STOCKTON – Today, the Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) De Witt Nelson Youth Correctional Facility near Stockton conducted a closing ceremony before more than 300 current and former employees, including members of the community. The facility had been in operation for 36 years.
The Dewitt facility opened in December 1971, with the focus primarily on vocational pursuits and an emphasis on pre-forestry training. In later years the facility moved away from a vocation mission and focused on specific treatment needs such as substance abuse treatment and anger management.
“While this experience is bittersweet, the closure of this facility has been known for some time and the staff here have been remarkably professional in the months leading up to today” Warner said. “It is extremely difficult to close this facility, but the reality we face with the DJJ is that we have a declining population and we have made a commitment to the courts on treatment for juveniles that remain with us.”
Recent declines in the DJJ population were hastened by recent legislation effective in September 2007, that is expected to reduce the existing DJJ population of 1,936 wards to around 1,500 wards. Effectively many offenders that would have previously been referred to the DJJ for less serious crimes will now remain with the county of commitment.
De Witt was the third facility at the Stockton complex to open, following the opening of the O.H. Close Youth Correctional Facility, and the Karl Holton Youth Correctional Facility (closed in 2003) in the late 1960s. Both the Close facility and the N.A. Chaderjian Youth Correctional Facility remain open.
De Witt Superintendent Michael Minor thanked the remaining employees for their courage and honesty during the last six months following the January announcement that De Witt would close.
“Despite all the stress and uncertainly, De Witt Nelson employees have always strived to do their best to provide public safety and public service to this state and the surrounding community,” Minor said.
Following these remarks, the Preston Youth Correctional Facility Color Guard retired the two flags gracing the stage. The Heman G. Stark Youth Correctional Facility Color Guard took down the institution flag for the final flag folding and retirement ceremony. After, the final institution count was announced (no wards in the facility), the closing ceremony ended.