The state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation announced Monday that it officially closed the Heman G. Stark Youth Correctional Facility in Chino, a 50-year-old San Bernardino facility east of Los Angeles.
Authorities say they don't need the space for 400 minors, who were transferred to other facilities. Changes in state law have cut the number of youths in state custody as more go to county centers.
Instead, the Chino lockup will be retrofitted with an electric fence and other safeguards to house 1,200 adults - for much less than the $500 million it would cost to build an adult prison.Those of you who have been following the juvenile facility situation know that Stark has been unfavorably reviewed by Books Not Bars, which found it to fail in every possible category. In that respect, the hope is that juveniles will find themselves in better environments. But another mystery concerns the decline in juveniles in custody that even made this arrangement possible.
image courtesy CDCR.
Why is the population at juvenile facilities declining? A 1995 report from the Legal Analyst's office predicted an increase in juvenile arrests and showed that CA was well above average in juvenile arrests and prosecutions. A later report from 2000 showed a decline in arrests, which it attributed to "the improved economy (and thus more job opportunities for young people), the decline in the use of certain drugs, and the relatively peaceful gang situation in urban areas." I don't know which of these are true today--#1 certainly is not--and am also not sure whether some of the continued decline we're seeing may be attributed to more juveniles tried as adults and held in adult facilities. The main idea, however, seems to be to divert juveniles to county facilities, so they can be closer to home, which makes a lot of sense.