By Kate Cimini
Just steps past the entrance to Monterey County Juvenile Hall a small, grim cell greets visitors. Industrial gray paint covers the walls and door and a hard bench, its only furniture, juts out from the wall. The heavy metal door features a small window, remnants of a scuffed swastika distorting the view.
Stepping inside the room, the first thing that hits you is the smell: An unpleasant combination of stale sweat and astringent chemicals.
“I’ve tried every cleaning product,” Probation Division Director Jose Ramirez said. “It just keeps coming back.”
Usually used for intake, this cell is the only place Ramirez has to put wards who need to have a meltdown in peace.
Cells like these aren’t just providing secure lockup for wayward kids, experts say. This isn’t just a bleak, stinking box. Its very design works against the mission of rehabilitation, making it statistically more likely that the boys and girls who pass through here will become career criminals, revisiting boxes like this throughout their lives and traumatizing their communities in the process.
Now, for the first time since these walls were built in 1959, Monterey County has a chance to do something about that.