LAO 2003 Budget Analysis: Judiciary and Criminal Justice

Legislative Analyst's Office

Analysis of the 2003-04 Budget Bill

Department of the Youth Authority (5460)

The Department of the Youth Authority is responsible for the protection of society from the criminal and delinquent behavior of young people (generally ages 12 to 24, average age 19). The department operates training and treatment programs that seek to educate, correct, and rehabilitate youthful offenders rather than punish them. The department operates 11 institutions, including two reception centers/clinics and four conservation camps. In addition, the department supervises parolees through 16 offices located throughout the state.

The budget proposes total expenditures of $414 million for the Youth Authority in 2003-04. This is $12.2 million, or about 3 percent, below estimated current-year expenditures. General Fund expenditures are proposed to total $336.8 million in the budget year, a decrease of $17.8 million, or 5 percent, below expenditures in 2002-03. The department's proposed General Fund expenditures include $37.4 million in Proposition 98 education funds. The Youth Authority also estimates that it will receive about $75.3 million in reimbursements in 2003-04. These reimbursements primarily come from fees paid by counties for wards sent to the Youth Authority.

The primary reason for the proposed decrease in General Fund spending in the budget year is due to projected decreases in the institution and parole populations.

Approximately 76 percent of the total funds requested for the department is for operation of the department's institutions and camps and 11 percent is for parole and community services. Of the remaining 13 percent of total funds, 12 percent is for the Youth Authority's education program, and the remainder for general administration.

Who Is in the Youth Authority?

There are several ways that an individual can be committed to the Youth Authority's institution and camp population, including:

Characteristics of the Youth Authority Wards. Wards in Youth Authority institutions are predominately male, 19 years old on average, and come primarily from Southern California. Hispanics make up the largest ethnic group in Youth Authority institutions, accounting for 49 percent of the total population. African Americans make up 29 percent of the population, whites are 17 percent, and Asians and others are approximately 5 percent.

Most Wards Committed for Violent Offenses. Figure 1 shows the Youth Authority population by type of offense.

As of December 2002, 65 percent of the wards housed in Youth Authority institutions were committed for a violent offense, such as homicide, robbery, assault, and various sex offenses. In contrast, only 49 percent of CDC's population has been incarcerated for violent offenses. The percentage of wards that are incarcerated for violent offenses will probably remain the same or increase somewhat in future years. This is because counties have an incentive to retain less serious offenders while sending more serious offenders to the Youth Authority. Specifically, the state charges counties a lower fee to commit more serious offenders to the Youth Authority while charging a higher fee for less serious offenders. As a result, a higher proportion of less serious offenders will remain at the local level. Of the remaining wards, 24 percent was incarcerated for property offenses, such as burglary and auto theft; 4 percent for drug offenses; and the remaining 7 percent for various other offenses.

Average Period of Incarceration Has Increased, But Expected to Stabilize. Figure 2 shows for the period from 1995-96 through 2004-05, the length of stay for wards prior to their first release to parole.

In 1995-96, the average length of stay was 27 months. By the end of 2001-02, the average increased by nearly nine months to 35.9 months. This was due primarily to increases in the initial parole consideration dates (PCD), the earliest date a ward will be considered for parole, and disciplinary time-adds being given to wards by the Youthful Offender Parole Board (YOPB) for behavioral problems. The PCDs are based on the ward's commitment offense. The Youth Authority estimates that, on average, wards who are first paroled in 2002-03 will have spent 35.7 months in a Youth Authority institution, which is a slight decrease from 2001-02. The Youth Authority projects that length of stay for first parolees will drop somewhat to 35.4 months in 2004-05, then stabilize because of a recently instituted process for the assignment of initial PCDs which will result in PCDs being set shorter than the previous process. Under this new process, PCDs will be set pursuant to existing guidelines rather than above guidelines as in the old process.

Population Issues

Ward and Parolee Populations Declining

We anticipate the Youth Authority's institutional population will continue to decline throughout 2003-04, and increase slightly thereafter. The Youth Authority forecasts 5,095 wards (including camps) at the end of the budget year and 5,520 wards in 2006-07. Youth Authority parole populations are expected to decrease from 3,960 parolees in the budget year to about 3,220 parolees by the end of 2006-07.

