Orange County Juvenile Hall
Orange County Juvenile Hall is a 434-bed juvenile detention facility that is operated by the Orange County Probation Department. It houses male and female youth, generally between the ages of 12 and 20, who are detained pending Juvenile Court hearings or waiting to transfer to another facility.
Typically, a youth is brought to Juvenile Hall by a law enforcement agency who is alleging the youth committed a crime in the community. The youth will be detained within Juvenile Hall for up to three business days waiting to have the allegations heard by the Court. At this Detention Hearing, the Court will decide if the youth will remain in Juvenile Hall or be released to a parent or guardian pending further court proceedings.
The arrest, intake process, and subsequent wait for the Detention Hearing is stressful. Deputy Juvenile Correctional Officers (DJCOs) at Juvenile Hall are sensitive to this and make every effort to treat each youth with respect.
When a youth is first brought into Juvenile Hall, they are seen by a medical professional who examines them for injuries or illness requiring immediate medical attention. If the youth needs medical assistance the youth is taken to the hospital. Once the youth is determined to be stable by doctors at the hospital, the youth is brought back to Juvenile Hall.
The youth will begin the formal intake process which includes a search of the youth and their property for potential contraband. The youth’s personal property is collected and cataloged, then placed in a secure location pending the youth’s eventual release. The youth is then given the chance to shower and get dressed with clean clothes. The youth is seen by medical personnel for a more in-depth health screening, which will include a follow up phone call by medical staff to the parents or legal guardian for more information (such as vaccine history). After completing the health screening, the youth will also have their photo and fingerprints taken and be provided with a meal.
To better help the youth adjust to being in Juvenile Hall, the intake process will also include an interview where DJCOs may ask questions related to:
- The youth’s address and telephone number
- The most recent school attended
- The youth’s age, birth date, birthplace, height, weight, etc.
- Information regarding the youth’s parents/legal guardians including, contact information, occupation, etc.
- Health and mental health history
The youth will also be asked to take the following assessments, which are necessary to determine the needs of the youth while in custody:
- Adverse Childhood Experiences Study (ACES) trauma assessment
- Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) questionnaire
- Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) Screening Assessment
Finally, the youth will be given an opportunity to call and notify their parent or guardian they are in Juvenile Hall. This entire process usually takes two hours, after which the youth will then be taken to a living unit and assigned a room.
Intake Housing Units
After the youth is booked into Juvenile Hall, he or she is assigned to an Intake Housing Unit. This is the first unit the youth will be assigned to and they will remain in this unit for three to seven days while attending their first court hearing, called a Detention Hearing.
There are two Intake Housing Units at Juvenile Hall housing 20 to 30 youth. They have one- and two-person sleeping rooms. Most rooms are two-person rooms and come equipped with a toilet.
* Juveniles spend a small portion of their day in their rooms. They are usually sent into their rooms between activities, or at the end of the evening for sleeping hours.
General & Special Housing Units
When a Juvenile Court judge determines at a Detention Hearing that youth will remain in custody, they are assigned to a General Housing Unit or a Special Housing Unit based on their needs, the nature of the crime and length of their commitment. Most of the units are general housing units in that the setup, activities and rules of the unit are very similar. Probation staff assign youth to general housing units based on age, gender and security risk. Youth in all units have access to individual and family therapy provided by the Orange County Health Care Agency, specifically the Clinical Evaluation and Guidance Unit (CEGU).
All youth are provided with an opportunity to participate in at least one hour of daily programming, that may include trauma focused, cognitive, evidence-based, or prosocial interventions that are designed to reduce recidivism. EPICS (Effective Practices in Correctional Settings) and Decision Points are some cognitive behavioral programs that have been recognized to reduce recidivism. In addition to a variety of staff led pro-social programs, there are situation specific programs. For example, Just Beginnings, which allows incarcerated youth to have structured visitation with their children and Girls Inc., which focuses on the unique needs of female youth. Programs related to substance abuse, anger management, and sequential art therapy are also offered to the youth. Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous (12-step program) panels are held in each unit.
The Catholic and Protestant detention ministries have offices within Juvenile Hall and provide weekly church services and Bible study for all youth who wish to participate. Any religious preference will be individually accommodated.
General Housing Unit
Youth in these units generally have no special needs and the nature of the crime does not dictate a higher security environment. Many of the youth in these units are often awaiting further court proceedings or pending transfer to one of the Probation Department’s rehabilitative camps, the Youth Leadership Academy (YLA) or the Youth Guidance Center (YGC).
* Correctional Officers conduct staggered room checks to ensure the safety of youth while in their rooms.
Each housing unit is set up as follows:
- Males and females are placed into separate housing units.
- Each unit can house approximately 30 youth.
- Each youth is assigned to his or her own room.
- Every room has a bed and some rooms have toilets.
- A large day room is used for dining and group activities.
- A communal bathroom with toilets, shower stalls and sinks are provided.
- All activities and movements are supervised by Probation staff who interact with youth throughout the day.
Each housing unit has similar activities:
- The youth are awakened each morning at 6:00 am and go to bed at 9:00 pm.
- All three daily meals and snacks are served within the unit.
- Otto Fischer School is an accredited school run by the Orange County Department of Education which provides on-ground classes for all youth.
- All youth attend school Monday through Friday and receive 240 minutes of classroom education per day.
- The youth are given a minimum of one hour per day for outdoor sports and exercise.
- All youth are provided with an opportunity to participate in at least one hour of daily programming, that may include trauma-focused, cognitive, evidence-based, or prosocial interventions that are designed to reduce recidivism.
- The youth are given two hours in the evening for free-time activities, programming and phone calls.
- Youth are rarely in their rooms other than during sleeping hours.
* All youth get a minimum of one hour of outdoor exercise each day.
All housing units maintain clear guidelines/expectations:
- Youth must always get permission before moving about the unit.
- Youth walk with their hands behind their back.
- Youth are instructed not to look into anyone else's room.
- Youth are expected to show respect to staff and other youth.
- Youth are expected to be on their best behavior at all times.
- Youth are to keep their rooms neat and clean at all times.
- Youth are rewarded for positive behavior with incentives, privileges and increased responsibilities via a phase system.
- Youth are held accountable for misbehaviors by loss of privileges, phase drop or restrictive status. Criminal misbehavior while in Juvenile Hall may result in new charges being filed.
Special Housing Units
Youth that are assigned to these units have been established to have special needs, specific crimes, or age restrictions. These youth typically do not mingle with youth within the general population. There are three special housing units:
- Mental Health Unit – This unit houses youth who have displayed behavioral/psychological issues related to mental health. These youth receive a lot of expert attention. Many see a psychiatrist or psychologist daily. This unit houses up to 15 youth (female youth can also be housed in this unit, if necessary) with each assigned to his or her own room. Each youth is individually assessed with a program established to best meet his or her needs. These youth are provided with their own teacher who often holds class within the unit in order to provide a more structured learning environment.
- Sex Offender Unit – This unit houses youth who have been accused or convicted of committing a sex offense. They are placed in this unit to provide them with a special therapy program, if committed by the court. Each youth is individually assessed with a program established to best meet their needs. This unit houses 15-20 males, each assigned to his own room.
- Extreme Security Risk (XSR) Unit – There are currently two XSR units at Juvenile Hall. These units house youth that are considered to have the highest risk or highest level of criminal sophistication. Many of these youth have been charged as an adult and are going through the adult court process. Since this could be a long court process for many of these youth, evidence-based programming has been implemented in this unit such as EPICS and Decision Points, as well as group and individual therapy. These units house up to 30 males.