Columns & Interviews Diversion Juvenile Justice Juvenile Probation LA County Probation

Rethinking Youth Arrests and Prosecution

WLA Guest
Written by WLA Guest

By Patricia Soung, Kim McGill, Bikila Ochoa and Josh Green


The work is just beginning under an ambitious new plan adopted by the County Board of Supervisors to keep youth out of the justice system and create an Office of Youth Diversion and Development – the first of its kind in Los Angeles. On November 7, the Board accepted recommendations developed over seven months by 30 agencies who want to see youth in arts, sports, educational enrichment, counseling and other community-based programs, instead of cycling through arrests and court appearances.

If implemented meaningfully, those programs would receive sound funding, and more training and support. The Board will soon receive a report from the Chief Executive Office on how to potentially fund the new office so we can realize this vision for healthier and safer communities.

As the Board awaits the CEO’s report, it is worth remembering: LA can afford this plan – and should invest in it fully.

LA County spends nearly $250,000 a year per locked up youth, but just a fraction of that is needed for diversion efforts that focus on meeting youth’s needs in the community. The County’s Probation Department has millions of unspent dollars intended to prevent youth from entering the justice system. We don’t need new money – we need to shift existing resources from punishment to prevention. And as more youth are diverted from the justice system along with all stages of criminal justice process, the County also needs to close ineffective and harmful youth prisons, and redirect the savings from these reforms as well.

We’ve taken too many steps forward to allow this progress to disappear into county politics, bureaucracy and limited capacity. The stakes are high, especially for youth of color who make up 95 percent of the population in the county’s probation camps and juvenile halls. The odds of dropping out of high school nearly double for youth after one arrest, and can nearly quadruple after one court hearing. Once in jail, youth face increased risks for depression and trauma and are 67 percent more likely to be in prison by the age of 25. Finally, the consequences of court involvement are lasting – from creating stigma and negative self-perception to dramatically reducing education and employment opportunities.

We know that programs that could be strengthened under the plan the Board of Supervisors just passed do work in improving outcomes for youth. Dozens of studies have shown that young people are more likely to succeed when they stay and get services and support in school and close to home. Opportunities for after-school programming and tutoring, to job training and employment, to leadership development and civic engagement already exist in Los Angeles, but more should be expanded and created – especially in neighborhoods that historically have been deserts for youth services.

The direction charted out by the plan could make LA County a statewide leader in juvenile justice reform, after so many years of operating the largest youth prison and probation system in the nation. Our system will not be transformed overnight, but it can change with a shared commitment to investing in young people’s development, and not just their punishment.


Patricia Soung is Director of Youth Justice Policy at Children’s Defense Fund-California, Kim McGill is Organizer with Youth Justice Coalition, Bikila Ochoa is Policy Director at Anti-Recidivism Coalition and Josh Green is Criminal Justice Program Manager at Urban Peace Institute.

Image: Office of LA County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas

2 Comments

  • To whom may concern I don’t have concerns about the article that’s above. I’m a parent to a child whom will be receiving a scholarship Awards tonight through the beat the odds organization . I’m quite disturbed because hear my son Jerry Goss awesome he’s been through a lot as well as overcome several obstacles in life more than anything he’s one that deserves it’s a scholarship that he will be receiving December 7th 2017. Well as his mother here I sit in San Francisco and are home that we lived in 17 years wow my child will be walking the red carpet receiving a scholarship award don’t get me wrong I’m proud it’s all doing of working heart torch veteran a life for himself. To make a long story short me and his mother Wanda Foster just did a documentary for this beat the odds Gala that will be presented December 7th 2017 I’m quite alarmed and angry with mrs. Jones because she has lied to me lie to me lie to my child and I’m not at the gala because of the lies and Miss Jones misinforming passing information pertaining me the mother of the child Jerry Goss to where I’m not able to attend this event tonight I’ve never missed a ceremony for my child in his hole 17 years this is big for him he’s excited I was excited until a few days later to find out that they won’t be able to accommodate my travel as well as lodging. Well when Miss Jones explain this to me I told her that I didn’t need her to provide any of that that I needed to be there I wanted to be there that’s my child. Unfortunately she stated Miss Jones coordinator programmer that the best you can do is make sure she put the video of the gala of him receiving his award in the mail to me. And the reason why it has to come in the mail to me and I may not attend it’s because she hasn’t received confirmation back from a social service worker about my attending in writing doesn’t make sense to me. I just recently found out that the worker who she was waiting for confirmation and writing force me attending the gala will be at the gala ceremony supporting my child Jerry Goss and the place of me the mother Wanda Foster I’m not a happy parents right now with the program beating the odds. And his mother I feel that I’ve been lied and misled it giving him information to help them out to make them look good. As of today tonight this evening now December 7th 2017 my child Jerry Goss receiving his award tonight doesn’t have my support because I’m not there because the beat the odds program felt they didn’t have proper consent to accommodate me. I just felt the need to vent this out to share with whomever New Station talks person anybody that this program is crooked in my eyes. As well as doing this documentary it’s a false. was filmed in various different locations then what pertains to our lifestyle .documentary and different various locations that was not true to the fact of me and my child situation.

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