Violence Rises after End of Mandated Monitoring in California’s Juvenile Detention Centers

by Vins
Published: Updated:

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’ coverage is based on a February 2019 report “Unmet Promises,” by the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice.

Until 2016, California’s Department of Juvenile Justice was under court-mandated monitoring as part of a settlement in a lawsuit that charged the department for abuse of detainees and failure to provide adequate medical or rehabilitation. In early 2016, the department was rewarded 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, the 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 in 2018. 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.

Source: Samantha Michaels, “Use of Force in California State Juvenile Detention Facilities Has Jumped Threefold since Court Monitoring Ended,” Mother Jones, February 22, 2019,

Student Researchers: Citlali Mendoza, Kyle Slobodnik, Lauren Axberg, Molly Regin, and Nyia Roberts (Sonoma State University)

Faculty Evaluator: Susan Rahman (Sonoma State University)