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Landmark legislation changed California’s juvenile corrections system in August 2007. Gov. Schwarzenegger enacted SB 81, which limited the offenses that could result in ­­youth being committed to a state youth correctional facility, commonly known as the Division of Juvenile Justice, or DJJ. This legislation resulted in a steep and continuous drop in the confined youth population, from 2,480 August 2007 to 679 in March 2014. As with adult Realignment, counties receive annual fiscal support for the increased responsibility of supervising more young people at the local level.

Many people do not realize that an additional component of this legislation was significant funding to counties for construction, as administered by the Board of State and Community Corrections (BSCC). The initial funding allocation was awarded to 14 counties who predominately sought to add or replace existing beds within the county, even though the counties could have used the funding to construct. non-residential, non-secure facilities.

This year California must allocate the remaining $80 million dollars from the original SB 81 funding stream. This grant comes at a time in California’s history when the state has seen historic drops in youth confinement and crime rates. It also is at a time when law enforcement leaders, researchers, and advocates know much more about what works” to promote better outcomes for youth.

CJCJ and ten other organizations, including PolicyLink, California Alliance for Youth and Community Justice, Ella Baker Center, National Center for Youth Law, Communities United for Restorative Youth Justice, Advancement Project, Prison Law Office, The California Endowment, Burns Institute, and the Office of Restorative Justice submitted recommendations to the BSCC’s Executive Steering Committee (ESC). This ESC is responsible for designing the request for proposals (RFP), which will set the expectations for how the funding is used by counties. This diverse group of organizations requested the ESC to include community-based voices in their decision-making process, as well as utilize research on best practices and elevate alternatives to secure facilities.

These recommendations recognize California has changed significantly since SB 81 was passed in 2007. Moreover, they promote what we know works and challenges the BSCC to think outside of the box and incorporate nationally recognized innovative practices. This funding allocation will have long-term implications for dispositional and rehabilitative services available to young people well into the future. California must respond by leading the nation and doing something different for our justice-involved youth.

The next SB ESC meeting is May 7, 2014 9am in the BSCC Conference Room, 660 Bercut Drive, Sacramento, CA 95811.