|Report: No reason not to shut down state’s youth prisons|
|Tuesday, 07 February 2012 11:44|
By Nicole Jones for The Informant, KALW
The Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice in San Francisco released a report this week that shows California counties have the capacity to implement Governor Jerry Brown’s plan to eliminate the state’s youth prison system.
Brown announced his plans in January to eventually fade out the Division of Juvenile Justice system by 2014. The proposal would have counties share $10 million to develop local alternatives to housing youth in state facilities. But it’s raised some concerns from counties and law enforcement, saying they lack adequate secure juvenile placement facilities for high-risk youth offenders the DiJJ currently serves.
The CJCJ reports a different picture. From 1996-2007, CJCJ says 41 counties have invested $438 million in state and federal funding for building new and secure juvenile justice facilities. That’s resulted in California having a surplus of 4,090 beds that the CJCJ says is enough to house and serve high-risk offenders at the county level over the proposed realignment period.
Even though juvenile crime in California has been in steady decline for several decades and at an all time low of 52,000 felony arrests in 2010—down from 76,100 in 1998—counties continue to build jails and increase their bed capacity.
In the last ten years, Alameda County has replaced the dilapidated 48-year-old Alameda County Juvenile Hall with a new 358-bed facility given. San Francisco County built a new 150-bed juvenile hall to replace the 51 year old run down 132-bed facility.
Youth justice advocates, probation chiefs and district attorneys argue that the governor’s plan to shut down the Division of Juvenile Justice could lead to youth offenders being sentenced to adult jails and create disparities in treatment conditions across the state.
As state realignment is moving lower level offenders to the county level, CJCJ reports that transitioning juvenile offenders locally is a better alternative to state custody. “While counties will need additional sustainable funding and technical assistance to enhance services and program models to serve high-risk youthful offenders locally,” the report said, “they have the potential to be more successful than the state in addressing the programming and reentry needs of this populations.”