The Failure of Youth Prisons

Randall G. Shelden

Note: the following is a portion of chapter 12 from my forthcoming textbook Delinquency and Juvenile Justice in American Society (Waveland Press)


A Notorious Example: The California Youth Authority

                Not since the scandals within the houses of refuge have we witnessed the total failure of juvenile prisons as in the case of the California Youth Authority (CYA). As noted earlier in the chapter, this system consists of 11 youth “correctional institutions,” 11 forestry camps, 59 detention facilities and several dozen “probation camps” scattered all over the state. The CYA was the result of the passage of The Youth Corrections Authority Act of 1941. The law created a three-person commission, mandated the acceptance of all youths under the age of 23 who had been committed to various prisons and already existing youth facilities (e.g., Preston School of Industry, Ventura School for Girls, Fred C. Nelles School for Boys), and appropriated $100,000 to run the Authority for two years).[1] The youths sent to the CYA were referred to as “wards” - a name that has remained ever since.  A year later they established “camps” and a unit called “Delinquency Prevention Services.”  In 1945, the Division of Parole was created and plans began to open new institutions, many at old military bases no longer being used because the war had ended (e.g., California Vocational Institution at Lancaster - an old Army/Air Force Base).

            The official “mission statement” is revealing.  It is as follows:[2]

The mission of the California Department of the Youth Authority is to protect the public from criminal activity by providing education, training, and treatment services for youthful offenders committed by the courts; assisting local justice agencies with their efforts to control crime and delinquency; and encouraging the development of state and local programs to prevent crime and delinquency.

In addition to providing education, training, and treatment services for youthful offenders, the Department is broadening its focus to include the needs of victims and communities. It is the Department's intention to address the needs of victims and communities through the provision of direct services as well as programs targeting youthful offenders.

The mission statement further states that “We treat all people with dignity, respect and consideration.” Also, “We demonstrate behavior which is fair, honest, and ethical both on and off the job.”  A lofty set of goals that typify those of previous institutions and agencies established to respond to young offenders. 

The reality, however, is far different, as revealed by recurring scandals within the CYA.  A series of reports surfaced back in the 1980s condemning practices within the CYA.  For example, the first of three reports was written by Steve Lerner and was called The CYA Report: Conditions of Life at the California Youth Authority.  The second report had a much more ominous title: Bodily Harm: The Pattern of Fear and Violence at the California Youth Authority.[3]  The third and final report was co-authored with Paul and Anne DeMuro and entitled Reforming the California Youth Authority.[4]  All three reports documented extreme brutality and the lack of meaningful treatment within these institutions.  The third and final report noted that the CYA institutions “are seriously overcrowded, offer minimal treatment value despite their high expense, and are ineffective in long-term protection of public safety.”  At the time the CYA was over 150% capacity with 9,000 wards packed in to institutions designed for 5,840.  The report further noted that the Youthful Offender Parole Board played a key role in the overcrowding, resulting in the legislature cutting its budget by one-third because of the board’s failure to follow its own guidelines.  The report called the board a “structural anomaly” and recommended it be abolished.[5]

A more recent report found that the “wards” of the CYA often lived in constant fear. One youth admitted that “I cried at 3 o’clock in the morning.  Quietly.  Everyone did…I was living in fear 22 hours a day in that place.”  Another youth stated that “It was too dangerous to sleep at night.” Many youths belonged to gangs before they came in and such ties are merely strengthened once inside.  Many join gangs just for protection.  One youth, who was Cuban but looked white, said that he refused to join a gang when he was in but just before his release he was given a warning by a gang leader that if he did not join a gang then “I wouldn’t make it.”[6]

