Legislative Analyst's Office
Analysis of the 2001-02 Budget Bill
Department of the Youth Authority (5460)
The Department of the Youth Authority is responsible for the protection of society from the criminal and delinquent behavior of young people (generally ages 12 to 24, average age 19). The department operates training and treatment programs that seek to educate, correct, and rehabilitate youthful offenders rather than punish them. The department operates 11 institutions, including two reception centers/clinics and four conservation camps. In addition, the department supervises parolees through 16 offices located throughout the state.
The budget proposes total expenditures of $431 million for the Youth Authority in 2001-02. This is $15.8 million, or about 4 percent, above estimated current-year expenditures. General Fund expenditures are proposed to total $348 million in the budget year, an increase of $13.7 million, or 4 percent, above expenditures in 2000-01. The department's proposed General Fund expenditures include $39.7 million in Proposition 98 education funds. The Youth Authority also estimates that it will receive about $80.9 million in reimbursements in 2001-02. These reimbursements primarily come from county fees for wards sent to the Youth Authority.
The primary reason for the increase in General Fund spending for the budget year is that the Governor has proposed a number of modest policy initiatives to remedy persistent problems within Youth Authority institutions and parole programs.
Approximately 73 percent of the total funds requested for the department is for operation of the department's institutions and camps and 14 percent is for parole and community services. Of the remaining 13 percent of total funds, 12 percent is for the Youth Authority's education program, and the remainder for general administration.
There are several ways that an individual can be committed to the Youth Authority's institution and camp population including:
Characteristics of the Youth Authority Wards. Wards in Youth Authority institutions are predominately male, 19 years old on average, and come primarily from Southern California. Hispanics make up the largest ethnic group in Youth Authority institutions, accounting for 48 percent of the total population. African Americans make up 29 percent of the population, whites are 16 percent, and Asians and others are approximately 7 percent.
Most Wards Committed for Violent Offenses. Figure 1 shows the Youth Authority population by type of offense.
As of December 2000, 65 percent of the wards housed in Youth Authority institutions were committed for a violent offense, such as homicide, robbery, assault, and various sex offenses. In contrast, only 45 percent of CDC's population has been incarcerated for violent offenses.
In 2000, 24 percent of the total ward population was incarcerated for property offenses, such as burglary and auto theft; 4 percent for drug offenses; and the remaining 6 percent for various other offenses. The percentage of wards that are incarcerated for violent offenses will probably remain the same or increase somewhat in future years. This is because the state has shifted incentives by implementing a sliding fee schedule that charges counties a lower fee to commit more serious offenders to the Youth Authority while charging a higher fee for less serious offenders. As a result, a higher proportion of less serious offenders will remain at the local level.
Average Period of Incarceration Is Expected to Stabilize. Wards committed to the Youth Authority for violent offenses serve
longer periods of incarceration than offenders committed for property or drug offenses. Because of an increase in violent offender
commitments, the average length of stay for a ward in an institution has increased in recent years, but is expected to stabilize for
reasons discussed below. As a result, the Youth Authority estimates that, on average, wards who are first paroled in
2000-01 will have spent 34.1 months in a Youth Authority institution compared to 34.2 months for a ward paroled in 1999-00 and 26.9 months in 1996-97. The Youth Authority projects that length of stay for first parolees will continue to drop somewhat to 33.5 months in 2004-05, a 2 percent decrease.
The increases in lengths of stay that occurred prior to 2000-01 are explained in part by the fact that wards committed by the juvenile court serve "indeterminate" rather than specific periods of incarceration. Wards receive a parole consideration date (PCD) when they are first admitted to the Youth Authority, based on their commitment offense. The Youthful Offender Parole Board (YOPB) can add or reduce time based on the ward's behavior and whether the ward has completed rehabilitation programs. In contrast, juveniles and most adults sentenced by criminal courts serve "determinate" sentencesgenerally a fixed number of yearsthat can be reduced by "work" credits and time served prior to sentencing. Increases in PCDs and time added for behavioral problems have resulted in longer institutional stays. The most recent information on PCDs, however, shows a decline. As a result, the Youth Authority is projecting a stabilization in length of stay.
