In less than 20 years, California has gone from having nearly the highest juvenile incarceration rate in the country, to having one of the lowest. We talk with criminal justice expert Dan Macallair about this radical shift in the state’s approach to youth corrections. His new book, “After The Doors Were Locked,” traces the sometimes brutal history of California’s juvenile justice system and the various attempts to reform it, from the Gold Rush onwards.

Dan Macallair, director and co-founder Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice; author,"After the Doors Were Locked: A History of Youth Corrections in California and the Origins" of 21st Century Reform"

  • This is a fascinating interview. Thank you, KQED Forum and Dan Macallair.

    Understanding this history is extremely important, especially when it comes to countering the anti-psychiatry sentiments that claim “Big Pharma” invented childhood developmental disorders such as ADHD.

    I, for one, am greatly relieved that modern neuroscience can help these kids live out their potential instead of being held back by antiquated ideas about “behavior” and even worse ideas about “youth corrections.”

  • Cecile Lusby

    This program with Dan Macallair reminds me of the social experiments in Virginia in the early 20th century, notably the Lynchberg experiment in which incorrigible or unmarried pregnant girls were locked up and later sterilized as imbeciles or incompetent. It was a clear example of a punishment reserved for the lower classes. The idea was borrowed by the Third Reich.

  • Martha Kell

    Found the book on Amazon “After The Doors Were Locked” but it’s $75…not in SJPL 🙁 Want 2 read it, sounds fascinating. Great, informative show. Thank you.

  • 1PeterDuMont2STARALLIANCE8

    The heavily-researched Transcendental Meditation Program ( has been distinguishing itself further via practical application in public schools such as San Francisco’s. Of all places that “T.M.” can and should be employed by the state to help reduce stress and generate better attitudes from within (through natural deep relaxation), juvenile detention facilities should surely be near or at the top of the list.

    In addition to T.M., systematic exposure of inmates (not to mention guards and other staff) to a set of “Highest Civic Ideals — Good Will Principles for All to Share” — would surely prove to be extremely cost-effective as well as hope-engendering.

    • kona ohana

      Yes Peter I agree. TM is a hugely simple and yet very helpful tool to help anyone & everyone to deal with stress.
      This primary issue has come to my attention, it’s the overwhelming use of prescription antidepressants aka Prozac, Celexa, Wellbutrin etal that cause violence, suicide , murder in 1/3 of those that take it. Proof that 35+ yrs of these drugs causal increase of violence, mental depression, blindness, loss of humanity, loss of ability to love or ability to care for the self or others MUST BE dealt with recognized and banned. The FDA finally put a BLACK BOX LABEL WARNING on these SSRI’S in 2004 telling doctors to not prescribe them to anyone under 25. This was only after being sued for a decade. Yet these drugs are now prescribed for any excuse by General practitioners that should NEVER BE prescribing such dangerous drugs. These OFF LABEL uses are the cause of 95% of the violence we see in our Nation. The 100,000 suicides yrly, per the APA & estimated and equal# of murders.
      Here’s the sites with the proof. ~ ~ ~ Dr Peter Breggin, Ann Blake Tracy a trained counselor of 25+ yrs., ~ Dr John Virapen, who exposed Eli Lilly for bribing the Swiss gov’t to get approval of PROZAC. The trillions in profits keeps most of this data hidden. But it is extremely dangerous. Again these drugs MUST BE BANNED immediately. Please help educate those you deal with especially in the juvenile justice system.

  • sawbuck

    Very disturbing segment. Kids hogtied for up to two days, given the choice between incarceration and sterilization, ice cold water hoses. And just yesterday I watched, “Japanese Devils” on youtube about the japanese atrocities against the chinese in ww2. I need to go see a comedy.

  • Susan Alice Grice

    I have volunteered at the Contra Costa County Juvenile Hall for over 25 years. Over the years, the reasons for youth being there have become more and more serious. What ever brought them there, while they were there, they were in a facility that strives for treating the kids with respect, caring for them better than the situations many came from. The things that result in a child being there are numerous and require a lot of community and parental involvement. Thank you for such a well spoken guest and informative program.

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