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Contra Costa Stops Charging Families a Per Diem for Juvie Lock-up and Ankle Monitors

October 26th, 2016 by Taylor Walker

On Tuesday, the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors voted in favor of placing a moratorium on the county’s collection of fees from families for kids’ juvenile justice system involvement.

Contra Costa currently charges $17 a day for electronic monitoring, and a “cost of care” fee of as much as $30 a day when kids are locked up in juvenile hall. While some counties levy even more charges against families, Contra Costa only collects these two fines. The fee amounts are, however, some of the highest in the state, and often push poor families into serious financial strain and debt, while pushing their kids further into the justice system.

A team of law students from UC Berkeley’s Policy Advocacy Clinic has been instrumental in stopping the fees in several California counties, including Contra Costa.

The Berkeley research shows that the collection of administrative fees from families has no rehabilitative, restorative, or retributive value. The practice only acts to recover costs to the county. Except in Contra Costa’s case, the the county doesn’t even make enough money from the fees to cover the cost of collecting them.

“The infrastructure that the county has to collect this fee is more expensive than the net amount that the county gets from this fee,” said Supervisor John Gioia.

In neighboring Alameda County, families used to be charged for GPS monitoring, community supervision, nights in juvenile hall, and more. Then in March, after UC Berkeley researchers revealed the significant burden these costs place on low-income families, Alameda abolished the fees for its residents. The Berkeley report found that the costs were adding up to more than $2,000 per case, with many totals much higher.

(In case you were wondering, Los Angeles and San Francisco do not charge these administration fees to kids’ families. LA County approved a moratorium on the fees in 2009. SF never charged fees.)

At the state level, California Senator Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles) introduced a bill introduced a bill this year that, had it survived, would have eliminated administrative fees for kids locked up or placed on probation statewide.

KQED’s Sukey Lewis talked with one Contra Costa County mother who was slapped with a bill for the 313 days her son spent in juvenile lock-up. Here’s a clip:

Contra Costa has some of the highest fees in the state — up to $30 per day for juvenile hall detention and $17 per day for ankle monitoring. That means M.C. could have been billed more than $9,000 for the cost of holding her son.

She works as a house cleaner and was already struggling to make ends meet. M.C. told the probation department she couldn’t pay the full amount, and they reduced her bill to $939.

M.C. started paying it off when she could, about $50 a month, but she says the fees felt like an injustice. It made her “angry to see these letters arrive charging me money, and my son was locked up, and still they wanted to blame him for something he never did.”

After more than two years, all charges against her son were dropped, and he came home.

But M.C. still had to pay the probation department.

Under state law, the county had every right to do this. The California Welfare and Institutions Code holds parents financially responsible for their kids even while in custody. The logic goes that if M.C.’s son were at home she would have to pay for the cost of clothing him and feeding him, so she should have to reimburse the county for those same costs.

Youth Radio’s Myles Bess recorded the above video following Alameda County’s decision to suspend juvenile justice fees.

Posted in juvenile justice, Juvenile Probation | No Comments »

“Chessman,” and the Death of Venida Browder

October 18th, 2016 by Taylor Walker


A new play about an incredibly controversial death penalty case in California in the 1960s—”Chessman”—opened last week at Sacramento’s B Street Theatre.

For more than 12 years, California death row inmate Caryl Chessman fought desperately to save himself from the gas chamber. Chessman’s case was extremely controversial because he had not been convicted of murder. Instead, at 27-years-old, Chessman, also called the “Red Light Bandit” was convicted of a a number of robberies and rapes in Los Angeles. Many important voices, including Eleanor Roosevelt and the Vatican newspaper, called for Chessman to be spared.

On Feb 18, 1960, 21-year-old UC Berkeley student Edmund G. “Jerry” Brown, Jr. dialed his father, then-Governor Pat Brown, and asked for a 60-day stay of execution for Chessman, the night before the man’s scheduled execution. The younger Brown also urged his father to propose a bill to end the death penalty in California. Even though both men knew the measure had an extremely low chance of success, Pat Brown introduced a bill to abolish capital punishment.

The elder Brown’s bill was rejected by state legislators, and Chessman was put to death two-and-a-half months later.

Although playwright says the timing of the play was not purposeful, it is serendipitous, in that next month, California voters will choose between two competing death penalty-related ballot initiatives. The first, Proposition 62, would abolish capital punishment in the state. The second, Prop. 66, would speed up the death penalty appeals process executions.

The Sacramento Bee’s Alexei Koseff has more on the play, which tells the Chessman story from the perspectives of the condemned man, and four members of the Brown family—Pat, his wife Bernice, Jerry, and Pat’s daughter, Kathleen. Here’s a clip:

The controversy also came at a relative highwater mark for opposition to the death penalty, when Americans were about evenly split on the issue. This allowed Pat Brown to openly grapple over Chessman’s fate without committing “automatic political suicide,” the biographer Rarick noted at a recent panel on the case.

“He always looked for the best with everybody. He was inclined toward mercy, but inclined toward upholding the law,” Rarick said.

Because Chessman had prior felonies, Pat Brown could not commute his sentence without the approval of the California Supreme Court, which voted 4-3 to uphold the conviction. Chessman was going to die.

But the night before the execution was scheduled to proceed, Jerry Brown called his father urging him to grant a 60-day reprieve and pursue a moratorium on the death penalty in the Legislature. As Pat recounted in “Public Justice, Private Mercy,” he believed there was not “one chance in a thousand” that lawmakers would act.

“Then Jerry said, “But Dad, if you were a doctor and there was one chance in a thousand of saving a patient’s life, wouldn’t you take it?’

“I thought about that for a moment. You’re right, I finally said. I’ll do it.”

For his decision, Pat Brown received a slew of negative responses – and a 16-page letter from a “surprised and grateful” Chessman.

In an interview with the LA Times’ Patt Morrison, “Chessman” playwright Joseph Rodota discusses the case’s backstory and context, as well as his inspiration for the play, and the impact of the case on the Browns “and how it shapes the relationship of family members to each other.” Here are some clips:

The play looks at the death penalty controversy through the eyes of each member of the family. I think that’s what I found very fascinating as I was reading through Bernice Brown’s recollections at the time. Jerry in 1960, at this moment where it looks like all options for Chessman have been closed off, and Pat Brown has finally decided that he’d done all that he can do, and he was going to let the execution take place. Pat Brown was alone in the house and he writes later that he took a phone call from Jerry. Jerry was a student at that point, he’s out of the seminary and he’s now at Berkeley. He calls him and they discuss the case, and nobody knows of course what they said to each other.

