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On Thursday, May 8, California’s Board of State and Community Corrections (BSCC) heard a series of presentations from its Juvenile Justice Standing Committee (JJSC) around data, education, and disproportionate minority contact or confinement in the juvenile justice system.

The BSCC is an agency with significant responsibility in our state justice system. For example, the agency is responsible for collecting and making available data necessary to track who is involved in the justice system and whether existing interventions are successful. It also allocates millions in state funding to counties for the construction of juvenile and adult corrections institutions and the support of programs. The JJSC is one of several BSCC committees focused on specific issue areas, and should be of special interest to juvenile justice advocates and stakeholders.

On Thursday, Sue Burrell of the Youth Law Center discussed the significant changes within California following the implementation of juvenile realignment in 2007, particularly given the significant drop in youth crime and the population at county facilities. Yet advocates continue to struggle with ability to access data. The BSCC cannot effectively make this data available, which is highly problematic if the BSCC is tasked with oversight. For example, the BSCC cannot effectively monitor how the counties use approximately $90 million in funding through the Youthful Offender Block Grant Program (YOBG).

Further, Laura Faer of Public Counsel noted that education is a key piece of the Board’s work. Justice involved youth struggle with special education needs. Moreover, when youth are suspended, they are more likely to become involved in the juvenile justice system through the school-to-prison pipeline. Given the disproportionate arrest rates of youth of color, the BSCC can support positive change.

Finally, James Bell of the W. Haywood Burns Institute spoke about the challenging issue of disproportionate minority contact. The BSCC has the potential to impact DMC, through their grant programs, such as the Disproportionate Minority Contact-Technical Assistance Project (DMC-TAP) grant or a subcommittee within the BSCC devoted to reducing DMC. A recent BI report on DMC-TAP found that the fund proved successful in addressing racial and ethnic disparities.

For the BSCC to best serve all Californians, it must incorporate a juvenile justice lens. Given the Board’s leadership mandate, they should continue to look to the JJSC, advocates, and community members as excellent resources. The Board and staff would be wise to leverage this collective expertise. California’s juvenile justice system has changed amid juvenile realignment. Counties increasingly assume greater responsibility for their high needs youth. However, it is incumbent upon the BSCC to elevate model practices locally and more effectively gather data and reporting.