We anticipate the Youth Authority's institutional population will flatten throughout 2001-02, and remain relatively stable thereafter. The Youth Authority forecasts 6,975 wards at the end of the budget year and 7,370 wards in 2004-05. Youth Authority parole populations are expected to decrease in the from 4,735 parolees in the budget year to about 4,645 parolees by the end of 2004-05.
The Youth Authority's September 2000 ward population projections (which form the basis for the Youth Authority's 2000-01 budget) indicate that the institutional population will remain relatively flat through the budget year. For the budget year through 2003-04, the Youth Authority projects that its incarcerated population will stabilize and then increase by about 6 percent, reaching 7,370 wards on June 30, 2005.
The number of parolees is also expected to decrease slowly through 2004. Figure 2 shows the Youth Authority's institutional and parolee populations from 1999-00 through 2003-04.
We withhold recommendation on a proposed $3.7 million decrease from the General Fund based on projected ward and parolee population changes, pending receipt of the May Revision budget proposal and population projections.
Ward and Parolee Population in the Budget Year. The Youth Authority's total population is projected to decrease somewhat, declining by 165 wards from the end of the current year to the end of the budget year. As a result, the department's caseload budget will decrease by $3.7 million. This decrease will result from unit closures at a number of institutions where population has declined. These reductions are not distributed proportionally across institutions, but were made with the intent of making resources available to meet the growing mental health needs of Youth Authority wards. As a result, some Youth Authority institutions will have populations significantly in excess of their design capacity while others will fall below that level.
In recent years, Youth Authority projections have tended to be somewhat higher than the actual population, leading to downward revisions for the future projected population. For example, the June 30, 2001 institutional population projection dropped by 160 wards from 7,300 in the spring 2000 projections to 7140 in the current projections.
While the population appears to be relatively flat, there is sufficient uncertainty to warrant withholding recommendation on the budget changes associated with the population size pending receipt and analysis of the revised budget proposal.
In February 2000, the Youth and Adult Correctional Agency (YACA) directed the Board of Corrections (BOC) to create a Technical Assistance Plan (TAP) to aid the Youth Authority in improving conditions of confinement within its institutions. To achieve this objective, the BOC established a comprehensive review process designed to solicit input from experts inside and outside the Youth Authority, which they termed the Youth Authority Institutional Operational Quality Assurance Project (IOQA).
After convening an Independent Steering Committee (ISC) to oversee the process, the BOC also assembled a multidisciplinary team to analyze operations in five representative institutions. Each team member spent about 30 hours at each institution. Based on their observations, the team put together a report to the ISC identifying areas where the Youth Authority could benefit from technical assistance.
The ISC referred these issues to eight subject matter work groups, as shown in Figure 3. The work groups met in August and September to work on the assigned issues, generate recommendations, and propose policy changes. The ISC then reviewed and commented on the recommendations and regulations that emerged from these work groups and submitted a final report to YACA and the Youth Authority at the end of October. Since that time the Youth Authority has been working internally to develop a recommended response to the report, using a process we describe further below.
| Youth Authority Institutions Operational Quality|
Assurance Project Work Groups
In the following section we summarize the major findings contained in the report, describe the Youth Authority's response to date, and make recommendations for legislative action pursuant to the report. Because the process employed to develop the TAP was very thorough and involved input from all the major stakeholders concerned with Youth Authority institutions, we believe that the final report is a valuable tool for the department as it seeks to improve the quality of its operations. As a result, the Legislature may wish to give close attention to the substance of the recommendations as well as the agency and department's actions in response to them.
The mission of the Youth Authority, as found in Welfare and Institutions Code Section 1700 states:
The purpose of this chapter is to protect society from the consequences of criminal activity and to that purpose community restoration, victim restoration, and offender training and treatment shall be substituted for retributive punishment and shall be directed toward the correction and rehabilitation of young persons who have committed public offenses.
Thus, the department's mission focuses on treatment, offender rehabilitation, and restorative justice rather then punishment. The TAP recommended the department maintain the mission statement and base its strategic planning around its emphases on treatment, training, and victim and community restoration. They noted this mission could not be fulfilled without adequate resources, and concluded that current resources are insufficient. Finally, the TAP recommended the Youth Authority assess current academic and vocational programs to insure that wards have sufficient opportunities to develop their skills.