But that evening, after that call concluded, Brown reversed course and decided he would go to the Legislature and seek a change in California’s death penalty law, and he gave Chessman a reprieve so that he could pursue that option.

[Morrison:] Ultimately of course that reprieve couldn’t last, and the commutation wasn’t possible.

Right. It was a temporary reprieve, and Gov. Brown was unsuccessful in persuading the Legislature to change the law, and he lost in committee. It’s important in the context — this might have been one of the first defeats Brown had suffered in the Legislature. He was riding high, he’d been elected in 1958, and he had had a breathtaking year in 1959, one success in the Legislature after another. And this was the first roadblock.


He made it very clear what his personal views were on the death penalty, and he also made very clear the matter of his Catholic faith. But he had also expressed a deep love for the law. Pat Brown had grown up as a prosecutor, a D.A., attorney general and now the governor. And he really felt that the legal system was the glue that held California together, and he was very conscious of his legal limitations and his duty to the people to follow the law. If he couldn’t change it, he had to follow it.

The play actually attempts to answer the question, how does the experience of the Chessman case change the relationship between Gov. Brown and his son? Of course, I did a large amount of research. For example, back in the ’70s, Jerry talked a bit about his early life, and I have a lot of early Jerry Brown interviews. I also found a letter Jerry Brown wrote to one of his uncles while he was in the seminary. It was handwritten, beautiful letter that you can just feel; here’s a 19-year-old talking to somebody in the family, just pouring his heart out. I felt I could really hear the voice of these family members.


On Friday night, at 63 years old, Venida Browder, the mother of Kalief Browder, died of complications from a heart attack. The Browders’ attorney, Paul Prestia, says he believes Venida “died of a broken heart.”

In 2010, Kalief was arrested after being accused of stealing a backpack. The Browders’ inability to post $3,000 bail led to a harrowing three-year stint at Rikers Island for Kalief.

Kalief was never tried during those three years—two of which he spent in solitary confinement.

Prosecutors ultimately dropped the charges against Browder in 2013. For the next two years following his release, Kalief struggled with mental illness stemming from the adverse effects of prolonged isolation and other trauma he experienced behind bars. For periods, it appeared that Browder was restarting his life, but on several occasions he tried to kill himself. Last June, at 22 years old, Browder finally succeeded.

The New Yorker’s Jennifer Gonnerman, who has been following and reporting on Browder’s devastating story since October 2014, also wrote about Venida and the work she did to honor Kalief’s life and legacy through activism, before her own untimely death. Here’s a small clip:

In the following months, Venida, who was fairly shy, became much more outspoken. Although she had serious health problems, she travelled to Washington, D.C., in July of 2015 to attend a press conference for “Kalief’s Law,” a bill intended to improve the treatment of young people in prison. She joined the advisory board of an organization called Stop Solitary for Kids. She spoke to reporters. In January of 2016, she participated in the American Justice Summit at John Jay College. Paul Prestia, who represented her in a wrongful-death claim against New York City, remembers going with her to a speaking event at the New School last April. Before she stepped onstage, he said that she seemed very nervous. But then she spoke for forty-five minutes about what she and Kalief had endured. “She got up there, and I was like, Wow!” he said. “She blew me away.”


“She could have stayed back, but the fact she was so involved helped that movement,” Prestia said. Kalief’s story—and his mother’s voice—became an important part of the public debates over solitary confinement, youth incarceration, court delays, speedy-trial laws, and conditions on Rikers.

As part of an upcoming video series for The Marshall Project, Venida tells her son’s story—from his arrest to his release and, later, his death. Venida found Kalief after he had hanged himself from a second floor window of their family home. “I miss my son,” Venida said. “I miss him so much.”

Kalief’s story has garnered a ton of media attention and set in motion efforts to reform the notorious NY jail. Earlier this month, Rapper Jay-Z announced that he is producing a six-part docu-series called, “Time: The Kalief Browder Story,” scheduled for release this upcoming January on Spike TV.

Posted in Death Penalty, juvenile justice | No Comments »

Two Prop 57 Stories and the Wording Switch That Saved CA’s Juvie Isolation Bill

October 13th, 2016 by Taylor Walker


KQED has two worthwhile stories about California’s ballot initiative Proposition 57—which would take the power to transfer kids to adult court out of the hands of prosecutors and give the control back to judges. (It would also as increase parole eligibility for non-violent offenders who have completed the base sentence for their primary offense and boost access to early release credits, but the focus of the two KQED stories is on the juvenile justice portion of the initiative.)

In the first, KQED’s Laura Klivans tells the story of Daniel Mendoza, a 21-year-old junior at UC Davis, who, at 14, faced 50 years behind bars for his part in a fatal fight with an older man. The Santa Cruz County District Attorney sent Mendoza’s case to adult court.

Four-and-a-half years later, after the teen had finished high school, taken college classes, and made positive life changes while in juvenile hall, Mendoza’s lawyer succeeded in getting his case sent back to juvenile court. Instead of 50 years, Mendoza spent less than less than five years behind bars. And the rehabilitative and academic supports Mendoza received in juvenile lock-up “changed the whole picture,” he says.

Here’s a clip from Klivans’ story:

Youth advocates argue that direct file hinders due process. The decision to send a young person’s case to adult court is made privately by the county district attorney’s office. Those supporting reform say it would be more just to have a hearing in front of a judge where both the prosecution and defense can present their sides, and the judge would make the decision.

This type of hearing is used in some circumstances, and if Proposition 57 passes, it would be required for all juvenile cases transferred to adult court.

Supporters of Proposition 57 also say the impacts of sending a young person to adult court, rather than remaining in juvenile court, are huge: The youth will likely get a longer sentence, be more likely to commit another crime when released, and more likely to experience violence while incarcerated.

District attorneys say direct file is reserved for only the most serious cases, which they believe would end up in adult court regardless. It can be a helpful tool that can save time and resources in an already bogged-down legal system. And in counties with limited rehabilitative options, district attorneys may feel direct file is the best way to keep the larger community safe.

Mendoza was a 14-year-old when his case was sent to adult court. There, the prosecutor proposed a sentence of 50 years to life in prison. But Mendoza’s lawyer fought it.

In the meantime, Mendoza was in Santa Cruz’s juvenile hall. There, slowly, he changed.

