The History of the Division of Juvenile Justice


California became a state. There were no correctional facilities for juveniles. Some consideration was given to the need for a reform school at that time, but none was authorized. Serious cases, about 300 boys under the age of 20, were sent to the state prisons at San Quentin (Marin County) and Folsom (Sacramento County), between 1850 and 1860. This included 12, 13, and 14-year-old boys.


The San Francisco Industrial School was founded on May 5, 1859 by an act of the state Legislature. The school opened with a total of 48 boys and girls, ranging from 3-18 years of age and a staff of six. It was run by a private board. Management could accept children from parents and police, as well as the courts. The program consisted of six hours per day of school (classroom) and four hours per day work. Trade training was added later. Releases were obtained by (1) discharge, (2) indenture, and (3) leave of absence, very similar to present day probation and/or parole.


The State Reform School for boys in Marysville was authorized and opened in 1861. Ages ranged from 8-18 years.


The State Reform School for Boys at Marysville closed due to lack of commitments. Twenty-eight boys were transferred to the San Francisco Industrial School. The State donated $10,000 to the San Francisco Industrial School and agreed to pay $15 in gold coin per month for each child of the school. During this year, girls in the Industrial School were transferred to the Magdalen Asylum in San Francisco.


The Legislature permitted commitment to the San Francisco Industrial School from the counties of Santa Clara, San Mateo, and Alameda.


The first “Probation Law” was enacted (Section 1203 Penal Code).


The training ship Jamestown was transferred from the U.S. Navy to the City of San Francisco to supplement the San Francisco Industrial School. The ship was to provide training in seamanship and navigation for boys of eligible age. After six months, an examination was given and successful trainees were eligible for employment as seamen on regular merchant ships.


The training ship was returned to the Navy due to mismanagement and a hue and cry that the Jamestown was a training ship for criminals.


The Legislature enacted a law establishing two State reform schools. Both were part of the Division of Institutions, and both had trade training and academic classes. Commitments were made from Police Courts, Justice Courts, and Courts of Session for a specialized period of time or minority. These schools were: (1) Whittier State Reformatory (now Fred C. Nelles School in Whittier) and (2) the Preston School of Industry in Ione (Amador County).


The Whittier State Reformatory for Boys and Girls opened with an enrollment of 300 youth.


The San Francisco Industrial School closed, and the Preston School of Industry opened


The Legislature enacted law establishing juvenile courts.


All wards under 18 were transferred out of San Quentin by legislative decree.


County juvenile halls were established


Ventura School for Girls was established and girls transferred from Whittier State Reformatory to Ventura.


First statewide supervision began — a Probation Office was created, under the State Department of Social Welfare.


The Legislature authorized County Boards of Supervisors to establish forestry camps for delinquent youths.


The Youth Corrections Authority Act was adopted by the California Legislature. The law:

  1. Created a three-person commission appointed by the governor and 
    confirmed by the Senate
  2. Mandated acceptance of all commitments under 23 years of age, 
    including those from juvenile court
  3. Added a section on delinquency prevention
  4. Authorized no authority over existing state institutions
  5. Appropriated $100,000 to run the Authority for two years

The Whittier School for Boys was renamed the Fred C. Nelles School in honor of the man who served as the facility’s superintendent from 1912 to 1927.


Preston School of Industry, Ventura School for Girls, and the Fred C. Nelles School for Boys were separated from the Division of Institutions and became part of the California Youth Authority (CYA).

The first ward committed under the Youth Corrections Authority Act–YA No. 00001 — arrived at the new Youth Authority Unit, a diagnostic facility. The ward was transferred from San Quentin Prison, where he had been sent at age 14 after being convicted for second-degree murder. A “lifer,” he had shot an uncle during a quarrel over ranch chores. 

The Youth Authority moved toward establishing camps, and a unit — Delinquency Prevention Services — was established.


Karl Holton was named first director. 

The Governor transferred management of state reformatories — Preston, Nelles, and Ventura — to the Youth Corrections Authority. Total wards in institutions, 1,080; total wards on parole, 1,625; staff, 517.

The State Probation Office turned over responsibility for delinquency prevention to the Youth Corrections Authority. The word “corrections” was dropped from title; hence, California Youth Authority (CYA).

Fifty boys transferred from county jails to the Calaveras Big Trees Park where they built a 100-bed capacity camp. The Youth Authority acquired property and buildings formerly used by the Knights of Pythias Old Peoples’ Home. Boys from Preston and the Calaveras Camp cleaned and renovated the grounds and buildings, and the Los Guillicos School for Girls was established in Sonoma County.


The CYA entered into a contract with the military for the establishment of two camps — one at Benicia Arsenal and the other at the Stockton Ordnance Depot — each with a population of 150 boys.


The first boys arrived at Fricot Ranch School in Calaveras County. By fall of 1945, 100 boys and a full complement of staff were at the school. The 1,090-acre estate was leased with an option to purchase for $60,000 and that option was exercised in 1946. 