The Youth Authority's September 2002 ward population projections (which form the basis for the Youth Authority's 2003-04 budget) indicate that the institutional population will decline modestly through the budget year, stabilize in 2004-05, and then increase by about 8 percent, reaching 5,520 wards on June 30, 2007.

The number of parolees is expected to consistently decrease through 2007. Figure 3 shows the Youth Authority's institutional and parolee populations from 2001-02 through 2006-07.

Ward and Parolee Population Projections Will Be Updated in May

We withhold recommendation on a proposed $3.4 million decrease from the General Fund based on projected ward and parolee population changes, pending receipt of the May Revision budget proposal and population projections. In addition, we believe that the ward population may decrease further as a result of an inflation adjustment to the county sliding scale fees proposed by the Governor, thereby resulting in additional savings.

Ward and Parolee Population in the Budget Year. The Youth Authority's total population is projected to decrease modestly, declining by 245 wards, or 5 percent, from the end of the current year to the end of the budget year. As a result, the Governor's expenditure plan proposes to reduce the caseload budget by $3.4 million. However, there is reason to believe that the ward population will decrease by more than 245 because of the Governor's proposal to adjust the county sliding scale fees for inflation which is currently not accounted for in the projections. The fees are structured to encourage counties to retain more of their less serious offenders, and should result in a further decrease in the overall population.

The department indicates that its population decreases will result in unit closures at a number of institutions. These reductions will not be distributed proportionally across institutions. Rather, closures will be targeted at the general population living units with the intent of maintaining mental health services for the growing percentage of wards with mental health needs.

Historically Projections Higher Than Actual Population. In recent years, Youth Authority projections have tended to be somewhat higher than the actual population, leading to downward revisions for the future projected population. For example, the June 30, 2002 institutional population projection dropped by 83 wards from 5,930 in the spring 2002 projections to the actual population of 5,847.

While the population appears to be flattening, there is sufficient uncertainty to warrant withholding recommendation on the budget changes associated with the population size pending receipt and analysis of the revised budget proposal in May.

Youth Authority Plan Would Close Three Institutions

The institution population (excluding camps) at the California Youth Authority has decreased from a high of 9,639 wards in July 1996 to 5,597 wards in July 2002. The Youth Authority forecasts a further decline to 4,775 wards by the end of the budget year, which is a reduction of nearly 50 percent from the high in 1996. The Youth Authority recently submitted its plan to close three institutions by 2005-06. We have several concerns with the plan including the time frame for implementation of the closures and the order of institution closures. We recommend that the Youth Authority report at budget hearings on these concerns.

Background. As part of last year's budget package, the Legislature passed, and the Governor signed, legislation directing the Youth Authority to close one of its facilities by the end of 2003-04. The legislation also required the department to submit a plan by November 1, 2002 on the process for closing a total of three facilities. The Legislature's action was in recognition of the rapid population decline which the Youth Authority has experienced since 1996. The Legislature received the plan in January 2003.

Decline in Population. As shown in Figure 4, the Youth Authority institution population (excluding camps) was 9,639 wards at its peak in 1996 and is projected to be 4,775 wards by the end of the budget year, which represents nearly a 50 percent decline. As such, capacity levels have also declined from approximately 150 percent in 1996 to an anticipated 74 percent in the budget year. By June 30, 2007, the Youth Authority projects a population of 5,200 wards, which is an increase of about 180 wards from the current year. However, while the Youth Authority projects a slight increase in future years, we believe these increases may not materialize for the two reasons discussed earlier. First, the Youth Authority's population projections have historically been higher than the actual population. Second, the Youth Authority's projections do not reflect the impact of the Governor's proposal to adjust upward county sliding scale fees for inflation. The fees are designed to encourage counties to retain less serious offenders, so we would expect the upward adjustment in fees would result in a decrease in the Youth Authority's population projections.

