In this climate of fear, the population of California’s state facility system ballooned, 25
resulting in rampant overcrowding. Longer periods of confinement contributed to population, as
new adult-style parole consideration policies pegged length of confinement at the California Youth
Authority (“CYA” or “Youth Authority”) 26 to categories of offenses rather than youths’
rehabilitative needs. 27 In July 1996, the point of its greatest expansion, the CYA had a population
of 10, 115 youth in facilities designed for many fewer. 28 The system as a whole was at 137% of its
capacity and individual institutions were being run at as much as 172% capacity. 29
The CYA began to resemble an adult prison system. In fact, the N.A. Chaderjian facility,
which opened in 1991, was modeled after an adult high security prison, featuring single cells
instead of dormitories and two-tiered living units with glassed-in surveillance decks. 30 The
evolution of CYA into a prison system was further advanced when a portion of its staff joined the
California Correctional Peace Officers Association, the prison guards’ union. That affiliation
formally exposed CYA staff to the philosophy and hardware of adult corrections. 31 In this
environment, control measures like “solitary confinement” flourished.
25 Aside from the effect of “tough on crime” attitudes, growth in the state facility system was fiscally driven. Earlier
financial incentives to serve youth locally had been lost, and it was cheaper for counties to commit youth to the state
system than to handle them locally. BARRY KRISBERG ET AL., A NEW ERA IN CALIFORNIA JUVENILE JUSTICE 5 (2010),
available at http://www.nccdglobal.org/sites/default/files/publication_pdf/a-new-era.pdf.
26 In 2019, California has two government-operated systems of juvenile facilities. The Division of Juvenile Facilities
is operated by the state agency that runs adult prisons – the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. The Division
became a part of the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation in 2005. See CAL. WELF. & INST. CODE § 1710(a)
(2005). For much of the period leading up to the changes discussed in this article, it was called the Department of the
Youth Authority, and commonly referred to as “Youth Authority” or “CYA.” Id. The second system of institutions is
run by the 58 counties. Every county is required to have a place for the detention of youth and most achieve this by
operating a juvenile hall. See CAL. WELF. & INST. CODE § 850 (1961). In addition, state law provides for the
establishment of camps or ranches for post-dispositional commitments, and many counties have one or more. See
CAL. WELF. & INST. CODE § 880 (amended 1998).
27 Macallair, supra note 7, at 196–97. Also, many youth whose commitment offense would have permitted an earlier
release received “time adds” from the Youthful Offender Parole Board that caused them to be held for the maximum
jurisdictional time allowed by law.
28 DEP’ T OF THE YOUTH AUTH. RESEARCH DIV. INFO. SYS. UNIT, MON THLY POPULATION REPOR T AS OF JULY 31, 1995
(Aug. 2, 1995), available at
%201996.pdf. At that point in time, the California Youth Authority ran two reception centers, ten institutions, four
camps, and a halfway house.
30 See Macallair, supra note 7, at 212–13; Barbara Anderson et al., Hall of Shame: A world of rage locked in a cage,
FRESNO BEE (Feb. 18, 2001), http://www.caichildlaw.org/Misc/Hall_of_Shame.pdf.
31 The former head of the Youth Authority, Allen Breed, described this transformation in May 2000: “The entire
emphasis shifted from statewide leadership in the entire juvenile justice arena to concentration on the operation of
correctional institutions and a parole system with significantly reduced resources . . . Into this void also has moved a
very strong prisoner officers’ union which has introduced uniforms, philosophy, and procedure normally found in a
prison setting.” Joint Oversight Hearing of the Senate and Assembly Committees on Public Safety Regarding the
California Department of the Youth Authority 1999-2000 Leg. Sess. (Ca. 2000) (testimony of Allen Breed),
14/ spsf.senate.ca.gov/jointinformationalhearingonthecaliforniayouthauthoritymay162000/index.html [hereinafter
Joint Oversight Hearing]. This hearing on the California Youth Authority was widely publicized. See, e.g., Carl
Ingram, Probe Paints State Youth Authority as a System in Chaos, L.A. TIMES (May 17, 2000),
http://articles.latimes.com/2000/may/17/news/mn-30918; Mark Gladstone, Watchdog finds abuse, absence of training
in Youth Authority, L.A. TIMES (May 17, 2000).