Apparently the findings of the report fell on deaf ears for the CYA continued along its merry way, although it did begin dealing with the problem of overcrowding and reduced its population from a high of around 10,000 in the mid-1990s (note that the population had increased since the Lerner reports were issued) to a current population of around 4,300.[7] The CYA did adopt a policy in 1998 that required each ward to obtain a high school diploma as a condition of parole.  In 1999 the statue legislature enacted a law requiring the department to provide a course of study for all wards not having a high school diploma. A recent report by the Legislative Analyst’s Office noted that these requirements “have created a substantial need for additional and upgraded education facilities. A significant amount of the educational program at various institutions is delivered in temporary buildings. These temporary buildings inherently have a rather limited useful life, and have functional deficiencies such as inadequate security and ineffective air conditioning at institutions located in warm climates. The location of some of these temporary buildings is also an issue because they are often located a distance from housing units, requiring intensive staff supervision of ward movements.”[8]

            CYA scandals have persisted to the present day.  In the fall of  2004 the CYA was once again rocked by revelations of extreme brutality, suicides, horrible physical conditions and almost total failure to live up to its mission statement.  The following report from the Los Angeles Times reflects the problems:

Efforts to reform California's correctional system for the young will go nowhere unless the state closes its prisons and shifts inmates to small living centers with intensive treatment and abundant staff, national experts on juvenile justice said Tuesday. Capping a year of scandal within the state's juvenile prisons, the experts told a special state Senate committee on corrections that merely tinkering with the California Youth Authority is pointless. Instead, they said, California must follow the lead of Massachusetts and Missouri, closing lockups that house as many as 900 inmates and starting over with a new model that will better prepare youths to live crime-free once released.

“We’re in an emergency situation and we need emergency action,” said Barry Krisberg, president of the National Council on Crime and Delinquency. “This might be a big-ticket item, but the Legislature and the voters need to realize that we've starved this system for a long time — we've played it on the cheap — and it's time to do something different.”

His sentiments were echoed by Dan Macallair, a 20-year veteran of juvenile justice work. "The California Youth Authority is a dinosaur … based on a 19th century model," he said. “The institutions need to be torn down.”[9]

This report noted that two recent suicides raised the total to 15 since 1996. Other reports noted incidents where offenders were placed in small cages inside their “classrooms,” which was halted in the spring of 2004.  The reference to Missouri’s system in the above quote should be noted.  Space does not permit a complete discussion of what that state has done in recent years, following the closure of most “training schools” in the 1980s.  More detail is provided in the appendices of this book.

            A special report in U.S. News and World Report noted: “At the Heman G. Stark Youth Correctional Facility here, the K&L disciplinary lockdown is known as ‘the Rock.’ Here dim corridors are lined with the steel doors of a dozen concrete cells. The air is dank, and the drip-drip of water echoes quietly, thanks to the perpetually leaking showers. On the mental health unit, shouts and curses bounce off the walls. In a cell, a young man with his head down paces silently, back and forth, back and forth.” The writer of this report said it was “just another day at Stark” and quoted one expert who called the CYA system “a very dangerous place” with “an intense climate of fear.” Last year at Stark there were almost 300 attacks --- “more than double the previous year's total.[10]

            A report in May, 2004 found revealed that a CYA officer was caught on video letting his German shepherd bite a 20-year-old prisoner on the leg, even though the inmate was following orders and lying on the floor. This was the second such episode in four months caught on tape at a CYA institution in Stockton.[11]

            Still another report on the news of two more deaths within a CYA institution revealed “excessive rates of violence; inadequate mental health care and educational services; overuse of isolation cells; and deplorable conditions, including feces spread all over some of the cells. Some boys were being forced to sit or stand in cages while attending classes, a ‘normal’ situation in the state's Kafkaesque system.”  Going even further the report noted that:


Just as shocking as the litany of CYA abuses is the fact that institutions such as Preston Training School simply don't work. A growing body of research shows that young people incarcerated in large institutions get rearrested more frequently, and for more serious crimes than their counterparts with similar delinquency histories who are not incarcerated. For example, a study that compared matched samples of offenders in Arkansas found that the incarceration experience was the single greatest predictor of future criminal conduct, dwarfing the effects of gang membership or family dysfunction. It's not surprising then, that more than nine out of 10 CYA “graduates” are back in trouble with the law within three years of their release. On top of that, the CYA system costs taxpayers a whopping $85,000 a year per youth. It seems likely that if the majority of CYA youths came from white, middle-class neighborhoods, the public would never stand for its failures and abuses.[12]