Why Is the Population Declining? There are several factors contributing to the decline in Youth Authority population. First, Chapter 6, Statutes of 1996 (SB 681, Hurtt), implemented a sliding scale fee to encourage counties to retain their less serious offenders in county programs and send their more serious offenders to the Youth Authority. Second, since 1997, the Legislature has appropriated over $452 million in grants to expand the capacity of local juvenile halls by 2,873 beds, which provides more capacity for counties to retain their youthful offenders in local facilities rather than sending them to the Youth Authority. Finally, in the last few years, counties have received over $353 million from the state for juvenile crime prevention programs intended to divert juvenile offenders from being committed to the Youth Authority.

We expect these factors will continue to reduce the population over the next couple of years. We note that the Governor's budget proposes to adjust the sliding scale fees for inflation, which should continue to deter counties from sending a large number of less serious juvenile offenders to the Youth Authority. In addition, the Governor's budget proposes to continue funding for the juvenile crime prevention grants at the current-year level of $116.3 million.

Youth Authority Plan Would Close Three Youth Correctional Facilities. The Youth Authority's plan would occur in two phases. The first phase would close two facilities, the Ventura Youth Correctional Facility and the DeWitt Nelson Youth Correctional Facility in Stockton, by the end of the budget year. The second phase would close a third facility, Fred C. Nelles Youth Correctional Facility in Whittier, by June 2006. For the Ventura facility, the plan would only close the male portion of the facility. A portion of the facility would continue to operate with a female-only population.

The DeWitt Nelson closure would be a two-step process. The Youth Authority would first close the Karl Holton Drug and Alcohol Facility, located at the same Stockton complex as DeWitt Nelson, and transfer wards to facilities throughout the state. Programs and wards from DeWitt Nelson would then move to the remaining Karl Holton facility, and the former DeWitt Nelson facility would be closed. The DeWitt Nelson name would accompany the transfer of wards and programs to the new facility, formerly known as the Karl Holton Drug and Alcohol Facility. According to the plan, this two-step process is necessary to maintain the DeWitt Nelson programs, which serve a specific population of older wards, while closing the facility at which they are currently administered.

Why Were These Facilities Chosen? According to the Youth Authority's plan, each of these facilities was chosen for closure for a different reason. The proposed closure of the male portion of the Ventura facility follows the recommendation made in a recent report by the Office of Inspector General (OIG). The OIG concluded that operating a coed facility was problematic and inefficient because programs and services are duplicated to serve both genders. The DeWitt Nelson facility is proposed for closure because it has a high proportion of dormitory living units rather than single bed cells and requires significant capital outlay funding to repair its infrastructure. According to the Youth Authority, moving to a facility with more single bed rooms would reduce the number of behavioral incidents. The Nelles facility is proposed for closure because it has the highest per capita cost ($56,000) and, as the Youth Authority's oldest facility, requires significant capital outlay modifications ($74 million).

Fiscal Impact of Closure Plan. Figure 5 shows the Youth Authority's estimated savings generated from closing each of the three facilities, by fiscal year. In the budget year, closing Ventura and DeWitt Nelson would result in costs of $2.6 million. These costs are mainly associated with transferring wards and employees to other facilities as well as some physical plant adaptations that will be necessary to accommodate transferred programs. In 2004-05, the Youth Authority estimates that closing the two facilities would result in savings of about $5 million. The savings are primarily generated from the economies of scale that are achieved as a result of the reduction in administration and overhead at the closed facilities. While the additional closure of Nelles generates some initial costs ($2.8 million) in 2005-06, there are net savings ($6.1 million) to the state as a result of the first two closures. Beginning in 2007-08, the Youth Authority estimates that the full ongoing savings from the three closures would be approximately $23 million.

Figure 5

Youth Authority Closure Plan— Fiscal Impact a

2003-04 Through 2007-08 (In Millions)





























a   Savings (+) / costs (-).

