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DJF Update: Need for authentic, integrated reform

California’s youth correctional system, the Division of Juvenile Facilities (DJF), commonly referred to as DJJ, is entering its tenth year under a consent decree to reform its practices to provide safe and rehabilitative environment. In October 2013, the latest and 27th Report of the Special Master was filed with the court.

Institutional setting continues to hinder DJF staff reform efforts

Age-old practices have slowly begun to shift at California’s Division of Juvenile Facilities (DJF) as staff experiment with common-sense reforms, such as positive reinforcement, limiting use of isolation, and providing access to outdoor recreational space.  However, barriers towards sustainable reform will exist as long as youth are housed in outdated institutions.

DJF's reform efforts, sounding like a broken record
The purpose of the juvenilejustice system  is to rehabilitate youth, a concept California's Division of Juvenile Facilities (DJF) continues to struggle with. Progress in reform efforts through the Farrell lawsuit, now entering its second decade, have begun to sound like a broken record.   In October 2012, the most recent Report of the Special Master  released to the court commends DJF on certain improvements; however, areas crucial to the reform process have yet to meet compliance.  Key areas…
Going local: Lessons from tribal justice
A year into California's criminal justice Realignment, preliminary data  indicates overcrowded state prisons populations are in fact declining.  However, sentencing practices across the state remain varied. While many counties have been able to decrease their reliance on state prison, over half of California's counties experienced an increase in new prison commitments for certain offenses since realignment. For these counties, continued state-dependence could be resulting from the lack of…
San Francisco's Community Approach Towards "Wrapping" High-Needs Youth
San Francisco's Community Approach Towards "Wrapping" High-Needs Youth California Progress Report, July 12, 2012
San Francisco's community approach towards "wrapping" high-needs youth
Last month, members of CJCJ's Wraparound team had the honor of presenting to juvenile justice leaders from select California counties at the Sierra Health Foundation's Positive Youth Justice Initiative  (PYJI) Speaker Series.  Juvenile Justice Clinical Supervisor, Margaret Hitchcock and Wrap Rehabilitation Counselor, Randell Lewis, were joined by CJCJ's Executive Director, Daniel Macallair, San Francisco Deputy Director of Juvenile Probation, Allison Magee, and Statewide expert on EPSDT and…
Perceived improvements to confinement
It's all relative, as the saying goes.  It is true that there have been recent improvements to California's youth correctional facilities, Division of Juvenile Facilities (DJF).  Youth are no longer being fed blender meals and are no longer being educated in cages as they were just a less than a decade ago. However, the recently touted successes include meeting provisionary goals as outlined in the 21st Special Master Report  of the Farrell lawsuit, such as developing implementation plans and…
High-Needs Kids and Juvenile Justice Reforms

High-Needs Kids and Juvenile Justice Reforms California Progress Report, February 16, 2012

High-Needs Kids and Juvenile Justice Reforms

High-Needs Kids and Juvenile Justice Reforms Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, February 13, 2012

Maximizing services for juvenile justice "crossover caseload"
CJCJ's article, "Maximizing Mental Health Services for Justice-Involved Youth Using Diverse Funding," authored by Emily Luhrs and Selena Teji, was recently published in the Jan/Feb edition of the Offender Programs Report .  The Offender Programs Report   is a national journal for practitioners that is "devoted exclusively to innovative programs, management strategies and legal developments in offender rehabilitation."   The article highlights two of CJCJ's model juvenile justice…
DJF culture shift absent as lawsuit continues
As of January 2012, three of California's Division of Juvenile Facilities (DJF) remain, O.H. Close Youth Correctional Facility (OHCYCF), N.A. Chaderjian (NACYCF) in Stockton, CA and Ventura Youth Correctional Facility (VYCF) in Ventura, California.  The Southern Reception Center closed down at the end of the 2011, transferring the remaining youth and 77 staff to VYCF, now the only DJF facility in southern California.  Already plagued with abuses and strained past capacity, VYCF continues to…
AB 12: more placement options for juvenile courts
Gov. Brown's proposal to phase-out DJF entirely starting with no new commitments as of January 1, 2013, has many California counties worried about what to do with their most high risk youth, especially the few counties whose juvenile facilities are nearing capacity.  The perceived lack of alternatives has many counties' prosecutors thinking their only option will be to directly transfer this population to adult court.  However, there are in fact many local options for handling youth that would…
California's Governor Sends Wake-Up Call to the State's Counties

