Move will improve cost efficiency; reflects lower offender population
SACRAMENTO – The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) today announced that it will close the state’s oldest operating facility for juvenile offenders, the Preston Youth Correctional Facility in Ione. The move is in response to a declining population as more youth are remaining at the local county level.
Cate noted that the 224 youth currently housed at Preston will be incorporated no later than June, 2011 into the DJJ’s remaining facilities: the O.H. Close and N.A. Chaderjian youth correctional facilities in Stockton, the Southern Youth Reception Center and Clinic in Norwalk (Los Angeles County) and the Ventura Youth Correctional Facility.
Opened in 1894 as the Preston School of Industry, it was California’s second facility built to specifically house and rehabilitate juveniles. It followed the construction of the Whittier State Reformatory (later known as the Fred C. Nelles School) in 1890. Prior to the construction of those two schools, juvenile offenders had been housed in adult prisons. Preston’s original building, a castle that dominates the town’s skyline, accepted the first seven youth who were transferred from San Quentin State Prison.
The juvenile offender population increased steadily as the Division of Juvenile Justice, previously known as the California Youth Authority, accepted youth for a wide range of criminal offenses.
The number of youthful offenders in the DJJ has declined over the last decade from a peak of nearly 10,000 to its current population of approximately 1,350. The decrease in population is largely due to legislation (Senate Bill 81 and Assembly Bill 191) that narrowly defined the offenses for which youth may be committed to the DJJ. This is part of the fundamental shift of keeping lower level offenders at home near local treatment services and it also facilitates support from their families and the community at large.
Although the DJJ population represents less than half of one percent of all youths arrested in California, it includes those with the most violent criminal backgrounds and who have exceptional treatment needs that cannot be addressed by county programs. Also, unlike nearly all other juvenile justice programs in the nation, the DJJ has jurisdiction over the most serious offenders to age 25. DJJ also houses prison commitments up to age 18 at which time they are transferred to state prison.
Another distinction of the juvenile system is its network of accredited schools that provide youth with the same educational and vocational opportunities they would receive in public schools. The DJJ also provides a variety of mental health programs, including a comprehensive Sexual Behavior Treatment Program.
Since 2006, the DJJ has been reforming its programs to meet requirements outlined in a series of six remedial plans, the result of a legal settlement supervised by the Alameda County Superior Court. The plans set treatment and staffing requirements for medical care, mental health care, education, sexual behavior treatment, safety and welfare of youth, and accommodating youth with disabilities. To comply with these requirements, DJJ is developing a new, comprehensive integrated behavior treatment model. The new model will provide for a single comprehensive individualized treatment plans for each youth with the overall goal of reducing recidivism and successful re-entry to the community.
The closure of the Preston Youth Correctional Facility is necessitated by the juvenile justice system realignment and the decline in the division’s population the past decade. The DJJ has closed nine institutions and conservation camps in recent years. The most recent closure was the Heman G. Stark Youth Correctional Facility in Chino in early 2010. That facility is currently being repurposed to house adult inmates.
Other DJJ closures include facilities in Stockton, Whittier, Mariposa, Nevada City, Santa Cruz and Paso Robles in 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2008 respectively.
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