Where Will Employees and Wards Be Transferred? According to the closure plan, wards would be transferred to institutions that can accommodate their specific program needs. For example, wards who are receiving drug treatment at the Karl Holton facility would be transferred to drug treatment programs located throughout the state. Currently, there are about 255 wards at Ventura and 307 wards at Karl Holton that would need to be transferred to other institutions. The closure of the Nelles facility would result in the transfer of 447 wards.

The department estimates that about 150 employees at the Ventura and Karl Holton facilities would be transferred with the wards to nearby institutions. Approximately 400 of the employees would be redirected to positions throughout the department, while about 110 positions would be abolished. With the closure of Nelles, about 140 employees would be transferred with wards to facilities throughout the state, 4 employees would be redirected, and about 270 positions would be abolished.

How Will Closures Affect Capacity Levels? Closing institutions reduces the capacity of beds to house wards in the facilities. Currently, Youth Authority institutions, excluding camps, function at about 79 percent of design capacity. With the closures of the Ventura and DeWitt Nelson facilities, the Youth Authority would function at about 85 percent of capacity using the Youth Authority's population projections. With the closure of the Nelles facility, remaining institutions would function at about 100 percent capacity. Youth Authority institutions have functioned well above 100 percent capacity in the past.

Plan Is Reasonable. Based upon our initial review of the closure plan, the three facilities proposed for closure seem reasonable. Converting to an all female facility at Ventura leaves in place there the Correctional Treatment Center (CTC) that was built to address a recent lawsuit against the Youth Authority for inadequately licensed medical facilities (see page D-50 of last year's Analysis for further discussion). In addition, female wards would also continue to have access at Ventura to an Intensive Treatment Program (ITP) and a Specialized Counseling Program (SCP) for their mental health needs. It would be costly to relocate these programs and complicated by the presence of male wards at other institutions.

The DeWitt Nelson closure is reasonable because of the safety concerns of the high proportion of dormitory living units and the significant capital outlay costs that are projected for its maintenance. In addition, DeWitt Nelson has special programs that are easily transferred to the Karl Holton facility and other institutions. There are no programs such as a CTC or ITP that would require major physical plant alterations if transferred to another institution.

Again, as with the previous two facilities, there are advantages to closing Fred C. Nelles as opposed to other institutions. One major advantage to closing Nelles is the avoidance of a significant amount of capital outlay modifications ($74 million). Nelles also has the highest per ward cost ($56,000) of any of the nonreception center facilities.

Issues for Legislative Consideration. While we believe that the closure plan seems reasonable upon our initial review, we have identified several issues for further legislative review. First, because the report was only recently released, we have not had an opportunity to review in detail how the fiscal estimates were calculated. Specifically, it is not clear how the initial costs of each closure were calculated. Second, the department is estimating that it will take about 405 days to fully implement each phase of the plan. However, since the release of the report the department has indicated that the time frames could be shorter, which would reduce the estimated closure costs. By the time of budget hearings, the department may have a more accurate estimate of the timeframe to close each institution. Third, while we recognize the importance of establishing an all female facility at Ventura, it is not clear why DeWitt Nelson is proposed for closure before the Nelles Facility. According to the Youth Authority's estimates, the state would realize significantly more savings from the closure of Nelles as opposed to DeWitt Nelson.

Analyst's Recommendation. For the reasons stated above, we recommend that the Youth Authority report at budget hearings on the following: (1) the basis for the 405 day time frame for implementation of each of the two phases and (2) the feasibility of closing the Nelles facility prior to the DeWitt Nelson facility.

Program Issues  

Failure to Comply With English Language Learner Program Jeopardizes Federal Funds

We withhold recommendation on the Youth Authority's proposal to certify teachers for English Language Learner services pending federal approval of the department's action plan to address program deficiencies. We further recommend that the Youth Authority report at budget subcommittee hearings on (1) the status of the action plan submitted to the federal government and (2) additional funding that will be necessary in the budget year and subsequent years for the English Language Learner program to comply with federal law.

Background. As part of its education program, the Youth Authority is required by state and federal law to identify, assess, and provide instructional services to wards who have limited English proficiency through its English Language Learner program. The Youth Authority estimates that about 24 percent of its population require English Language Learner services (about 1,300 wards).

