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CALIFORNIA YOUTH AUTHORITY (CYA) CAMP, PINE GROVE

Authority for Review

Grand Jury jurisdiction provided by Penal Code Section 919(b).

Background

Mandatory annual review of operations.

Method of Review

Interview with CYA Camp Superintendent
Interview with California Department of Forestry (CDF) Camp Chief
Interview with senior camp staff members, teachers and selected wards
Tour of the facility

Findings

The Pine Grove Camp is a facility operated by the California Youth Authority (CYA) for the detention of youthful male offenders employed in wildfire fighting and brush clearing. The facility is owned by CDF and is the oldest of the four correctional fire fighting camps in the state.

The Camp is operated by 23 CYA employees. Fourteen CDF employees are responsible for teaching wildfire fighting skills to the wards and for supervising actual fire fighting activities. Staff members are usually unarmed. In limited situations seven of the CYA staff members are authorized to carry firearms. The majority of the staff members live within Amador County.

The facility was designed to house 85 youthful offenders designated as wards of the state. The ward population at the time of the visit was 100. The Superintendent sees 110 as a safe population to handle in the dormitory style layout of the Camp.

The facility includes an administration building, an education/family visit/camp store building, dining hall, dormitory, various equipment storage facilities and an athletic field. All buildings were clean and orderly, especially the dorm and dining hall. The dining hall is adequate and meals are served cafeteria style. The food is good and reasonably generous portions are served.

There are no fences or gates around the Camp. Wards are not locked in, but are subject to 24 hour surveillance. Nighttime surveillance is handled by two staff members in a central control room in the dorm. All sleeping and showering areas are visible from the control room. A security system immediately signals if any door is opened.

The wards range in age from 18 to 25. Prospective wards are screened carefully per established criteria to ensure they can function in the minimum security, wildfire fighting, and work oriented program. All wards are required to be involved in a substance abuse program.

Wards are kept very busy which requires good management by the staff. The main focus is on establishing good work habits and decision making skills. Most of the time the wards are off-site in work crews, returning in time to shower before dinner. Classes are held in the evenings after dinner. Wards have the opportunity to improve their education through a High School diploma program and may even pursue an AA degree.

Wards are regularly sent out in work crews on brush clearing and other community service projects accompanied by a fire captain, camp staff and a city or county agent. Crews carry their fire fighting gear along so that they can be dispatched directly. Walk- aways or escapes are rare. Only one walk-away occurred in 1996.

Wards are paid $1.10 to $2.00 per day for service work and $1.00 per hour for fire fighting. These funds are credited to each ward's account and no cash is distributed. The wards can save the earnings or spend it in the Camp store. They must buy their own personal hygiene articles after initial issue and can buy snacks and other personal items.

Community relations are promoted in several ways. The athletic field is available to the community for soccer, softball, and Little League games. The Camp wards manufacture concrete picnic tables which are available at a moderate cost to local civic entities such as schools and cities. Decorative clocks and other wood items manufactured by the wards are also sold to the public. The funds from these sales are used to purchase recreational equipment and supplies for the Camp.

There is also a Citizen Advisory Committee to help with community relations, with the four members chosen from different geographic areas of the county. The Camp Superintendent would like to expand community contact and service by increased ward involvement in local activities.

There is a well organized alert and mobilization plan to handle escapes. The plan includes notification of the Sheriff's office, the CYA Escape Unit in Stockton, and other appropriate authorities.

Conclusion

The Pine Grove Camp is well run. The staff is committed to providing a positive environment for the wards. The Camp is an asset to the community and provides necessary, and sometimes critical, services to the surrounding areas.

Recommendations

None

Response Requested

None
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