Media Policies - Juvenile Facilities

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) facilities, camps, and parole programs are operated at public expense to give juveniles and other at-risk youths opportunities for change.

The law mandates DJJ to:

  1. Provide a range of training and treatment services for youthful offenders committed by the courts.
  2. Direct these offenders to participate in community and victim restoration.
  3. Help local justice system agencies with their efforts to combat crime and delinquency.
  4. Encourage the development of state and local crime and delinquency prevention programs.

In general, youths are referred to DJJ by the juvenile court where the offense occurred. Therefore, these youths are entitled to many protections awarded by the juvenile justice system. These protections may extend to youths that are over the age of 18. As a result, each request by a member of accredited media is individually reviewed to ensure that media contact does not interrupt or interfere with the juvenile court, Juvenile Parole Board (JPB) - ordered treatment, or does not in any way pose a security risk.

The public has a right and a duty to know how such facilities and programs are being operated. It is the policy of the DJJ, to the extent possible, to make known to the public through the news media relevant information pertaining to operations of the Division and facilities.

An accredited news media representative is defined as a reporter for a recognized and regularly published or broadcast newspaper, magazine, radio, or television station program, in possession of a picture identification card as an employee of that organization, working as a media representative.

The DJJ also recognizes the rights of non-news reporters or personnel, such as freelance writers, and producers of documentaries, to request access to facilities and youths, including all programs within the branches of the DJJ. Each of those requests must be pre-approved by the respective DJJ facility public information officer or superintendent, in consultation with the  CDCR Office of Public and Employee Communications and handled on a case-by-case basis.

Below is a summary of DJJ regulations, policies, and procedures regarding media access and activities. Copies of these policies are available upon request.

Disclosure of Youth Information

Depending on a youth’s court commitment and age, the following data may be released:

Criminal Court Commitment Information

Data may be released about a youth or parolee as long as the following conditions are met:

1.) The youth or parolee is at least 16 years of age and a criminal court commitment.
2.) The youth or parolee is housed at a DJJ facility or camp awaiting placement in an adult facility when the youth or parolee turns 18 years of age.

The following information shall be disclosed to any member of the public, upon request, by the Chief Deputy Secretary, the CDCR Assistant Secretary for Communications or their designee:

  • Name and age of the youth or parolee
  • The court of commitment and the offense that was the basis of the commitment
  • The date of commitment
  • Any facility where the youth is, or was confined
  • The actions taken by the Juvenile Parole Board regarding the youth which relates to parole dates
  • The date the youth was placed on parole
  • The date the youth was discharged from the jurisdiction of the DJJ and the basis for the discharge, and
  • In any case where the youth has escaped from a facility under the jurisdiction of the DJJ, a physical description of the youth and the circumstances of the escape.

Note: This policy does not authorize the release of any information which would place a youth in peril, threaten DJJ security, or is exempt from disclosure pursuant to the information practices act.

(Reference: Welfare and Institutions Code, Section 1764)

Juvenile Court Commitment Information

Juvenile court documents, pursuant to Welfare and Institutions Code, Section 827, are confidential and are not to be released to the public, including reporters, without the expressed permission of the originating juvenile court (See Cimarusti v. Superior Court (2DCA 2000) 79 Cal. App. 4th 799).

Information on juvenile court commitment youths or parolees is confidential unless committed for one of the offenses outlined in Welfare and Institutions Code, Section 676.

Disclosure of Information on Staff

Information on DJJ employees that may be released includes:

  • Name
  • Civil service classification
  • Length of service with the Division and/or state

If the information requested of a peace officer staff is as a result of a newsworthy event and that event has led to a formal investigation of the employee, peace officers enjoy specific rights under the Peace Officers Bill of Rights (POBAR). POBAR will be consulted before any information is released on a peace officer under the employ of the DJJ who may be involved in an investigation.

