Fresno County Juvenile Justice Campus
Disability Rights California (DRC) and Youth Law Center (YLC) visited the Fresno County Juvenile Justice Campus (JJC) for two days, May 23-24, 2017. Over the course of the following year, DRC and YLC reviewed the County’s public records and wrote a public report which sets forth findings and recommendations.
Throughout California, young people coming out of juvenile detention face many obstacles as they attempt to reenter their community, especially when it comes to continuing their education. In 2010, the a state study found that seventy-nine percent of young people released from California juvenile detention centers were not enrolled in a local school within thirty days of release. In 2015, the State Legislature enacted Assembly Bill 2276 to ensure “that a pupil released from a juvenile court school shall not be denied immediate enrollment in a public school.” The law requires county juvenile justice systems to facilitate enrollment of students to public school upon release and to create “a county office of education and county probation department… joint transition planning policy.”
The report found that Fresno County has adopted educational reforms that address the problem of reentry and implement AB 2276, and also has a good special education program for youth in Fresno Juvenile Hall. The report explains that the County School Superintendent has a coordination agreement with Probation, holds regular transition reentry meetings for youth, and proactively invites superintendents from local school districts to regular planning meetings regarding justice-involved youth. Inside the hall, special education students are promptly identified and receive individualized, evidence-based teaching.
However, there is still much work to do within JJC’s walls. The system has a number of concerning practices, such as the reliance on pepper spray on youth instead of less harmful interventions, and the failure to properly decontaminate youth after they are exposed to pepper spray. We also found that JJC’s behavioral management system fails to account for the specific needs of youth with disabilities. For example, one interviewed youth reported that he was denied good behavior credits because he did not respond an order, although he is deaf and could not hear what was said to him. We received many reports that youth are hungry due to insufficient meal and nutritional offering. And we found deeply concerning JJC’s restricting access to telephones as a form of discipline for youth, a practice that disrupts youth’s connections with family in a damaging way.
Throughout our investigation, Fresno County Probation Department and Superintendent of Schools has been cooperative. They have responded to some of our findings regarding youth with disabilities with plans to address our concerns. The County’s response and its plans to move forward are linked below.
- Fresno’s Juvenile Justice Campus Has a Pepper Spray Problem, Says Report Witness LA 7/6/2018
- Fresno County uses pepper spray on detained teens. A new report calls it 'dangerous' The Fresno Bee 7/3/2018