Numerous additional reports appeared in the Los Angeles Times during 2004 that echoed this report.[13]  One of these reported on a special senate hearing where state Senator Gloria Romero (D- Los Angeles) said, after reviewing a report that was part of a class action suit filed by a group of CYA wards that called the conditions “chilling” where some inmates were kept in “steel-mesh cages not much bigger than phone booths.” Romero said the CYA was “totally failing in its mission to rehabilitate youths.” She called it a system “that is in chaos, ruled by fear and neglect,” despite an expenditure of more than $80,000 annually on each young offender.[14] 

            A class action law suit was filed in 2002 alleging unconstitutional treatment of inmates. A report in the Los Angeles Times summarizes this case:


            Last year, the lawsuit was refiled in state court as a taxpayer action, alleging, in essence, that the CYA was improperly spending state funds on unlawful practices. The plaintiff is Margaret Farrell of Reseda, whose nephew, mentally ill inmate Edward Jermaine Brown, was locked in a filthy isolation cell for 23 hours a day for seven months, the lawsuit said. The toilet in the cell often did not function and Brown was fed "blender meals," a whipped mix of food groups, through a straw pushed through his cell door. Since the lawsuit was filed, the CYA has closed the housing unit where Brown was locked up and stopped the blender meals.[15]


Then there is the following report of a judge ordering that no more youth be sent to the CYA:


San Mateo County abruptly halted sending children and teenagers to the California Youth Authority this week, responding to newspaper accounts of brutal and inhumane conditions inside the statewide juvenile prison system. Initiated by presiding juvenile court Judge Marta Diaz, the action makes San Mateo the second Bay Area county planning to keep youths in their home counties, rather than subjecting them to conditions of confinement inside the state's 10 lock-up facilities. Tuesday, San Francisco Supervisor Tom Ammiano introduced a moratorium on all non-mandatory commitments to CYA. Supervisors will vote on the moratorium at a meeting next week. Probation officials are also taking action, responding to recently released state-commissioned reports that detail a climate of ward-on-ward brutality and harsh institutional treatment, including confining youths in cells 23 hours per day. The CYA reviews found that substance-abuse treatment was below national standards, and the reports concluded that mental-health services were failing the majority of inmates, ages 12 to 25, who suffer from psychiatric disorders.[16]


This was reported in the San Jose Mercury News and was followed up by a series of reports in the fall further documenting the travails of the CYA.[17] 

            On November 16, 2004 Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger announced plans for an “overhaul” of the CYA.  According to a report in the Los Angeles Times Schwarzenegger said that “The lawsuit said that California should have done a better job with its young offenders, and it was right…. We are on the right track now.”  The Governor also said that the agreement will “put the focus back on rehabilitation” and give the CYA's 3,700 young inmates “a better chance to succeed in life,” he said.  The Times story then notes that the Governor said that this “settlement” is a good start in that it will lead to a reduction in crime and save the state several million dollars (money spent fighting the lawsuit).  Additionally, the CYA “also agreed to a set of short-term fixes, including the development of a system to separate vulnerable inmates from dangerous ones, reducing the time prisoners spend in isolation cells, and improvements in the handling of inmates on suicide watch.”[18]  Part of the settlement requires independent experts who have been hired to study the CYA. In their first report, released in February, 2004, they portrayed a system in which violence was, in their words, “off the charts” and in which “medical care, psychiatric treatment, education services, gang management, and suicide prevention were inadequate.”

