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    Policy Brief on California Governor Brown’s       Budget Realignment Plan for the Division of Juvenile Jus ce Facili es  Viet Nguyen and Laura S. Abrams, PhD  UCLA Juvenile Jus ce and Reentry Project 

While we support alterna ves to costly, ineffec ve, and harmful incarcera on systems   for juveniles, we are wary of the assump on that coun es are prepared to handle this   popula on more effec vely, and also cau on against the possibility of transferring   more youth to the adult system as a result of theses closures.    


Introduc on In January 2012, California Governor Jerry Brown proposed a $70 million cut from the Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) budget as one of many means towards alleviating the state’s fiscal deficits. If approved, this cut would close the three remaining state juvenile correctional facilities and shift the management of these young people to county facilities by January 2014. The three current DJJ facilities manage the state’s most serious youth offenders where the average cost of a ward per year is $234,029. Due to high costs and ineffective rehabilitation services, critics have long advocated for the shutdown of these facilities (Macallair et al., 2009). On the other hand opponents have argued that the closure presents a major public safety issue. They argue that without the state facilities, the pressures placed on county juvenile system will be greater, and the shutdowns will create a greater incentive for California’s 58 counties to transfer increasing numbers of youth to the adult criminal justice system. This policy brief will provide an overview of the history of this problem and provide arguments for and against the juvenile justice realignment plan as proposed in Governor Brown’s 2012 budget plan. We conclude with our recommendations for juvenile justice realignment.

History of DJJ Facili es   The California Youth Authority (now termed the Division of Juvenile Justice) was originally designed a statewide system of youth correctional facilities to streamline correctional services and keep juvenile offenders close to their home regions (Krisberg et al., 2010). Over time, the DJJ expanded and assumed responsibilities for increasing numbers of youth offenders. By 1996, several factors, such as the decrease in state funding to the counties, a heightened public fear of youth violence, and rising economic incentives to send youth to DJJ facilities bolstered the number of incarcerated youth within DJJ facilities to an all time high of close to 10,000 people. Since that time, the number of detainees has dropped significantly to a current low of 1,100. The massive decline in number of juvenile offenders served by the state facilities can be attributed to multiple factors. From 1996 to 2011, California experienced a general decrease in criminal offenses, including for juveniles. In addition, certain policies have either re-oriented the flow of juvenile offenders away from the DJJ or shifted the responsibility for housing youth offenders to the counties. Proposition 21, passed in 2000, required adult trials for juveniles 14 or older charged with murder or specified sex offenses, and this re-directed a small group of youth offenders to the adult criminal justice system. In addition, SB81 (2007) restricted non-violent juvenile offenders from being housed in DJJ facilities and transferred the bulk of the population to the counties. Finally, the findings in Farrell v. Cate, a case that charged DJJ with illegal expenditure of tax payer funds on policies, procedures, and practices that are unlawful under state law prompted reforms in mental health and educational services provided by DJJ which further increased the costs per year for each individual (Farrell v. Cate, 2004). In 2012, the state of California faces an enormous budget shortfall. The average cost of housing wards in county facilities is only $22,000 to $25,000 (on average) per year compared to the state’s cost of $234,000  (Macallair et al., 2009). As a result, Governor Brown has proposed a budget plan that would place the responsibility of housing all incarcerated young people in the hands of the counties. This plan follows his overall realignment bill (AB109) which has mandated a large-scale transfer of non-violent adult prisoners from the state system to the counties.


