Juvenile System's Needs Cited

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Orange County's juvenile justice system needs better facilities, accredited classes and other improvements, according to a report released Wednesday.

"Part of rehabilitation is to provide a structure and environment that will make these kids good citizens when they are back in the community," said Joe Boyle, a member of the Orange County Grand Jury, which began studying the system last fall.

The report says Juvenile Hall in Orange, the largest and oldest of the county's eight youth facilities, needs interior paint, upgraded air-conditioning and heating systems and new carpeting in classrooms.

"It's beautiful from the outside, but when you go inside, it's torn apart," Boyle said after the report was released.

Juvenile Hall, which is 43 years old, is scheduled for its fourth expansion in 2005, said Thomas Wright, chief deputy of institutional services at the Orange County Probation Department. Built to accommodate 150 juveniles, it now holds 444, he said. In all, 1,300 students attend classes at the county's juvenile institutions.

The grand jury report also recommends more office space for teachers and updating the collection of library books.

"It's more than just putting books in," Boyle said. "It's how timely are the books and the kinds of books available. We don't feel it's up to standards."

Wright said funding is a big drawback to library modernization, especially at Joplin Youth Center in Trabuco Canyon and Los Pinos Conservation Camp in Lake Elsinore, which now have only donated books.

Lack of money also means that at some facilities, teachers and principals must also act as counselors, officials said.

"Our biggest focus is on classroom instruction, materials and helping kids catch up," said Ted Price, director of alternative and correctional schools and services. "We feel those functions can be handled by administrators."

Many of the grand jury's recommendations are already being implemented, officials said. The Orange County Department of Education, for example, is applying for accreditation for the Youth Guidance Center in Santa Ana from the Western Assn. of Schools and Colleges, and has hired a librarian and opened a new library there.

Additional training for teachers is also being offered.

The grand jury called on the Orange County Board of Supervisors to allot funds for the improvements.

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