“Slowly, I was investing in my education,” he says. “I started not only to show up but do the work. One of the lead teachers got me to take college courses. Where I come from we don’t think about graduating high school, let alone going to college.”

He graduated from high school while in juvenile hall, and took more college courses. He built positive relationships with mentors and staff.

Four and a half years in, while Mendoza’s trial was still going on, the teenager got a surprise: His case was bumped back to juvenile court, where he was convicted of first-degree murder as a juvenile. This meant his sentence would be a lot shorter than the 50 years he could have gotten in adult court.


In the second story, Klivans takes a look at why prosecutors in San Francisco direct-file kids at much lower rates than prosecutors in other California jurisdictions.

According to prosecutor Jean Roland, the difference between counties that have high direct-file numbers and San Francisco, is the “mentality” of SF District Attorney’s Office led by reform-minded DA George Gascón. Here’s a clip:

Some counties write off San Francisco as too different. It’s a place with tech money, and unlike most counties, which include many cities, San Francisco has just one. That means it has one school district and one police department.

But prosecutor Jean Roland says the real magic starts with the mentality of the district attorney’s office. They report using direct file three times a year on the high end, and some years they haven’t used it at all.

“I think we all share a common thought process of trying to cut off that prison pipeline,” Roland says. “If we don’t do it when they’re younger, when they have a chance, it becomes harder and harder to do that as they reach adulthood.”

Roland points to studies that say a young person’s brain is still developing until their mid-20s. That research is not something all counties value, but in San Francisco the staff repeat it again and again.

Patricia Lee, managing attorney of the San Francisco Public Defender’s Juvenile Division, started working at her office over 30 years ago, a time when she says San Francisco didn’t have many good options to rehabilitate youth. She says she gets how people from other counties may feel.

“Twenty-five years ago we were in that position, too,” Lee says. But she and her colleagues have gotten creative, she says, and other counties, no matter how different, can do the same. She recommends applying for federal grants, collaborating with other departments across the cities, and even partnering with nearby counties.

Lee says these approaches contribute to the declining number of youth involved in San Francisco’s juvenile justice system — 1,500 kids in 2005 and around 600 today.


Writing for The Crime Report, journalist Kelly Davis tells the story of the simple change of language that turned CA Senator Mark Leno’s many-times-failed bill to restrict juvenile solitary confinement into a bill that sailed through the state’s legislature and was signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown late last month. Here’s a clip:

At a press conference in San Francisco in early December, state Sen. Mark Leno, the Bay Area lawmaker who authored the failed bill, announced plans to re-introduce it in 2016.

To signal his frustration, he proposed calling it the “Stop Torture of Children Act.”

“We’re calling it what it is,” Leno told The Crime Report in an interview shortly after the press conference. “It’s an outrage that we’re still having this debate.”

Leno’s bill was the fourth attempt since 2012 to address the use of isolation in the state’s juvenile lock-ups. Like previous bills, it had faced strong opposition from California’s prison guards union, whose members work in state-run juvenile detention centers, and from the Chief Probation Officers of California (CPOC), whose members run county juvenile facilities. Both groups took issue with the bill’s use of the term “solitary confinement,” arguing that while there were times when youth needed to be separated from the general population, calling it “solitary confinement” sent the wrong message.

“It immediately evokes images of a person locked away in a dark, dank, brick cell deprived of light and fresh air like a prisoner of war in a foreign country,” CPOC argued in a 2014 publication.

But despite his public stance, behind the scenes, Leno continued a dialog with opponents, who, as CalMatters reported last February, were working on their own bill that would prohibit the use of solitary confinement while also making it clear that that’s not what their facilities practiced.

“It doesn’t matter to us what it’s called. It’s the practice that we’re trying to change.”
When Leno re-introduced the bill in March 2016, there was no adversarial title, just a bill number: SB 1124. Gone, too, was any reference to solitary confinement. Instead, SB 1124 used the term “room confinement.”

Aside from that, it wasn’t much different than its predecessor, which Leno had amended several times to address issues raised by opponents. Both bills sought to limit to four hours the amount of time a juvenile who poses a safety threat could be confined to a room and established guidelines for instances when a youth might need to be isolated for a longer period of time.

By replacing “solitary confinement” with “room confinement,” Leno turned opponents into allies. CPOC signed on as co-sponsors and the prison guards union changed its position to neutral. The bill faced no opposition and was signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown on September 27.

Posted in juvenile justice | 1 Comment »

Alt. Public Defenders Before Panel Attorneys for Juvenile Defendants

October 12th, 2016 by Taylor Walker

On Tuesday, the LA County Board of Supervisors approved a motion by Supes. Mark Ridley-Thomas and Sheila Kuehl to have attorneys from the Alternate Public Defender’s Office represent juvenile defendants when the Public Defender’s Office is unable to provide counsel. Currently in LA County, when public defenders cannot represent juvenile defendants—due to a conflict of interest or other problem—the kids gets handed to private “panel attorneys,” who get paid an alarmingly low flat-fee stipend for the entirety of each case.

“Today is truly a historic moment,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “Our youth have a constitutional right to effective assistance of counsel and we, as a County, have an obligation to ensure that this right is met. These reforms accomplish that, while also protecting our youth and promoting their rehabilitation.”

In addition to assigning juvenile cases to the county’s Alternative Public Defender’s Office, Ridley-Thomas and Kuehl’s motion would also create a unit within the LA County Bar Association, which will provide oversight for the panel attorneys representing any kids whom neither the PD or APD offices can represent.

“Every child in LA County is entitled to quality, competent and effective legal representation,” said Kuehl. “This motion will ensure that happens.”

Two years ago, the LA County Board of Supervisors passed a motion by Supe. Mark Ridley-Thomas to conduct an analysis of the current juvenile indigent defense system—including how panel attorneys are compensated. (Ridley-Thomas introduced his 2014 motion following the release of a study by Loyola Law School Professor Cyn Yamashiro illuminating serious problems within LA’s system of panel attorneys.)

This week’s motion was introduced in response to a 258-page report by the Warren Institute on Law and Social Policy at UC Berkeley School of Law.

According to the report, between 2010-2014, 25% of juvenile petitions were assigned to panel attorneys. The report also found that kids with court-appointed panel lawyers were more likely to be sent to adult court than their peers represented by public defenders.