(Reference: California Government Code, Sections 3300-3311)

Media Access to Facilities

  • Access to any DJJ facility, including parole offices, schools, and camps, requires prior approval of the Superintendent of the facility and the CDCR Assistant Secretary of Communications or their designated representative(s). In most cases, the facility designee(s) are serving as field public information officers, and will elevate the media request to the chief manager of the facility and the Assistant Secretary of Communications, in a timely manner, consistent with any deadline expressed by the requesting media representative.
  • Media representatives may be limited in access to areas of a facility. These areas may include control booths, guard towers, reception centers, classrooms and vocational areas, and units housing mentally, seriously, or terminally ill youths.
  • Media representatives shall supply a full name, date of birth, social security number and driver's license number as well as identification verifying their employment to process a security clearance for access to a facility. Media representatives from outside the United States need to supply a full name, date of birth and passport information as well as identification verifying their employment. If it is a breaking story, media representatives may be allowed access to an area outside the secure perimeter of the facility and, at the discretion of the Superintendent, inside the facility, if the safety of staff, youths, and visitors can be assured.
  • In addition, all visiting media representatives shall be appropriately attired, consistent with our existing clothing policy.
  • Requests to attend Juvenile Parole Board hearings are handled by the Juvenile Parole Board at (916) 262-1426.

Writing and Telephoning a Youth

  • Media representatives may contact any youth by mail. It is not necessary for media to notify the DJJ before communicating with a youth by mail. Incoming letters may be opened, inspected for contraband, subject to be read, and then forwarded to the youth, or withheld if objectionable or inappropriate material is contained within. To ensure prompt processing,  the letter should be mailed to the youth using his/her full name and the YA number (if available) in care of the facility where he/she is living.
  • Most youths have access to telephones and can make outgoing collect calls on designated telephones according to their privileges. In general, limitations may be placed on the frequency of such calls to allow equal access to telephones by all youths and are subject to the discretion of the Superintendent at the facility or camp. When corresponding with a youth, media representatives may consider giving a telephone number where a youth can call them collect. It is up to the youth to initiate the call. No restriction is placed on the identity or relationship to the youth of the person called providing the person agrees to accept all charges for the call. Telephone calls are limited and may be monitored or recorded. Media representatives may also record the call with the youth's permission. Staff will not take messages to or from youth.

Media Interviews

  • Media representatives may interview youths if the proper waivers are signed. In addition, media may conduct interviews with a staff member who is willing to be interviewed. Such interviews may be restricted by time, place, duration, and the number of people in a media crew.

Encounter Interviews by Media

Media representatives encountering a youth while covering the DJJ’s programs in general, may conduct a brief interview with a youth if:

  • The youth is at least 18 years old.
  • The youth gives written consent (through the use of a Declaration to News Media Contact, CDCR form 146).
  • The written consent is obtained of a parent, legal guardian or the committing court if the youth is 17 years of age or younger.

Request to Photograph a Youth

A youth’s written permission must be obtained before his/her photograph is displayed and/or taken in a manner that individually identifies him/her to the public. This consent should be consistent, and follow protocols outlined in the section Disclosure of Youth Information.

(Reference: Title 15 Regulations, Section 4135)

  • Use of cameras or recording devices inside a facility or on state property requires prior approval and is typically granted unless the equipment or activity poses a security risk, at the discretion of the Superintendent. Photos of certain areas of the facility or camp may be banned for security reasons.
  • Members of accredited media organizations using film or video, working on non-breaking news features, and those organizations compiling documentaries shall complete a DJJ location agreement and contact the California Film Commission, to obtain the appropriate permits.
  • Media interviews shall not be permitted with any youth suffering from a mental illness when, in the opinion of a psychiatrist or psychologist, the youth is not capable of giving informed consent.
  • Limited access may be permitted to seriously or terminally ill patients and their housing areas as long as appropriate waivers have been signed.

Cameras and Other Audio or Visual Recording Devices

  • Plans to possess any camera, wireless microphone or other recording device within a DJJ facility must be specifically noted when applying for access to any DJJ facility. A DJJ location agreement and film permit are required for filming on state property.
  • A youth’s written consent is required in settings such as an exercise yard or dining hall where individuals are not singled out or when a person's identity cannot be revealed because of age or consent issues. Before such shots are taken, youths shall be advised so those who do not want to be recognized may turn away or leave the area. Youths who might be in the range of focus must have a signed consent on file.
  • Media representatives shall not be permitted access to identification photographs (mug shots) unless there is an escape from either a facility, camp, or supervised parole setting and the youth or parolee in question poses a threat to the general public.
  • Staff cannot prohibit a person who is not on state property from photographing, filming, video taping or otherwise recording any DJJ facilities, employees, youths, parolees or equipment. However, we do request media to respect basic security concerns, such as guard towers, gates and other potentially sensitive areas if the filming occurs immediately adjacent to a DJJ facility.

