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California turns toward rehabilitating juveniles April 3, 2007

Posted by FairSentencing in : Current News , trackback

After decades of tough policies, America’s most-populous state is poised to reverse direction in its approach to the incarceration of youth – from punishment to rehabilitation.

In the 1930s and 1940s, in particular, California was considered the country’s premier model for returning young offenders to communities only after addressing the shortcomings that may have led to their prison terms – social and education skills, family patterns, mental health, gang participation, and vocational needs.

But dwindling funds and years of embracing a get-tough ethos moved the state into what critics called the “caged” model: one more intent on control, rebuke, and reprimand than on corrective measures.

Now with 70 percent of released offenders rearrested within three years
– highlighting both the costs to society and declining life options for the imprisoned – the state is embracing a new approach. Goaded in part by a taxpayer lawsuit forcing them to address deficiencies, state leaders are releasing blueprints that they hope will stop the revolving door of juvenile offenders turning into adult criminals.

“We are not talking about hugging a thug … we will still hold youth accountable for what they do, but we need to make an impact on the majority of offenders so they don’t go out there and reoffend,” says Walt Allen, director of the California Youth Authority (CYA), which runs the state’s eight youth prison facilities, now housing about 3,288 people.
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