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ERIC Number: ED568387
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2016-Aug
Pages: 10
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 38
Failure after Farrell: Violence and Inadequate Mental Health Care in California's Division of Juvenile Justice
Ajmani, Nisha; Webster, Erica
Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice
From its inception in 1891 to present day, California's state youth corrections system has been mired in violence and abuse. In 1914, IQ testing and eugenics at state juvenile facilities resulted in the forced sterilization of poor, primarily non-white youth. In 1939, the suspicious suicide of a 13-year-old boy, the maltreatment of Latino youth, and systemic violence prompted a statewide investigation. In the 1960s, the California Youth Authority's (CYA) own internal studies concluded that their facilities bred violence and failed to keep youth safe (Macallair, 2015). In 2003, after the media and juvenile justice advocates exposed decades of physical and sexual abuse, dangerous working conditions for staff, capitulation to gangs, and multiple youth suicides, the Prison Law Office (PLO) sued the CYA, which was renamed to the Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) in 2005 (CJCJ, 2013). This lawsuit, "Farrell v. Kernan" ("the Farrell lawsuit"), forced DJJ to improve conditions within its facilities. As a result of "Farrell," in 2004, the Alameda County Superior Court of California issued a consent decree that required DJJ to implement six remedial plans overhauling its safety, health, mental health treatment, sex behavior treatment, disabilities services, and education systems. After twelve years of oversight, in February 2016, the court released DJJ from the lawsuit, stating that it had satisfied a majority of the consent decree's mandates, though acknowledging two remedial plans had not yet been fully implemented. Despite the dismissal, data show that DJJ is far from reformed: violence, gang culture, and poor mental health care are continuing problems. Analyses of court documents monitoring "Farrell's" two remaining remedial plans--the Safety and Welfare Remedial Plan and the Mental Health Remedial Plan--reveal that DJJ continues to be a dangerous and traumatic place that fails to provide adequate mental health treatment, therapeutic services, and evidence-based programming for California's young people. Because the court ended its oversight of the additional remedial plans in or before 2013, in order to analyze more recent trends at DJJ prior to the dismissal of the "Farrell" lawsuit, this report can only examine the implementation of the safety and mental health reforms. However, institutional violence and lack of access to mental health care affect multiple aspects of daily life at DJJ and may be indicative of other problems. This report presents the following sections: (1) An Overview of DJJ; (2) Unfulfilled Reforms of the "Farrell" Lawsuit; (3) DJJ Fails to Keep Youth Safe; (4) DJJ is Unable to Provide Mental Health Care; and (5) Recidivism Rates Remain High.
Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice. 54 Dore Street, San Francisco, CA 94103. Tel: 415-621-5661; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Reports - Research
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice (CJCJ)
Identifiers - Location: California