Sacramento’s Youth Detention Facility named best in U.S.A.
Six boys dove into the water, passing volleyballs and footballs, in a recent scene that seemed more like a snapshot from an afternoon at a community pool, rather than from Sacramento County’s Youth Detention Facility.
Only the barbed wire encircling the area showed the difference.
The frequent use of the pool, built along with the facility in 1963, is now part of a series of progressive, rehabilitative programs that contributed to the 2018 Barbara Allen-Hagen Award, which recognizes youth detention centers that display a heightened focus on positive outcomes rather than punishment.
Twenty-nine applications were submitted for the award, which was established in 2007. Sacramento’s facility won the highest honor over other finalists that included Cache Valley Youth Center in Utah and Florida Parishes Juvenile Detention Center in Louisiana.
Performance-based Standards, a Massachusetts-based nonprofit focused on improving juvenile correctional programs, hands out the awards each year.
The Youth Detention Facility now serves as an outstanding example of juvenile detentions throughout the nation.
“We’ve been used as an example of how improvement and change can be made,” said David Semon, division chief. “We’re referred to in other jurisdictions (as a role model). They say, you need to go and visit Sacramento.”
The Youth Detention Facility is about 10 miles from downtown Sacramento on Kiefer Bulevard, A brisk walk through it may surprise the first-time visitor. The walkway leading to the facility’s lobby features an art installation of delicate steel cranes strung up by thin cables.
Within the facility, resident-produced artwork decorates the hallways, and boys play a rowdy dodgeball game in the gymnasium, while the garden teems with ripening raspberries and blackberries.
The facility boasts two multi-sensory de-escalation rooms designed for relaxation and de-stressing sessions, and the music studio hosts excited residents experimenting with bass lines and chord progressions.
The Youth Detention Facility has not always been like this.
As late as 2010, it came under fire for claims of abuse in incidents stretching from 1998 to 2010, culminating in 24 former residents filing lawsuits.