But the panel attorneys—who are paid between $340-$360 for the life of a case—say they are not the issue, rather, it is the system and the flat fee structure they work under. Supervisor Kuehl noted that the county’s contracts with all panel attorneys are set to expire at the end of the month, and that the attorneys weren’t going to agree to the flat rate any longer.

Supe. Antonovich inquired about the cost of alternatively using only panel attorneys—overseen by the Bar—when PD representation is off the table. County CEO Sachi Hamai informed the board that that option would be more costly than using the APD. In the end, Antonovich abstained from the vote.

Jacqueline Caster, president of the Everychild Foundation, pointed out that the panel attorneys serving indigent adult defendants in LA County are paid by the hour, which gives the attorneys an “incentive to provide better attention to their cases and clients.” Caster, who also serves on the LA County Probation Commission, said that when kids in probation camps need to “access their counsel, to no one’s surprise, it’s very difficult to track their panel attorneys down, let alone receive the services they need in a timely fashion—if at all.” Caster advocated hourly pay for the panel attorneys serving kids at or above the rate received by panel attorneys representing adults because of the extra “training and expertise” juvenile defense attorneys require.

According to the report, panel lawyers consulted with fewer experts, filed fewer motions, provided less documentation in support of their client, and spent an average of just over half as much time as public defenders spent on each juvenile case.

“For too long, the existing system has incentivized a speedy process over one that is just and balanced,” said Supervisor Hilda Solis.

The Alternate Public Defender’s Office says it can take on the juvenile cases immediately, while the LA County Bar Association says it can adopt the changes—intended to create a fairer system for kids charged with crimes—as quickly as November 1.

“Those who have been denied and those who have been neglected…are now going to be able to feel like they are being properly represented,” said Ridley-Thomas.

“Juvenile defense attorneys play a critically important role,” said Kuehl. “They determine whether juveniles will be prosecuted as adults, and they not only defend their young clients, they advocate for mental health, substance abuse and other services that may benefit these young people. We know that juveniles who receive a quality defense and the services they need are much more likely to be set on a path toward successful adulthood.”

Posted in juvenile justice, LA County Board of Supervisors | No Comments »

LA County Board of Supervisors to Vote on Plan to Provide Quality Legal Representation for Juvenile Defendants

October 11th, 2016 by Celeste Fremon

For years, juvenile justice advocates and others have been fighting for reform
of Los Angeles County’s ghastly juvenile panel attorney system that has meant inadequate legal defense for many of the county’s kids facing criminal court cases.

Finally it appears that reform may be nearly at hand with a motion up for a vote by the LA County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.

The motion, introduced by Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Sheila Kuehl, calls for the establishment of a new juvenile indigent defense structure that would entitle LA kids to be represented by the Alternate Public Defender in cases in which the Public Defender is unable to represent them. (In cases in which neither the Public Defender nor the Alternate Public Defender are able to provide indigent defense services, The LA County Bar Association would administer and oversee court-appointed attorneys.)

As it stands now, when public defenders are unable to represent juvenile defendants (because of a conflict of interest or other issue), the kids get bounced to private “panel attorneys,” who are paid the staggeringly low flat-fee stipend of between $340-$360 for the duration of a case, no matter how complicated or lengthy the case might be.

Furthermore, while most public defenders are provided with such legal nicities as investigators or subject matter experts when needed, except in the rarest of instances, panel attorneys are not, no matter how important those resources might be for a young person’s case. As a consequence, too many panel attorneys simply cannot or do not put on an adequate defense for their young clients, leading to legal outcomes that are arguably decided by money (or lack thereof) rather than justice.

With these concerns in mind, two years ago, the LA County Board of Supervisors passed a motion by Supe. Mark Ridley-Thomas to conduct an analysis of the current juvenile indigent defense system—-including how panel attorneys are compensated.

In March of this year, County CEO Sachi Hamai returned with the required analysis in the form of a 258-page report prepared by the Warren Institute on Law and Social Policy at UC Berkeley School of Law.

Tuesday’s motion is in response to the Warren Institute/Berkeley Law School report and its alarming findings.

(And, for the record, Ridley-Thomas’ 2014 motion was in response to a study by Loyola Law School Professor–and Probation Commissioner–Cyn Yamashiro, that illuminated serious problems within LA’s system of panel attorneys.)

(For more back story on Tuesday’s motion see WitnessLA’s previous story on the matter by Taylor Walker.)

“Every child in LA County is entitled to quality, competent and effective legal counsel,” said Supervisor Kuehl. “This motion will ensure that happens. Juvenile defense attorneys play a critically important role. They determine whether juveniles will be prosecuted as adults, and they not only defend their young clients, they advocate for mental health, substance abuse and other services that may benefit these young people. We know that juveniles who receive a quality defense and the services they need are much more likely to be set on a path toward successful adulthood.”

We’ll let you know what happens with the vote. So stay tuned.


The LA County Board of Supes is also expected to vote to approve the final Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the proposed Mira Loma Women’s Detention Center—AKA the new women’s jail. A sizable line-up of community representatives and advocates are expected to show up at the board meeting to make clear their opposition to the new jail construction. There will be a multi-group press conference at 11 a.m. and hearing at 1 p.m. at the Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration, at 500 West Temple in downtown Los Angeles.

Posted in juvenile justice | No Comments »

From Juvie to Juvenile Law: Frankie Guzman’s Unlikely Journey — By Lisa Weinzimer

October 5th, 2016 by witnessla


As we move closer to the November election, the debate about California Governor Jerry Brown’s ballot initiative—Proposition 57—is heating up.

Prop. 57 would take the power to transfer kids to adult court out of the hands of prosecutors and give the control back to judges. It would also as increase parole eligibility for non-violent offenders who have completed the base sentence for their primary offense and boost access to early release credits.

In the story below, which originally appeared on The Chronicle of Social Change, Lisa Weinzimer introduces Frankie Guzman, who spent a big chunk of his teenage years behind bars before redirecting his life. Now Guzman is an attorney with the National Center for Youth Law (and a Soros Justice Fellow). This year, Guzman was among the attorneys, advocates, and others who penned Prop. 57, which he believes voters will approve come November.

While the portion of the ballot measure that affects adult sentencing is important (and the most controversial section of the proposed law), Weinzimer’s story focuses on the juvenile justice side of Prop. 57.


By Lisa Weinzimer

In 1995, when Frankie Guzman was 15, living in the impoverished community of La Colonia in the city of Oxnard, California, his older friend came to his house to ask for a favor.

The friend needed cash. His request: Help me to rob a liquor store.