            It is unlikely that this will result in significant changes.  Note that in the above statement that they will only reduce time spent in isolation cells and “make improvements” in the way they handle kids who are on suicide watch.  Thus, isolation will still be used. Note the words of one critic who said that “This agreement does not transform the CYA, it merely brings it up to a tolerable level.  The danger is that the governor will tie a ribbon around this and call it a day, when there's a lot more that needs to be done to re-engineer the system.”  Critics have pointed out “that what’s missing is any requirement that the state house inmates in smaller living units, as opposed to the massive prison-like facilities that typify the CYA. Most researchers believe — and several states have proved — that small groups more effectively foster the human connections troubled youths need to turn around their lives.”[19]

            The story in the Los Angeles Times ended by describing a “tour” of one youth prison taken by the Governor in a place called Chaderjian:


After his announcement of the settlement Tuesday, Schwarzenegger took a 30-minute tour of Chaderjian, a complex of squat, cream-colored buildings with blue trim encircled by chain-link fencing topped with coiled razor wire. Among his stops was a housing unit, home for 48 inmates with acute mental health problems. Standing in an elevated control booth with windows on all sides, the governor overlooked a spartan day room with orange plastic chairs, a ping-pong table and several metal tables bolted to the floor.About 10 young men were gathered, and one waved back at the governor when he waved to the group.[20]



            Finally, an audit by the Office of the Inspector General was released in January, 2005, accusing the CYA of “failing to give offenders the education and training that could save them from a life of crime.”  A story in the Los Angeles Times noted that the CYA youth prisons “are still confining too many wards for 23 hours a day,” and the audit called such a practice “ineffective and dehumanizing.”  The report “found that 27 youths at a Chino detention facility were locked up around the clock, except for five-minute daily showers. And 39 youths at a Stockton facility were locked down for more than 30 days, with three kept in their cells for more than 200 days.

Numerous other wards, the audit found, were receiving little in the way of required teaching and counseling designed to help prepare them for their eventual release.”  The Inspector General, Matthew Cate, stated that the “most troubling” finding of the report “is that many of the deficiencies that have not been corrected are central to the Youth Authority's core mission of rehabilitating the young people entrusted to its care.”[21]

What is occurring here is a “political solution” to pacify a public that is largely uninformed about the realities of youth prisons.  By “political solution” I merely mean that a “band-aid” will be used to fix a totally ruptured system that needs to be abandoned.  Given the history of “reforms” the changes are most likely to be cosmetic in nature.  The promise that “treatment” will be provided rings very hallow, since they have promised that from the day the CYA was opened more than 60 years ago.  There are simply too many with a vested interest in keeping the system the way it is.  This is amply demonstrated in an Arizona case, to be detailed in the next section.


Another Example: A Treatment Program that Failed


On many occasions a treatment program is introduced within one of these institutions, usually with much fanfare and great promise.  Most fail for one of two reasons: either the theory behind the program (i.e., a theory of why people commit crime) or the program is not implemented correctly.  Sometimes we discover that both of these reasons are present.  Such was the case with a program that began in Arizona back in the early 1990s.

            The emergence and ultimate failure of a program that promised to reduce youth crime is discussed in great detail in one of the best books ever written on the subject.[22]  A “model” program was established at a juvenile prison near Tucson after a class action lawsuit (Johnson v. Upchurch, 1986) charged that the “policies, practices, and conditions of confinement” at this prison amounted to “cruel, unconscionable, and illegal conditions of confinement.”

The program that was instituted was to embrace “collective problem solving” in an “atmosphere of respect” which was to replace inflexible rules that usually dominate prisons.  The program was supposed to “give youths a greater sense of control over their lives, to encourage them to affirm their own worth, and to engender hope for the future” write Bortner and Williams in the first chapter.  Four chapters later, after confronting the demise of the program and the failure to live up to its promises, the authors explain why this happened.  It is not a new story, for it has happened over and over again throughout the history of juvenile prisons.  The program’s decline began a mere three months into the program.  It seemed that just about the only people who really wanted this to succeed were the youths themselves and a small number of dedicated staff.  Those in charge wanted first and foremost to satisfy the demands of the lawsuit and to quickly demonstrate success.  There was constant resistance from staff and administrators (with administrators described as “authoritarian” in their management style) plus political opposition from conservative forces. 

