California is closing its largest youth prison, the Los Angeles Times reports. The Heman G. Stark Youth Correctional Facility in Chino will be converted into an adult prison. The move is part of a plan to “right-size” staff at the Division of Juvenile Justice, which is reducing its workforce by 400 employees to save the state up to $40 million. The plan is geared toward reducing the annual cost of incarcerating and caring for each juvenile from $252,000 to $175,000. California’s youth prisons have been troubled for years.
The state five years ago settled a lawsuit brought on behalf of the juveniles, who said they were locked up for long periods in dirty, dim cells without the education, rehabilitation, health care, and other treatment the state was supposed to provide. Last year, lawyers for the juveniles mounted an unsuccessful effort to have the system put under court control. Sue Burrell of the Youth Law Center in San Francisco said Stark had been “an especially horrible place” since the slaying of a female officer there in 1996. An inmate was convicted of her murder. With the closure, the state will have five youth prisons, down from 11 in 2003. The number of juvenile offenders in state custody has declined to 1,700 over the last decade from a peak of nearly 10,000, the result of legislation that now puts most of the youths in county facilities where they can be closer to their families.