“It was a terrible idea – something I wasn’t at all interested in doing,” Guzman said in a recent interview.

Frankie Guzman, a former juvenile offender, is now an advocate and attorney with National Center for Youth Law.

But as his friend was walking away, Guzman started feeling guilty. He worried about what would happen if his friend robbed the store alone. So they bought guns, stole ski masks and gloves from a store, and drove to the liquor store at noon on a Saturday, Guzman said.

Shortly after they got away with $300 from the store’s register, the teens were caught and arrested.

Because of their one-year age difference, Guzman and his friend were sent into different justice systems. Guzman’s friend, age 16, was charged as an adult. To this day, Guzman has no idea where life has taken him.

Guzman was charged as a juvenile. A judge handed him a 15-year sentence—the maximum allowed at the time—at the California Youth Authority (CYA), the state’s prison system for youth (which has since been renamed the Division of Juvenile Justice and drastically reduced in size). Guzman was released early, and returned to his community at 19, but the time behind bars had troubled him deeply.

“I’m out for three months with a whole lot more issues and baggage and trauma than I went in with, and really wasn’t able to function on the outside,” Guzman said.

Guzman did two more stints in juvenile lock-up until, at age 21, he started thinking differently.

“I was hopeless and desperate, and afraid of failure,” he said. “And in my mind, at that time, failure was prison or a grave, or leading a meaningless worker’s life. And so I went to community college and I tried to do something different.”

It was at Oxnard Community College, not in the juvenile justice system, where Guzman was rehabilitated, he said.

“At community college–not only was it not a prison state—it was a place of nurturing and education and rehabilitation,” he said.

Guzman went on to study at the University of California, Berkeley and then to law school at the University of California, Los Angeles.

A recipient of a Soros Justice Fellowship, Guzman now works with the National Center for Youth Law, helping youth who, like him, have become enmeshed in the state’s juvenile justice system.

By any measure, Guzman has overcome long odds on his way to becoming an attorney and juvenile justice advocate. But his story is especially important as Guzman works to keep today’s youth out of the criminal justice system with a California ballot measure that intends to stem the flow of juveniles into the adult court system.

Set to go before California voters in November, Prop. 57 would abolish district attorneys’ discretion to prosecute youth as adults, and also enact sentencing reforms for adults.

Prop. 57 would reverse the worst elements of Prop. 21, an initiative passed in 2000 that allowed prosecutors to file charges against youth as young as 14 in adult court, and expanded the list of offenses for which youth could be charged as adults.

The new ballot measure would grant judges sole power to decide whether to move a minor’s case into the adult court system.

Guzman worked with other juvenile attorneys, advocates and community leaders to write the proposition, and Gov. Jerry Brown later agreed to sponsor it and provide funding to promote it, Guzman said.

Guzman also helped write a June report that analyzed data on youth in California who were prosecuted as adults. In “The Prosecution of Youth as Adults,” he and two co-authors found that while serious felony arrests have dropped 55 percent across the state since 2003, county district attorneys in the state charged youth as adults at a 23 percent higher rate per capita in 2014 than in 2003.

“Direct file”—a process that allows prosecutors to originate a juvenile’s case in adult court for certain offenses—was originally meant to be used only in extraordinary circumstances, but Guzman and his team found that in 2014, 80 percent of youth transferred to the state’s adult criminal justice system were placed there by prosecutors.

“Prosecutors don’t understand, in large measure, how much these kids have the cards stacked against them,” Guzman said. “By virtue of their role as prosecutors, they are extremely biased against defendants and their role is one of convicting. It is not increasing public safety through rehabilitation. It is incapacitation through a conviction.”

With the November vote drawing close, Guzman said he is optimistic that voters will approve Prop. 57, despite noting that some district attorneys are painting the ballot measure as being soft on crime.

“Currently the only thing that would in any way suggest that we might have a problem is the untruths that DAs are putting out there, which to me are not a problem,” Guzman said. “I don’t believe they are going to carry much weight or water.”

Guzman is now 36. His life has taken him from robbing that liquor store at age 15 to, earlier this year, getting summoned by Gov. Brown to discuss and finalize Prop. 57.

It has been an unlikely journey, and it has led him to what he is doing right now – in this unusual election season – fighting for the passage of a ballot measure that he hopes will keep young people out of the adult criminal justice system.

It is one of 17 propositions on the ballot. As November approaches, Guzman’s work is far from over.

“I’m very excited about it,” Guzman said. “But the big fight is still to get people to vote for it.”

Lisa Weinzimer wrote this story as part of the Journalism for Social Change massive online open course.

The Chronicle of Social Change’s Holden Slattery contributed to this story, which CSC has kindly allowed us to reprint.

Photo: Frankie Guzman

Posted in Justice Reform, juvenile justice | 4 Comments »

Gov. Brown’s Bill-Signing (and Vetoing): The Final Roundup

October 4th, 2016 by Taylor Walker

Friday was the final day for California Governor Jerry Brown to sign or veto bills passed by state lawmakers this year. This is WLA’s third and final roundup of the fates of justice-related bills we’ve followed in 2016. (Here are parts one and two, in case you missed them.)


On Friday, Governor Jerry Brown vetoed SB 1052, a bill introduced by Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) that would have restricted the way law enforcement officers can interrogate kids during a criminal investigation, and would have required juveniles suspected of crimes to consult with an attorney before they can waive their constitutional right to remain silent.

Three days later, on Monday, the US Supreme Court chose not to intervene in the case of Joseph H, a 10-year-old from Riverside who was sentenced to more than a decade behind bars for the murder of his abusive neo-Nazi father. Joseph waived his Miranda rights and confessed to the murder. When a police officer asked Joseph, who has developmental issues, if he understood his Miranda rights, the boy said, “Yes, that means I have the right to remain calm.”

In refusing to step in, the high court has effectively said that children as young as Joseph are competent enough to validly waive their right to remain silent. (Back in August WLA ran a story by the Chronicle of Social Change’s Jeremy Loudenback about SB 1052 and Joseph H’s plight.)

Back in California, Brown penned a particularly long veto message explaining his difficult decision to reject SB 1052 based on an incomplete understanding of the possible “ramifications” of the bill. Here’s a clip:

“In more cases than not, both adult and juvenile suspects waive these rights and go on to answer an investigator’s questions. Courts uphold these “waivers” of rights as long as the waiver is knowing and voluntary. It is rare for a court to invalidate such a waiver.

