STOCKTON: State Allegedly Spends $700,000 on Drugs for Prison Youth
The California Youth Authority -- guardian of offenders too young to enter the state prison system -- last year reportedly spent $700,000 on medications to control unruly charges. According to a Stockton Record investigation, drugs typically were given without the youths' consent or without parental notification or consent. These medications, designed to control depression, anxiety and schizophrenia, can result in liver failure, cardiac damage and permanent physical disorders and are not intended to control behavioral problems. One prison parolee said officials "use [the drugs] like candy." Another said, "One of the staff told me it was to keep [prisoners] in line, (keep them) from getting hyper, they're easier to handle when they're like that." The CYA -- overseeing 15 facilities and camps with 7,514 wards aged 12-25 -- do not maintain central records on the total amounts of medications given and their costs, preventing confirmation of the actual scope of the allegation. Dan Macallair, associate director of the San Francisco advocacy group Center for Juvenile and Criminal Justice, said, "Typically, psychotropics are used in correctional facilities, not necessarily to treat an identified malady but to maintain control, particularly in kids who are management problems," adding, "It's an easy solution that doesn't require staff to sit down with the kids, find out their issues, do background research; it doesn't require a system to address problems outside the institution. This is all about maintaining institutional control." But former Deputy Director of institutions and camps Brian Rivera said the chief of health care services "personally" reviewed several hundred records in the Stockton complex, adding that all medications, including psychotropics "are being prescribed for medical reasons by our medical staff." The Youth and Adult Correctional Agency Inspector General's Office, the CYA's supervising department, is investigating the charges. In a directive issued in September, Gov. Gray Davis banned the use of "open prescriptions" of psychotropic medications, reportedly because drugs had been dispensed to wards by CYA staff on an "as-needed basis" (AP/Sacramento Bee, 1/17).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.