The TAP recommended that the department have adequate personnel to meet its responsibilities and accomplish its mission. To determine the necessary level of personnel, it recommended that each institution's superintendent be required to prepare a staffing plan. This plan would be based on the findings of a "comprehensive, professional analysis of the number of positions required to provide security, treatment, programs and services, and to ensure the safety of wards and staff." In the report, the work group concluded there was insufficient staffing at each of the department's institutions. We note that currently juvenile halls and camps have standard personnel ratios that significantly exceed the staffing patterns in Youth Authority institutions. Institutional differences may explain a portion of these staffing differences. Because the work group did not identify a staffing standard ratio, it is difficult to assess whether, and to what extent, the department is understaffed. We concur that based on these disparities, the department would benefit by conducting an analysis to determine minimum staffing levels.
Restructure the Current Policy to Include More Graduated Sanctions. Prior to convening the IOQA process, the Youth Authority was the subject of a number of unfavorable press stories, most of which involved questionable disciplinary policies within its institutions. As a result, disciplinary policies were an important focal point of the IOQA process. The TAP recommends that the Director of the Youth Authority develop policies and procedures for discipline administration to include:
The TAP placed particular emphasis on insuring that the disciplinary system provide a continuum of graduated sanctions appropriate to each level of violation.
Disciplinary Segregation Issues. Two specific areas of concern regarding disciplinary policies discussed within the TAP were the use of disciplinary segregation and the use of "special program areas." Disciplinary segregation, often referred to as "lockdown," involves the placement of a ward in a locked single room, typically for the majority of the day (often 23 hours in a 24 hour period). The work group agreed that the use of this sanction requires some kind of due process review within 24 hours of its use. Currently, it appears that as many as 30 days can pass without any formal review. Special program areas, described as "cages" in the TAP report, are small areas surrounded by chain link fencing where wards in disciplinary segregation receive their programming services, such as education and counseling, and recreation. While the work group was unable to reach a consensus that these devices should be eliminated, it recommended that the Youth Authority immediately convene a committee to examine safe alternatives to these caged areas for indoor and outdoor programming.
Insure Appropriate Training for Clinical Health Care Staff. The work group on medical and mental health focused particular attention on insuring that all clinical health staff possess appropriate training and experience, known as "core competencies," required to serve the ward population at each institution. As an example, they noted that health care staff working with the female wards at Ventura need some expertise and training in women's health issues such as obstetrics and gynecology. To achieve this objective, the work group proposed a regulation that would require central office health administrators to develop minimum standards for the education, training, and experience necessary to meet the ward population's needs. Furthermore, it also recommended that the department establish policies and procedures to insure that licenses and certifications for clinical staff are appropriate for their work within the institution, a process known as "privileging," and that they be periodically updated and verified.
Health Care Quality Assessment and Improvement. The work group recommended implementation of a formal process for health care quality assessment and improvement. This process would require the creation of a written plan for service improvement, the development of regular mechanisms for internal and external peer review of health care delivery, and annual reports from the medical staff to the superintendents and the Director concerning current services, problems, and recommended actions to improve care.
Mental Health Service Improvement. The issue of mental health services in the Youth Authority has become very prominent recently as the ward population has come to include many more offenders with serious mental health problems. The TAP included a recommendation directing the Youth Authority to develop policies for providing services to mentally ill wards. The work group included a requirement that the policy developed incorporate the provision of the following services:
Providing Licensed Care for Acutely Mentally Ill Wards. In its discussion of this issue, the work group focused on the question of serving acutely mentally ill wards. The work group reached consensus that these wards need to be served in a setting licensed to provide psychiatric hospital services. In fact, the Youth Authority itself has been pursuing the establishment of Correctional Treatment Centers (CTCs)which would be licensed psychiatric hospitals within the Youth Authority. Nevertheless, the work group expressed concern that this particular solution would divert too many resources away from more routine mental health care, while serving only a very small number of wards. This issue is now further complicated by a recent court order, currently being appealed, that would require the Youth Authority to establish CTCs at all of its institutions. While the work group reached no final conclusion, it suggested that it would be preferable to serve these acutely ill wards by contracting out to private or state hospitals.
