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California and the West

Model Detention Camp Missing Key Ingredient

Justice: The Turning Point Academy has funding, location and staff--and one inmate.

April 16, 2001|JOHN JOHNSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Back said another problem could be that some judges and probation officers might hesitate to separate a youth from his family for six months on a first offense. "This is maybe too severe," he said.

Legislation creating Turning Point was introduced by Assemblyman Tony Cardenas (D-Mission Hills), whose office was embarrassed to learn that the program was not receiving cadets.

"Oh my God, one student?" said a spokeswoman.

Cardenas said he wants the program to succeed and denied that flaws were designed into it by lawmakers who didn't like the program's tough-love elements. If anything, he said, the problems result from an abundance of caution. "We wanted a narrow scope," he said, so that those most in need could benefit.

But he said something must be done to loosen entrance restrictions. He said discussions are underway to revise the program next year. Hearings are scheduled April 24. And Cardenas emphasized that any money allocated and not spent will be returned to the state treasury.

Assemblyman Abel Maldonado (R-Santa Maria) said he doesn't think anyone conspired to undermine the program.

He said the concept is good. "The criteria needs to be changed to allow more kids access."

Davis declined to take a swipe at program designers, saying through a spokesman that he remains steadfast in his support.

"It's a great program," said Byron Tucker. "However, it may take some time to build."

As for the Shasta County boy, he was scheduled this weekend to complete his first rite of passage, a ceremony at which he will be presented with his uniform. As with every other task he's confronted, he will go through it alone.

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