Cadets go through orientation at the Basic Correctional Juvenile Academy.

Cadets go through orientation at the Basic Correctional Juvenile Academy.

Basic Correctional Juvenile Academy opens in Stockton

By Joe Orlando, CDCR Public Information Officer

After months of planning and preparation, the Basic Correctional Juvenile Academy (BCJA) opened at the Stockton Training Center. The 16-week training session includes 10 cadets training to be Youth Correctional Officers (YCO) and 38 cadets training to be Youth Correctional Counselors (YCC). Whey they graduate in August, they will work for the Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ).

BCJA Director Jeff Plunkett addressed the group on the first day.

“This is 16 weeks, a small portion of your life that will prepare you for the rest of your life,” Plunkett said. “If you don’t know something, ask. There are no dumb questions. When you leave here on August 14, we want to make sure you’re ready.”

Sgt. Denita Razo, one of the instructors at the BCJA, said the first week of orientation is critical for the cadets.

“We want them to be focused, get into the right mindset, learn, and be aware of their surroundings,” she said.

Razo also wants to make sure there are no misconceptions about what their jobs will be like.

Basic Correctional Juvenile Academy Instructor Sgt. Denita Razo.

Basic Correctional Juvenile Academy Instructor Sgt. Denita Razo.

“Some think they’ll be sitting behind a desk, but that’s not what we do. The only time our YCCs or YCOs are behind a desk is when they are writing reports. Most of their day will be spent interacting with the juvenile offenders,” Razo explained.

A  major difference between training at the BCJA and training on the adult side is the Integrated Behavior Treatment Model (IBTM), an  integral element to the course structure taught at all DJJ facilities.

IBTM is designed to reduce institutional violence and future criminal behavior by teaching anti-criminal attitudes and personal skills to better manage their environment.

A case plan is designed and implemented for each youth to develop an individualized program to assess their special needs such as sexual behavior, mental health or any of the numerous treatment issues they may be dealing with.

DJJ staff from every professional discipline work as a team to assess the unique needs of each youth and develop an individualized treatment program to address them. Through collaboration with the youth, the team administers a case plan taking advantage of each youth’s personal strengths to maximize treatment to reduce the risk of re-offending.

The cadets, who are now training to work with the youth, come from all walks of life.

Youth Correctional Counselor Cadet Kellin Mills has worked with youth since the age of 18. She has three kids ages 22, 17 and 11.

“They tell me, and I‘ve felt in the short amount of time I’ve been here, that this is a family,” she said. “I’m looking forward to the challenges over the next several weeks, and learning all I can to become the best counselor I can be.”

Cadet Nathaniel Williams is training to become a Youth Correctional Officer. He has two young children, ages 8 and 2.

“All I’ve heard is positive feedback. I was in the Marines, and they break you down, and remold you into what they are looking for. Here, it’s different. They accept you for who you are, and then train you to be the best at that particular job.”

Williams admits it took a while to get to the Academy. He first applied to be a YCO in November of 2013. And now 17 months later, he’s arrived.

All 48 cadets have been given their assignments when they graduate. From this group, 18 will work at the O.H. Close Youth Correctional Facility (YCF), 18 will go to Ventura YCF, 11 will work at N.A. Chaderjian YCF, and one will work for the Pine Grove Youth Correctional Camp.

Instructors look over the cadets.

Instructors look over the cadets.