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The Sixteenth Special Master Report, filed November 22, 2010, summarized the past and present status of DJF’s progress to implement Farrell reforms. Since 2004, when DJF signed the consent decree, it has made progress toward improving the previously atrocious care of its juvenile wards. For example, it no longer administers out-of-date undocumented medicine to its wards and it no longer uses cages to provide education, therapy, or exercise. 

The Special Master identifies several obstacles to reform faced by DJF over the years, including a complex reorganization, a highly dysfunctional” parent organization (CDCR) placing frustrating” financial burdens on DJF operation, a drastic change in the overall DJF ward population including size reduction and an increased concentration of high-needs youth, and several facility closures causing extreme disruption for both staff and wards. 

According to this report, DJF has made steady progress in implementing reforms for youths with disabilities, providing adequate medical and dental services to youths, and improving its educational services. Areas still in need of attention include high turnover and staff vacancies, a lack of central office guidance, and ensuring minimum student school attendance requirements. The persistent challenges regarding school attendance are scheduling and custody movement conflicts. In addition, youths in restricted custody continue to receive inadequate educational services, IEP services do not include the full continuum of services required, and access to vocational programming remains insufficient. 

In the areas of Sexual Behavior Treatment Program (SBTP) (36% overall compliance) and Mental Health Services (41% overall compliance), the special master notes that DJF is in transition. A new SBTP remedial plan was filed on April 30, 2010 due to ambiguities, conflicts, and inconsistencies that hampered remedial efforts and raised questions about the reliability of audit results.” Meanwhile, the Mental Health experts resigned on August 2, 2010 after reporting the slowest reform progress of all Farrell areas. Currently no independent experts have been identified to take their place, and the Special Master notes that the audit and assessment tool may need to be adjusted. 

As for Safety and Welfare (79% overall compliance), while DJF has posted a daily schedule on the walls and installed a lock box for ward grievances in the living units, the larger more amorphous Farrell requirements remain elusive. These issues include, violence reduction, gang management, and conversion of facilities to the rehabilitative treatment model.” The Special Master noted problems specifically in regard to youth safety and use of force.” Moreover, the physical facilities remain obstacles to rehabilitation as almost all of the facilities need upgrades in critical infrastructure.” 

In the foreseeable future, the Special Master predicts DJF will experience chronic fiscal challenges,” a change of administration, and continuing facility limitations and closures. This coming year, DJF will be piloting the long awaited Integrated Behavioral Treatment Model (IBTM) in two of the living units at O.H. Close Youth Correctional Facility (YCF), and closing another of its northern facilities, Preston YCF in Ione. Moreover, it will transfer its parole responsibilities to the counties. Thus DJF will experience a renewed upheaval and face further challenges to providing a rehabilitative environment for its wards. Highlighted for high priority attention in the coming years is the IBTM, investigation into use of force with mentally ill youth, and the Program Service Day: how to ensure that youths daily schedules allow for educational and therapeutic activities. Six years and hundreds of thousands of tax-payer dollars later, the Special Master notes, notwithstanding DJF’s current improvements the longer-term capacity to remain in compliance is unclear.” The Sixteenth Special Master Report will be available on the Prison Law Office website. 

~Selena Teji

Sentencing Service Program Case Specialist