Several guards at the California Youth Authority's Ventura School have been accused of improper sexual conduct with female wards at the Camarillo facility and are the subject of an internal investigation, agency officials and the father of an alleged victim said Wednesday.
A 20-year-old Yorba Linda woman alleges that as many as a dozen staff members coerced sex from seven wards in exchange for jewelry, gifts, extra food and privileges in the last two years. The woman, who is still incarcerated, told authorities she was sexually assaulted earlier this year and in 2003.
Her father, a construction manager in Orange County who asked not to be identified, said his daughter fears retaliation for speaking out. At the request of his attorney, his daughter was removed from Ventura School on Nov. 24 and placed in the main county jail, where she has been segregated from other prisoners in special housing.
The Youth Authority confirmed that an investigation has been ongoing for several weeks, but declined to provide details on the number of employees involved or specific allegations.
"We're looking at a detailed investigation, in cooperation with the Ventura County Sheriff's Department into the possible staff misconduct," said Youth Authority spokeswoman Sarah Ludeman. "Because of the seriousness of these allegations, the Office of Inspector General has assigned an investigator to monitor this case."
The father said he was told by officials with the Youth Authority's internal affairs division that six guards were placed on administrative leave and that three of them may face criminal prosecution.
He said his daughter has information about the other Ventura School employees, but is reluctant to share details with investigators until she is assured that she won't face retribution. His daughter, who has been in and out of the Youth Authority facility since 2002, is serving time for drug abuse and parole violations.
"My goal is to provide protection for my daughter and to bring people to justice who are doing these crimes against these young kids," he said.
Geri Lynn Green, the family's attorney, said her client feels isolated and intimidated, because deputies were notified of the reason for her transfer from Ventura School.
The allegations of staff misconduct at Ventura School come five years after five school employees were fired or forced to resign for having sex with inmates and the school's top three administrators were suspended for lax oversight. Those actions were the result of a 2 1/2-year investigation.
"This is stuff that's been going on for years," said Daniel Macallair, executive director of the San Francisco-based Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice. "Part of the problem is the Youth Authority itself. You've got a system used to operating without a lot of accountability."