Many youthful offenders in detention homes, jail, and two army camps were awaiting commitment to the Youth Authority. Army camps were closed after the war and the growing need for facilities became a crisis.

The Division of Parole was created and the parole staff consolidated.

The need was apparent for an older boy institution, and the Legislature authorized the California Vocational Institution at Lancaster (an old Army/Air Force Base).

A state subsidy was given to counties for establishment of juvenile homes, ranches, and camps for juvenile court wards. The subsidy was administered by the CYA. Pine Grove Camp was established in Amador County.


Camp Ben Lomond opened in Santa Cruz County. 

The first wards arrived at the El Paso de Robles School for Boys (San Luis Obispo County) on September 30 (old Army/Air Base — 200 acres and 40 barrack buildings — purchased for $8,000).


Governor Earl Warren called the first Statewide Youth Conference in Sacramento in January. An estimated 2,200 people attended, including 200 high school and college youths


Heman G. Stark was named director and served until 1968. His tenure remains the longest of any CYA director.


The CYA was given departmental status.


Northern and Southern Reception Centers opened, in Sacramento and Norwalk, respectively.


Mt. Bullion Camp opened in Mariposa County.


The Youth Training School opened in San Bernardino County.


The CYA was placed under the newly formed Youth and Adult Corrections Agency. 

Washington Ridge Camp opened in Nevada County.


Ventura School for Girls moved from its Ventura location to Camarillo


The state’s Juvenile Court Law was modified.


A reception center and clinic was established at the Ventura School for Girls, and the girls at the Southern Reception Center and Clinic in Norwalk were transferred to Ventura.


Northern California Youth Center (NCYC) opened near Stockton (San Joaquin County).


O. H. Close School for Boys opened at NCYC.


Allen Breed was named director. 

Karl Holton School for Boys opened at NCYC.

An administrative reorganization plan was implemented, establishing North and South Divisions.

Facilities were constructed at Pine Grove and Ben Lomond Camps.


The CYA, along with the Department of Corrections, was placed within the Human Relations Agency (which became the Health and Welfare Agency).


A change in the law meant fewer female commitments, so Ventura School for Girls became co-educational.


DeWitt Nelson School opened at NCYC. 

Los Guillicos became co-educational with boys from Fricot Ranch.

Fricot Ranch was closed due to declining ward population.

Oak Glen Camp opened in San Bernardino County.


El Paso de Robles School closed due to declining commitments.


El Paso de Robles School reopened, as commitments began to rise again.


Pearl West was named director, the first woman to hold the position.


Fenner Canyon Camp opened in Los Angeles County.


The CYA became part of the newly formed Youth and Adult Correctional Agency. 

The Legislature removed the state’s young offender paroling authority, the Youth Authority Board, from the CYA and renamed it the Youthful Offender Parole Board (YOPB). The director had also served as chairman of the board. Antonio C. Amador was selected to chair the “new” YOPB.


Antonio C. Amador, former Los Angeles Police Protective League President was named director, the first Hispanic to hold the position.


James Rowland, Chief Probation Officer of Fresno County, was named director and introduced the concept of involving crime victims in youth correctional programs.


“Impact of Crime on Victims” curriculum was implemented and was introduced in each institution and camp in the CYA. This was a pioneering effort that has since been shared with other states and localities across the country. 

The department adopted a policy of employment readiness as a major goal for wards and began reorganizing its Vocational Educational Program to make training more relevant with available jobs.


Free Venture, a program involving public/private partnerships for ward employment, began. The CYA agreed to provide space to private sector businesses which meet certain criteria. In turn, the businesses hire and train wards who earn prevailing wages for real jobs. Wards who earn these jobs then become taxpayers. Also, percentages of their earnings go to victim restitution, room and board, a trust fund and a savings account. Trans World Airlines became the first Free Venture partner, instituting a project at Ventura School. 

El Centro Training Center opened as a short-term Institutions and Camps (I&C) Branch facility in Imperial County.


C. A. Terhune, a 30-year veteran of the CYA, was named director.


El Centro Drug Program for Girls opened.


Ventura School opened a camp program and instituted the department’s first female fire fighting crew. 

Oak Glen Camp was closed due to budget concerns.

Fenner Canyon Camp was transferred to CDC.

El Centro closed as an I&C facility and reopened as the Southern California Drug Treatment Center operated by the Parole Services Branch.


B. T. Collins, a Vietnam War hero who lost an arm and a leg in that conflict, was appointed director in March and resigned in August, when he was asked to run for the State Assembly by the Governor. 

William B. Kolender, former Police Chief of San Diego was appointed director.

N. A. Chaderjian School opened, a 600-bed institution at NCYC, increasing the number of training schools at that site to four. Chaderjian was secretary of the Youth and Adult Correctional Agency at the time of his untimely death in 1988. 

