The state attorney general’s office is looking into hundreds of dubious arrests at California’s shelters for abused and neglected children that were detailed last week in a San Francisco Chronicle investigative report.
The attorney general’s response comes amid calls from judges, state lawmakers and youth lawyers to consider shutting down shelters where children as young as 8 have been funneled into the criminal justice system for minor incidents.
Meanwhile, the director of Mary Graham Children’s Shelter in San Joaquin County, which had the highest number of arrests among California’s 10 shelters last year, has taken an abrupt leave. County officials have called for immediate reviews of the newspaper’s findings that shelter staff contacted the sheriff an average of nine times a day last year, with children booked at juvenile hall nearly 200 times in 2015 and 2016.
The county shelters are the first stop for children removed from their homes by social workers, and for those in between placements in the nation’s largest foster care system. Yet instead of serving as refuges for children, The Chronicle found the shelters often call law enforcement to quell their emotional outbursts — an extreme reaction that can have lasting impacts on youngsters handcuffed and booked at juvenile halls.
Foster children have faced criminal charges for shelter incidents as minor as flooding a carpet and poking a staff member with a candy cane.
Source: San Francisco Chronicle