Council says youth rehab programs need help

The Associated Press
Tuesday November 21, 2000

LOS ANGELES — In order to rehabilitate thousands of juveniles in the state’s youth prison system, officials need to expand drug treatment, sex offender therapy and counseling programs. 

The suggestions were made by a panel of experts and were included in a 4-inch-thick volume of reform proposals presented last week for the California Youth Authority. 

But the experts say true reform of the 15-prison system, which houses about 7,4000 wards, will take strong leadership and more money. 

“These are some very troubling and troublesome young people and they need resources,” said Barry Krisberg, president of the National Council on Crime and Delinquency. “They have to be treated.” Krisberg said he believes some of the panel’s suggestions could offer immediate relief for the juveniles. 

Representatives for Robert Presley, secretary of the state Youth and Adult Correctional Agency, and Jerry L. Harper, director of the youth authority, said both men agree with the proposed measures and plan move ahead with implementation as soon as possible. 

After the Los Angeles Times reported several problems within some youth authority facilities last year, Presley convened the panel of some 100 experts, which, in turn, produced the report that became public last week. 

The Times review found that wards sometimes were ordered into special programs, such as drug rehabilitation, and then denied parole when those programs had no vacancies. 

It was also found that nearly 2,000 wards were waiting for drug rehab, while nearly 700 others could not get a bed in the special units for severe psychological disability or sexual deviance. 

The state office of the inspector general also had concerns. It discovered wards in several institutions were subjected to excessive force and received few of the programs they were promised. 

State Senate leader John Burton, D-San Francisco, cheered the reform proposals and said he will push a budget increase for the troubled agency. 

The legislative analyst’s office has suggested that it would take $25 million more a year to provide the special treatment programs that wards have been ordered to enter. 

Gov. Gray Davis vetoed an additional $6.4 million put into this year’s budget for such services, saying that the need for the funds was “unclear.” However, some officials are confident that Davis will back more spending for the reforms in the budget he is expected to announce for the coming year.