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In a time of fiscal caution, Governor Brown’s FY 2017 – 18 budget proposal deepens California’s reliance on youth incarceration.

New Young Adult Prisons

Governor Brown’s Fiscal Year 2017 – 18 budget proposal recommends that the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) develop a third prison system in California, termed the California Leadership Academy (CLA), which would initially house 250 young people ages 18 to 25 in a single, remote facility. For more than two years, CJCJ has closely monitored the development of the CLA and has vigorously opposed the proposal’s reliance on a correctional model that closely mirrors the traditional, congregate approach of the state’s correctional system for youth – an approach that has failed to keep youth safe. Moreover, the creation of the CLA would amount to an expansion of CDCR, further widening the net of state incarceration and diverting necessary resources away from local alternatives.

California has already spent billions of dollars building and enhancing juvenile and adult facilities at the local level, and, each year, the state invests millions in county-level programming for youth through the Youthful Offender Block Grant and the Juvenile Justice Crime Prevention Act. In the midst of these shifts away from state control, crime rates among youth and young adults have fallen precipitously and are expected to continue declining through 2020. These trends suggest that the CLA would be needlessly targeting our state’s safest generation.

The CLA proposal disregards existing trends in public safety and undermines ongoing investments in realigning the justice system. CJCJ recommends that the legislature act to halt the expansion of CDCR by eliminating the CLA from the FY 2017 – 18 Budget.

Expanded Juvenile Facilities

The Governor’s FY 2017 – 18 budget proposal estimates a 10 percent increase in the population of the state’s Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) and allocates $4.9 million to re-open two of its closed living units. The proposal attributes this expansion to Prop 57’s juvenile reforms, which are expected to increase the number of youth who remain under the jurisdiction of juvenile courts. Yet, Prop 57 does not require juvenile judges to commit youth to DJJ. Rather, it presents them with an opportunity to consider the full array of placement options available for high-needs youth, including many local, residential programs.

Over the past 20 years, DJJ has posted dramatic population declines – from 10,000 youth in 1996 to under 700 in late 2016. These declines are driven by sharp and sustained drops in juvenile felony arrests, as well as reforms under 2007’s juvenile realignment, which shifted responsibility for some high-needs youth from the state to the counties. Though research shows that justice-involved youth are best served closer to their homes and communities in small, therapeutic environments, California continues to spend more than a quarter of a million dollars annually on a failed correctional model beset by violence and neglect.

CJCJ recommends that the California legislature reject the governor’s mounting investment in DJJ and channel spending, instead, into expanding juvenile capacity at the county level.

Related Links

Young Adult Prisons Are Not the Answer

Farrell’s End Gives True Juvenile Justice Reform a Chance

Failure After Farrell: Violence and Inadequate Mental Health Care in California’s Division of Juvenile Justice