California juvenile detention facilities are ill-equipped to provide disabled youths with the necessary care to rehabilitate, according to Freya Pitts of Disability Rights Advocates in Berkeley.
“As many as 75 percent of incarcerated youth have a diagnosable mental health condition,” Pitts said. “Due to resource constraints, administrative disorganization, or a simple lack of proper identification, many are deprived of the supports they need to stay on track academically during their incarceration and prepare for success afterward.”
The penalties for misbehavior triggered by mental disabilities include being placed in solitary confinement, which can further deteriorate the youth’s mental health, Pitts expressed.
The untreated are “finding themselves stuck in a revolving door of detention and release, unable to comply with probation conditions that fail to take (into) account their disabilities,” Pitts adds.
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and other similar disability laws, youths with disabilities in the juvenile justice system are protected under law.
The acts guarantee those with disabilities equal access to rehabilitative, educational, and other programs, services and activities offered within juvenile detention facilities.
“When a young person’s needs exceed the capacity of a juvenile hall to safely and effectively provide care, they must be diverted to a more appropriate placement,” Pitt wrote.
“We are committed to pursuing reform that will bring our state’s juvenile halls into line with these mandates.”