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In post-Realignment California, significant dollars are allocated for the construction of new county-level juvenile and adult facilities. Currently, the Board of State and Community Corrections (BSCC) is structuring a new Request for Proposals (RFP) for distributing $79 million dollars to counties for the construction of juvenile facilities through Senate Bill (SB) 81. This is the second round of SB 81 funding; $220 million has already been awarded to 14 counties.

CJCJ is making significant efforts to educate the BSCC as they develop the new RFP, given the changing nature of juvenile justice in California. Specifically, CJCJ questions the need for additional bed capacity, considering the significant number of existing empty beds on any given day and California’s historic drop in overall juvenile crime. 

The Executive Steering Committee (ESC) that is responsible for developing the RFP has demonstrated openness to cultivating a competitive process that seeks to fund county proposals with clear rehabilitative goals. The language of this RFP will guide the way counties develop their own proposals, and is thus essential to the development of long-term dispositional options and rehabilitative services available to young people in the community.

CJCJ, among other organizations such as the National Center for Youth Law and Ella Baker Center, has articulated a variety of ideas to the ESC in hopes that the RFP will be rooted in what we know works for young people. Research has proven time and time again that facilities are not effective when they have artificial environments, living quarters designed to confine large numbers of youth, and minimal programming space. If California is going to spend $79 million dollars — plus matching funds from the counties — on more juvenile facilities, let’s do it in a meaningful way.

California remains at a crossroads in regards to juvenile justice reform. With the decreasing crime rates and reliance on state incarceration for youth, counties continue to require fiscal support and technical assistance to cultivate a 21st century approach to juvenile justice. The future of California’s juvenile justice system is in the 58 counties, as we observe pockets of innovation throughout the state that require support and incubation in other counties. There is significant evidence that a continuum of community-based services is the most effective approach to serving youth, as well as promising programs available to promote a new way of justice in California. This RFP is just one example of an opportunity for the state to rethink its approach to justice and challenge the status quo with innovative development.