Pine Grove Conservation Camp

Summary

The Grand Jury visited Pine Grove Conservation Camp to review its operation and condition. The Grand Jury concluded that this facility and the agencies that operate it perform an important function for state taxpayers. The camp is an asset to Amador County and its various government agencies. It is well run and maintained.

Findings

  1. The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CDF) and the California Youth Authority (CYA) jointly operate the camp.
  2. CYA is responsible for the custody, health, welfare, education, and discipline of the youthful offenders (wards).
  3. CDF is responsible for training and supervision of wards on work projects and emergencies.
  4. Work done for government agencies is free.
  5. CYA uses a system of merits and demerits to instill socially acceptable behavior in the wards.
  6. The camp is well maintained and clean.
  7. Meals and food preparation occur in a modern dining room.
  8. The camp has a modern computer lab and classrooms.
  9. Wards receive schooling designed to provide a GED certificate.

Conclusions

    1. The use of wards on public works projects and emergencies provides a way for society to recoup some of the cost of incarcerating these individuals.
    2. Public works projects and emergency work activities instill a work ethic in the wards.
    3. Work projects and the emergency response activities contribute to the public’s acceptance of a prison in its neighborhood.
    4. Use of the merit/demerit system reinforces socially acceptable behavior in the wards.
    5. Educational programs ensure wards are better prepared to succeed when released from custody.
    6. Cooperation between CYA and CDF is very good.
    7. Food provided wards is well prepared and of good quality.
    8. The facilities and equipment at the camp are in good repair.

Recommendations

None

Comment Requirements

None

Authority to Investigate

Penal Code Section 919(b) provides that the Grand Jury shall inquire into the condition and operation of public prisons within the county. As required by Penal Code Section 916, at least twelve Grand Jurors voted to review the operations of Pine Grove Conservation Camp.

Method of Review

Members of the Grand Jury conducted interviews with the following people:

Additionally, members of the Grand Jury toured camp and sampled food in the dining facility. Members also attended a presentation by a ward explaining the intent of the merit and demerit credits.

Background

Pine Grove Conservation Camp is located east of Pine Grove on Aqueduct Road. The camp houses about 110 wards ranging from 17 to 25 years of age. Personnel from two state agencies staff the camp.

CYA is the custodial agency and is responsible for the health, welfare, discipline, housing, and education of the wards. CDF is responsible for training and supervising wards working on public works projects and emergencies.

Since CDF is an "all risk" emergency agency, the wards respond to wildland fires, floods, earthquakes, and other disasters. In addition to emergencies, the wards perform public work activity. Working at no cost to the government agency, these crews perform work which otherwise might not be done. The agencies using the services of the crews range from federal agencies to the smallest special districts.

Aside from repaying some of their debt to society, involvement in public works and emergencies helps instill a sense of responsibility and work ethic. Each ward participates in a merit system. This system rewards good behavior and penalizes bad behavior. The system permeates all aspects of the life of the ward. As each ward moves up in phases, he receives greater privileges. This system does more than just maintain discipline. Its intent is to change long-term behavior.

Each ward is required to attend school following the normal workday. CYA officials believe that keeping wards fully occupied during the day eliminates bad behavior and gang problems.

Certificated teachers staff the school. The classrooms are small but modern. The camp provides special education services to those wards needing it. The school recently added a state of the art computer lab. The intent is to provide wards with a high school GED certificate.

Wards supervised by professional cooks prepare and serve meals in modern cafeteria-style dining hall.

Wards live and sleep in barracks-style facilities. Each crew sleeps in a separate section of the barracks. This facilitates activating one or two crews without waking the entire barracks. Wards do their own housekeeping and laundry.

There are no bars or fences to restrain the ward. When a ward escapes, CYA implements an elaborate apprehension plan. The plan calls on the resources of many law enforcement agencies.

Supplemental Information

The cooperative agreement between CYA and CDF relating to operation of conservation camps.