What has changed in the three years since court-mandated monitoring of California’s juvenile detention centers ended? As Samantha Michaels reported for Mother Jones, despite some good news—such as an overall decrease in the numbers of incarcerated youth—the situation is still “pretty grim,” and violence in the state’s juvenile detention centers has worsened significantly since court oversight ended. Mother Jones’s coverage was based on a February 2019 report, “Unmet Promises,” by the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice.
Until 2016, California’s Division of Juvenile Justice was under court-mandated monitoring as part of a settlement in a lawsuit that charged the agency for abuse of detainees and failure to provide adequate medical care or rehabilitation. In early 2016, the agency was commended for groundbreaking improvements in its treatment and rehabilitation of juvenile offenders.
Since mandated reporting ended, however, the likelihood of a juvenile being assaulted has increased by 49 percent, according to the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice’s report. Similarly, reported use-of-force incidents involving staff that were out of compliance with the agency’s policies rose by 45 percent; and staffers sometimes tried to cover up their alleged misbehavior. Furthermore, the number of attempted suicides has risen since mandated monitoring ended, from three between August 2015 and July 2016 to 28 since 2016. Lack of response by staff to detainees’ medical needs decreases trust and worsens trauma for youth who, in many cases, already live with the effects of previous trauma.
The California Report, produced by KQED, an NPR-affiliate in San Francisco, also covered the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice’s report on use of force in California’s juvenile detention facilities. Otherwise, establishment media outlets have failed to report this story.
Samantha Michaels, “Use of Force in California State Juvenile Detention Facilities Has Jumped Threefold since Court Monitoring Ended,” Mother Jones, February 21, 2019, https://www.motherjones.com/crime-justice/2019/02/use-of-force-in-california-state-juvenile-detention-facilities-has-jumped-threefold-since-court-monitoring-ended/.
Student Researchers: Citlali Mendoza, Kyle Slobodnik, Lauren Axberg, Molly Regin, and
Nyia Roberts (Sonoma State University)
Faculty Evaluator: Susan Rahman (Sonoma State University)