Legislative Analyst's Office

Analysis of the 2002-03 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 $416 million for the Youth Authority in 2002-03. This is $20.7 million, or about 5 percent, below estimated current-year expenditures. General Fund expenditures are proposed to total $336 million in the budget year, a decrease of $21.6 million, or 6 percent, below expenditures in 2001-02. The department's proposed General Fund expenditures include $38.1 million in Proposition 98 education funds. The Youth Authority also estimates that it will receive about $78.3 million in reimbursements in 2002-03. These reimbursements primarily come from fees paid by counties for wards sent to the Youth Authority.

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

Approximately 74 percent of the total funds requested for the department is for operation of the department's institutions and camps and 13 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 48 percent of the total population. African Americans make up 30 percent of the population, whites are 17 percent, and Asians and others are approximately 6 percent.

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

As of December 2001, 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 46 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, 25 percent was incarcerated for property offenses, such as burglary and auto theft; 4 percent for drug offenses; and the remaining 6 percent for various other offenses.

Average Period of Incarceration Is Expected to Stabilize. 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 has increased in recent years, but is expected to stabilize for reasons discussed below. As a result, the Youth Authority estimates that, on average, wards who are first paroled in 2001-02 will have spent 34.8 months in a Youth Authority institution compared to almost 26.9 months for a ward paroled in 1996-97. The Youth Authority projects that length of stay for first parolees will drop somewhat to 34.3 months in 2005-06, a 1 percent decrease.

The increases in lengths of stay that occurred up to 2001-02 are explained in part by the fact that wards committed by the juvenile court serve "indeterminate" rather than specific periods of incarceration. Wards receive a parole consideration date (PCD) when they are first admitted to the Youth Authority, based on their commitment offense. The Youthful Offender Parole Board can add or reduce time based on the ward's behavior and whether the ward has completed rehabilitation programs. In contrast, juveniles and most adults sentenced by criminal courts serve "determinate" sentences generally a fixed number of years that can be reduced by "work" credits and time served prior to sentencing. Increases in PCDs and time added for behavioral problems have resulted in longer institutional stays. The most recent information on PCDs, however, shows a decline. As a result, the Youth Authority is projecting a stabilization in length of stay.

Ward and Parolee Populations Relatively Flat

We anticipate the Youth Authority's institutional population will flatten throughout 2002-03, and remain relatively stable thereafter. The Youth Authority forecasts 6,100 wards at the end of the budget year and 6,400 wards in 2005-06. Youth Authority parole populations are expected to decrease from 4,290 parolees in the budget year to about 3,990 parolees by the end of 2005-06.

The Youth Authority's September 2001 ward population projections (which form the basis for the Youth Authority's 2002-03 budget) indicate that the institutional population will decline modestly through the budget year. For the budget year and 2003-04, the Youth Authority projects that its incarcerated population will stabilize and then increase by about 5 percent, reaching 6,400 wards on June 30, 2006.

The number of parolees is expected to decrease slowly through 2006. Figure 2 shows the Youth Authority's institutional and parolee populations from 2000-01 through 2005-06.

Ward and Parolee Population Projections Will Be Updated in May

We withhold recommendation on a proposed $7.3 million decrease from the General Fund based on projected ward and parolee population changes, pending receipt of the May Revision and updated population projections.

Ward and Parolee Population in the Budget Year. The Youth Authority's total population is projected to decrease modestly, declining by 260 wards, or 5 percent, from the end of the current year to the end of the budget year. As a result, the department's caseload budget will decrease by $7.3 million. This decrease will result from housing unit closures at a number of institutions where population has declined. The Youth Authority advises that reductions are first made at institutions with dormitory style housing units since single living units allow for more effective security. As a result, some Youth Authority institutions will have populations significantly in excess of their design capacity while others will fall below that level.

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, 2001 institutional population projection dropped by 209 wards from 6,985 in the spring 2001 projections to the actual population of 6,776.

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.

County Sliding Scale Fees Should Be Adjusted for Inflation

We recommend the enactment of legislation to adjust the sliding scale fees annually to account for the effects of inflation. We estimate that this would generate $9 million in savings in 2002-03. Therefore, we recommend reducing Item 5460-001-0001 by $9 million.