Recent studies, however, argue that juveniles are more vulnerable than adults and easily succumb to police pressure to talk instead of remaining silent. Other studies show a much higher percentage of false confessions in the case of juveniles.

On the other hand, in countless cases, police investigators solve very serious crimes through questioning and the resulting admissions or statements that follow.

These competing realities raise difficult and troubling issues and that is why I have consulted widely to gain a better understanding of what is at stake. I have spoken to juvenile judges, police investigators, public defenders, prosecutors and the proponents of this bill. I have also read several research studies cited by the proponents and the most recent cases dealing with juvenile confessions.


Brown signed AB 1909, a bill to rein in prosecutorial misconduct in California by raising the penalty from a misdemeanor to a felony for prosecutors who intentionally withhold exculpatory evidence from the defense.

“Those individuals who are willing to win a case at all costs, who abuse their power as officers of the court, must answer for their actions,” said the bill’s author, Assemblymember Patty Lopez (D-San Francisco).


A bill that aims to standardize the way California’s local probation departments gather and report data on the kids in the juvenile justice system, AB 1998, also made it past Brown’s desk on Friday.

Currently, there’s “no state-level capacity to track recidivism or other important outcomes” like education, mental health, and child welfare status. Nor does the current system capture data on outcomes based on types of probation violations, or by types of facilities in which kids are placed (juvenile hall vs. a camp, for example) and length of stay.

The bill, introduced by Assm. Nora Campos (D-San Jose), will create guidelines for how probation departments collect data and share it with the state. Unfortunately, the guidelines cannot be enforced.

“Racial disparity is perhaps the most important issue facing our juvenile justice system, and we need good data to guide our restorative efforts,” Campos said. “AB 1998 will help state and local governments develop better information on how state funds and local programs are contributing to community safety.”


Brown also signed SB 1004, which will launch pilot programs in five counties allowing 18 to 21-year-olds convicted of low-level youthful offenses to be placed in juvenile facilities, rather than adult facilities.

The bill, introduced by Senator Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo), will make it easier for young offenders to have access to the education and support systems unique to juvenile detention centers. SB 1004′s pilot programs will be held in Alameda, Napa, Santa Clara, Nevada, and Butte Counties.

In his signing message, Brown calls the bill a “promising start” but calls on lawmakers to also “explore options such as non-custody based diversion.”


Also in Brown’s signed pile are AB 2888 and AB 701, bill inspired by the very unpopular six-month jail sentence given to Stanford rapist Brock Turner.

Under current law, many felony sex crimes—rape by force, aggravated sexual assault of a child, and others—disqualify those convicted from receiving a sentence of probation. Prison time must be served.

However, some forms of sexual assault—digital penetration of someone who is unconscious or too intoxicated to consent (a la Brock Turner), for example—does not carry a mandatory prison sentence. AB 2888 and AB 701 intend to bring these other nonconsensual sexual assaults onto the same level as what is currently legally considered rape.

Opponents of AB 2888 argued that the bill creates new mandatory minimum sentences, as justice reformers and lawmakers work to reduce the prevalence of mandatory minimums, which disproportionately affect people of color.

Also signed into law were AB 1744, which requires all counties to use the same standardized rape kit, and AB 2499, which forces the state Department of Justice to improve its database, so that victims of sexual assault can track the status of their kits.

Posted in children and adolescents, juvenile justice, Rape, Rehabilitation, Sentencing, Supreme Court | No Comments »

It’s Bill-Signing Season in Sacramento

September 28th, 2016 by Taylor Walker

Over the last few days (and certainly for the next several days) California Governor Jerry Brown has been a bill-signing powerhouse. While our list is by no means exhaustive, we’ve gathered many of the most consequential bills either signed or vetoed that relate to juvenile and criminal justice, foster care, and sex trafficking.


On Wednesday, Governor Brown signed an important bill that will drastically limit the use of solitary confinement in juvenile facilities.

SB 1143 will block guards from using isolation as a punishment, for convenience’s sake, or as a way to coerce kids. “Room confinement,” which will now be limited to four hours at a time, will only become an option after other, less restrictive options have been exhausted (except when using those alternatives would put kids or staff in danger).

The bill, authored by Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), received support from both by juvenile and criminal justice reform advocates and the probation chiefs’ union. A similar bill, also from Sen. Leno, died in committee last year.

“This bill has been years in the making, and is a huge victory for all of the young people locked up in California and their families,” said Jennifer Kim, Director of Programs at the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights.

Governor Brown vetoed a bill that would have required jails to provide in-person visits for inmates and their families. Brown said the bill, SB 1157 by Senator Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles), didn’t allow for enough flexibility for corrections facilities.

“Without this, it means we will have incarcerated people in our jails who are not able to bond with children or family members for years,” said Senator Mitchell. According to Mitchell, as many as 11 counties have either already eliminated in-person visits, or are in the process of getting rid of visits, replacing them with often expensive video calls.

In his veto message, Brown said that he was concerned about the increased use of video visitation in place of in-person visits. “This practice could have an adverse impact on achieving rehabilitative goals and might affect in a negative way the families and loved ones of those incarcerated,” Brown said. The governor said he will direct the Board of State and Community Corrections to look for solutions to the problem.

Another bill that received the governor’s stamp of approval, AB 1843, will block employers from asking job candidates about any juvenile arrests or detention or participation in a diversion program that did not result in a conviction.


Another newly signed bill, SB 1060, aims to reduce the number of siblings separated during adoptions. Far too often, siblings are split up in foster care and during adoptions and lose contact with each other, despite research showing that placing siblings together during their time in foster care improved academic and adoption outcomes. The bill authored by Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) will require pre-adoption meetings between children being adopted, the prospective parents, the sibling(s) and facilitators to try to increase the number of voluntary visitation agreements to keep separated siblings connected after adoption.

AB 1299, also signed by Brown this week, will ensure foster kids transferred outside of their home counties receive continued mental health services in their new counties. Under current law, the responsibility (and funding) to provide mental health treatment remains with their home county, leaving kids to face months-long interruptions in treatment.


The newly signed SB 1322 by Sen. Mitchell–the “No Such Thing as a Child Prostitute” bill—aims to shield trafficked children from prosecution and criminalization.

“The law is supposed to protect vulnerable children from adult abuse, yet we brand kids enmeshed in sex-for-pay with a scarlet ‘P’ and leave them subject to shame and prosecution,” Mitchell said.

