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Young inmates caged drugged state study finds { January 28 2004 }

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Young inmates caged, drugged, state study finds
By DON THOMPSON, Associated Press Writer
Last Updated 3:55 p.m. PST Wednesday, January 28, 2004

SACRAMENTO (AP) - Young California inmates are often locked in cages as punishment, and those with mental problems are frequently drugged and improperly cared for, a state-funded study says.
The California Youth Authority is supposed to rehabilitate its 4,600 young wards, but instead often focuses on punishment such as isolating offenders in wire cages, two national experts said in a confidential report obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press.

Inadequately trained therapists frequently treated youths suffering mental illness and substance abuse problems with prescription drugs instead of providing proper therapy. A majority of the wards suffer mental or drug-abuse problems.

"The vast majority of youths who have mental health needs are made worse instead of improved by the correctional environment," reported University of Washington child psychologist Eric Trupin and forensic psychiatrist Raymond Patterson of Washington, D.C. "The California Youth Authority continues to fall short of meeting many recognized standards of care for youth with mental health and substance abuse disorders."

Drugs are frequently administered to restrain misbehaving youths who are of no apparent danger to themselves or others, while, "In a number of facilities, psychiatric evaluations are cursory and do not meet accepted professional standards."

Widespread use of so-called "chemical restraints" is intolerable, said Sen. Gloria Romero, D-Los Angeles, who chairs a corrections oversight committee: "This is not the 1930s. Even in mental hospitals, I thought we'd gotten rid of these practices long ago."

The state-funded report is the first of six being conducted as part of a class-action lawsuit by the San Francisco-based nonprofit Prison Law Office alleging poor conditions and treatment at the state's 11 youth institutions. Similar reports have been prepared on education and health care in the system, which handles young people up to age 25.

The experts said there has been some progress, but cited wide variations between the nine institutions they reviewed.

The report's release comes a week after a 17-year-old boy from Los Angeles and an 18-year-old boy from Stockton hanged themselves at the Preston Youth Correctional Facility in Ione, east of Sacramento.

"We have got a serious problem, and before another teenager commits suicide the California Youth Authority has got to get its act together," Romero said.

She plans a hearing on the youth system next month, following two days of hearings last week on problems at the Department of Corrections for adults. The youth system has a recidivism rate even higher than that in the adult system, she said, as high as 90 percent.

State officials aren't disputing the findings, and Youth and Adult Correctional Agency spokesman Tip Kindel said Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's new administration inherited the problems but is trying to fix them "on a fast track."

"The report was pretty scathing in terms of what was being done and not done for the wards," Kindel said.


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Young inmates caged drugged state study finds { January 28 2004 }

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