Improving Staff Recruitment and Retention for Medical and Mental Health Care Positions. One persistent barrier to the provision of adequate health and mental health services for Youth Authority wards identified by the TAP has been the difficulty in recruiting and retaining qualified professional staff. A key element of this problem has been the relatively low salaries for these positions relative to the private sector as well as other state agencies. While the Youth Authority is authorized to provide recruitment and retention bonuses to some of these classifications to improve this situation, it has not received funds specifically for this purpose. The work group on medical and mental health recommended that adequate resources be dedicated to this sector to meet statutory and constitutional obligations.
Gang affiliations among wards in Youth Authority institutions is a pervasive problem. Yet management of gang problems varies from institution to institution and has included techniques which have received negative media coverage. One ongoing issue has been whether to segregate wards by gang affiliation or to put members of rival gangs within the same units. Some institution superintendents prefer to segregate to prevent hostilities from flaring up, while others feel it is important not to legitimize these divisions by basing institutional decisions around them. The work groups noted that the Youth Authority has been relatively successful in identifying gang members and activity, but has not developed sufficient ways to intervene and manage gang-related problems. As a result, the TAP recommended that the Youth Authority establish a multidisciplinary task force to develop a department-wide strategy to address the gang problem within institutions.
Improvement in State-County Relations Is Needed. In recent years, the relationship between the Youth Authority and the counties, particularly county probation departments, has deteriorated to the extent that there is little communication between the two groups. There are a number of reasons for this including elimination of the Youth Authority's role in monitoring county juvenile detention facilities, and implementation of a sliding scale fee structure which requires the Youth Authority to regularly bill the counties for the wards they commit. The TAP contained a number of recommendations to remedy this problem, some of which focused specifically on relationship building and some which looked to mitigate the effects on counties of the sliding scale fee changes.
The sliding scale legislation, Chapter 6, Statutes of 1996 (SB 681, Hurtt), made counties responsible for paying a share of the cost of housing wards at the Youth Authority when those wards are committed for less serious offenses. In our discussion of the Youth Authority budget in the Analysis of the 1999-00 Budget Bill, we explored the rationale for the fees, the effects of their enactment, and recommendations for mitigating the negative consequences for counties. Overall, we concluded the fees had succeeded in spurring counties to create more local service options for less serious offenders, thereby diminishing their dependence on the Youth Authority. We noted, however, that counties were incurring higher costs for those categories of wards who continued to be committed to the Youth Authority facilities because their lengths of stay were increasing. As a result, we recommended that the Youth Authority develop some shorter-term programming options for these offenders, and that the counties be given more input into length-of-stay decisions. The focus of these recommendations were echoed in the TAP recommendations.
Establish Shorter-Term Programming. First, the work group recommended that the Youth Authority establish short-term programs with intensive aftercare components to increase the available options for counties who are working with less serious offenders. Research suggests that shorter institutional stays, combined with aftercare, can be just as effective as long commitments. The Legislature adopted supplemental report language in 1999 requiring the Youth Authority to report to the Legislature on the feasibility of implementing such programming but at the time this analysis was prepared the report had not been submitted. This report would provide a good starting point for discussion.
Authorize a Pilot Project. In addition to recommending shorter-term programming, the work group recommended the development of legislation to authorize a pilot project to allow counties more input and involvement in programming and length-of-stay decisions. As proposed in the TAP, the pilot would involve three counties (large, medium, and small) and would include the following elements:
Work to Improve the Day-to-Day Relationships Between the Counties and the Youth Authority From the Director Down to the Staff Level. Finally, the work group recommended a number of steps the Director and the Youth Authority could take to rebuild the relationship with the county probation departments. These included:
Under current law, the YOPB is charged with overseeing a number of decisions regarding Youth Authority wards, including length of stay and readiness to parole, handling certain disciplinary matters, revoking parole, and required programming. The work group on the future of the Youth Authority concluded it would be preferable in the long run to eliminate the YOPB and move to a system where the originating juvenile court makes these types of decisions. It therefore recommended that legislation be developed to eliminate the YOPB and replace it with a system where the juvenile court sets the initial length of stay and determines readiness to parole. It reasoned that this system has been successfully implemented in other states, promotes greater continuity of case management, and avoids some of the political pressure on YOPB appointees to continually increase length of stay.
