farrell hearing, the Honorable Judge Tigar felt it necessary to comment on the entire method for achieving compliance, after having requested a new measurement metric for the past four years.  "It doesn't help the court to tell me DJJ is in 80% compliance until items are weighted.  The number 80%, 20%, or 1% might make for good internal memos...but it doesn't help the court."  

Additionally, the recently released 'use-of-force' report documents a noticeably disproportionate percentage of cases in which use-of-force was used towards youth with disabilities or mental health designations and female youth.  In addition, the use of chemical agents (such as pepper spray), was used excessively and unnecessarily, which should only be used as a last resort (18% of all use-of-force cases).  Campbell, in agreement with recommendations made by the Safety and Welfare court experts, calls for the prohibition of the use chemical agents in use-of-force incidents involving a single youth and involving female youth.

Campbell stresses the importance of ingraining the philosophy of the IBTM  into the staffs' minds, which first requires a cultural shift at the management level.  Ultimately, achieving compliance cannot be the determining factor in reaching true reform because "without a deeper understanding of effective behavioral management strategies, there will continue to be vast discrepancies between how programs...are implemented compared to how they are designed." 

As the newest Special Master, Campbell writes with an increased sense of urgency and concludes the report with thirteen recommendations for DJF.   CJCJ has been monitoring reports by the Special Master since 2004 and one would think after eighteen reports issues of use-of-force and educational services would have been alleviated, but DJF continues to progress at a painstaking rate.  In the meantime, youth will continue to be subject to unhealthy, under-programmed, and unsafe conditions in DJF until the Farrell case is closed.


~ Emily Luhrs
Sentencing Service Program Case Specialist

Keywords: DJF/DJJ, Emily Luhrs, Farrell

Posted in Blog, Juvenile Justice, Correctional Institutions

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