More than this, however, was the fact that a model program was set up but the “working conditions for most staff members did not improve” and they continued to receive “low salaries, demanding working conditions, menial tasks, and perceptions of lack of support and respect from superiors.”

More than this, however, was a more fundamental problem.  The problem can be summarized as follows:  good intentions notwithstanding, even the best “programs” operated within the juvenile and adult prison system are doomed to failure for the simple reason that the various social and personal context that resulted in a person’s problems with drugs, gangs, and violence are left untouched.  The authors write as follows:  “For most youths, going home meant a return to poverty and unemployment, troubled homes, the allure of alcohol and drugs, the dominance of gangs, and daily hardships.”  Indeed, it would be like sending an alcoholic to a 30-day treatment center and then sending him back to a bar and telling him he must “just say no” to alcohol.  The authors note that “unresolved problems awaited the youths when they were released from prison.  Outside the prison, fundamental social conditions remained unchanged.  When they were paroled, within a few days or a few hours youths confronted the same old pressures and many reverted to familiar responses and solutions.”  The authors also perceptively note that these youths “are placed in an untenable position when they are encouraged to change their behavior and to develop high aspirations, only to return to their virtually unchanged communities.”

Not surprisingly, some youths did not want to leave the prison, for inside they were safe and they were able to adjust to the surroundings.  This phenomenon has been called “institutionalization” or “prisonization” by researchers going back more than 50 years. 

Many youths spoke of the inevitability of returning to their old ways of behaving, as if they had no alternatives.  They may be correct in such an assessment.  Some described the temptations of their old life as “sucking” them back in.  Where are they supposed to go live when they get out?  Staff members suggested finding new friends who are not into gangs and drugs.  But the only way to do this would be to literally move!

One additional problem emerged within this program and points to the common failure of implementation: the failure to establish a substance abuse program, which was the last of three specialized, intensive programs developed.  This was despite the fact that around 90 percent of the youths had used drugs.  The first specialized unit was for “sexually aggressive behaviors,” in spite of the fact that less than 10 percent were charged with such crimes.  Another priority was to address violent behavior, although less than 40 percent had committed violent offenses.  The authors note that the program’s “failure to confront the youths’ extensive drug and alcohol problems mirrored society’s failure.”  My suspicions are that these priorities reflect the personal priorities of key political figures in the state.

This makes me wonder if these are simply planned failures rather than good intentions gone awry.  If those who have the power really cared, the social conditions that lead youth to crime and drugs would be eliminated.  But why eliminate such conditions when you and your class directly or indirectly benefit from their existence?

            The CYA and the prison in Tucson are not alone for juvenile prisons all over the country (and in some other countries) have experienced similar failures.  The ghosts of houses of refuge continue to the present day.

            One of the above reports quoted one study that found a 90 percent recidivism rate among the graduates of the CYA.  This is not surprising. The topic of recidivism will be discussed next.


High Recidivism Rates Plague Juvenile Prisons


            A standard measure of the success of any program dealing with offenders is recidivism.  This term refers to when someone who has been convicted of a crime is subsequently re-arrested for another crime. There are several variations, however.  Recidivism can be operationally defined as only a re-arrest, or it can be defined as being convicted or it can be defined as being returned to prison or jail.[23]  In juvenile cases, it can be measured as either an arrest, a referral to juvenile court, a petitioned filed, or a re-commitment to an institution.[24]  Whatever method is used, it is one of the best methods of measuring the effectiveness of a policy.