In 1999, the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) within the U.S. Department of Education reviewed the English Language Learner program for its compliance with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The OCR found "significant compliance concerns." For example, it found that staff were not adequately trained to identify students who have a primary or home language other than English and that there was no overall structure or design to provide a core curriculum to English Language Learner students.

As a result, and in order to continue to receive federal funds, the state developed a Voluntary Resolution Plan to address the compliance issues. However, in 2001, OCR conducted a follow-up review of the Youth Authority's compliance and noted significant concerns with the Youth Authority's implementation of the plan. Because OCR found continued noncompliance with Title VI, it required the Youth Authority to submit a written action plan detailing how the deficiencies would be corrected, who would be responsible for implementing each action, the resources necessary for implementation, and the time frames for completion. The OCR indicated that when it is unable to obtain voluntary compliance, it is obligated to take steps to initiate its enforcement mechanisms, which can result in the loss of federal financial assistance ($6.4 million in the budget year). The Youth Authority submitted its proposed action plan in October 2002 and is waiting for approval of the plan from OCR.

Budget Proposal. The English Language Learner program receives funding annually through the budget process. The amount is based on the projected ward population that will require English Language Learner services. For the budget year, a total of $723,000 ($597,000 General Fund, $126,000 Federal funds) is allocated for the program. In addition, the administration proposes $1.1 million for a three-year plan to certify all Youth Authority teachers to meet the needs of English Language Learners.

Concerns With Budget Proposal. Based on our review of the department's proposal to certify Youth Authority teachers for English Language Learner services, we have the following concerns. First, at the time this analysis was prepared, the Youth Authority was waiting for OCR's approval of its action plan to address program deficiencies. Thus, it is unclear whether the department's plan will be sufficient to address OCR's compliance concerns. Since the budget proposal is based upon the contents of the plan, and the contents of the plan could possibly be altered by OCR, we believe it is premature for the Legislature to approve funding for this purpose. Second, based upon discussions with the department, the current budget proposal does not appear to address all of OCR's concerns from a funding standpoint. Some of the OCR concerns not addressed by the proposal include the assessment, identification, and monitoring of English Language Learner students, as well as the lack of parent notification. Thus, additional funding may be necessary to comply with federal law.

Analyst's Recommendation. For the reasons stated above, we withhold recommendation on the proposal to certify Youth Authority teachers for English Language Learner services. We recommend that the Youth Authority report at budget subcommittee hearings on (1) the status of the action plan submitted to OCR and (2) additional funding that may be necessary in the budget year and subsequent years for the English Language Learner program to comply with state and federal law.

Administration of Treatment Programs Needs Improvement

Effective rehabilitation and treatment programs for juvenile delinquents have the potential to improve public safety, and reduce future state incarceration costs. Based upon our review of Youth Authority programs, there is little evidence that its programs are effective. Additionally, we find that there is a significant amount of overlap and duplication among programs. In the following section, we discuss these concerns and offer recommendations to improve the potential effectiveness and administrative efficiency of Youth Authority's programs at no or little cost to the state.


The California Youth Authority is responsible for the treatment, training, and education of juvenile offenders who are committed to the state from county courts. The mission of the Youth Authority is to rehabilitate youthful offenders who have committed serious crimes against the public and are headed toward a life of delinquency. According to state law, "offender training and treatment shall be substituted for retributive punishment and shall be directed toward the correction and rehabilitation of young persons." The benefits of rehabilitation include preventing future crimes by wards that are released from the institutions, thereby improving public safety and the quality of life for California citizens. Rehabilitation also increases the likelihood of these youth growing into productive and contributing members of society. Finally, rehabilitation has the potential to reduce state and local government expenditures for law enforcement and incarceration.

Over the years, the Youth Authority has implemented numerous programs aimed at rehabilitating delinquent youth. Figure 6 provides a description of the "core" treatment programs to which wards can be assigned. By core treatment programs, we mean programs to which wards are frequently assigned, are normally offered at several or all of the institutions, and address the predominant needs of Youth Authority wards.