Length of Stay Increasing. The work group appropriately focused its concern on the increase in Youth Authority lengths of stay which have grown significantly in recent years. For example, in 1996 the average length of stay for a first commitment to the Youth Authority (which excludes parole violators and other returns) was 26.4 months. In 1999, that figure had risen to 34 months, a 30 percent increase. By comparison, in 1999 felons being released to parole in CDC served 23.5 months on average. (It is noteworthy that sentencing decisions for inmates are made by the courts.) This steady upward growth in length of stay suggests an increase in punishment levels which may not be appropriate given the statutory mission of the Youth Authority.
Intermediate Recommendations Also Made. While the TAP report made a long-term recommendation to eliminate the YOPB, it also included some intermediate steps to improve the existing process. These included:
The frequent turnover of directors in recent years has led to concern about the possibility of leadership problems at the Youth Authority. To address this issue the TAP made a number of recommendations. First, it recommended that the administration encourage directors to maintain longer tenures than in the recent past. Second, it suggested that the department improve management training for Youth Authority staff. Third, it proposed widening the recruitment pool for management positions to include outside juvenile justice agencies. Finally, to improve the ability of the Director to lead, the TAP recommended that the Director develop an external communications plan to enhance the understanding of the department's mission among local officials, state policymakers, the public, and the media.
The Youth Authority adopted a process for generating a response to the TAP recommendations that included the following steps. First, it held an executive level meeting and assigned each recommendation to a staff person best situated to prepare a response. These staff are currently preparing position papers responding to the recommendation which include background on the underlying issue, their assessment of the content of the recommendation, and a proposed departmental action plan based on their analysis. The Director and executive staff are reviewing these responses as they are completed. Once they reach consensus on the content of the responses they are forwarding those reports to YACA for review. At the time this analysis was prepared, the department had submitted one group of responses and was planning to continue to send these reports as they were completed.
The Governor's budget proposes a number of new initiatives that would improve mental health services for wards in institutions and move the department in the directions recommended by the TAP. The new proposals include:
In addition to these new programs, the budget includes funds for two one-time assessments that address TAP recommendations. One would review current best practices in mental health treatment for juvenile offenders with recommendations for the Youth Authority to improve its existing services. The other would support a quality assessment for health and mental health care service delivery in the institutions.
We recommend that the department advise the Legislature during budget hearings on the status of its responses to the Technical Assistance Plan, and highlight any areas where resources are needed to implement recommended changes during 2001-02.
By the time budget subcommittee hearings are underway, the department should have made some important decisions about what actions to take with regard to the TAP recommendations. We recommend that the Legislature carefully monitor this process to insure that the department maximizes its use of the many volunteer experts who compiled the TAP. While we do not know which TAP recommendations the department will view as its most important priorities, we can identify several that call for a significant investment of time and resources to evaluate current practices and identify possible alternatives. In each of these cases, the department may need additional one-time resources to complete these assessments. The most notable of these are:
In summary, the TAP can be a powerful tool for the Youth Authority to use as it works to improve the quality of its institutions. It can also serve the Legislature as it exercises its oversight role with regard to the department and its policies.
We recommend that prior to budget hearings the Youth Authority submit to the Legislature the report already required in the Supplemental Report of the 1999 Budget Act and due April 1, 2000 relating to the feasibility of implementing shorter-term programming for less serious offenders.
As discussed above, the Legislature directed the Youth Authority to report on the feasibility of implementing shorter-term institutional programming such as education and counseling for less serious offenders as well as additional community services for wards on parole. The supplemental report language required the Youth Authority to do the following:
Given that the TAP has recommended the Youth Authority establish such shorter-term programming, the issuance of this report (due to the Legislature April 1, 2000) would help the Legislature evaluate the value of the TAP recommendation as well as strategies for implementing it. Therefore, we recommend that the department submit this report to the Legislature prior to budget hearings.
