Legal Dictionary


California Youth Authority

The California Youth Authority (CYA), now known as the California Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ), is a division of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation that provides education, training, and treatment services for California's most serious juvenile offenders between the ages of 12 – 25. CYA is also home to juveniles under the age of 18 who have been prosecuted in adult court.

It is the largest youth correctional system in the United States, housing approximately 6,000 juveniles and young adults in five institutions and two forestry camps with an additional 4,000 under parole supervision. Los Angeles County is home to one of these facilities, the Southern Youth Correctional Facility in the city of Norwalk which is an all male facility. The other CYA institutions are: Ventura Youth Correctional Facility in Camarillo, Preston Youth Correctional Facility in Ione, O.H. Close Youth Correctional Facility in Stockton and N.A. Chaderjian Youth Correctional Facility in Stockton. Preston Youth Correctional Facility is the only facility equipped to house very young male wards and N.A. Charderjian Youth Correctional Facility is a maximum security facility only housing the worst offenders between the ages of 18-24. It has also been projected that the Southern Youth Correctional Reception Center will close down sometime in 2012. Pine Grove Youth Conservation Camp in Pine Grove and S. Carraway Public Service and Fire Center in Camarillo are the two CYA forestry camps which allow offenders to integrate with the community under supervision where they learn social skills and are involved in stream clearance and fire prevention tasks.

In theory, these facilities operate under a treatment and training concept and offer a vast array of services tailored to fit juvenile inmate's needs, including: mental health services, substance abuse treatment services, sexual behavior treatment services and special education services. On top of specific programs these facilities are also required by law to provide high school education to every juvenile not already possessing a degree. Most facilities also offer practical vocational training to the inmates. However, in reality, CYA operates similarly to adult prisons. The facilities are riddled with extreme violence, abuse by staff, suicide by inmates and a vast deterioration in the special services these facilities claim to offer. Moreover, it is also common place for inmates, such as known gang associates, violent or disruptive inmates, to be kept from educational programs for safety reasons. Due to budget cuts CYA facilities continue to close, leading to overcrowding in the current operating facilities.

There are, however, alternative treatment programs that take the place of CYA. If you or your child are interested in exploring options to CYA commitment, contact a criminal defense attorney with knowledge of the juvenile justice system to discuss your options.

If your child is convicted of a crime in Los Angeles county, he or she may be facing temporary placement outside of the home (camp placement) or a sentence at the California Youth Authority for an indefinite period of time until the age of 25. The California Youth Authority closely resembles a California state prison for adults. In a worst-case scenario, the child may be tried as an adult and receive the same sentence as an adult if convicted.

If your child is facing criminal charges in Los Angeles county, consult with criminal defense attorneys Stephen G. Rodriguez & Partners to assist your child in staying out of the California Youth Authority and minimizing the effect of a criminal charge on the child's future.