California Research Bureau Panel Presentation: Reforming California Juvenile Corrections:
The Santa Clara Example

The California Research Bureau is involved in special projects with partners in the Legislature and various State agencies.

On October 14, 2009, the California Research Bureau (CRB), in partnership with the National Council on Crime and Delinquency (NCCD) and the University of California Center Sacramento (UCCS) sponsored a panel presentation event. Panelists discussed the implementation of the "Missouri Model" enhanced rehabilitation program for juvenile offenders in Santa Clara County's juvenile ranch facilities.

Santa Clara's program is aimed at high-risk, high-need youth with multiple problems such as gang affiliations, substance abuse, and criminal histories, with extended length of stay in a family atmosphere with family participation. The enhanced ranch programs achieved dramatic reductions in behavioral incidents at the ranches, as well as decreased violations and failures, probation violations and new arrests while at the ranch and within 12 months of exiting the ranch.

The enhanced programs achieved these outcome improvements by decreasing the staff-to-youth ratios and reducing the residential population in the ranches to accommodate the treatment focus on small groups of youth.

The panel consisted of Dr. Barry Krisberg, President of the National Council on Crime and Delinquency; Mark Steward, Founder and Director of Missouri Youth Services Institute and former Director of Missouri Division of Youth Services; Sheila Mitchell, Chief Probation Officer of Santa Clara County with her staff Laura Wegl and Mike Simms.

Dr. Barry Krisberg presented the results of his evaluation of the "Missouri Model" for enhanced ranch program services in the William F. James Boys Ranch in Morgan Hill and the co-ed Muriel Wright Residential Center in San Jose. The county implemented these programs in 2006. The enhanced programs were conducted in a home-like physical setting serving 10-12 youth, who wear their own clothes, are seen by specially trained staff who promote personal development and focus on changing thinking rather than behavior.

[Dr. Krisberg's PowerPoint presentation] (PDF)

Mark Steward.In the early 1980s, Missouri abandoned its embattled youth corrections facility and switched to smaller regional treatment centers that provided education, job training and 24-hour counseling. This approach, under Steward's leadership, aimed at creating safe, non-punitive environments, known as the Missouri Model.

Missouri's system is not necessarily cheaper than traditional programs, but, according to Steward, fewer than eight percent of graduates return to the system, compared to other states with double digit rates of returns; sometimes with more than half of kids returning to the system. Other benefits of the Missouri Model are that the programs have higher than average job placements, high educational attainment levels and low incidence of violence within the facilities.

[See Steward's]

Sheila Mitchell and her staff. Sheila and her staff reported on the implementation of the Enhanced Ranch Program in Santa Clara County. The need for change was stimulated by a number of factors including a 40% failure rate among wards in the ranches, a high number of incidents that occurred at the ranches, the feeling the old ranches didn't promote the growth of detained youth, and a high recidivism rate upon return to their homes. Study groups formed in 2003-04 to explore model programs to improve outcomes for youth in custody, and a 20-person delegation from Santa Clara County visited and endorsed the Missouri Model, and the Board of Supervisors approved $3.2 million to implement the model.

Programmatically, the Enhanced Ranch Program decreased the population at the ranches, increased the ratio of staff to youth (1:6 for days and evenings and 1:12 at night; previously it was 1:15 for days and evenings and 1:30 at night), made physical improvements to the facilities to form pods of 12, creating home-like settings, and delivered a cognitively based treatment of group counseling that focused upon changing the way the youth think in order to change the way they think in order to change the way they behaved.

The Enhanced Ranch Program serves high-risk, high-need youth with gang affiliations, and significant substance abuse and criminal histories. The program provides intensive treatment as well as comprehensive aftercare supervision and aftercare program services.

The average cost per day for minors in the Enhanced Ranch Program is $361 with 88.5% going towards staff salaries and benefits and 11.5% to services and supplies. The cost reflects a change in the staffing ratio. The ranch programs house and treat serious juvenile offenders and have been used in lieu of sending minors to the state Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) system. According to the Little Hoover Commission, during 2008-09, DJJ's annual cost was projected at $252,000 a youth per year, or $690 per day.

Further Information:

The following reports provide further information on this topic:

Nieto, M. 2008.County Probation Camps and Ranches for Juvenile Offenders. Sacramento, CA: California Research Bureau. Available on-line here.

Little Hoover Commission. 2008. Juvenile Justice Reform: Realigning Responsibilities.Sacramento CA. Available on-line here.

Arifuki, I.; Davis, A.; Linda, D. 2009.An Assessment of the Enhanced Ranch Program: Santa Clara County Probation Department.Oakland, CA:The National Council on Crime and Delinquency. Available on-line here.

Mitchell, G. 2009 " Corrections: Santa Clara County invest in Enhanced Ranch Programto turn lives around, "California State Association of Counties Magazine". Available on-line here.