Fred C. Nelles School celebrated its Centennial.  


The CYA’s first boot camp program (30 beds) opened at Preston School. It was named LEAD (Leadership, Esteem, Ability and Discipline) and served as a model for other juvenile boot camps in the country. 

Preston School of Industry celebrated its Centennial.


The second LEAD (Boot Camp) Program (30 beds) opened at Fred C. Nelles School. 

The First Superintendent of Education position was created, and the department began a reorganization of the Education Program.

The Youth Authority Training Center opened at the NCYC complex.


Karl Holton School was converted to the Karl Holton Drug and Alcohol Abuse Treatment Center (DAATC), (now known as Karl Holton Youth Correctional Drug and Alcohol Treatment Facility), devoted entirely to programming wards with substance use and abuse problems. The CYA thus became the first youthful offender agency in the country to devote an entire major institution for that purpose.


Craig L. Brown, undersecretary of the Youth and Adult Correctional Agency, was named director


Francisco J. Alarcon, Chief Deputy Director, was appointed director.


CYA Institutions and Camps were changed to include “Youth Correctional”


Gregorio S. Zermeno, Superintendent at the De Witt Nelson Correctional Facility, was appointed director in March.


Jerry L. Harper, former Undersheriff of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, was appointed director in March.


Karl Holton Drug and Alcohol Abuse Treatment Center in Stockton closed in September. The facility first opened in 1968.

Walter Allen III was appointed director by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Mr. Allen was the Assistant Chief for the California Department of Justice, Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement.


February, the Northern Youth Correctional Reception Center and Clinic in Sacramento closed. The reception center-clinic first opened in 1956.

February, the Ventura Youth Correctional Facility in Camarillo returned to a females-only facility. Male youths are housed at the S. Carraway Public Service and Fire Center.

June, the CYA closed the Fred C. Nelles Youth Correctional Facility in Whittier. This was CYA’s oldest facility spanning more than 100 years. The last youth left the facility on May 27, 2004. 

June, the CYA closed its operation of Mt. Bullion Youth Conservation Camp in Mariposa County.

November, Farrell v. Allen Consent Decree filed with the court. This action was brought by a taxpayer, Margaret Farrell, against Walter Allen III, Director of the California Youth Authority.


In a reorganization of the California corrections agencies, the CYA became the Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) within the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. 

March, Education Services Remedial Plan filed with the court. 

May, Sexual Behavior Treatment Program Remedial Plan filed with the court. 

June, Bernard Warner was appointed as Chief Deputy Secretary for the DJJ.


June, Health Care Services Remedial Plan filed with the court.

July, Beginning of FY 2006/2007, funding to implement remedial plans is provided for the first time.

July, Safety and Welfare Remedial Plan filed with the court.

August, Mental Health Remedial Plan filed with the court.


June, Health Care Services Remedial Plan filed with the court.

Legislation (SB 81 and AB 191) require most youthful offenders to be committed to county facilities, reserving those convicted of the most serious felonies and having the most severe treatment needs for DJJ. Previously adopted financial incentives for counties and the legislative changes reduce DJJ’s population from a peak of approximately 10,000 a decade earlier to approximately 1,700.


July 31, El Paso de Robles and De Witt Nelson Youth Correctional Facilities closed.


In October, David Murphy, a 20 year veteran school administrator, is named DJJ’s Superintendent of Education, fulfilling a significant requirement of the Farrell reform plan for Education.


In February, the Heman G. Stark Youth Correctional Facility in Chino, originally known as the Youth Training School and subsequently named for the agency’s longest serving director, is closed after 50 years as a juvenile facility and begins a transformation into an adult prison. DJJ continues to operate five facilities and two fire camps.

In March, DJJ adopts a new staffing model that adapts to a smaller population but also provides uniform treatment for all DJJ youth to administer reforms required by the Farrell plans. Consolidation of staff and facilities results in staff reductions of approximately 400 positions and estimated savings of $30-40 million. 

In February, DJJ reports to the Alameda Superior Court that is has complied with 82 percent of more than 8,000 policy and program changes required by the Farrell reform plans


Rachel Rios is named Deputy Secretary of Juvenile Justice (Acting)

In February, counties begin to assume parole supervision of juvenile offenders, under the Public Safety and Rehabilitation Act of 2010.  The Juvenile Parole Board continues to determine when a youth is sufficiently rehabilitated to warrant release, but county courts and probation officials establish and enforce conditions of supervision.   

The Preston Youth Correctional Facility in Ione is closed in June.  Opened as the Preston School of Industry in 1894, it was the state’s second facility built specifically to house juvenile offenders.

The Southern Youth Correctional Reception Center and Clinic in Norwalk (Los Angeles County) is closed in December.

Due to a declining number of youth eligible for fire-fighting duty, DJJ consolidates its juvenile fire crews to Pine Grove, vacating the S. Carraway Public Service and Fire Protection Center in Camarillo (Ventura County).