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Lifting Up Direct Experience and Voices

CJCJ is devoted to collecting the stories and primary documents of individuals who were held in California’s state youth correctional facilities, known historically as houses of reform,” industrial schools,” training schools”, the California Youth Authority (CYA), and the Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ), to name a few iterations. While titles and departments changed, what was always present in these institutions was extreme violence, neglect, and abuse. These histories must not be hidden or forgotten as the damage inflicted was long lasting and is still present.

For decades, CJCJ has helped advocate and organize for the closure of these state youth facilities. We have also been called to testify across the state on the atrocities in these institutions. You can read our extensive reporting here and look at our collected data over the years here. In all of our work, we have lifted up the voices of those with direct experience in these institutions. No one can better tell the story of California’s youth prisons — or highlight the need for accountability and repair — than those directly affected by the system’s brutality. This page centers and elevates the voices, experiences, and photos of individuals who were held in these facilities across more than a century. 

We share these collected items to further greater understanding and foster information sharing on these historically damaging institutions,

If you would like to share your experience with us please reach out to us at cjcjmedia@​cjcj.​org

Video from CJCJ interview with Gonzalo Juan Curiel on his time spent confined at the California Youth Authority.

Photo taken day of interview with Raymond Aguilar on his time spent at California Youth Authority.

Printed Materials

Below is where we will share op-eds and other written materials from individuals who were held at the California Youth Authority or the Department of Juvenile Justice. 

Youth Solitary Confinement Harms Mental Health, Rehabilitation (2023) this op-ed Teen Vogue piece was written by Sergio Cuevas on his time spent in solitary confinement as a young person. 

Youth Solitary Confinement Harms Mental Health — Teen Vogue piece

Film & Documentaries

During its history, the state has allowed cameras into their juvenile correctional facilities, always with serious concerns and human rights abuses noted. Here, we lift up documentaries and/​or films on this history. While we are not formally affiliated with these films, they are important historical materials to lift up.

Tattooed Tears (1979) documentary directed by Nick Broomfield
An intimate, hands on encounter with a maximum security juvenile correctional facility in Chino California.

First person narratives

Here we lift up YouTube channels and/​or self-produced media on the subject of time spent inside of either CYA or DJJ. While we are not formally affiliated with these channels, the experiences they speak of align with what we have heard in our research and interviews of those who also spent time in these institutions. 

Life in the California Youth Authority (2022) YouTube video

Individuals speak on their time spent inside of California Youth Authority across several institutions and years.

Photos & Archival Documents

CJCJ has collected an extensive archive of photos and documents from the California Youth Authority and the Division of Juvenile Justice. Some photos have been shared with us by individuals that spent time in these institutions. If you would like to contribute your photos from time spent inside one of these facilities, please contact us at cjcjmedia@​cjcj.​org