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On April 4th, CJCJ’s two co-sponsored bills, Senate Bills 190 and 439, cleared California’s first legislative hurdle: the Senate policy committees. This early success makes clear that decision makers in Sacramento are receptive to juvenile justice reforms that remove barriers to family, community, and social services, providing young people with the support they need to thrive.

The day began in the Senate Committee on Public Safety, where Senator Holly Mitchell presented SB 439, which will protect children 11 years old and younger from being swept into juvenile delinquency court, ensuring that their needs are addressed through appropriate alternatives to the justice system. CJCJ is co-sponsoring SB 439 in partnership with the Children’s Defense Fund – California, the National Center for Youth Law, the W. Haywood Burns Institute, Anti-Recidivism Coalition, and the Youth Justice Coalition.

Currently in California, there is no minimum age of jurisdiction for the juvenile justice system, meaning that children of any age can be prosecuted in a juvenile court. During the Senate hearing, Patricia Soung of the Children’s Defense Fund — California provided testimony on the need for a minimum age, citing the heartbreaking experience of a 10-year-old client who was processed through juvenile court. She explained that when interviewing her client, his head barely came above the table, his feet dangled above the ground…he could not fully reconstruct what happened, and did not fully appreciate who I was or the gravity of what he was facing.” Michael Harris of the National Center for Youth Law also explained that, the juvenile justice system can have long-lasting, profoundly negative psychological and health impacts on young children.” Following testimony, dozens of advocates and members of the public registered formal support for the bill. Ultimately, five of the seven committee members voted to pass SB 439, sending it to the Senate Appropriations Committee.

His head barely came above the table, his feet dangled above the ground.” — Patricia Soung testifying in support of SB 439 

In the afternoon, the Senate Committee on Human Services considered SB 190, which will end the harmful and unnecessary assessment and collection juvenile administrative fees. Currently, families in California can be charged a fee for their youth’s defense, detention in a juvenile hall, or community supervision. These fees can add up to thousands of dollars and bury families in debt. One Orange county family declared bankruptcy and lost their home after the county aggressively pursued a $16,000 fee obligation. CJCJ joins the Western Center on Law and Poverty, East Bay Community Law Center, Insight Center for Community Economic Development, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, PolicyLink, Public Counsel, the W. Haywood Burns Institute, and Youth Justice Coalition as a co-sponsor of the bill.

When presenting SB 190 to the committee, Senator Mitchell emphasized the ways in which these fees can undermine the rehabilitative intent of the juvenile justice system and impose an unnecessary burden on vulnerable families. She explained that, fees strain families and harm family stability.” Next, Senator Mitchell introduced her two witnesses: Hamza Jaka, a researcher and Berkeley Law student, and Lupita Carballo, a member of the Youth Justice Coalition. Their impassioned testimony, coupled with a strong showing of public support, moved the committee to vote in favor of the bill.

Fees strain families and harm family stability.” — Senator Holly Mitchell presenting SB 190

Now, SB 190 and SB 439 will advance to the Senate Appropriations Committee, where members will consider each bill’s fiscal impact in the context of the state budget and Senate spending priorities. CJCJ thanks our partners and members of the public who submitted letters of support or voiced their solidarity with SB 190 and SB 439. On April 4th, these efforts brought California one step closer to much-needed juvenile justice system reform. To learn more about how you can support CJCJ’s efforts to address harmful practices in the juvenile justice system, contact Policy Analyst Maureen Washburn at maureen@​cjcj.​org.

Related Links:

CJCJ Co-sponsors Legislation to Reform the Juvenile Justice System

CJCJ in the News: U.S. Should Adhere to Global Standards in How We Treat Our Youth

Upfront: CJCJ’s Maureen Washburn on youth reform legislation