Legislative Analyst's Office

Analysis of the 2000-01 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 $411 million for the Youth Authority in 2000-01. This is $5.2 million, or about 1.2 percent, less than estimated current-year expenditures. General Fund expenditures are proposed to total $330 million in the budget year, a decrease of $6.9 million, or 2 percent, below expenditures in 1999-00. The department's proposed General Fund expenditures include $41 million in Proposition 98 educational funds. The Youth Authority also estimates that it will receive about $79.2 million in reimbursements in 2000-01. These reimbursements primarily come from the fees that counties pay for certain wards they send to the Youth Authority.

The primary reason for the decrease in General Fund spending for the budget year is that parole expenditures are decreasing by $16.4 million, due to a decrease in the number of projected releases to parole.

Approximately 73 percent of the total funds requested for the department is for operation of the department's institutions and camps and 14 percent is for parole and community services. The remaining 13 percent of total funds is for the Youth Authority's education program.

Ward Population

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 racial and 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 14 percent, and Asians and others are approximately 8 percent.

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

As of December 1999, 62 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 43 percent of CDC's population has been incarcerated for violent offenses.

The number of wards incarcerated for property offenses, such as burglary and auto theft, was 25 percent of the total population. The number of wards incarcerated for drug offenses was 5 percent in 1998, and the remaining 9 percent was incarcerated for various other offenses. We believe that the percentage of wards that are incarcerated for violent offenses will probably remain the same or increase somewhat in future years. This is because the state has implemented a sliding fee schedule that provides the counties with an incentive to commit more serious offenders to the Youth Authority while retaining the less serious offenders at the local level. Specifically, counties are charged higher fees for less serious offenders committed to the Youth Authority and lower fees for more serious offenders.

Average Period of Incarceration Is Increasing. Wards committed to the Youth Authority for violent offenses serve longer periods of incarceration than offenders committed for property or drug offenses. Because of an increase in violent offender commitments, the average length of stay for a ward in an institution is increasing. For example, the Youth Authority estimates that on average, wards who are first paroled in 1999-00 will have spent 27.7 months in a Youth Authority institution compared to 22.6 months for a ward paroled in 1995-96. This trend is expected to continue; the Youth Authority projects that the length of stay for first parolees in 2003-04 will be 28.7 months, a 3.6 percent increase.

The longer lengths of stay also are explained in part by the fact that wards committed by the juvenile court serve "indeterminate" periods of incarceration, rather than a specified period of incarceration. Wards receive a parole consideration date when they are first admitted to the Youth Authority, based on their commitment offense. Time can be added or reduced by the Youthful Offender Parole Board (YOPB), based on the ward's behavior and whether the ward has completed rehabilitation programs. In contrast, juveniles and most adults sentenced in criminal court serve "determinate" sentences--generally a fixed number of years--that can be reduced by "work" credits and time served prior to sentencing.

As the Youth Authority population changes, so that the number of wards committed for violent offenses makes up a larger share of the total population, the length of stay will become a significant factor in calculating population growth.

Ward and Parolee Populations Relatively Flat

The Youth Authority's institutional population will remain relatively flat through 2000-01, increasing thereafter. The Youth Authority's forecast is to have 7,420 wards at the end of the budget year and 8,100 wards in 2003-04. Youth Authority parole populations are expected to increase in the budget year to about 5,085 parolees, and will continue to increase to about 5,205 parolees by the end of 2003-04.

The Youth Authority's September 1999 ward population projections (which form the basis for the 2000-01 Governor's Budget) estimate that the number of wards and inmates housed in the Youth Authority will remain relatively flat through the budget year. For the budget year through 2003-04, the Youth Authority projects that its population will generally increase, reaching 8,100 incarcerated wards on June 30, 2004.

While the Youth Authority is experiencing a decline in the number of parolees it supervises in the current year, the number of parolees will increase slowly through 2004. Figure 2 shows the Youth Authority's institutional and parolee populations from 1998-99 through 2003-04.

Ward and Parolee Population Projections Will Be Updated in May

We withhold recommendation on a net $565,000 increase from the General Fund based on projected ward and parolee population changes, pending receipt of the revised budget proposal and population projections to be contained in the May Revision.

