California Activists Calling for Changes to State’s Juvenile Justice System

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Last month, California’s Center on Juvenile & Criminal Justice (CJCJ) released a policy brief recommending phased juvenile justice realignment beginning later this year.

The release, entitled “Juvenile Justice Realignment in 2012,” was penned by Brian Heller de Leon, the organization’s Policy and Government Outreach Coordinator, and Selena Teji, J.D., the organization’s Communications Specialist and an occasional op-ed contributor to the JJIE.

The CJCJ advocates a three-year program that would effectively abolish the state’s Division of Juvenile Facilities by 2015, reallocating funding to individual counties based on juvenile felony arrest rates.

According to California’s Division of Juvenile Facilities, the state’s counties are saddled with an approximate annual cost of $125,000 per incarcerated youth, with state youth facility budgets topping out at $226 million annually.

California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation data from 2010 found that approximately 80 percent of juveniles within the state’s Division of Juvenile Facilities populations were likely to be re-arrested within three years of release. The state’s taxpayers are estimated to have spent $193,111 per youth to confine California’s state youth facility population, according to 2011 Department of Finance figures.

“The current budget crisis requires action, since California can no longer afford to operate dual state and county juvenile justice systems,” said CJCJ Executive Director Daniel Macallair.

“The choices are clear,” he continued. “Does the state continue to operate a broken, fragmented, isolated and expensive state youth correctional system that stands as a 19th century relic or does it move forthrightly into the 21st century by shifting resources to counties to allow the development of a full array of locally-based juvenile justice services?”

One thought on “California Activists Calling for Changes to State’s Juvenile Justice System

  1. Phased reallignment of the juvenile justice system is certainly a worthy goal. As a criminal defense lawyer in Los Angeles, I know that the juvenile court system in some California counties is also deeply flawed. That’s the potential downside of shifting control to counties. Overall, however, it is a worthy goal and it’s one that deserves to get more attention.