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Why taxpayers should care about juvenile justice

Last week Governor Brown proposed, for the second time, the closure of California's state youth correctional facilities, the Division of Juvenile Facilities (DJF).  In fact, this week CJCJ released a report including five policy recommendations for full juvenile justice realignment.  CJCJ has been advocating for a 21st century approach to juvenile justice for years.  CJCJ is not alone is this recommendation, the Legislative Analyst's Office, Little Hoover Commission, and the Ella Baker Center have all been advocating for the closure of DJF over the past decade.  However, with extreme budget cuts affecting all areas of social services, one might ask "Why should I care about this?"

California's taxpayers should be concerned about the excessive cost to maintain the state's youth correctional system.  The current annual costs to California taxpayers is $193,111 per youth to confine the 1,174 remaining youth in DJF, with a total annual budget of $226 million.  One might ask what taxpayers are getting for 226 million dollars?  The answer is an archaic system with an 80% re-arrest rate currently in litigation for unconstitutional conditions.  

Another reason state taxpayers should be concerned, is that only a small portion of the state's 58 counties, such as Kern, rely on this system.  If you are a taxpayer in a self-reliant county such as San Francisco or Santa Clara than you and your fellow county residents are shouldering the expense for state-dependent counties' over-use of the state system.  The radically different sentencing practices within each county are reflective of a system of justice by geography.

The state's current economic crisis has resulted in the Governor's decision to cut schools, hospitals, and libraries.  As a result, California's taxpayers should be extremely concerned with the effective utilization of the state's limited resources.  As a taxpayer if you want to voice your concern over the state maintaining a "broken" youth correctional system, you can support Ella Baker Center in their petition to Governor Brown calling for the closure of DJF.   

Keywords: fiscal policy, Kate McCracken, youth

Posted in Blog, Juvenile Justice, Political Landscape

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