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Juvenile Justice Realignment is now more important than ever.

Having garnered the support for his realignment bill AB 109 to pass, the Governor is now faced with another obstacle: the Vehicle Licensing Fees (VLF) and sales tax extension will not be on the ballot in June. Republicans have blocked the ballot initiative and without the extension many have assumed that the Governor's plans for realignment (which rely on those funds) are indefinitely halted, but why?

Without the tax extensions, counties will be pushed to the limit. Approximately $500 million of public safety grants that fund juvenile probation ranches, camps and programs are at risk of being cut as they rely on the VLF and sales tax funds which are set to expire on July 1, 2011.  Without that or an alternative source of income, not only would the counties not be able to consider absorbing the State-confined juvenile offender population, but they are going to struggle to serve even the low-level youths they currently accommodate.  This will present an increasing challenge for juvenile justice in California.

Why then is the realignment no longer being discussed? Realignment is now more important than ever.

California taxpayers spend $242 million a year out of the State's general fund to keep the archaic and failed State facilities open.  This cost will likely not decrease substantially until the State can comply with court-mandated reforms that require construction of entirely new facilities. The construction of these facilities will cost approximately $1 million per bed, which will total around $1 billion (of non-existent funds).  All of this to serve only 1,200 youths, less than 1% of the juvenile justice population. 

Meanwhile county funding to serve the other 99% of justice-involved youth will face severe cuts, and many modern and state-of-the-art facilities at the county-level will have to be closed as a result. Why are we making liberal cuts to educational services, medical and mental health care, and reentry programs that work, but maintaining a dysfunctional and broken dual juvenile justice system?

Now that the VLF and sales tax extension is uncertain, it is imperative that California close the State facilities and channel that general fund money to the counties to serve all of the State's juvenile offenders.   

Read Governor Brown's May revised budget here: http://www.ebudget.ca.gov/

Keywords: DJF/DJJ, fiscal policy, Selena Teji, state policy

Posted in Blog, Realignment, Juvenile Justice

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