California's Governor Sends Wake-Up Call to the State's Counties California Progress Report, January 10, 2012

California's Governor Sends Wake-Up Call to the State's Counties

California's Governor Sends Wake-Up Call to the State's Counties Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, January 9, 2012

California's Governor Sends Wake-Up Call to the State's Counties

California's Governor Sends Wake-Up Call to the State's Counties Reclaiming Futures, January 9, 2012

New Year, New Opportunities for Reform

New Year, New Opportunities for Reform California Progress Report, December 30, 2011

New Year, New Opportunities for Reform

New Year, New Opportunities for Reform Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, December 29, 2011

Securing employment for ex-offenders, locally
An estimated 25 % of all Californian's have a criminal record, many landing in San Francisco, where rate of unemployment among ex-offenders is disproportionately high.  Even though San Francisco, and other cities, including Berkeley and Oakland, have "Banned-the-box, " meaning employers can no longer inquire at the application phase about past criminal convictions, barriers still exist for this particular population.  For instance, many employers still conduct background checks , often using…
Can restorative justice halt the school-to-prison pipeline?
Earlier this month I had the opportunity to attend a two-day conference entitled, "Exposing Structural Racism from Within: The Power of Restorative Justice," sponsored by the Henderson Center for Social Justice at UC Berkeley.  Conferences, especially those in an academic environment, usually tend to focus only on the problems, however this time I left with an overwhelmed, yet hopeful, mind.  While there was plenty of theoretical discourse on how, and if, restorative justice as a model has the…
Will realignment cut costs and reduce California's prison population?
The most definitive answer I heard to this question at today's panel   on Realignment, sponsored by the Warren Institute on Law and Policy at UC Berkeley, was  "no one knows."  The outcomes of criminal justice realignment are still unclear as it recently went into effect October 1st.  Other factors include the difficulties in knowing how many offenders realignment will actually affect due to the specificity of offender categories outlined for local supervision and "justice by geography."   By…
Second Chance Act funding threatened
Of the $2.3 billion currently allocated in the Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations Bill, $0 is included in the Senate's version for Second Chance Act funding.  Although full funding would require $165 million, there is an opportunity to restore, at least a portion of this crucial funding for fiscal year 2012.  President Obama has requested $100 million and the House of Representatives request includes $70 million; however, agreement from both the House and the Senate appropriations…
DJF: No special treatment for youth with special needs
The 19th report of the Special Master , in the ongoing Farrell v. Cate lawsuit to reform California's Division of Juvenile Facilities (DJF) was released early September.  A major theme I discovered was the lack of DJF's ability to provide for those individuals with special needs, particularly in the areas of special education, mental health, and wards with physical and mental disabilities.   While these populations may be more challenging to serve than the general population, the presence of…
California counties punished for best-practices
As counties prepare for criminal justice realignment, the disparities between counties' sentencing practices become increasingly apparent.  State-dependant counties, who have higher rates of state imprisonment, have been allocated substantially more funding than self-reliant counties.  Rather than basing the funding allocation on county crime rates, the funding formula is based on the number of low-level offenders each county currently has in state prison.  There is no doubt counties will need…
Bills determining "life and death" fail in the CA legislature
Two juvenile and criminal justice bills in the California legislature died last Friday due to lack of legislative backing.  Senate Bill 9 would have granted youth sentenced to 'life without parole' (LWOP) a chance to petition for parole after serving at least 10-25 years of their sentence.  It failed by a close margin and will be reconsidered in the coming weeks.   The second bill, Senate Bill 490 aimed to repeal the death penalty.  Although it gained substantial media attention it could not…
Who is in the SHU? The need for reform in prison isolation units
Demonstrations are taking place at Governors' offices across the country  today in New York, Connecticut, and Illinois in solidarity with those pushing for basic rights and humane conditions within the Security Housing Units (SHU) at the notorious Pelican Bay State Prison, located in the northwestern tip of California.  The conditions of the SHU will be the topic of discussion at today's oversight hearing by California's Assembly Public Safety Committee (listen live at 1:30 pm ). The…

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