Mentally ill juvenile convicts in California often over-medicated, improperly punished, and treated by inadequately trained clinicians who tend to intervene only in a crisis, says a report on the state’s Youth Authority. The report, obtained by the Los Angeles Times, described a patchwork state system of care that is inconsistent from facility to facility. The Youth Authority houses 4,600 inmates in 11 institutions and four camps.
The report cited a failure to track the effects of mind-altering drugs and an over-reliance on punishment – segregation in a wire-mesh cage, for example – for youths who should get therapy.
The report was written as part of a class-action lawsuit alleging unconstitutional conditions in the Youth Authority, once a national model. Its authors, experts on psychiatry and corrections, were jointly approved by plaintiffs’ lawyers and the state, which paid for the review. The findings drew attention partly because of the suicides last week of two teenagers at one youth facility.
At the Youth and Adult Correctional Agency, a senior official called the mental health report “pretty ugly” and acknowledged problems.
The report’s authors, Eric Trupin and Dr. Raymond Patterson, said that among findings that most alarmed them was the overuse of “chemical restraints,” or drugs, “particularly when administered to youth who are not presenting a threat to staff or other youth and are being non-compliant.”