Non-News Access to DJJ Facilities

All non-news motion picture, radio, or television programs produced at any DJJ facility must have prior approval. Non-news related productions include features, documentaries, news magazine programs, commercials, and pilots for proposed news, public information, religious and entertainment television programs. In each instance, it is mandatory that a location agreement and a California Film Commission permit be completed and submitted before any shooting date is determined.

The process for approval consideration begins with a written request to the CDCR Office of Public and Employee Communications. The request should include:

  • Details of the project and production location needs
  • Production schedule and duration
  • Crew size
  • Any access to specific youths so review and clearance can be initiated
  • Script sections that pertain to DJJ
  • Scenes to be filmed inside a DJJ facility
  • Type/quantity of production equipment on premises
  • Any satellite or microwave transmission from DJJ facility

If project approval is given, a location agreement must be executed with the parent firm and a California Film Commission permit (To download the permit application in PDF format, you'll need Acrobat Reader. If you don't have it, download it free from Adobe.) will be required along with evidence of financial responsibility and liability insurance in the amount of at least $1 million with the State of California, its offices, employees, and agents as the "additional insureds." Part of the agreement provides for defending and indemnifying the state against any lawsuits.

Editorial researchers, freelance writers, authors of books, independent film makers, and other unaccredited media must provide proof of employment by an accredited publication/production company, or have evidence that an accredited publication/production company has contracted to, or expressed interest toward purchase of the completed project. Youths may participate in specific person, face-to-face interviews only after appropriate consents are signed and the request has been reviewed to determine if this visit would be detrimental to the treatment process or court-ordered activities.

A minimum of 10 working days is required for approval of the least complicated request. There are no assurances that access will be granted. The DJJ does try to accommodate requests within available resources consistent with the safe and secure operations of its facilities and camps.

CDCR’s Communications Office (916) 445-4950

The Office of Public and Employee Communications, located at CDCR headquarters in Sacramento, articulates the DJJ’s position on issues, manages crisis communications, serves as a liaison to the media, and releases information to the public.  The office will coordinate media requests made under the California Public Records Act.

The Press Office also provides other services to media:

Prior Youth Commitment Information

Media representatives needing information about a youth committed to or released from a DJJ facility or camp can call the Office of Public and Employee Communications at (916) 445-4950.  The full name and the date of birth of the person being researched are required.  Commitment offense and time served and/or release information on a youth that has been housed at DJJ will be responded to in a timely manner, and will be prioritized by deadline urgency.

Stock Video Footage and Still Photographs

The Office of Public and Employee Communications maintains a library of stock video footage, and makes these available to the media upon request. Current and archived footage and photographs of correctional facilities and programs, including restricted or limited access areas such as control booths, guard towers, and lockup programs may be available. Please feel free to ask.

Media Inquiries

The Communications Office responds to inquiries from the media. Facts are gathered as quickly as possible and provided to the inquirer. If the requested facts are not known or are otherwise unavailable, we will provide that information.

DJJ Internet Web Site

DJJ's Web site - http://www.cdcr.ca.gov/Juvenile_Justice/index.html- contains press releases and other general information about the DJJ’s facilities and camps, programs, treatment services, and reform efforts. It also includes information about the history of the DJJ, our mission statement, contact information for the various divisions and program areas, research and statistics for the youth population, and more!

The regulations governing DJJ are found in Title 15, the California Code of Regulations, Sections 4000 through 4857. These regulations can be found by visiting https://govt.westlaw.com/calregs/.

Escapes

In the event of an actual or suspected escape, the public information officer or designee at the facility shall notify radio and television stations and newspapers in the surrounding communities and the missing youth’s home community. In addition, the DJJ Office of Victim and Survivor Rights and Services will immediately inform victims and their immediate family who have placed themselves on a notification list to be updated on any developments in the youth’s stay at DJJ. The facility or camp will provide the missing youth’s physical description, estimated time of disappearance, an identification photograph, and a summary of the facility's search efforts and cooperation with law enforcement agencies.