The Ventura Youth Correctional Facility Provides Needed Treatment Programs to Youthful Female Offenders

Article excerpt

The California Youth Authority (CYA) emphasizes public protection and offender accountability, and believes that the most effective way to protect the public is to ensure that offenders are held accountable for their criminal behavior. The department and its staff are committed to working closely with law enforcement, the courts, district attorneys and public defenders, probation agencies and a broad spectrum of public agencies concerned and involved with juvenile offenders.

Operating 11 institutions and four camps, CYA offers a variety of housing options and a wide range of quality programs and services to meet the needs of this varied population. At the core of CYA programs and services are dedicated and highly trained staff, who provide a safe and healthy environment and the opportunity for youthful offenders to reintegrate into the community and lead law-abiding lives.

Throughout CYA, the "treatment and training" concept encompasses all activities, programs and services in which young people participate. All staff having contact with youthful offenders contributes to the ward's treatment and training program.

CYA uses a "treatment team" to deliver services to its population, which designates that program activities are carried out by a core group of staff at each facility. Each treatment' team is headed by a unit supervisor and is composed of an institutional parole agent or social worker, teachers, a supervising youth counselor and several youth counselors.

Ventura Youth Correctional Facility

The Ventura Youth Correctional Facility (VYCF) in Camarillo, formerly known as the Ventura School for Girls, opened in 1962. At that time, the institution was one of two state facilities that housed female offenders. When Los Guilicos (Santa Rosa), the other girls' institution, was closed in 1970, VYCF became the only state facility housing females committed to the Youth Authority. In 1970, the first males arrived and today, comprise more than one-half of the ward population. There are six female living units, five male living units, one detention unit and one public service/fire camp. Male and female ward programs are completely segregated. Female wards range from age 13 to 25 and males range from 16 to 25. Three hundred twenty-five female offenders currently are assigned to VYCF. The institution is enclosed within a perimeter fence. Security personnel patrol the grounds in vehicles equipped with two-way radios. Single and group ward movements are escorted and/or monitored by staff stationed in a single tow er. In addition, there is a large fence inside the institution, separating the male and female offenders.

Specialized Counseling Program

VYCF's Buenaventura Specialized Counseling Program for violent female offenders is housed in the Buenaventura (BV) Cottage at VYCF. It has 47 individual wet rooms (rooms with a sink and a toilet) that can be locked. The BV program uses contingency management techniques. In a clinical setting, the results are positive behavioral changes and the decrease of aggressive and other maladaptive behaviors. BV has developed a system using contingencies for positive programming. This behavioral program is incorporated into the daily activities at the cottage to decrease identified problem behaviors while increasing appropriate interactions. Through this program, the girls learn that there are natural consequences for their inappropriate behaviors and positive benefits for socially appropriate behaviors. They also learn that they have responsibilities to both themselves and to the community.

The program provides individual psychotherapy for each ward with a staff psychiatrist or psychologist. The youths participate in weekly treatment groups conducted by a youth correctional counselor. The treatment groups include: anger management, domestic violence (emotional, verbal, physical and sexual abuse) counseling, gang awareness, self-image, informal substance abuse counseling, parenting, commitment offense and changing directions (establishing positive life goals). …