Administration. The treatment and rehabilitation programs are administered in a decentralized manner. Decisions regarding the structure, duration, and number of slots available for particular programs are delegated to program staff in each of the 11 institutions. With few exceptions, the department's headquarters has traditionally played a limited role in providing policy guidance in the area of program administration.

Funding. It is difficult to determine the exact level of resources provided for treatment and rehabilitation programs. This is because most Youth Authority programs do not have a separate appropriation in the state budget. Furthermore, most of these program services are staffed by Youth Correctional Counselor positions, who perform other functions, thereby making it difficult to determine how much of their time is spent providing treatment and rehabilitation services. However, for the few programs whose funding is separately identified (ITP, SCP, Sex Offender Program (SOP), and Formal Drug—each of which is shown in Figure 6), the department received approximately $32.7 million General Fund in 2002-03. This represented 8 percent of the departmental budget.

Figure 6

Department of the Youth Authority Inventory of Core Treatment Programs

Life/Social Skills Programs

Population a

Number of Institutions With Program

Anger Management—Teaches wards to control their anger in a socially acceptable way.



Domestic Violence—Assists wards in understanding and controlling their physical, sexual, and emotional behaviors.



Employability—Provides skills for successful employment including resume writing, job interviewing, and job searching.



Gang Awareness—Addresses consequences of gang behavior, and attempts to divert wards from the lifestyle.



Impulse Controls/Behavior Modification—Teaches wards to identify impulse triggers and react in a socially appropriate manner.



Parenting—Prepares wards for parenthood, covering such topics as effective communication and stress management.



Relating to Females—Allows wards to evaluate their past relationships, and learn appropriate interaction skills.



Social Thinking Skills—Teaches wards to reduce impulsive and disruptive behavior, and skills for successful decision making.



Victim Awareness—Encourages wards to understand the financial, physical, and emotional trauma they have caused.



Vocational Training—Provides practical experience in fields such as landscaping, culinary arts, construction, and carpentry.



Substance Abuse Treatment



Formal Drug Treatment Program—Wards are usually exposed to the Hazelden 12-Step Program.



Informal Drug Treatment Program—Explores how substance abuse affects the mind, as well as one’s family and friends.



Specialized Programs



Intensive Treatment Program (ITP)—Wards diagnosed with moderate to major mental illness (schizophrenia, psychosis, and depression) may be placed in an ITP.



Specialized Counseling Program (SCP)—Designed for wards with less severe mental illnesses than those housed in the ITP.



Sex Offender Program (SOP)—Wards who have been identified as sex offenders pursuant to statute or who have exhibited symptomatic behavior.



Informal Sex Offender Program—Counseling for involvement in molestation, a sex crime, or sexually inappropriate behavior.



a     As of April 5, 2002.   Source: Office of Inspector General

Little Evidence of Program Effectiveness

Programs Lack Evaluation Studies. We found that very little outcome data are available for the treatment programs. Because adequate outcome data are not collected, programs have either never been systematically evaluated or the evaluation is outdated. In a couple of the program evaluations that we reviewed, there were some indications of outcome measures being tracked in order to conduct the studies. However, the outcome data are no longer being tracked by the Youth Authority because resources have not continued to be allocated for these puposes.

As part of our review of core treatment programs, we asked the Youth Authority to provide us with evidence that their programs are effective. We reviewed several reports on the Formal Drug Treatment Program, Employability Skills class, and SOP. While the Employability Skills and SOP reports indicated some levels of success with the participants, the studies' results were still questionable. For example, the Employability Skills study was done in 1986 and based on a small sample size. For the other core treatment programs, no research was provided that indicated the Youth Authority had found these programs to be effective.

Programs Inefficiently Administered

Programs Lack Placement Criteria. During our review, we found that a few core treatment programs, such as ITP and SCP, have placement criteria for determining which wards are likely to benefit from services. However, a number of other programs lack specific placement criteria. These include Anger Management, Gang Awareness, and the Formal and Informal Drug Programs. The absence of placement criteria may prevent wards who most need these services from receiving them, while other wards who have less need for the services, in fact, receive them. Thus, the lack of placement criteria potentially results in a misallocation of resources.

