Juvenile Institutional Conditions

With more than three decades of experience in institutional litigation, involvement in developing facility standards, and responding to conditions questions and complaints, Youth Law Center staff are national experts on juvenile conditions of confinement law.  We continue to receive and respond to requests for assistance on specific conditions, and work to improve the care of treatment of children in custody using a range of strategies.


Juvenile Detention Alternative Initiative (JDAI)

This national initiative spearheaded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation works to reduce inappropriate and unnecessary confinement in juvenile institutions, promote the development and use of community-based alternatives to incarceration and, where incarceration is appropriate, to ensure safe and humane conditions and confinement.

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Just Beginning (Incarcerated Teen Parenting Program)

The Baby Elmo Program allows incarcerated teen parents to maintain contact with their children and provides them with the ability to improve their parenting. The intent of the program is to begin to give teen parents the ability and incentive to become competent committed parents by giving them the tools to communicate and build a positive relationship with their child.

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Recent Actions

  • Working with California’s Corrections Standards Authority (now superseded by the Board of State and Community Corrections)  to revise state juvenile facility standards and assisting the agency in specific projects aimed at system improvement.
  • Collaborating with other advocates nationally to provide comments on the Prison Rape Elimination Act regulations governing many aspects of juvenile facility operations.
  • Responding to reports of children being subjected to illegal or inhumane conditions of confinement in juvenile facilities. Past complaints have included the use of solitary confinement, improper use of restraints or pepper spray, and physical or sexual abuse of children, as well as failure to provide medical care, mental health, education and special education services;
  • Acting on complaints about conditions under which juveniles being held in adult facilities such as jails.
  • Providing training and technical assistance to facility personnel, advocates, judges, attorneys and others involved in the care of youth in the system.
  • Developing Working Together: Building Local Monitoring Capacity for Juvenile Detention Facilities, to help California counties monitor facility conditions during a hiatus in state oversight.
  • Writing on conditions issues, and helping to develop professional standards and state regulations around the country.

Recent Litigation

For more litigation, see the Past Litigation section of this site.