Sacramento’s Youth De­ten­tion Fa­cil­ity named best in U.S.A.

Lodi News-Sentinel - - STATE / NATION - By Candice Wang

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.

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