Arguments in Favor of DJJ Closures  Organizations in favor of the closure plan argue that DJJ facilities provide inadequate rehabilitative services. Experts state that the length of stay in DJJ facilities is almost triple the average length of stay in county facilities, huge living units have low levels of staffing, high levels of violence and fear exist among the wards, and the facilities offer poor reentry planning. More importantly, the estimated cost of $234,029 per ward combined with a lengthy average stay of 35.3 months equates to nearly $800,000 per ward, even with a reported 81% re-arrest rate after three years of release (CDCR, 2010). Furthermore, the DJJ facilities are still mandated by court order to reform their services and to replace their infrastructure. Those who support the closure of the three remaining DJJ facilities do not see how ineffective correctional facilities can justify this high cost. In the past decade, bills such as SB81 have shifted a large share of responsibilities to California counties by requiring county facilities to house more juvenile offenders. As such, counties have been forced to develop programs that accommodate more juvenile offenders. This process has entailed an increase in the use of community probation, intensive supervision, and prevention efforts. Moreover, county facilities allow access to programs at the local level and keep youth closer to their family and communities. Hence, supporters of the closure plan believe that county facilities can offer better services for youth and families at a significantly lower cost. The organization “Books Not Bars,” organized by the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights cites Missouri’s juvenile correctional facilities as proof of the efficacy of community-oriented rehabilitative services. The “Missouri Model” utilizes regional, cottage-like living facilities where the recidivism rate is just 7.3% at the annual cost of $28,000. Moreover, The Center on Juvenile & Criminal Justice points out that the Farrell v Cate consent decree has failed to reform the state facilities despite the large costs associated with DJJ. In addition, California Counties have the capacity to serve this DJJ population: if the counties were to absorb all of the DJJ population, it would still leave an estimated surplus of 200 to 1,000 beds across the state (Teji, 2012).

Addi onal arguments  for closure  Center on Juvenile and Criminal Jus ce  www.cjcj.org       Resource Center: Closing California’s Division of         Juvenile Facili es: An Analysis of County Ins tu onal         Capacity (May 2009, October 2010)   

Berkeley Law University of California  www.law.berkeley.edu       A New Era in California Juvenile Jus ce: Downsizing             the State Youth Correc ons System (October 2010)   

Ella Baker Center for Human Rights : Books   Not Bars  www.ellabakercenter.org/booksnotbars   

California Progress Report  www.californiaprogressreport.com       Monthly Archive: February 2012 Was ng Juvenile         Jus ce Tax Dollars (February 9, 2012)   

The Bay Ci zen                       www.bayci zen.com       Youth: Behind Governor’s Plan to Close State’s         Juvenile Jus ce System (January 10, 2012)   

iWatch News : The Center for Public Integrity  www.iwatchnews.org 

Thus, supporters of the closure plan argue that the     Juvenile Jus ce: Fight Brewing over historic California   counties have the capacity to effectively manage a more      plan to close last three youth prisons (January 25,   serious category of juvenile offender. They also believe      2012)   that county facilities possess an advantage because of their ability to supply community-oriented, rehabilitative services. These services keep youth closer to their families and more effectively prepare youth for community re-entry. Finally, the county facilities are significantly less expensive than DJJ facilities and are less prone to abuses and punitive practices such as lock-downs and solitary confinement.


Arguments Against the Proposed Policy  The main arguments against the closure plan center around anticipated impacts on public safety. Despite the high cost of managing the DJJ facilities, opponents argue that the proposed elimination of these facilities does not calculate the full repercussions of transferring the most violent and high risk youth to underprepared county facilities. Organizations such as the Chief Probation Officers of California, the California District Attorneys Association, and others have affirmed their opposition to Governor Brown’s proposal. The Chief Probation Officers of California oppose the closure plan because they believe that youth who are remanded to DJJ facilities represent a higher level of criminal sophistication than those housed in the counties. Hence, a mixing of serious offenders with those who committed more moderate or minor offenses has the potential to negatively influence the less serious offenders. Moreover, the shift places a heavier burden on Addi onal arguments  against closure  county systems. While counties will receive an initial grant for processing more youth offenders, future funding is not Chief Proba on Officers of California  guaranteed under the plan. www.cpoc.org  The California District Attorneys Association (CDAA) fears      Public Safety Realignment (AB 109– 2011)   that the lack of an intermediary option between sentencing      Informa on  juvenile offenders to county facilities and sentencing them to California State Associa on of Coun es  adult jail will lead to more adult court proceedings for juvenile offenders. In this case, CDAA argues that youth  www.coun es.org       CSAC Advocacy: 2011 Criminal Jus ce Realignment  offenders will receive less rehabilitative service, and as a result, youth who are remanded adult jails will follow the California Coali on Against Sexual Assault  higher rates of recidivism associated with these sentences. Barry Krisberg, the Director of Research and Policy at the www.calcasa.org  Chief Earl Warren Brown Justice Institute on Law and Social      Public Affairs: Public Safety Realignment   Policy at UC Berkeley has written that although he generally       Resources (October 24, 2011)  supports the proposal to close the DJJ facilities, some county Prison Law Office                   systems have the same problems with violence and inadequate mental health services as the state facilities  www.prisonlaw.com  (Ferriss, 2012).      Major Cases: Juvenile Facili es Farrell v. Cate   