Substantial Overlap in Program Content. In March 2001, the Youth Authority conducted a survey of its programs and identified a total of 98 programs and/or counseling groups at the 11 institutions and four camps. Our review of a sample of these programs indicates that a given institution may have several programs with similar content. For example, the O.H. Close Youth Correctional Facility offers Anger Management, Impulse Control/Behavior Modification, and Social Thinking Skills. Each of these programs focuses primarily on controlling anger and developing decision making skills. At another institution, N.A. Chaderjian Youth Correctional Facility, three separate victim programs are offered including Victim Awareness, Victims Group, and Impact of Crime on Victims. Again, each of these programs mainly focuses on teaching wards the emotional, financial, and physical effects of their crimes on victims. Since wards may be attending programs with duplicative content, it reduces their time to attend other programs they also may be required to complete prior to their release. In addition, because wards may not have the time to complete all of their required programs before their release, it increases the chances that their parole consideration date will be extended.

Same Program Varies by Institution. In our review of programs, we found that the same program varies in curricula and length from institution to institution. For example, the Victim Awareness class varied in length from 32 hours to 100 hours. The Gang Awareness course varied from 8 hours to 70 hours. Based upon our discussions with the Youth Authority and our review of these programs, we could identify no apparent reason for the variation in program length other than the fact that institutions simply implement the same programs differently.

The variation in program curricula and length is not a problem in and of itself. Institutions should have a certain level of flexibility in this regard. However, too much variation across institutions—particularly in program length—can make it difficult to manage the "flow" of wards through the treatment and rehabilitation system. The ability to effectively treat and/or rehabilitate 5,400 wards (as of January 2003) whose average stay is about 28 months, and who are being asked to participate in a growing number of programs requires among other things effective time management.

Concerns With Administrative Inefficiency. The lack of placement criteria and standardized programs, as well as program overlap, can lead to the misallocation of resources. These inefficiencies can also have a significant impact on a ward's length of stay at the Youth Authority. The OIG recently released a report examining the impact of treatment programs on wards' stay at the Youth Authority. As part of their investigation, the OIG selected a sample of 121 wards to review how the Youth Authority and the Youthful Offender Parole Board adjusted lengths of stay to accommodate the completion of treatment programs. In particular, OIG found that 44 percent of wards (53) had their confinement time increased to complete treatment programs. These extensions increase state costs that would otherwise be avoided if treatment programs were completed as originally scheduled.

Accountability Lacking

Headquarters Not Required to Report to Legislature. With the exception of a new mental health program, the Youth Authority is not required to report to the Legislature on the effectiveness of any of their treatment programs. The Legislature is thus unable to consistently monitor the effectiveness of programs to gauge whether funding for the programs has achieved its objectives. 

Budget Does Not Display Program Expenditures. It is difficult to determine the exact level of resources provided for treatment and rehabilitation programs because most Youth Authority programs do not have a separate appropriation in the state budget. Because specific expenditures are not displayed for treatment programs, it is difficult to assess how funding for programs varies from year to year. In addition, it is also difficult to assess how population changes affect program funding as well.

Recommendations to Improve Rehabilitation and Treatment Programs

We offer a number of recommendations for improving the program effectiveness and administrative efficiency of Youth Authority programs. In light of the state's fiscal condition, we have limited our recommendations to those that we believe could be implemented using the existing resources of the department, including requiring the Youth Authority to standardize program content and length, take steps to evaluate programs, consolidate programs with similar content, develop placement criteria for all treatment programs, and develop a detailed budget display for programs.

Figure 7

Summary of LAO Recommendations For Youth Authority Rehabilitation Programs


üAdopt supplemental report language for the following:

· Development of an annual evaluation schedule.

· Development of placement criteria for all treatment programs.

· Require the Department of Finance to develop detailed budget display for treatment programs.

üYouth Authority should submit the following to the budget subcommittees:

· Plan to standardize program content and length at all institutions.

· Consolidated list of treatment programs eliminating overlap.