            In the case of juvenile prisons the record has not been a good one, as numerous studies have shown.  In fact, in some cases there is a suspicion that some states are reluctant to reveal the results or even to conduct studies.  A case in point is taken from the state of South Carolina where it was reported that “The state Department of Juvenile Justice has not studied the recidivism of incarcerated juveniles since 1995, leaving the state unable to measure if rehabilitation programs work.”  The report further noted that in 1994 there was a report that 71 percent of juveniles released from juvenile institutions committed new crimes after their release. The following year a district court judge used these figures in his finding that the conditions at these institutions violated the constitutional rights of the confined juveniles.  The judge further noted that:


Although exact figures are difficult to obtain, the evidence indicates that between 56 and 82 percent of DJJ juveniles later commit crimes as adults. In some cases, South Carolina juvenile correctional facilities produce graduates who later swell the populations of adult correctional facilities and figure prominently in the ranks of those who later commit violent offenses as adults.

This report also noted that in 1995 the state Department of Juvenile Justice updated a previous study and found that “80 percent of those incarcerated returned to crime after their release.”[25]

            Similar results can be seen in other parts of the country.  A study in Minnesota, for example, found that between one-half to three-fourths of males were either petitioned to juvenile court or arrested for crimes as an adult within two years following their release from juvenile correctional facilities.  For females the rates were considerably lower, but nevertheless ranged from a low of 41% to a high of 58%.  In two particular institutions (called Red Wing and Sauk Centre), more than 90 percent of those released in 1985 were arrested as an adult before the age of 23 and 69 percent of had been sent to adult prison.[26]

            A very comprehensive study in Oregon found that among a cohort of more 3,000 juvenile offenders, about half of those released from Oregon youth prisons at age 17 or 18 ended up in the adult prison system; about 40 percent of those released at age 16 ended up in adult prison.[27] The total recidivism rate was 42 percent.  The study also found that females had a significantly lower rate of recidivism (21%) than males (45%).  Note here that the definition of “recidivism” was an arrest as an adult.  Consistent with other longitudinal studies, the earlier the age of first contact with the juvenile court, the higher the proportion of those who ended up in the adult system (e.g., 57% of those age 12 ended up in the adult system compared to 43% of those whose first referral was at age 17).[28] Another interesting finding, also consistent with prior research, was that the longer a youth spend at a juvenile institution the higher was the recidivism rate.[29]

            A report in Hawaii came up with the same sad results.  In this case a research project examined 805 cases of youths released from the Hawaii Youth Correctional Facility (HYCF) between 1995 and 1999.  The study found that 82 percent of those released were re-arrested within two years; 57 percent were re-convicted; 32 percent were re-confined at either HYCF or an adult facility.  Recidivism rates were significantly higher for those with the greatest number of commitments, the greatest number of parole returns, the most escapes and the highest number of misconduct reports.  The number of runaways, the age of first use of drugs, and the number of suicide risk indicators were also related to recidivism.  The report also noted that the recidivism rates for the period studied were greater than a prior study completed in 1984.[30]

            High recidivism rates are even found in other countries.  For instance, a study in Queensland, Australia, found that although only a small percentage of young offenders are sent to some sort of secure institution, 79 percent ended up within the adult correctional system (either community corrections or prison (49 percent served a term in prison).[31]

            Finally we come to the California Youth Authority where the recidivism rates are among the highest anywhere, with one report noted a recidivism rate of 91 percent![32] A recent series by the San Jose Mercury News found that while recidivism rates for those released from the CYA vary considerably (from just under 50% to the above-cited 91%), they cite the most recent study which found that 74 percent are arrested within three years of their release. What is interesting here is that this is the result of a computerized review of police records of more than 28,000 who were released between 1988 and 2000. The study was supervised by the Chief of Research Rudy Haapanen. The director of the CYA, Walter Allen, did not deny the figures, saying such a high rate is “unacceptable” and that the objective of his agency is “to protect society by doing the best job we can. If we don’t, we create more victims.”  Property offenders had a higher recidivism rate than violent offenders (80% v. 70%), a figure consistent with the literature already cited above.