We recommend approval of $8.1 million to expand or establish mental health, sex offender, and substance abuse treatment programs and partially restore wards' rights coordinator positions. Each of the proposals represents a modest effort to expand programs which the Legislature had significantly augmented in last year's budget bill but which the Governor subsequently vetoed. In the event the Legislature decides to again augment funding for these programs, we recommend it give priority to sex offender treatment and ward grievance procedures since the Youth Authority is most likely to be able to expand services in these areas within the budget year.
Background. During the budget process last year, the Legislature augmented the Youth Authority's budget for mental health, sex offender, and substance abuse treatment services; and additional staff to manage the ward grievance process. These augmentations were vetoed by the Governor. In his veto message, the Governor indicated that while he supported the underlying objectives behind the augmentations, he was not certain that they were well focused to the actual needs of the Youth Authority. The Governor, therefore, expressed his willingness to consider future proposals to address these issues.
Budget Proposals. The Governor's budget proposes a number of new programs, positions, and activities consistent with last year's legislative priorities for the Youth Authority budget. These proposals cover specialized treatment for sex offenders, mentally ill wards, wards with substance abuse problems, as well as a proposal to improve the ward grievance system. Figure 4 highlights the budget proposals and compares them with last year's legislative augmentations which were subsequently vetoed. Each budget proposal is also discussed in greater detail below. Generally, the Governor's proposals are more modest than the extensive reforms that the Legislature amended into last year's budget bill.
| Governor's Budget Proposals|
Versus 2000-01 Legislative Augmentations
| Legislative Augmentations
To 2000-01 Budget Bill Vetoed by Governor
| Governor's 2001-02|
| Sex Offender
|$1.1 million partial-year funding to begin phase-in of (a) 767 treatment slots, and (b) a 120 day minimum community based aftercare program.||$2.8 million to (a) create a 50-bed specialized treatment unit and (b) establish 35 transitional aftercare beds.|
| Mental Health
|$688,000 partial-year funding to phase-in (a) 1000 mental health treatment slots and (b) community based aftercare.||$3.9 million to (a) add 75 specialized counseling beds, (b) provide aftercare counseling for 325 parolees, and (c) establish 20 residential aftercare beds.|
| Substance Abuse
|$542,000 for partial-year funding to phase-in (a)1,944 slots of drug treatment programming, and (b) a 150 day minimum community based aftercare program.||$720,000 to implement (a) 100 contract-based institutional substance abuse treatment slots and (b) 25 contract-based aftercare slots.|
| Treatment Needs
Assessment and Plan
|$400,000 for a treatment needs assessment and programming plan for substance abuse, sex offender, and mental health treatment.||Same|
| Ward Grievance
|$1.5 million partial-year funding for 20 ward right's coordinators plus support staff.||$252,000 for 2 ward right's coordinators and a program administrator at headquarters.|
Sex Offender Treatment. To improve specialized treatment services for sex offenders, the Governor's budget proposes $2.8 million to create a 50-bed sex offender treatment program at the N.A. Chaderjian Youth Correctional Facility (NACYCF) in Stockton and provide 35 residential aftercare beds for parolees requiring sex offender treatment. By contrast, last year the Legislature augmented the 2000-01 Budget Bill to provide partial-year funding to phase-in 767 slots for sex offender treatment, with 200 slots implemented by January 1, 2001. The budget bill language also called for community-based aftercare services of at least 120 days for at least 50 percent of the graduates of the treatment program. The Governor subsequently vetoed the funding and the language. The budget proposal is based on information from April 2000 which shows that 802 sex offenders in Youth Authority institutions and 337 parolees currently are not receiving any specialized sex offender treatment services. In addition, more than 300 sex offenders who are required to receive sex offender treatment pursuant to Welfare and Institutions Code Section 727.6 currently are receiving no treatment. The Youth Authority recognizes that this proposal would only partially address these needs.