Background. Under current law, counties are required to share the cost of housing juvenile offenders in the California Youth Authority. For many years, counties paid a flat fee of $25 per month per offender. Chapter 6, Statutes of 1996 (SB 681, Hurtt) made two major changes in the cost sharing arrangement. First, it increased the flat fee that counties pay from $25 per month to $150 per month to account for inflation. Second, it established a "sliding scale" fee structure which adjusts the amount that counties pay monthly based upon the classification of the juvenile offender.

Wards are assigned a category number ranging from I to VIII being the most serious and VII being the least serious. These categories are based in part on the seriousness of the commitment offense. The sliding scale legislation was intended to provide counties with a fiscal incentive to develop and use more locally-based programs for less serious juvenile offenders, thereby reducing their dependence on costly Youth Authority commitments. This fee structure was modified somewhat by Chapter 632, Statutes of 1998 (SB 2055, Costa). This measure froze the per capita costs on which the sliding scale fees are based at the levels in effect on January 1, 1997 ($2,600), thereby effectively capping the fees. Accordingly, counties pay 50 percent of per capita costs ($1,300 per month) for category V commitments, 75 percent ($1,950 per month) for category VI, and the full cost ($2,600) for category VII commitments monthly. Figure 3 shows by category the fees that counties are required to pay under current law for each juvenile sent to the Youth Authority.

Fiscal Incentive Will Erode. Currently, the fee structure encourages counties to place more serious offenders in the Youth Authority because counties are charged a minimal amount for these juveniles. Capping the rates, however, changes this fiscal incentive. When counties are deciding placement for wards, counties bear the full costs for wards placed in their own programs, while the same placement in the Youth Authority will be increasingly less costly because the rates are not adjusted to reflect inflation. As such, placement in the Youth Authority will again be more financially attractive to counties. As a result of the freeze, the cost gap between placement in a county program and in the Youth Authority will increase nullifying the fiscal incentive that is present in a fee structure that is adjusted for inflation.

Figure 3

Monthly County Fees Paid
Per Ward to Youth Authority—2002




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Costs Are Rising. In the Analysis of the 1999-00 Budget Bill, we recommended that the sliding scale fees be periodically adjusted to account for inflation in order to avoid the significant upward adjustment made to the $25 monthly fee in 1997. Capping the base rate ($2,600) that counties pay to the Youth Authority increases the financial burden for the Youth Authority in two ways. First, the Youth Authority incurs the actual cost increases due to inflation because the fee charged to the counties is capped. Second, the Youth Authority institution population is expected to increase through 2006 which means that the Youth Authority will house a growing population, but receive less reimbursement for their care.

Analyst's Recommendation. For the reasons stated above, we recommend that the monthly fee be increased from $150 to $176 and the base rate be increased from $2,600 per month to $3,040 per month to account for inflation, as shown in Figure 4. The Legislature should enact legislation to annually adjust the fee structure for inflation. This would maintain the fiscal incentive for counties to send their most serious offenders to the Youth Authority and offset a portion of the yearly cost increases incurred by the Youth Authority. We estimate that the state could save $9 million in 2002-03 as a result of such action.

Counties Have Been Provided Additional Resources. We realize that the fee adjustment places additional costs on counties. However, we would note that the Legislature has over the last few years provided counties with a significant infusion of funds to deal with their less serious offender population, thereby reducing the amount that counties would have otherwise spent to provide such services for this population. Specifically, counties have received a total of $238 million from the state in the past two fiscal years as a result of Chapter 353, Statutes of 2000 (AB 1913, Cardenas). This legislation provides grants to assess existing services for the juvenile offender population, develop a juvenile justice plan, and implement programs based on the plan. The 2002-03 Governor's Budget provides another $116.3 million. This ongoing funding should ease the county transition to a fee structure that is adjusted for inflation.

Figure 4

LAO Recommended Fee Structure Monthly Amount Per Ward



LAO Recommended

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In recent years, the Legislature has also provided $173 million for construction and renovation of county juvenile detention facilities. In the current year, the Legislature has also provided $201 million in federal funds to county probation departments through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. Of this total, $33 million is available for probation camps, one of the primary placements for less serious juvenile offenders.

Appellate Court Rules Youth Authority Must License Medical Facilities

We recommend that the Youth Authority report at budget hearings on its current plan to license three of its 11 medical facilities as correctional treatment centers (CTC), the results of a survey of the medical needs of the ward population (scheduled for completion at the end of February), and any changes to its plan to license three medical facilities that result from the survey.

