“The state’s juvenile offender population has been declining in recent years.” said James Tilton, CDCR Secretary. “Legislation signed last year will allow the Division of Juvenile Justice to focus on those youths with the greatest risk and needs while accommodating a shift in the population designed to keep most youth in their home communities.”
“The Division of Juvenile Justice is in the process of implementing significant reforms which will provide enhanced treatment services for youth in a safe environment. These closures will allow for the most effective implementation of the Court requirements,” said Bernard Warner, Chief Deputy Secretary of Juvenile Justice. “The move to keep juvenile offenders from revolving in and out of prison as adults is part of the state’s broader commitment to reducing recidivism and increasing public safety through rehabilitation.”
CDCR has assembled a team of specialists to locate opportunities for the estimated 800 staff impacted by the closures. In past efforts when downsizing occurred in both the juvenile and adult systems, nearly every staff displaced by closures was offered a position somewhere else in the state correctional system.
For several years, the DJJ has experienced a declining youthful offender population. In addition, the DJJ is currently undertaking a massive reform of its operations and services in conjunction with the settlement of the Farrell lawsuit, which lays out a plan to improve deficiencies identified throughout the Division.
In September, 2007, Governor Schwarzenegger signed SB 81. The law realigns the types of wards the DJJ will receive and treat based on the severity of the offenses committed. Effectively this keeps offenders formerly referred to the DJJ for less serious crimes in their county of commitment, ensuring that juvenile offenders who have committed less serious offenses receive treatment closer to home and near family support. As of September 1, 2007, counties no longer refer new less serious offenders to the State.
As a result of SB 81, DJJ began to plan for the eventuality of a closure of one or more facilities as the population of offenders continues to drop. In July 2007, DJJ housed approximately 2,500 wards. By June 30, 2008, DJJ is projected to house 1,934 youth. This number is expected to decline to 1,703 wards by June 30, 2009. This projected decline necessities consolidating the remaining population in six DJJ facilities and two conservation camps. As the DJJ population drops, the result will be a higher concentration of youth who are sexual offenders, more violent, and/or gang entrenched.
Efforts are underway to develop a system-wide plan for appropriate long-term facilities. This system-wide plan is a key component to the Division’s commitment to meet mandates of the six remedial plans under Farrell.
Chief Deputy Secretary Warner along with DJJ Executive management met with staff at the DeWitt Nelson Youth Facility today, and with staff at El Paso de Robles Youth Facility on Jan. 3. The team advised staff on possible employment within CDCR at other adult and juvenile facilities.
Dewitt Nelson Youth Correctional Facility, and El Paso de Robles Youth Correctional Facility, are two of eight institutions serving juvenile offenders in the DJJ. Dewitt Nelson serve wards 18-25 years of age while El Paso de Robles serves youths ages 15 to 21. No specific reuse of either facility slated for closure has been identified, however CDCR has initiated a survey to see how the existing facilities could best serve the state and local communities.
For more information on the DJJ, please visit the CDCR website at www.cdcr.ca.gov.
SACRAMENTO – The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) announced today that two Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) facilities will close by July 2008 as a result of a trend of declining DJJ ward populations and recently enacted legislation.
The two facilities scheduled to close are Dewitt Nelson Youth Correctional Facility in Stockton, San Joaquin County, and El Paso de Robles Youth Correctional Facility, in Paso Robles, San Luis Obispo County. The approximate population at DeWitt Nelson is 259 youth and at El Paso de Robles is 147 youth. The two facilities are proposed to be closed by July 31, 2008.