Standardize Program Content and Length at All Institutions. We recommend that the Youth Authority standardize the content of its core treatment programs. This would ensure that all wards who enter the same program receive basically the same curriculum and treatment hours regardless of the institution or who is administering the program. Standardizing program length should also improve the Youth Authority's ability to effectively manage the movement of wards through the system. Finally, it would reduce the likelihood that wards would have their PCDs extended due to failure to complete a program.

At the time this analysis was prepared, the Youth Authority indicated that it was in the process of standardizing its rehabilitation programs. We recommend that the Youth Authority provide the fiscal committees at budget hearings with a plan for implementing standardized program content and length, including a timeline so that progress toward that goal can be monitored.

Take Steps to Evaluate Programs. We recommend the adoption of supplemental report language requiring the Youth Authority to develop a plan for evaluating its core treatment programs. The plan should contain goals and performance measures for its core treatment programs, as well as an evaluation schedule that provides a timeline for evaluation of each core treatment program, and an assessment whether each evaluation can be conducted within existing resources. The department has indicated that it will be conducting program evaluations in the future.

The goals and performance measures for the same program should not vary from institution to institution. In addition, performance measures should be described for each program. For example, the goal of the Employability program may be to make wards more marketable once on parole and to increase long-term employment. The performance measures for this goal might then be: what percentage of parolees who are seeking employment find it, and how many parolees remain employed during a follow-up period of a year?

Consolidate Programs With Similar Content. We recommend that the Youth Authority, at the time of budget hearings, provide the fiscal committees with a list of programs they intend to continue after program consolidation has occurred. Consolidation of programs would be beneficial for several reasons. First, wards would have fewer programs to complete, which would make it less likely that the PCD would be extended in order to complete programs. In addition, the consolidation of programs would also allow wards more time to complete the most necessary programs. The recommended placement criteria system would aid in this endeavor as well.

Second, staff could concentrate on conducting a few programs and develop their expertise. Third, it would be easier for the Youth Authority to conduct staff training on all the programs.

Youth Authority Should Develop Placement Criteria for Core Treatment Programs. In the past, the Youth Authority has used a questionnaire called the Sexual Offender Referral Document (SORD) to determine whether wards should be placed in a SOP. The SORD consists of a number of questions regarding wards' sexual offenses. A numerical score is determined based upon the ward's responses to the questions. If the ward's score met the threshold for placement in the program, the ward was placed in the SOP. Although the Youth Authority no longer uses this approach due to statutory requirements for sex offenders, we believe this type of placement questionnaire serves as a useful model for the other core treatment programs. We recommend that placement questionnaires similar to the SORD be developed for all core treatment programs and that a threshold score be used to determine placement in these programs. The threshold (or placement criteria) should be set at a level that would ensure that wards with the greatest need are placed in the programs.

Such an approach would increase the likelihood that wards are placed in programs on the basis of an objective assessment of their needs. In addition, it would improve the Youth Authority's ability to place wards in programs for which they have the greatest need, thereby maximizing the use of limited program resources.

For these reasons, we recommend that the Legislature adopt supplemental report language that requires the Youth Authority to develop written placement criteria for all core treatment programs. Placement questionnaires for drug treatment are currently available to the Youth Authority. While the Youth Authority may need to develop such instruments for other core treatment programs where they currently do not exist, we anticipate that these placement questionnaires and criteria could be developed within existing resources over the next couple of years. The department indicates that a workgroup has initiated discussions on developing such placement criteria.

Budget Should Display Specific Program Expenditures. We recommend that the Legislature adopt supplemental report language directing the Department of Finance to display treatment program expenditures in the Governor's budget document. We anticipate that this would include expenditure displays for drug treatment programs, specialized treatment programs, and, to the extent possible, programs administered by staff whose support funding is subject to annual caseload adjustments (mainly life/social skills programs listed in Figure 6). This would improve oversight of Youth Authority programs by enabling the Legislature to annually review the level of resources provided to such programs.

Return to Judiciary and Criminal Justice Table of Contents, 2003-04 Budget Analysis