Should the State’s Youth Prisons Be Shut Down?

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After years of scandals over sexual violence and other forms of brutality and abuse, Governor Schwarzenegger settled a lawsuit against the California Youth Authority. Its name was changed to the Division of Juvenile Justice, and it now holds about 1000 inmates as opposed to 10,000. But the overall costs are the same as ever and the recidivism rate is 81%--one of the worst in the country. Governor Brown wants to shut it down and give the counties full responsibility for kids ranging in age from 12 to 25 who’ve been convicted of robbery, murder and other serious crimes.

If the state closed the Division of Juvenile Justice, those very tough cases would be sent to the counties, including LA County’s Probation Department. Civil rights attorney Connie Rice wrote an op-ed piece about the Department in the LA Times last October. It began by describing a sign on a classroom wall in one Juvenile Hall reading, “No Reading Newspapers, No Cell Phone Use and No Alcohol Consumption During Class.” The message was not for the inmates, it was for the staff…




Warren Olney