This study found that the recidivism rate was lower for females (52%), which is consistent with prior research; males had a rate of 75 percent. Recidivism also was lower for the youngest and oldest youths released; those under 17 had a rate of 60 percent, which was the same as those over 21. These were in the minority, as most were between 17 and 21 years of age and their recidivism rate was 76 percent.[33]

What most of the research is quite emphatic about is that recidivism rates are significantly lower among youths who receive different dispositions than youth prisons.  Holding constant other variables, those who are given probation and given a variety of intensive services (e.g., drug treatment, tutoring, mental health counseling, family counseling, etc.) have much lower recidivism rates.  The study by the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice found the following barriers to successful re-entry: [34]

·        Lack of educational options: the average age of those released from the CYA is 21, which excludes them from the state’s responsibility to provide an education;

·        Lack of housing options: many have no families to speak of and there is a short supply of residential housing, especially “transitional housing”;

·        Limited skills and education: in 2001 only 11.5 percent of those in the CYA passed the California High School Exit Exam;

·        Gang affiliations and related racial tensions: just being locked up in the CYA solidifies whatever gang ties a youth had upon entry;

·        Institutional identity: this relates to the concept of “state-raised youth” which means, among other things, that most CYA youths are never prepared for an independent life upon release;[35]

·        Drug problems: more than 65% have drug problems;

·        Mental health problems: the CYA estimates that 45% of males and 65% of females have serious mental health issues;

·        Lack of community support and role models: most of those released will return to the same impoverished conditions they came from, along with family dysfunctions, drug problems, violence and gangs;

·        Legislative barriers: these limit access to education, cash assistance, housing, employment, etc. that are automatically closed to ex-cons.


The authors of this report conclude that:  “The multiple service needs and histories of violent behavior among CYA wards necessitate a system of care that addresses the root causes of criminal activity.”  What is needed, in short, is adequate “after-care” or parole services not only for those released from the CYA but all youth prisons. 



[1] This information obtained through the CYA web site:

[2] Ibid.


[3]  The first report was published in 1982 and the second in 1986.  Both studies were funded by the Commonweal Research Institute and published by Common Knowledge Press in Bolinas, CA.


[4]  Published in 1988 by Common Knowledge Press.


[5]  Ibid, p. 11.


[6] Byrnes, M., D. Macallair, and A. D. Shorter (2002). “Aftercare as Afterthought: Reentry and the California Youth Authority.” San Francisco: Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice.


[7]  Among the criticisms issued by the Lerner reports (and reports on many other institutions over the years) is that many, if not most, youths did not commit the kinds of offenses that warranted such a strong sentence.  There was always the belief among those in charge of sentencing that such offenders were “dangerous” and needed to be “sent up.”  The fact that the CYA has reduced the number of wards under its control apparently confirms these criticisms.

[8] California Legislative Analyst’s Office (2004). “A Review of the California Youth Authority's Infrastructure,” May.

[9] Warren, J. (2004). “Shut Down State Youth Prisons, Experts Say.” Los Angeles Times, September 22.

[10]  Cannon, A. (2004). “Special Report: Juvenile Injustice.”  US News and World Report (August 3).

[11] Warren, J. (2004). “Attack by Prison Dog Revealed.” Los Angeles Times (May 7).

[12]  Bell, J. and J. Stauring (2004). “ Serious Problems Festering in Juvenile Justice System Require Serious Reforms.” Los Angeles Times (May 2).

[13] Examples include the following: Warren, J, J. Leovy and N. Zamichow (2004). “ A Daily Lesson in Violence and Despair.” Los Angeles Times (Feb. 17); Warren, J. (2004). “Youth Prison System Unsafe, Unhealthful, Reports Find.” Los Angeles Times (Feb. 3); Warren, J. (2004). “Disarray in Juvenile Prisons Jolts Capital,” Los Angeles Times (Feb. 4).

[14] Warren, “Disarray in Juvenile Prisons Jolts Capital.”

[15] Warren, J. (2004). “State Youth Prisons on Road to Rehab.” Los Angeles Times (November 17).

[16]  de Sá, K. (2004). “Judge Orders Moratorium on Sending Juveniles to CYA Until Review.” San Jose Mercury News (Feb. 12).

