Bill Watch Juvenile Justice Juvenile Justice: Healing Not Punishment Juvenile Probation

Sen. Public Safety Committee Approves Bill to Keep Kids in County Probation Camps and Out of Violent State Lockups

Taylor Walker
Written by Taylor Walker

Last month, the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice released a report exposing troubling conditions within the California Division of Juvenile Justice’s three aging lockups, where a disturbing climate of violence and fear continues to breed trauma in already traumatized youth.

It costs the state $300,000 to house each of the kids who, according to CJCJ and other advocates, would be far better served in local facilities with better treatment and services. (In June 2018, DJJ lockups held a population of 650 youth.)

Because it only costs counties $24,000 to send a child to a state facility, however, local jurisdictions continue to ship kids off to the DJJ.

Los Angeles County, for example, sent 128 kids to DJJ facilities in 2018, despite having ample room in county probation camps.

A new bill from Senator Jim Beall (D-San Jose), called the Keep Youth Closer to Home Act, aims to de-incentivize transferring kids to state lockups.

The cost to lock up youth locally has soared in some counties, to as much as $500,000 annually for each youth, according to an SF Chronicle investigative series called “Vanishing Violence.” Across the state, counties continue to pump money into facilities that are serving far fewer youth than they did 20 years ago.

The Chron’s investigation found that in all but four of the 43 counties that have juvenile lockups, the facilities are not even half-full. These facilities, CJCJ says, could certainly stand to take on the full DJJ population. In fact, California’s counties “could absorb the DJJ population more than 13 times over,” according to CJCJ Policy Analyst Maureen Washburn.

Sen. Beall’s bill, SB 284 would increase the yearly DJJ fee that counties must pay from $24,000 to $125,000, in most cases, with the hope that the higher cost will spur local jurisdictions to keep kids closer to their communities and families.

The fee would remain $24,000 for kids most at risk of being transferred to adult court–specifically 16 and 17-year-olds whose offenses would have brought a sentence of seven or more years if tried as adults.

This week, the bill, which is sponsored by CJCJ, the Youth Justice Coalition, and the Anti-Recidivism Coalition, among others, passed through the Senate Public Safety Committee on a 5-1 vote, and now heads to the Senate Appropriations Committee.


Image: Senator Jim Beall (D-San Jose), Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer (D-Los Angeles), and members of the Anti-Recidivism Coalition visit the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility.

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6 Comments

  • To the author: WHO THE F… DO YOU THINK GETS SENT TO DJJ? THESE ARE THE SAME “TRAUMATIZED” JUVIES WHO PREVIOUSLY WERE PROSECUTED IN ADULT COURT. LOS ANGELES COUNTY SEND JUVNIES WHO TRAUMATIZED THEIR COMMUNITIES BY COMMITTING THE MOST SERIOUS VIOLENT CRIMES. THESE “TRAUMATIZED” ANGELS ARE VIOLENT NO MATTER WHERE THEY GO. COUNTIES ARE NOT PREPARED TO DEAL WITH THEM. OH, AND TAKE AWAY THE OC SPRAY WHILE YOU’RE AT IT. IDEA: LET ARC AND YJC TAKE THEM HOME AND PROVIDE FOSTER CARE AND MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES FOR THIS POPULATION. LET’S SEE HOW THAT GOES.

    THOSE WHO SPONSORED THIS BILL ARE’NT NECESSARILY CREDIBLE OR HEROES. THEY JUST IDOLIZE THESE CHILDREN THROUGH THEIR ENABLING ANTICS.

    GOOD LUCK AND GOD BLESS YOU.

    • You obviously don’t have a clue as to the extensive trauma most of these young people have endured. Bravo to those that give a voice to our children.

    • You are absolutely correct. I retired from probation in 2004. So that makes me “old school.” I recommended CYA for many kids. I always felt it would be detrimental for these particular kids to remain in a County camp environment. My decisions were always based on the level of violence.

  • Excuse me…I had to pause a moment from my laughter. The cluelessness that goes into these reforms is just madenning.

    Has anyone considered that the reason these DJJ lockups are violent is because they are locked up in them? Has anyone considered that they likely exhibited behavior too far removed from the county’s ability to work with them and that their presence there has been a last resort or a resort warranted by the severity of their offense?

    Another reason for the maddening laughter is that comment about Probation Camps having ample room. Yet, they have closed 8 camp facilities and will soon be closing one juvenile hall. All this with zero consideration as to the internal reforms to continue to decrease the population and focus on Small Group Model Interventions and Programs, SGI = 8-10 youth per unit. On top of that, officers are being limited on their ability to physically restrain, isolate extreme problems or violent offenders to protect others, and now ban OC Spray.

    The problem starts and ends in the community. So yes, we can recognize that these youth are victims of circumstances and that those circumstances are over 90 percent confirmed to have been exposed to trauma at home and in the community. We must also recognize that these victims also become perpuatuators of trauma and create victims of their own, in and out of incarcerated states.

    How do you protect the youth in lock up care? How do you protect communities AND their victims? How do you protect these youth from themselves?

    The answer is simple? Create more robust programs with a continuum of care that addresses the problems these youth face in the community, where the problem began and will likely persist. This needs to be addressed in schools and in other services. In the meantime, you can’t continue to take away authority from those tasked with dealing with the problems. Those who serve two purposes, to rehabilitate and maintain public safety.

  • Counties only send their most serious juvenile offenders to DJJ. Mostly murderers. No, county facilities are not equipped to service this level of offenders. I know these child advocates mean well, but they should do their homework, or better yet, let’s release them , and provide needed services in YOUR communities.

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