Costly Calif. Juvenile Program Has Strong Backers

Marisa Lagos, San Francisco Chronicle, April 10, 2012

Dozens of teenage boys dressed in hunter-green polo shirts and khaki pants line up outside one-story concrete classrooms waiting to walk to their next period.

It seems like any other high school: Walls are decorated with student artwork and class work, and the main office bustles with teachers and administrators.

But the students here, at O.H. Close Youth Correctional Facility, have committed murders, robberies, assaults and rapes. Many of them are mentally ill, most are Latino or black, and the average age is 17.

Several days a week, classes—English, biology, economics, geometry and other typical courses—are suspended while the youths attend counseling and other treatment sessions tailored to their needs. Sex offenders are in sexual behavioral treatment programs, mentally ill offenders are in a mental health program, and violent wards attend intensive behavioral treatment programs.

This is California’s solution to dealing with its juvenile offenders with the most serious criminal backgrounds, who need intensive treatment that county juvenile halls could not provide. The program is expensive, costing state taxpayers $179,400 a year per offender.

Now, the state is contemplating pulling the plug on O.H. Close and three other state-run facilities that serve this population, which represents less than 1 percent of the more than 225,000 youths arrested in California each year. Earlier this year, Gov. Jerry Brown proposed closing the institutions and sending these offenders back to county juvenile halls.

The move would fall in line with Brown’s broad goal of shifting state services to the county level, in part to cut back on state spending. But staff members at O.H. Close say the closures would be devastating, and some youths here agree, saying they have received far more effective treatment than they ever got in county juvenile halls.

“It’s different here—we are given more counseling; at home, they didn’t do nothing,” said Ivan Heres, an 18-year-old sex offender from Orange County who has been at O.H. Close for six months and will be paroled in December.

Heres is one of about 1,000 youth offenders now detained at these state-run facilities run by the Department of Juvenile Justice. {snip}


Staff and wards at both O.H. Close and N.A. Chaderjian Youth Correctional Facility next door say closing the state facilities—which would save the state more than $100 million a year—would set California back, and experts warn it could result in far more juveniles being charged as adults and sentenced to state prison.


Division of Juvenile Justice numbers

1,032 Number of juvenile offenders in state facilities as of Feb. 29

10,000 Number of juvenile offenders in state facilities 10 years ago

65% Percentage of DJJ offenders in substance abuse treatment

30% Percentage of offenders in mental health treatment

17% Percentage of offenders in sexual behavior treatment

37% Percentage of offenders convicted of assault

32% Percentage of offenders convicted of robbery

11% Percentage of offenders convicted of murder

19 Average age of juvenile offenders in state custody

Source: California Dept. of Corrections and Rehabilitation


Share This

We welcome comments that add information or perspective, and we encourage polite debate. If you log in with a social media account, your comment should appear immediately. If you prefer to remain anonymous, you may comment as a guest, using a name and an e-mail address of convenience. Your comment will be moderated.
  • Several days a week, classes—English, biology, economics, geometry and other typical courses—are suspended

    Anyone want to bet if English, biology, economics and geometry are actually being taught there?

    The program is expensive, costing state taxpayers $179,400 a year per offender.

    No wonder it has “strong backers.”  When you spend almost 180k/per student/year, someone is making a lot of money by definition.  And they’re going to spend some of that money to keep on making it.

    • JackKrak

      Exactly.  It reminds me of sugar farmers in Florida – the government spends huge money on subsidies for the farmers, who take some of that money to lobby for more money to be spent on farmers, who take some of that money …….

      • The_Bobster

        It reminds ME of AIPAC.

  • JohnEngelman

    Criminals have done nothing to merit remedial education and job training. They have debts to pay society. They should perform hard labor. 
    Besides rehabilitation does not work. The only thing that reliably reduces recidivism is age. 

    • The_Bobster

      I’ve posted many stories of  senior citizen TNB on New Nation News. The only things that seem to stop it are imprisonment, death or infirmity.

  • 19 Average age of juvenile offenders in state custody

    What’s wrong with this picture?  A 19-year old is an adult.  And this is the “average” age, so half of them are 20 or older!

    • Spartan24708

      They are charged as adults but are in another facility from juveniles- it is separate from either older adults or kids under 18 because the inmates would be hamburger meat in adult prison.

  • bluffcreek1967

    “Most are Latino or black.” Gee, who could have guessed?

  • ViktorNN

    Some population groups will never function well in an advanced Western post-industrial society. It’s like making a one-legged man run the 100 yard dash in the Olympics. 

    We could start vocational training younger, try to prepare them earlier. But how large of an underclass do we really need? The sad truth is that they might not have a place in such a society.  

  • Anon12

    What is the RACE of these offenders?  In CA it is mostly split between mexicans and blacks. 

  • ageofknowledge

    I would bet money that they are almost all surenos, nortenos, and black gang members.