Background. In 1987, the California Legislature created the CTC licensing category to provide minimum health standards for California's correctional facilities. A CTC is a health facility within a secured facility that provides inpatient health services for wards requiring acute and subacute psychiatric and medical care. Wards require acute psychiatric care when they have a serious mental illness and are an immediate danger to themselves, while wards requiring subacute psychiatric care may have a less serious mental illness, but still need intensive treatment. These facilities provide basic health services such as access to physicians, psychiatrists, and dietary information. In order to be licensed, the facilities must meet certain design requirements such as a minimum area for a treatment room, spaces for laundry and an ambulance entrance, and patient viewing areas. Regulations also require that minimum staffing levels are maintained and that all staff are licensed. The deadline for obtaining such licensure was January 1996.

The Department of Health Services is responsible for developing regulations for the correctional treatment centers. The regulations cover all aspects of the management and operation of a CTC including facility design, required staffing levels, and the use of clinical restraints.

The Youth Authority operates 11 medical facilities that meet the statutory definition of correctional treatment centers. To date none of its facilities have been licensed. Although YA anticipates licensing three of its facilities, and is developing a conceptual plan for a fourth, it has no plans to license the remaining seven.

Morris v. Harper. In May 2000, a lawsuit (Morris v. Harper) was brought against YA for not complying with the state licensing requirements. The lawsuit followed in the wake of news accounts of medical maltreatment of wards. The trial court ruled against the Youth Authority stating that although the Youth Authority had taken steps toward licensing three of its medical facilities, the licensing requirements were likely not to be completed without judicial intervention. The Youth Authority appealed the decision arguing that it was actively seeking licensure. The appellate court rejected the arguments and upheld the decision of the lower court. Under the court order, the Youth Authority must:

Youth Authority Plan Does Not License CTCs at All Institutions. As mentioned above, the appellate court ordered the Youth Authority to license all of its medical facilities as CTCs. However, the Youth Authority action plan (discussed below) provides steps to license three facilities. The department's position is that once a survey of the medical needs of wards is completed, it anticipates that the population requiring such care will be adequately served by their current action plan.

According to the Youth Authority, the action plan would address the immediate and longer term health needs of their population. This plan was submitted to the Youth Law Center, who is monitoring compliance with the ruling, to meet the first deadline of December 28, 2001. To address the immediate needs of severe mentally ill (acute) and less severe mentally ill (subacute) wards, the Youth Authority has contracted with the Department of Mental Health to provide ten state hospital beds for wards who meet the acute or subacute criteria. These beds will also be available once the licensed facilities come on line.

The Youth Authority also has construction plans underway to renovate the existing medical facilities at three of their institutions in order to meet the licensing requirements of a CTC. Since 1998, the Legislature has provided $4.9 million for various stages of the renovation at the three facilities and the Youth Authority is requesting another $4 million in the budget year for this purpose. (See the "Youth Authority" Section of the "Capital Outlay" chapter of this Analysis.) The first licensed CTC is scheduled to come on line in July 2002 with the last of the three scheduled for March of 2004. Although the court order required that three facilities be licensed by December 28, 2001, the Youth Law Center has indicated that the action plan demonstrated a good faith effort to implement the ruling.

Survey Key to Action Plan. At the time this analysis was prepared, the Youth Authority was conducting a survey of its ward population to determine the number of youths who meet the criteria for acute and subacute psychiatric care and subacute medical care. The survey, which is to be validated by an outside consultant, is scheduled for completion at the end of February 2002. Once this survey is complete, the Youth Authority maintains that it will have a better idea of whether its current plan will provide the necessary beds. According to the Youth Authority, if the number of wards requiring a CTC bed is close to the Youth Authority's current estimate, then licensing more facilities than is already planned will not be necessary. However, if the survey determines that the number is higher than estimated, the Youth Authority will need to revise the plan. Since the survey had not been completed at the time this analysis was prepared, it is too early to determine whether the current action plan will be adequate to serve the entire Youth Authority population.

Analyst's Recommendation. We recommend that the Youth Authority report at budget hearings on the completed survey, and whether the current action plan will be adequate to serve its population. If the survey indicates that the number of wards that require these services is higher than expected, then the Youth Authority should report on how it plans to accommodate the larger population.

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