“Crossover Youth”: The Intersection of Child Welfare & Juvenile Justice

Crossover youth is more than the latest buzzword in the often jargon-filled lexicon of juvenile justice. Instead, the term reflects a growing understanding of the dynamic between child abuse, neglect and delinquency. This population of young people has contact with both the child welfare and juvenile justice systems.

Addressing child welfare is challenging enough, let alone when joined with deeper problems of delinquency. Abused young people often carry scars of trauma and pain, which can inform delinquent behavior that leads to subsequent contact with the juvenile justice system. However, the complex challenges and needs of crossover youth often prove too much for each system alone to address.

California Juvenile Arrests at 50-year Low

New numbers released by the Criminal Justice Statistics Center indicate that last year, California posted its lowest number of juvenile arrests in more than half a century. The 2011 total of 149,563 juvenile arrests is the lowest annual tally since 1957; the first year statewide records were kept. Even when accounting for a larger youth population in the state, recent figures indicate California teens are less likely to be arrested for severe crimes, such as murder and rape, than young people 50 years ago. Since the 1970s, youth crime has been on a downward spiral in the Golden State, with the number of violent offenses perpetrated by juveniles plummeting by 50 percent over the last four decades. With reports from all 58 counties analyzed, researchers noted a 17 percent decrease in California juvenile arrests from 2010 to 2011, with violent and property offenses dropping by 16 percent, and status and misdemeanor offenses dropping by 21 percent.

Why Juvenile Justice Systems Need Local Data

Local application of juvenile justice policies vary widely and understanding these trends is of fundamental importance to policymaking. Governors, legislators, stakeholders, and public watchdogs all use data to inform their understanding of the impact of a proposed law, as well as the effectiveness of the currently implemented system. The results of juvenile justice policy are far-reaching; therefore, it is critical that accurate and relevant data inform policy decisions. In California, 58 autonomous counties administer juvenile justice serving 99 percent of the state’s justice involved youth. The state’s role currently involves operating three dilapidated and isolated youth correctional facilities that house about 930 of California’s more high-need offenders.

Trimming the Juvenile Justice Fat

California Gov. Jerry Brown was recently quoted telling the state Legislature to “man up” on his proposed budget cuts and yet, when it comes to juvenile justice, it seems the governor consistently bends under pressure. Unfortunately, the effects of his juvenile justice compromise will soon be felt by all California residents, according to a new CJCJ publication. With scarce and finite resources, the governor’s decision to grant a reprieve for state youth correctional facilities, in his May revised budget, creates an additional strain on already scantily-funded state services. This is the second year the governor has removed a proposal for full juvenile justice realignment from his budget. In FY 2011-12, the budget allocated counties $200,000 per state-confined youth, to increase their capacity for serving high-need juvenile offenders.

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

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.

Bringing Down Youth Prisons and Building a Better Place

I saw the movie Weeds in 1989. It was a “prison movie,” and I wasn’t particularly interested, but my friend Russell insisted that I watch it. Honestly, I do not recall much of the plot, but one scene has remained in my memory ever since. Nick Nolte’s character, who starts an acting troop while serving a life sentence, speaks about visiting the ruins of an old prison. “I saw a prison near Plymouth Rock, and it was overgrown with weeds … they sprang from every crack.

Fight Ahead Over Bold California Move to Close State-Run Youth Prisons

This story was originally published by the Center for Public Integrity

California, often a trendsetter, could make history if it approves Gov. Jerry Brown’s bid to close all state-run youth prisons and eliminate its state Division of Juvenile Justice. Much depends, though, on whether the state’s politically influential prison guards, probation officers and district attorneys can be convinced — or forced by legislators — to agree to Brown’s proposal. That won’t be an easy sell, due to both public-safety arguments and sure-to-surface haggling over just who pays to house juvenile offenders. Vowing to restructure government more efficiently, Brown, a Democrat, wants to close the last three of 11 youth prisons that have long been attacked by critics as “expensive failures.” If the state phases out the last three of its aging detention centers, all future young offenders would be held, schooled and treated by California’s 58 counties. This is the second time since taking office last year that Brown has proposed closing the state juvenile division, which is part of its corrections system.

California’s Governor Sends Wake-Up Call to the State’s Counties

In his first move of 2012, California’s Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget proposal for FY 2012-2013 appears to be part compromise, part wake-up call to the state’s counties, indicating he is serious about closing the state’s youth correctional system, the Division of Juvenile Facilities (DJF) once and for all. Ideally, this proposal should provide some relief for counties because now there is the opportunity for funding of local juvenile justice programs. The proposed budget will postpone the “budget triggers” and allocate an initial $10 million to counties to plan for juvenile justice realignment, followed by approximately $100 million each year. The catch? No new commitments will be made to DJF as of Jan. 1, 2013 and counties will have no choice but to handle their high- needs and high- risk population locally.

The Closing of the Massachusetts Reform Schools and the Legacy of Jerome Miller

On January 15, 1972, a caravan of 100 cars drove onto the grounds of the Lyman Reform School in Westborough, Mass. and stopped at the school’s administration building. Jerome Miller, the director of the state’s Department of Youth Services (DYS), emerged from the lead car and walked into the administration building to announce that the few remaining youths were being removed and that the 125-year-old institution was to close. Over the next year a similar exercise was carried out at the state’s other three reform schools. By the time it was over, Miller had carried out the most remarkable reforms in the history of the juvenile justice system by abolishing the state’s 19th century era reform schools.

Wrong ideas: Curfews and Incarceration

Children are the future of any society. They are the product of human connection and are a true reflection of society’s investment in itself. Why, then, are some states in America embracing juvenile incarceration and curfews over humane and effective alternatives? Is America afraid of its youth population? Nationwide, juvenile crime rates have been dropping.