In a long-awaited decision, California leaders have moved to close the state’s youth correctional institutions managed by the Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ). Throughout its 80-year history, DJJ has come under harsh criticism for its prison-like conditions, rampant violence and dramatic racial disparities among youth behind its walls.
Recently, the rapid spread of COVID-19 inside DJJ facilities sparked community outrage. Youth at DJJ were already exposed to traumatic conditions. Now, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, they experience further isolation from family and peers as well as a severe lack of rehabilitative programming. This public health crisis exposes DJJ’s inherent flaws and patterns of neglect.