Close troubled Stockton youth facility, lawmakers urge
By Don Thompson, Associated Press Writer, June 20, 2005

SACRAMENTO, (AP) State lawmakers on Monday called for closing the Stockton youth prison where two wards were filmed being beaten and pepper-sprayed by employees 18 months ago, saying there has been virtually no reform despite repeated promises.

Wards housed at the N.A. Chaderjian Youth Correctional Facility are no longer schooled while sitting in cages the size of telephone booths, but they are kept in the cages while being transferred between buildings, witnesses said. Many exercise in outdoor "dog cages" that permit little extended motion.

Lawmakers complained that classrooms often lack teachers, vocational programs have been ended, there are too few counselors, and there is little help for the many youths who have mental health problems. The education program last month lost its accreditation for failing to make reforms recommended two years ago.

"Why is it that the youth authority is not doing anything? Why do they come in front of us, nod their head ... but there is no corrective action taken?" Sen. Mike Machado, D-Linden, said Monday during a hearing of the Senate Select Committee on the California Correctional System.

Inspector General Matthew Cate told senators the facility remains dangerous and ineffective, based on his six-month investigation.

Senate Majority Leader Gloria Romero, D-Los Angeles, previously said Chaderjian should be closed as a symbolic gesture to signal a shift to smaller community facilities. On Monday, she said the institution should be closed simply because conditions have deteriorated.

California Youth Authority Director Walter Allen III acknowledged that the youth prison, nicknamed "Chad," has been "an ongoing problem since the day it was built." He said it is modeled after a high-security adult prison and has attracted "the worst of the worst offenders."

"This is the new and improved Chad, and it's just absolutely outrageous," said Sue Burrell, an attorney with the nonprofit Youth Law Center who toured the facility last week.

She said it doesn't meet the minimum legal requirements for schools, safety or treatment. Burrell recommended it be closed immediately.

"Anything would be better than what's happening at Chad right now," Burrell said.

The Youth and Adult Correctional Agency is looking at how each of its facilities is used and will make changes as needed, agency spokesman J.P. Tremblay said.

Problems at the Stockton prison arose in January 2004 when investigators said two men, then age 19 and 21, started a fight that spilled into a common area. A videotape showed counselors repeatedly kicking, punching and pepper-spraying spraying the men, who were prone and not resisting.

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