A new audit of the California juvenile justice system found 249 instances of children being locked in their cells for 24-hour during the period of January through April of this year, the Bay Citizen reported today. This is in violation of the system’s own guidelines, which state that juvenile prisoners cannot be confined to their rooms for more than 21 hours per day. Inmates were also forced to attend school in closets, showers and storerooms as a result of staffing shortages and violence among prisoners.
There has been a decade-long movement to shut down the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) and transfer all remaining prisoners to county facilities. There are only four state juvenile detention centers still open in California (down from 11 just a few years ago). Governor Brown had been a strong backer of this plan until he caved in to pressure by the Chief Probation Officers of California, a county probation officers’ association that didn’t want the state’s problem foisted upon them.
According to the Bay Citizen article, special-education students were not receiving the required four hours of instruction per day. At the Ventura Youth Correctional Facility, nearly 12% of all classes were cancelled due to staff shortages and insufficient space. Even more disturbing, children were not receiving medical treatment because staff members were sent to deal with emergencies instead of transporting them to the doctor and their medical appointments were routinely not rescheduled for months.