Ward and Parolee Population in the Budget Year. The Youth Authority population is projected to be essentially flatdeclining by only ten wardsfrom the end of the current year to the end of the budget year. Despite this slight decrease, the budget proposes a net increase of $565,000 from the General Fund. This increase in costs reflects an anticipated demographic shift in the Youth Authority population toward increased admissions of female and younger male wards. The female population is expected to increase by ten wards by the end of the budget year. A projected decrease in the male population at the department's male and female facility in Ventura could free-up resources to accommodate additional females without new costs. However, this is not possible due to recent facility modifications that segregated male wards from female wards.

Adolescent males are at a higher risk for suicidal and self-destructive behavior, and an increase in this population will result in additional costs. These costs are primarily for additional staff to monitor these younger wards. Thus, additional resources are required at the institutions designed to serve these segments of the ward population.

The department will submit a revised budget proposal as part of the May Revision that will reflect more current population projections. These revised projections could affect the department's request for funding. To the extent that the population decline is greater than currently assumed, it could necessitate closing a housing unit or one of the department's 16 parole offices, which would result in substantial savings.

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 projection of the June 30, 2000 institutional population projection dropped from 7,510 in the fall 1998 projections to 7,355 in the spring 1999 projections, and currently stands at 7,430.

While the population appears to be relatively flat, 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.

Budget Issues

Expansion of Basic Peace Officers Academy Relies on Training Standards

We withhold recommendation on the Youth Authority's plan to expand the Basic Peace Officers Academy from five weeks to ten weeks, because the merits of this proposal cannot be fully assessed without information about academy training standards.

Budget Proposal. The Governor's budget requests $2.1 million from the General Fund to expand from 200 hours to 600 hours the amount of training provided at the Youth Authority's Basic Peace Officers Academy. The training would be conducted within a ten-week period. In addition to the purchase of training equipment, the proposed appropriation would be used to hire curriculum designers, consultants and training staff to develop and teach an expanded curriculum which would include courses on cultural diversity, restorative justice, and computer training.

Report on Academy Training Standards Not Yet Available. The proposal states that the proposed curriculum changes have been made in response to recommendations made by an internal Basic Academy Task Force, as well as training standards set by the Commission on Correctional Peace Officers' Standards and Training. However, a commission report on academy training standards, which was due on September 1, 1999, has not yet been released. (For a discussion of this commission report issue, see the commission's budget later in this chapter.) The information in the report is necessary in order to consider alternatives for improving Youth Authority training programs, and for determining which courses need to be taught in academy training and which can be taught during in-service training.

Analyst's Recommendation. Since the validity of the Basic Peace Officers Academy expansion plan is dependent on how well the proposed curriculum meets the training standards set by the commission, we withhold recommendation on the plan at this time pending receipt of the commission's report on correctional officer academy training standards.

Effectiveness of Ombudsperson Depends on Complaint Procedures

We withhold recommendation on the department's request for $184,000 from the General Fund to establish two "ombudsperson" positions pending receipt of a report from the Youth Authority, prior to budget hearings, on the department's policies and complaint procedures related to these positions.

Recent events at various Youth Authority institutions indicate a possible need for an "early warning system" to alert the Director of the Youth Authority to serious problems in the department. The budget proposes $184,000 from the General Fund to establish two ombudsperson positions to serve as independent officials whose role would be to oversee administrative actions and report to the Director on highly sensitive issues. The ombudspersons would act independently of the Youth and Adult Correctional Agency's Inspector General and the department's Internal Affairs Unit.

As issues are identified, the positions would conduct research that could result in policy and operational recommendations. The primary objective of these positions would be to provide early resolution to sensitive issues raised by wards and outside entities. The two positions would be responsible for overseeing the northern and southern facilities respectively.

Ombudsperson Policies Not Well Defined. At the time this analysis was prepared, the department had not developed policies and procedures related to the utilization of these positions. In order for the ombudsperson positions to effectively identify and address both ward and staff complaints in a manner which holds the department accountable for outcomes, the ombudsperson's duties should include the following:

Analyst's Recommendation. Given the uncertainties about how these ombudspersons will be used, we withhold recommendation on the proposal to establish two such positions, pending receipt of additional information. The Youth Authority should inform the Legislature, prior to budget hearings, about department policies and procedures related to these positions.

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