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Funding Local Juvenile Facilities that Meet the Needs of the Future

Juvenile Commitment Facility, Modesto, Stanislaus

As a new round of funding for juvenile detention facilities gains pace, it is prudent to review the journey so far. Facilities designed today will shape the changing landscape of juvenile justice in California.

The 2007 Senate Bill (SB) 81, known as ‘juvenile justice realignment’, funded the construction of local facilities, channeling youths away from the state’s Division of Juvenile Justice and towards counties. The Board of State and Community Corrections (BSCC) funded 14 counties seeking to improve existing facilities or build new ones. A second application process for $80 million dollars now ensues. Amid declining youth crime and confinement, counties should evaluate earlier projects and utilize research highlighting best rehabilitative practices as they consider their long-term responsibilities towards youths and communities.

I recently visited the new Juvenile Commitment Facility in Modesto, Stanislaus County. The first SB 81-funded facility to open, this 60-bed site offers valuable insights into funding outcomes. Prior to the new facility, the county had no youth treatment facility to meet post-commitment programming needs and a crowded juvenile hall. Stanislaus sent youths out of the county and away from their families and communities.

The BSCC awarded Stanislaus $18 million dollars in construction funds. The new facility, open since June 2013, comprises one 30-bed and two 15-bed living units. The four classrooms, two program rooms, and culinary instruction room offer a varied curriculum. Successful culinary students work with the full-service kitchen to provide meals eaten by staff and youths alike. The indoor space is flooded with natural light and the outdoor space provides grass, yard and track areas. Visiting takes place in the multi-purpose gymnasium and adjacent family rooms, with hours adjusted to suit local public transport.

The space built with the funding facilitates programming provision and community involvement. In-house clinicians offer individual and group support, including teen parenting, family therapy, and trauma-informed care. A mentoring program has generated other popular activities, such as yoga; staff also contribute to the range of diverse activities available, such as distance running. El Concillio, Haven Women’s Center, and Girl Scouts are among the community-based groups providing services. Division Director Leticia Ruano explained how the recent Reducing Racial and Ethnic Disparity (RED) Grant, awarded by the BSCC, could support the further involvement of community groups as they develop new ways to support youths in their care.

However, some aspects of the SB 81 funding process are less malleable. With only fixed furnishings eligible for funding, counties will likely choose furniture like concrete beds, as Stanislaus has done, rather than the non-institutional furnishings that support rehabilitative and normalized environments. Furthermore, while 2008 funding applications predominantly highlighted the need for more beds, youth incarceration has since declined; indeed, the Stanislaus Commitment Facility is operating at half-capacity. This trend supports a focus on treatment and support-oriented community-based alternatives.

Applications for the Round Two Request for Proposals, released on September 12, are due on December 17. On October 16, the BSCC Bidders Conference provides counties and other interested parties the opportunity to ask questions about the funding process. This is a great opportunity to ensure current projects meet the evolving needs of youths and communities.

Keywords: juvenile halls, SB 81, youth

Posted in Blog, Correctional Institutions

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