Ventura Youth Correctional Facility, Camarillo, California

The Ventura Youth Correctional Facility, in Camarillo in Ventura County holds a population of committed youths from all over the state. VYCF is known by those in the field as a problematic facility. The Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice cites the facility as a “paragon of dysfunction” and has previously condemned the institution for inhumane living conditions and violence (CJCJ). A January 2012 report from the Office of the Special Master, evaluating the facility, found that “After years of reform efforts…there have not been significant declines in violence and fear at the facility.” The report also identifies key issues that haven’t been addressed that include, “gender responsive programming and facility improvements to avoid a ‘prison-like’ atmosphere.”

The report also points out that while VYCF has a relatively low Youth Violence Rate, it has a disproportionately high Use of Force Rate. The facility also has a worrisome rate of temporary detention/restrictive housing (which includes putting youths in isolation cells). In comparison to two other facilities whose rates of temporary detention for the first six months of 2011 were 7 and 8 juveniles respectively, VYCF counted 958 juveniles that had been put in isolation or restrictive housing. Furthermore, many of the youth being put in temporary detention were “systematically not receiving” the Department of Juvenile Justice’s requirement of three hours of  “out-of-cell time daily.” Many of the issues can be attributed to a relatively uninformed and unskilled staff incapable of addressing or understanding youth behavior issues, as well as staff shortages, and lack of leadership.

Ventura Youth Correctional Facility, Camarillo, California
Ventura Youth Correctional Facility, Camarillo, California
Ventura Youth Correctional Facility, Camarillo, California
Ventura Youth Correctional Facility, Camarillo, California

6 thoughts on “Ventura Youth Correctional Facility

  1. This is a lil crazy i was there in99 and they say thePROgram Dont work it does but you gotta want it. And of course if you fight you will get into trouble and stay in youre room for up to 3 days .but thats youre fault for fighting.them staff members do a hell of a job to rehabilitate you

  2. I’m sure this facility is 100% cleaner, safer, and more humane than the homes and streets the population has come from.

  3. Hi Monique,

    Thanks for your insight on this facility. I’m so happy to hear that you were able to learn and grow from your experience at Ventura YCF… We at juvenile-in-justice like to think that the programs at California Youth Facilities are designed to help, more than hinder, the children they incarcerate.

    When we visited the Ventura facility we encountered dedicated staff, but in many instances they were employing practices and principles that did not best serve the youth in their custody. They were using punitive practices such as isolation and mandatory uniforms, they didn’t eat with the children. Further, the architecture of the space was angry, industrial, brutalist and prized punishment over rehabilitation.

    Again, we are so glad that you were able to grow from your time at VYCF but we like to acknowledge the fact that the program and architecture is not properly serving or caring for the majority of the kids in its custody.

    I welcome you to get in touch with me at to share your story and talk further about this.

  4. Hi D-Lite-Ful,

    Thanks for your comment and interest in this post.

    I am curious what makes you so assured that life for youth in this facility is “cleaner, safer, and more humane than the homes and streets” than where they lived before this.

    For some children, your sentiment is true, For others, it is far from the truth. Many lived in clean homes, attended school, ate dinner with family members, did chores. We have learned this in first person interviews.

    However, even for the children for whom living in this facility might be a cleaner, safer experience– is this really the best we can do?– An industrial cell with a steel toilet? Barbed wire perimeters and a cot on the floor? And to top it off a poor education system? We at juvenile-in-justice feel that just because a child came from poor or horrible living circumstances doesn’t mean that the state/county only has to offer them an existence slightly above that. They are a most vulnerable population and deserve to be treated and housed and rehabilitated with compassion and tolerance, in a living situation that resembles a normal home as closely as possible.

    This is a paper on the “Missouri Model” of juvenile treatment centers:

    It is worth a look and emphasizes a system that puts more energy towards healing than punishment, both in terms of curriculum and architecture.

    That said, I hope you will continue to share your thoughts and allow us to continue this important dialogue.


    Katy McCarthy
    Blog Director

  5. I was incarcerated in this facility for over eight years. I have to admit that I was just a kid when I first got there… There were many programs offered to me and I was too immature, depressed and angry to take advantage of these programs until I got through my issues that I needed to deal with. There were many great counselors and staff members that tried to help me but I refused to listen. It took me years to want to help myself but when I was ready those certain staff still were willing to give me a chance. I am so grateful that I had those certain people in my life. There was a lot that wasn’t so great but that’s life and you learn to learn from those negative experiences. There are a lot of things that they do not prepare you for in the real world but there are a lot of things I learned (especially on fire camp) that I still apply to my life on a daily basis. I will always be grateful for V.Y.C.F and the counselors there that actually cared.

  6. I was there in 88-91 and have to admit, I had fun especially since it was co-ed. I was fortunate to be one of the first 17 female fire fighters on Crew 2 in the fire camp side. There were many staff members that were invested in the success of many of us. I amd many friends there and still are friends with them til this day.

Leave a Reply