Last year in LA County, Sheriff Jim McDonnell instructed department members to treat the “child victims and survivors of rape,” as the victims they are, not as lawbreakers and “prostitutes,” and that the department would be going after traffickers and johns who victimize kids.

SB 1129 by Senator William W. Monning (D-Carmel) will get rid of some mandatory minimum sentences for prostitution-related crimes, giving judges discretion in sentencing people taking part in or soliciting prostitution. Existing law requires mandatory minimum sentences of 45 or 90 days in jail for repeat offenders.

Brown also signed SB 420, a bill that will create a legal distinction between adult buyers and sellers of commercial sexual acts, as well as solicitors of sex from minors. The bill will improve data collection on sex trafficking with the intent of helping legislators and policymakers make data-informed decisions, and aiding law enforcement in better directing their resources.

“By US State Department estimates, sex trafficking is a $32 billion industry in this country and 50 percent of trafficking victims are minors,” said the bill’s author, Sen. Bob Huff (R-San Dimas). “Yet according to the 2007 Final Report of the California Alliance to Combat Trafficking and Slavery Task Force, California lacks comprehensive statistics on human trafficking. SB 420 will help collect the statistics that law enforcement needs.”

Assemblyman Miguel Santiago’s AB 1276, will make it possible for kids under 15 to testify against exploiters in a separate location via closed circuit tv, away from the defendant(s), jury, attorneys, or judge.

Posted in criminal justice, Edmund G. Brown, Jr. (Jerry), Foster Care, juvenile justice | No Comments »

What is “Voluntary” Juvenile Probation? And Does it Help or Harm LA County’s Kids? – by Jeremy Loudenback

September 15th, 2016 by witnessla


The consistent decline in juvenile crime, along with study after study showing that many kids do far better in community-based programs rather than in county lock-ups, has led to a large drop in population in LA County’s juvenile halls and camps, along with a significant downturn in the number of youth on court-ordered probation.

There is, however, one youth program run by Los Angeles County Probation Department, the population of which is radically on the rise.

It is a school-based program that is informally known as voluntary probation, and it has flown largely under the radar.

In the story below, reporter Jeremy Loudenback, the Child Trauma Editor for The Chronicle of Social Change, examines this little-known but heavily funded LA County Probation strategy that some child advocates say is a misuse of millions of dollars in state funds, which would be better allocated to community intervention programs with data-backed ability to help kids stay out of the justice system.

Instead, say youth advocates, kids in need of tutoring, mentoring, counseling, sports programs, and other kinds of positive activities and alternatives that are known to help adolescents steer their lives in a healthy direction, are—for all intents and purposes—on probation, reporting to probation officers side-by-side with other probation kids, except without a judicial order.

“Most of these kids think they really are on probation,” a source familiar with the program told us. “And their friends think they’re on probation too.”

Also of concern is the fact that the money to pay for this so-called voluntary probation comes out of the approximately $31 million that LA County receives yearly from the state that is specifically designated for local programs aimed at keeping kids who’ve tangled with the juvenile justice system from returning, and to help kids at risk of winding up in the system from entering it in the first place.

Yet, the largest chunk of that $31 million is not paying for juvenile programing that has been proven to produce measurably positive outcomes. According to probation department documents that WitnessLA has obtained, the biggest piece of the monetary pie is going to help to pay the salaries and benefits for the county’s juvenile probation officers—salaries that are reportedly meant to be paid out of other pockets of Probation’s $830 million yearly budget.

WitnessLA will have more on this issue in the coming months. But Loudenback’s excellent report below is the essential place to start.

This is also, by the way, one of a number of important juvenile justice issues that we hope the new, soon-to-be-selected Chief of Los Angeles County Probation will explore with a critical eye.

So get comfortable, and start reading.


by Jeremy Loudenback

While Los Angeles County has seen a historic decline of the number of youth
in its juvenile camps and halls in recent years, a “voluntary probation” program run by the Los Angeles County Probation Department has dramatically expanded during that time, alarming some advocates.

The arrangement allows probation officers to work with at-risk youth in schools with no prior history of involvement with the justice system, as long as their families sign off.

There are nearly 3,600 youth on voluntary probation, according to a data snapshot recently provided by the Probation Department.

According to RAND data released last month, the number of youth on voluntary probation has grown by nearly 40 percent over the past two years. And since 2013-2014, the number of youth on voluntary probation in the school-based supervision program has exceeded the number of youngsters in the program who have been arrested and are on formal probation.


The spike has prompted advocates to question why probation officers are now so often a part of the lives of youth with academic problems, and what the role of probation should be.

“Even if a young person needs tutoring, we should be asking whether a probation officer providing or doing the referral for tutoring is really what we should be asking probation officers to do,” said Patricia Soung, a senior staff attorney with the Children’s Defense Fund-California. “This is a significant shift in population, and it’s not apparent to me that there’s been a corresponding change on the department’s side to accommodate the new demographics.”

At an April meeting of the county’s children commission, the Probation Department first released preliminary data about these youngsters, known as “236 youth” because of the state statute that allows the Probation Department to work with them.

That law — known as Welfare and Institutions Code 236 — allows probation departments in California to “engage in activities designed to prevent juvenile delinquency.” The law permits probation officers to provide services to any youth in the community, not just those being supervised by a probation officer as part of a court order.

The money that funds the school-based supervision program is allocated from the Juvenile Justice Crime Prevention Act (JJCPA). In 2001, the state started doling out $100 million a year in JJCPA money to counties for prevention and intervention services aimed at young people.

Los Angeles County’s share last year came to about $30 million, and the Probation Department has invested a substantial portion of those funds for its work in schools. More than 100 deputy probation officers have been installed at schools across the county, including at 58 middle and high schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Youth who are on voluntary probation — the so-called 236 youth — check in with officers at school, alongside youth who are in the system already, as part of court-ordered probation because of an arrest.

Youth can only be placed on voluntary probation with the consent of a parent, who must sign a waiver and contract.

Of the 3,590 youth on voluntary probation in L.A. County in March, more than 80 percent were referred to the school-based supervision program for school-related issues such as poor school attendance, grades or behavior.

“If we know that almost 80 percent of reasons for referral are something related to attendance, grades or school behavior-related, then I really question whether probation case management is what that young person really needs versus school intervention,” Soung said. “The practice is counter to research that shows probation supervision should really focus on high-risk, high-need youth.”

