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The recent news from Sacramento that the state is confronting another round of midyear budget cuts that could amount to a stunning 7 billion dollars provides further reason to close the old California Youth Authority (CYA). Closing the CYA (now the Division of Juvenile Facilities) would save the state nearly $500 million and bring an end to a sad chapter in the history of California’s juvenile justice system. The current California youth corrections system is built on a 19th century training school design that has no place in the 21st century. The system is currently under a consent decree for abusive conditions and for its failure to provide rehabilitative services to its wards — despite yearly per capita costs of over $250,000. The time has come to implement the recommendations of the State’s nonpartisan Little Hoover Commission and close the remaining state-run institutions and turn responsibility over to the county probation departments.

A recent report by the State’s Legislative Analyst Office found that there are more than 5000 surplus detention beds throughout California at the county level that could easily absorb the 2800 youths that remain in state institutions. By closing the old CYA facilities, the state could then transfer two thirds of the current CYA budget to the counties and use the remaining amount to help balance the state budget.

Such a sensible action would eliminate the current consent decree that is costing the state hundreds of millions of dollars to save a system that is not worth saving. It is time for California politicians to do the right thing and implement the recommendations of its own policy experts.