One year after California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vowed to make the state’s youth prisons places where inmates receive “a better chance to succeed in life,” his administration issued a court-mandated plan to carry out that vision, reports the Los Angeles Times. The proposal embraces a therapeutic approach that has proved successful elsewhere. The long-awaited blueprint proposes cutting in half the number of youths housed together. It changes how guards handle unruly wards, ensures that all receive therapy, eliminates extended solitary confinement for misbehavior, and more carefully screens incoming juveniles so they are housed and treated according to their needs.
Lawyers, legislators and relatives of young offenders called the plan skimpy on details. They lamented that officials did not mention how much the changes would cost and where money for them would be found. The Prison Law Office, which filed the lawsuit that resulted in the plan, struck an agreement yesterday requiring the state to hire by Jan. 3 six national juvenile justice experts. The team, which will include the former youth prison chiefs of Massachusetts and Illinois, will help make immediate changes inside prisons and fine-tune the long-term plan.