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California Resolves Long-Running Lawsuit Over Youth Prisons

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California has resolved a long-running lawsuit over poor care at juvenile prisons and both sides say conditions have greatly improved.

An Alameda County judge on Thursday approved an agreement between the parties to dismiss a 2003 lawsuit against what was then called the California Youth Authority.

The system was known for imposing long periods of solitary confinement and for employees’ frequent use of pepper spray against youth offenders.

Corrections officials and attorneys representing juveniles agreed in 2004 to six areas of reform, including limiting employees’ use of force.

California has since also dramatically reduced the population of what is now the Division of Juvenile Justice. It has about 700 offenders compared with about 10,000 nine years ago.

Both sides say changing employee attitudes is the biggest hurdle.