California officials have unveiled a new set of detailed recommendations for fixing the state’s troubled juvenile prison system, says the San Jose Mercury News. They promised to push forward on reforms despite skepticism from legislators and other critics. A panel of outside experts made the recommendations in a 90-page report that lays out steps toward reducing violence and providing intensive treatment for some of the worst juvenile offenders, using programs that have proved effective in Washington State and elsewhere.
The report identified a number of obstacles, including an entrenched prison culture, managers who mostly react to crises, and a recent administrative reorganization that placed juvenile institutions under control of a corrections bureaucracy that is geared toward adults.For years, the state’s juvenile system has been criticized as unsafe and poorly run. A Mercury News series in 2004 found that wards receive little of the education or treatment required by state law. They are housed in prison-like dorms or cell blocks, where violent gangs and guards vie for the upper hand. Don Specter of the non-profit Prison Law Office said success will depend heavily on the state’s commitment to recruiting managers and staff who will focus on helping troubled youths change their behavior, rather than simply acting as guards.