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Last week the LAO released a report entitled Completing Juvenile Justice Realignment” . The report supports Governor Brown’s juvenile realignment proposal and calls for a staggered closure of DJF facilities while transferring funding and supervision responsibilities to the county level. The LAO notes that the state’s current two-tier system where the state supervises just 1% of incarcerated youth limits county responsibility, limits coordination of community-based rehabilitative services for youth, and restrains counties from innovation and efficiency in delivering treatment services to serious youth offenders.

The report also notes that county practices and county capacity to serve serious youth offenders varies greatly and that sustained funding and technical assistance provision is critical to a successful realignment. Moving forward, the LAO recommends that the Governor’s administration follows the SB 81 weighted” funding formula in allocating resources to counties based on current DJF commitments as well as juvenile felony arrest rates. The LAO also notes that there is approximately $68 million of unspent state funding for juvenile facilities that could be used for upgrading county camps and ranches for long-term detention and rehabilitation of youth offenders.The LAO follows many of CJCJ’s recommendations in our Juvenile Realignment in 2012 report, including setting a concrete closure date for DJF in 2015, and calling for a more intensive role for the new Board of State and Community Corrections in coordinating technical assistance for counties, evaluation of effective treatments, and monitoring conditions in county juvenile facilities.Finally, the LAO presents some innovative ideas for limiting the number of juveniles that prosecutors decide to direct file” as adults through a funding incentive system where counties share in the cost savings for keeping youth in juvenile courts. They note a similar strategy with SB 678 saved the state $145 million and successfully diverted hundreds of offenders from the state prison system. 

There are clearly challenges to be worked out in any realignment plan, but it is undeniable that the current DJF system is beyond repair, fails to deliver rehabilitative benefits for California’s highest-risk and highest-need youth, and is unjustifiable in its exorbitant costs to taxpayers. County-based models that follow an integrated continuum of care must be the foundation of California’s 21st century juvenile justice system.