The Closing of California's Most Violent Juvenile Prison depicts the Heman G. Stark Juvenile Prison, also known as Youth Training School, as it stands today, approximately seven years after it was closed by the State of California. My grandfather was a respected warden and consultant to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, including a stay as Associate Warden at Atlanta’s Federal Prison in the 1940’s. He served as a consultant at Stark for a brief time in the 1970's.
It was my family connection that — after nine months of polite persistence — encouraged the State to issue permission for me to enter the property. My host this day, a Plant Manager, welcomed me by remarking, “Boy, you must be someone important ’cause request came from the top of the State of California to let you in.”
Heman G. Stark Youth Correctional Facility was the youth division’s largest facility with a peak population of 3,000 wards. Prisoners were called “wards” due to their young age.
The prison held wards “as young as twelve” I was told and was closed in 2010 due to persistent violence, “unsafe and unsatisfactory conditions”, and the murder of a prison counselor years earlier. It’s now a “warm” site, meaning it can be re-opened anytime.