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.

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.