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Assemblymember Reginald Jones-Sawyer

Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice

This year, CJCJ and Communities United for Restorative Youth Justice (CURYJ) proudly partnered with Assemblymember Reginald Jones-Sawyer on AB 915: The Youth Community Incentives Act. AB 915 recognized the shifting landscape of California’s juvenile justice system, in which counties have increasingly assumed greater responsibility for managing youth who commit serious offenses. This bill would have taken 75% of the cost savings from the state’s shrinking Division of Juvenile Facilities (DJF) and reinvested this money into successful county-level programs, such as Santa Clara’s James Boys Ranch. The bill also tasks the Board of State and Community Corrections with providing state oversight to ensure counties are adopting best practices.

The bill successfully passed out of the Assembly Public Safety Committee on April 23 and enjoyed strong support from a wide array of groups, including Children’s Defense Fund, Ella Baker Center, National Center for Youth Law, and PolicyLink, among many others.

Unfortunately, AB 915 did not make it off the Assembly Appropriations suspense file on Friday, May 24. This ends the current legislative path for the bill, but its legacy and vision remain undeterred. We thank those who supported AB 915 throughout this process and look forward to supporting the excellent criminal justice bills currently in consideration before the State Assembly and Senate, including AB 420, AB 549, SB 260, and SB 61. CJCJ also encourages support of the state policy campaign by the Alliance for Boys and Men of Color.

Much work remains, and we will continue to advocate for model programs in youth rehabilitation across California. The conditions that made AB 915 necessary are still relevant, particularly as Governor Jerry Brown’s May Budget Revision projects the average daily DJF population to be 679 youth in FY13-14. As California’s high-needs youth are increasingly being held locally, it is imperative to support local programming through expanded resources and oversight. A recent CJCJ publication found continued deficiencies with DJF, including high rates of violence and use of force.

Moreover, the state must incentivize county juvenile justice innovation amid the ongoing challenges with Realignment. Positive local programs for justice-involved youth should be understood as a long-term policy for lowering recidivism and future commitments to adult prisons.

CJCJ will continue to advocate on behalf of sensible, cost-effective juvenile justice policies that enhance public safety and result in positive outcomes for our youth. With these policies, California can develop a framework that fosters innovation between state and local jurisdictions and avoids replicating deficiencies in the state system.