Pacovilla Correc ons Blog      www.pacovilla.com 

Furthermore, the process of shifting the DJJ population to county facilities presents several fiscal issues which need to be addressed. Although the California Legislative Analyst’s     District A orney’s Associa on: Correc ons   Office (LAO) supports the closure of DJJ facilities, it points      “realignment” raises “serious concerns”   out that an increase in the number of juvenile offenders       (February 25, 2011)  sentenced to state prison will result in higher state costs (Taylor, 2012). Moreover, the Governor’s plan does not specify how funding will be allocated to the counties or when all DJJ facilities will completely shutdown. Hence, a slow and poorly planned transition will lead to unnecessary state expenditures. As a result, the LAO has proposed a delay in the closures of DJJ facilities that would give the state more time to develop a funding approach based on efficiency and incentives as well as measures to minimize a potential increase in juveniles tried in adult court. In sum, opponents of the realignment argue that closure of the state facilities present a potentially major public safety problem. First, youth offenders will not have facilities that specifically address their needs and offenses. In this case, they have the potential to enter county facilities and negatively influence less serious offenders. Second, youth offenders tried in adult court will likely receive poor education and rehabilitation services, contributing to high recidivism rates. Third, the lack of a detailed and concrete implementation plan can potentially incur higher cost. Finally, counties might not have the capacity to absorb the DJJ population, and if juvenile crime grows in the future, it places a heavy burden on county systems.


Our Posi on  While the DJJ facilities have certainly proven to be inefficient, the closure plan should not rely solely on fiscal motivations. By doing so, the plan will ignore several other important factors related to youth and community well-being as well as public safety. The DJJ facilities were specifically set aside as a means of providing intensive rehabilitative services to youth offenders with a higher level of sophistication—yet by all available yardsticks, have clearly not obtained this goal. Shifting this population to the counties is viable based on bed space, but is not a panacea to the problems associated with juvenile correctional facilities across the state. Although county facilities allow the clear advantage of housing young people closer to their community and family, programs still need to be designed to address the issues of more serious offenders, such as educational, mental health, and substance abuse services. In others words, implementation and careful monitoring associated with this plan is key to successfully reducing recidivism as well as driving down costs. Thus while we support alternatives to costly, ineffective, and harmful incarceration systems for juveniles, we are wary of the assumption that counties are prepared to handle this population more effectively, and also caution against the possibility of transferring more youth to the adult system as a result of theses closures.

Cita ons  

Books Not Bars. “The Solu on.” Retrieved on February 4, 2012 from: h p://www.ellabakercenter.org/page.php? pageid=18&conten d=8.    

California Department of Correc ons and Rehabilita on. (2010). 2010 Juvenile Jus ce Outcome Evalua on Report:  Youth Released from the Division of Juvenile Jus ce in Fiscal Year 2004‐05. Retrieved on September 14, 2011 from:  h p://www.cdcr.ca.gov/Reports_Research/docs/Recidivism%20Report.FY0405.%20FINAL.DJJ.pdf.   

California District A orneys Associa on. February 18, 2011. Retrieved on February 4, 2012 from: h p:// www.pacovilla.com/?p=51086.   

