The Lessons of California for Juvenile Justice Reform
Those who equate juvenile justice reform with better institutions should consider the California lesson. For the past 13 years, the state’s youth correctional system operated under court monitoring due to its failure to provide rehabilitative services or a safe environment.
The “Farrell lawsuit,” brought by the Prison Law Office, cited a list of institutional abuses that have plagued the American juvenile justice system since the 19th century. Rather than places of rehabilitation, California youth correctional facilities were institutions of rampant violence, abuse and mismanagement. The lawsuit demanded that the state make changes to eliminate the violence and promote a rehabilitative environment.
This past February, the Farrell lawsuit came to an end, with both sides declaring success and promising a new era in California youth corrections. Almost immediately, the state’s youth corrections system, the Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ), dispatched staff to California juvenile courts and county departments to urge increased commitments.