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CA Assembly hears arguments for juvenile justice realignment

On Wednesday March 28th, the Assembly Budget Subcommittee on Public Safety heard testimony on Governor Brown's proposal to close California's remaining youth correctional facilities.  The Legislative Analyst's Office, Department of Finance, and California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation presented preliminary testimony, while CJCJ, the Ella Baker Center, Chief Probation Officers of California, and Los Angeles District Attorney's Office provided additional testimony in a second panel. 

The public comment on the issue was extremely heartfelt and humanized the issue.  Many youth from the Youth Justice Coalition in Los Angeles had driven through the night to attend the hearing, and presented their public comments to the Assembly members.  These youth described how youth who were once their friends had returned from DJF distant and more prone to violence.  A young man presented the example of a friend who had been sent to DJF for 2 years, but served much longer as result of the culture of violence that prevails in the facilities.  One female youth explained how harmful the isolation of DJF can be on families -- noting that many of the youth in DJF are also young parents who may be isolated from their children for years while serving their confinement time.  Another individual commented on the ability of counties to serve these high-needs youth during the years it can take for a youth to be sentenced to DJF.  She felt it was disingenuous of counties to state that they have no experience serving this population.  They all urged the Assembly members to support the Governor's proposal for full juvenile justice realignment and "bring our youth home."

It was clear as the public comment continued that many youth have strong opinions about the effectiveness and wisdom of maintaining DJF, and about county responsibility to serve their own.  It behooves us all to listen to the voices of the people who are affected by the policies we support and create.  Our youth are not only one of the most law-abiding demographics in California, but they know by experience: what they need, what works, and what doesn't.

Many counties are doing extraordinary things with their youth.  It is time to invest in our local communities through the dedication of a sustainable funding stream to support and build the capacity to serve all of the state's youth offender population.  While DJF remains open, valuable resources that could be diverted to those programs is being wasted on an archaic and failed model.  California should heed the words of its young people when making a choice about where to invest its juvenile justice dollars.

Keywords: DJF/DJJ, legislation, public safety, Selena Teji, youth

Posted in Blog, Realignment, Political Landscape

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