Consent Decree, Farrell v. Cate. Available as a document at: h p://www.prisonlaw.com/pdfs/farrellcd.pdf.   California District A orneys Associa on. February 18, 2011. Retrieved on February 4, 2012 from: h p:// www.pacovilla.com/?p=51086.     

Ferriss, S. (January 25, 2012). Fight brewing over historic California plan to close last three youth prisons. iWatch  News by Center for Public Integrity. Retrieved on February 03, 2012 from: h p:// www.iwatchnews.org/2012/01/25/7961/fight‐brewing‐over‐historic‐california‐plan‐close‐last‐three‐youth‐prisons.   

Krisberg, B., Vuong, L., Hartney, C., and Marchionna, S. (October 2010). A new era in California juvenile jus ce:   Downsizing the state youth correc ons system. Retrieved on February 3, 2012 from: h p://www.law.berkeley.edu/ files/A_New_Era_10‐22‐2010.pdf.    

Macallair, D, Males, M., and McCracken, C. (May 2009). Closing California’s Division of Juvenile Facili es: An analysis  of County ins tu onal capacity. Retrieved on February 03, 2012 from: h p://www.cjcj.org/files/ closing_californias_DJF.pdf.    

Taylor, M. (February 2012). The 2012‐2013 Budget: Comple ng juvenile jus ce realignment. Retrieved on February  21, 2012 from: h p://www.lao.ca.gov/analysis/2012/crim_jus ce/juvenile‐jus ce‐021512.pdf.    

Teji, S. (February 2012). Coun es’ modern secure facili es have enough ins tu onal capacity for juvenile jus ce   realignment. Retrieved on February 4, 2012 from: h p://www.cjcj.org/files/County_Modern_Facili es_2012.pdf.  


The UCLA Juvenile Jus ce and Reentry Project (JJRP) seeks to apply a social welfare approach to  youth and young adult reentry by focusing on the whole system surrounding the young person — his  or her peers, family, neighborhood, and larger forces such as the economy and the availability of  jobs. In this way, JJRP will become a leading informa on center of best treatment and interven on  prac ces that promote the successful community reintegra on of youth offenders, as well as a   resource and model for juvenile jus ce and reentry ini a ves in other areas of the country. 

The UCLA Department of Social Welfare’s research and teaching guide policy makers, shape prac ce  and programs in such areas as welfare, aging, health care, mental health, children and families, and  long‐term support. UCLA Social Welfare faculty members are commi ed to placing their knowledge  at the service of communi es and empowering the disadvantaged and the vulnerable.  

Consistently rated as one of the top programs in the na on, the UCLA Meyer and Renee Luskin  School of Public Affairs incorporates best prac ces in scholarship, research and teaching in the fields  of social welfare, urban planning, and public policy. Faculty, students, and alumni are ac vely   engaged in developing and applying innova ve solu ons to some of society’s greatest challenges. 

For more informa on:  UCLA Juvenile Jus ce and Reentry Project  Luskin School of Public Affairs  3250 School of Public Affairs Building  Box 951656  Los Angeles, CA 90095  reentryproject@spa.ucla.edu  www.spa.ucla.edu/sw/jjrp  (310) 206‐0693  The views expressed are those of the authors and not of the Luskin School of Public Affairs or the UCLA Department of Social Welfare.  

Viet Nguyen is currently an undergraduate Poli cal Science major at UCLA and a volunteer with the Juvenile Jus ce   Reentry Project.  Viet will graduate from UCLA in 2013.  Laura S. Abrams is an Associate Professor in the Department of Social Welfare at the Luskin School of Public Affairs and the   Principal Inves gator and Research Director of the UCLA Juvenile Jus ce and Reentry Project. 

Policy Brief on Juvenile Justice Facilities/CA Budget Realignment  

Policy Brief co-authored by Laura Abrams on Jerry Brown's proposed a $70 million cut from the Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) budget. Apr...

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