Mental Health Services. To improve mental health services for wards with serious mental health problems, the budget proposes $4.3 million for (1) 75 mental health treatment beds at the Preston Youth Correctional Facility, (2) contract services for weekly counseling for 325 parolees, (3) 20 beds for contract residential aftercare for mentally ill parolees, and (4) a contract study to assess the Youth Authority's mental health treatment needs and recommend a strategy for meeting those needs based on best practices nationwide. The 2000-01 Budget Bill language vetoed by the Governor also would have provided $400,000 for an assessment study, but included partial-year funding for a provision to phase-in 1000 specialized mental health treatment slots.
Substance Abuse Treatment. The Governor's budget would provide $720,000 to contract with an outside substance abuse treatment program for institution-based treatment and provide 25 residential aftercare slots for parolees. The budget bill language vetoed by the Governor would have provided partial-year funding to phase-in 1,944 drug treatment slots, and required a 150-day community-based aftercare program for at least 50 percent of the institution-based program graduates.
Ward Grievance Procedure Enhancements. The Governor's budget proposes to add three positions at a cost of $252,000 to begin to reestablish permanent staffing to handle ward rights procedures. Budget cuts in the early 1990s eliminated dedicated ward rights coordinator positions and reassigned these duties to staff with other responsibilities. As a result of this change, the Youth Authority had difficulty managing ward grievances and, as a result, many wards felt their grievances were not being handled fairly and expeditiously. The Governor's proposal would create a program administrator located at the headquarters office and two ward rights coordinator positionsone at Heman G. Stark Youth Correctional Facility (the largest Youth Authority institution) and one coordinator to provide field monitoring for all of the other institutions. The legislative augmentation vetoed by the Governor would have provided $1.5 million partial-year funding for one ward rights coordinator for every 400 wards, as well as investigative and clerical support staff.
Department Proposes a Phased-In Approach. The Youth Authority refers to each of the recommended strategies as the beginning of a phased-in approach. Thus, it recognizes that these proposals will not fully meet existing needs in these four areas. The approach taken by the Legislature last year was to provide comprehensive solutions, but fund only those steps that the Youth Authority believed could be accomplished in the budget year. The treatment slot numbers proposed by the Legislature were designed to fully address unmet needs as identified in the Youth Authority's 1998 Treatment Needs Assessment. Recognizing that an update of that assessment was needed in light of changes in Youth Authority population characteristics, the Legislature included $400,000 for a new and more comprehensive treatment needs assessment. This assessment was to be used to update the numbers of slots referenced in the budget bill language.
The budget proposes to begin addressing these unmet needs more incrementally without committing to future year expenditures. While it is unlikely that the department could implement all of the program changes needed to meet their ward treatment requirements in the budget year, it appears likely based on prior planning and development work that it could do more than is proposed by the Governor's budget.
Sex Offender Treatment and Ward Rights Ready for Additional Augmentation. If the Legislature determines that it wants to take more comprehensive steps to address these treatment issues, we recommend that it give first priority to the sex offender treatment and ward grievance procedure proposals, as the department is most likely to have the ability to expand these services based on preliminary assessment and planning work already completed in this area.
Proposed Study Should Guide Future Increases for Treatment Initiatives. We recommend approval of the mental health and substance abuse proposals because they move towards addressing current ward treatment needs. Currently, the department has received funds to thoroughly assess and plan for mental health services. This report would cover sex offender, substance abuse, and mental health treatment. The results of the assessment should guide any future funding increases for treatment services.
We recommend that the Youth Authority report to the budget committees, prior to budget hearings, on the status of its long-range plan for juvenile justice data collection and analysis in California.
The Legislature appropriated $300,000 to the Youth Authority in the 1996-97 Budget Bill to contract for the development of a long-range plan for juvenile justice data collection and analysis on a statewide basis. The contractor submitted an initial draft of the plan in April 1998 and a revised plan in June 1999. A final draft of the report, however, has yet to be issued by the Youth Authority. The lack of good statewide data on juvenile justice issues has frustrated policy makers in this area for some time. Yet there has been little action to resolve the problem because the long-range plan appeared to be the best place to begin the discussion. While no due date was specified in the bill, it is clear that the Legislature intended for the plan to be completed by now. As a result, we recommend that the Youth Authority report to the budget committees, prior to budget hearings, on the status of the plan and its time frame for releasing a final plan.