Four months after his release from the California Youth Authority, former inmate No. 86660 is scrambling for a new identity, the San Jose Mercury News reports. The 21-year-old, who just finished serving 2 1/2 years in the state’s youth prison system for assault, feels constantly “on edge.” Simple tasks are baffling — ordering sandwiches, filling out a check — and who’s there to watch your back? At the Youth Authority, Angel Caurillo could count on fellow Norteño gang members.
The local Youth Authority parole office is supposed to be the bridge between incarceration and freedom. Too often, it collapses, the Mercury News says. Three out of four young adults paroled from the Youth Authority are arrested on new criminal charges within three years after emerging from a system that failed to prepare them for a constructive, law-abiding life. Overwhelmed by violence, the Youth Authority provides insufficient academic education and negligible counseling and life-skills training. When a ward is released, the Youth Authority parole system cannot make up for those failures. Focused too narrowly on surveillance and rule infractions, critics say, rather than the housing, jobs, education, and personal relationships crucial to stability, parole agents all too often end up rearresting parolees and sending them back to the Youth Authority.