[17]  Bailey, D. and K. de Sá “Chief Vowing Major Change: Director Takes Big First Steps, But the Deepest Problems Await” The San Jose Mercury News (October 17).  These and subsequent reports can be found on the web site for the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice (


[18] Warren, “State Youth Prisons on Road to Rehab.”


[19] Ibid.


[20] Ibid.

[21] Reiterman, T. (2005). “Auditors Rebuke Youth Authority.”  Los Angeles Times, January 4.

[22] Bortner, M. A. and L. Williams (1997). Youth in Prison. New York:  Rutledge.


[23] Champion, D. (2001).  The American Dictionary of Criminal Justice (2nd ed.).  Los Angeles: Roxbury.


[24] See Shelden, R. G. (1999).  “Detention Diversion Advocacy: an Evaluation.”  OJJDP Juvenile Justice Bulletin (September).  Here I use several different measurements of recidivism.


[25] Smith, T. (2002).  “Juvenile Justice Agency Unable to Gauge Progress.” The Greenville News (April 6).


[26] Office of the Legislative Auditor, State of Minnesota (1995).  “Residential Facilities for Juvenile Offenders.” February 15.


[27]  State of Oregon, Oregon Youth Authority (2003).  “Previously Incarcerated Juveniles in Oregon’s Adult Corrections System.”  Salem: State of Oregon, Office of Economic Analysis, May 23.


[28]  Concerning “age of onset” see Dryfoos, J. G. (1990). Adolescents at Risk: Prevalence and Prevention. New York: Oxford University Press for a good review. 


[29] An earlier study documenting this was Vinter et al., Time Out; see also the following: Beck, J.L. and Hoffman, P.B. (1976). “Time Served and Release Performance: A Research Note.” Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency. 13:127-132; Orsagh, T. and Chen, J.R. (1988). “The Effect of Time Served on Recidivism: An Interdisciplinary Theory.” Journal of Quantitative Criminology 4: 155-171; this was also documented in the Hawaii study (see note 75); an Australian study also found that the longer the period of confinement the higher the recidivism rate: Makkai, T. J. Ratcliffe, K. Veraar and L. Collins (2004). “ACT recidivist offenders.”Canberra: Australian Institute of Criminology (


[30] Department of the Attorney General, State of Hawaii (2001).  “Incarcerated Juveniles and Recidivism in Hawaii.”  Honolulu: State of Hawaii, February.


[31] Lynch, M., J. Buckman, and L. Krenske (2003).  “Youth Justice: Criminal Trajectories.”  Research and Issues Paper Series 4 (July).


[32] Linster, R. (nd).  “Frequency of Arrest of the Young, Chronic, Serious Offender Using Two Male cohorts Parole by the California Youth Authority, 1981-1982 and 1986-1987.”  Washington, DC: National Institute of Justice Data Resources Program. Cited in Byrnes et al. “Aftercare as Afterthought.”

[33]  Bailey, B. and G. Palmer (2004). “High Rearrest Rate: Three-Fourths of Wards Released Over 13 Years Held on New Charges.” San Jose Mercury News, October 17.  The complete series of reports can be seen on the web site for the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice (


[34] Byrnes et al., “Aftercare as Afterthought.”

[35]  An interesting concept is what some researchers have called the Post-Incarceration Syndrome which has been defined as “ set of symptoms that are present in many currently incarcerated and recently released prisoners caused by prolonged incarceration in environments of punishment with few opportunities for education, job training, or rehabilitation. The severity of symptoms is related to the level of coping skills prior to incarceration, the length of incarceration, the restrictiveness of the incarceration environment, the number and severity of institutional episodes of abuse, the number and duration of episodes of solitary confinement, and the degree of involvement in educational, vocational, and rehabilitation programs.” Addiction Exchange, “News from the worlds of research and clinical practice.” Volume 3, No. 4: Post Incarceration Syndrome, March 1, 2001. Terence T. Gorski: Go to to discuss this topic on the Addiction Exchange Forum.

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