Restructuring California’s Juvenile Justice System:
State Legislators continue to discuss bills AB-1868 and SB-823 and the potentiality of permanently morphing the Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) as we know it. The Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ), formerly known as the California Youth Authority (CYA), has a long history of being fundamentally flawed in producing positive outcomes while maintaining little to no accountability on spending habits. This current proposal would not only establish the Department of Youth and Community Restoration as a replacement to the current DJJ but also create a much-needed system of accountability through the use of evidence-based and promising practices and programs that improve the outcomes of youth and public safety. The department would have all the “powers, functions, duties, responsibilities, obligations, liabilities, and jurisdiction of the Division of Juvenile Justice” but through a more antiquate rehabilitation system that puts priority in the youth. The bill would specify how General Funds would be allocated to counties based on specified criteria, such as changing county responsibilities concerning the youth and imposing a state-mandated local program.
The goals of this bill are to ensure that adequate funding is being met to support positive youth development, while also ensuring that that justice-involved youth are closer to their families and communities and receive age-appropriate treatment. This bill is meant to destroy the “pipeline” that interconnects juvenile facilities with adult facilities. However, right now, much of the pro-prison lobby is producing a fierce opposition to this proposal.
The opposition refuses to accept that they must be held accountable for the hundreds of thousands of dollars spent yearly per youth. Probation departments continue to favor increased budgets without oversight from any departmental supervision. This is troubling for Genesis and its allies. We cannot risk having the increasing funding and power to probation departments that prioritize locking up our youth in juvenile halls or transferring them to the adult system. Instead, we need to close DJJ in a way that aligns with our community’s values of fairness, rehabilitation, and the ending of structural racism and economic injustice that has plagued the department since its establishment.
To stay updated on the progress of the proposal, click this link.