The remaining 20 percent were referred to the program for being unmotivated, having anger issues, substance abuse problems and parental conflict, among other challenges.

While at school, the 236 youth receive many services not usually associated with probation. Nearly 31 percent — or 1,106 youth — received tutoring services from probation officers. About 18 percent received gang prevention services, while 11 percent were able to access family counseling.

Probation Department Deputy Chief Felicia Cotton says that the school-based supervision program is a purely preventative effort that doesn’t cause youth to end up in the system. Voluntary probation, she says, is an important tool that the department can offer parents who fear their wayward children are on the brink of getting into real trouble.

“A lot of parents come to us because they see their kid on the verge of hanging out with the wrong crowd, flirting with gang activity, not going school,” Cotton said. “The parent doesn’t know what to do. They’re afraid. They come to us.”

Cotton says that the program has made the on-campus probation officers a “hot commodity” with school officials, who see it as a valuable resource to address truancy and other school-related issues.

Because data about 236 youth is not logged into the probation department’s case-management system, the increased number of youth on voluntary probation has escaped notice from some in the county’s juvenile justice community. More important, the lack of data around these youth has made it difficult to evaluate whether it has been successful in preventing at-risk youth from becoming more entangled in the county’s sprawling juvenile-justice system.

“If probation is going to focus time, effort and resources on a 236 population, then it is incumbent upon them to evaluate the impact of that,” said Denise Herz, a California State University, Los Angeles researcher who has studied outcomes for young people in the county’s juvenile justice system. “They’re not doing that and they should.”


Beyond these concerns about data, the department’s investment in school-based supervision raises larger questions about the role of probation during a time of significant demographic change, an issue that other counties across the state are also grappling with.

Youth arrest rates have plummeted in California since the mid-1990s. Juvenile arrests for violent offenses declined by 70 percent across the state from 1995 to 2015, according to the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice.

In Los Angeles County, the juvenile arrest rate in Los Angeles County has dropped by 60 percent from 2010 to 2014, and 30 percent since 2012.

Over that time, the Probation Department has also seen a stark decline in the population of youth at camps and halls. The average daily population of its 13 juvenile camps is 600, with 700 youth in juvenile halls and approximately 10,400 youth under supervision. This is a far cry from more than a decade ago, when more than 30,000 youth were on probation and 4,000 youth cycled through the county’s detention facilities.

With L.A. county currently searching for a new probation chief and hoping to implement a therapeutic approach at its still-troubled juvenile halls, the department’s shift to voluntary probation is leading some to question how probation services should best be deployed, both in L.A. and across the state.

As probation departments manage smaller caseloads, will they re-invent themselves into different functions — such as case management for community-based services — that have more in common with social services than public safety?

For now, Probation Commissioner Cyn Yamashiro hopes the department will share more information at a probation commission meeting in October to address lingering concerns.

“If the supervision is a tool that is being used to effectively prevent penetration into the juvenile justice system, that’s important,” Yamashiro said. “If on the other hand, the data reveals that it’s not helping to divert youth away from the juvenile justice system and it ends up a way to increase or capture more youth in the system, that’s something we want to know, too.”

Jeremy Loudenback is the Child Trauma Editor for the Chronicle of Social Change, where Loudenback’s story—and the accompanying graphics—originally appeared.

Posted in juvenile justice, Juvenile Probation | 1 Comment »

Kids Penalized (and Even Locked-Up) for Inability to Pay Juvenile Justice Fees

September 1st, 2016 by Taylor Walker

A state-by-state analysis by Juvenile Law Center of costs levied against justice-system-involved kids and their families reveals a system that pushes poor families into serious financial strain and debt, and pushes kids further into the justice system.

These costs include court expenses—like witness fees, transportation, cost of prosecution, and cost of court operations—public defender fees (even for indigent defendants), probation supervision costs, money for participation in diversion programs, child support to the state, fees for mental health treatment, health care, and rehabilitative programming, the cost of GPS monitoring, and more. Courts in all states can impose restitution charges on juveniles.

Using JLC’s interactive maps, you can see what fees and fines states impose on kids and their families. (For example, California passes four justice system costs—not including restitution—on to youth and their parents. New York appears to only charge restitution.)

In addition to analyzing state statutes and other data, JLC researchers surveyed 183 people across the nation—most of whom were attorneys and other professionals working with justice-system-involved kids. The surveyed group also included over a dozen family members of kids in the justice system, as well as a handful of former youthful offenders.

Respondents to survey questions from JLC researchers reported that, in a majority of states, when kids fail to pay these fines and fees, they can be locked up in juvie camps and detention centers (and kids already in facilities may be locked up longer), kids’ cases can stay open longer, youth and families face more court visits, are unable to get their records expunged, and face civil judgements. Survey participants told researchers that these high costs often pushed their families into debt.

“Every day, we hear elected officials talking about racial injustice, mass incarceration, and the need for criminal justice reform,” said Jessica Feierman, Associate Director at Juvenile Law Center and report author. “This report identifies one key strategy to address those problems: eliminating or reducing the financial costs of juvenile court involvement on youth and their families.”

In fact, researchers found that these financial penalties actually led to increased recidivism and racial disparities. “Their inability to pay often leads to additional charges, extended probation, or additional punishments, taking them deeper into the justice system,” said criminologists Alex Piquero and Wesley Jennings.

There are several local jurisdictions making welcome changes to bring equity to their juvenile court systems. One of those trailblazing jurisdictions is Alameda County, CA.

Nearly every one of California’s 58 counties charge families for kids’ juvenile justice system involvement. In March, after UC Berkeley researchers revealed the significant burden these fees—which, in Alameda, include GPS monitoring, community supervision, nights in juvenile hall, and more—place on low-income families, Alameda County suspended the fees for its residents. The Berkeley report found that these fees were adding up to an average $2,000 per case, with many totals much higher. One survey respondent reported that many single moms of justice-system-involved kids “have difficulty scraping together $10 to $15 dollars out of their monthly budget to pay on these fees, fines, and costs.”

The report also highlights reform efforts in Washington state, where many of the fees and fines have been eliminated, and judges consider kids’ ability to pay other debts and restitution.

A bill introduced in California by Senator Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles) would have eliminated administrative fees for kids locked up or placed on probation statewide, but the bill died in committee.

The JLC report calls for counties and states to stop gouging youth and their families in order to fund their court systems, and urges the prioritization of restitution payments that go straight to victims and are within kids’ ability to pay.

Posted in juvenile justice | No Comments »

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