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In This Issue

CJCJ reports on dangerous conditions inside of California’s DJJ, Cameo House celebrates participant accomplishments, and New research spotlighted by CJCJ’s Justice Policy Journal

CJCJ reports on dangerous conditions inside of California’s Division of Juvenile Justice

California’s Division of Juvenile Justice continues to neglect youths’ basic needs and subject them to dangerous living conditions.

Our latest report examines California’s Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) as it prepares for closure on June 30, 2023. Signed into law in 2020, Senate Bill 823 requires the closure of California’s state youth prisons and the transition of all youth from state to county custody, where they can receive community-based services and alternatives to incarceration. DJJ’s longstanding dysfunction, coupled with poorly developed transitional plans are undermining closure and denying youth the support they need during this critical time.

Staff Use of Force (UOF) Incidents Per 100 Youth, By Category July 2010-October 2023 

Our research finds that youth at DJJ are routinely exposed to dangerous drugs, extreme periods of isolation, and traumatic violence — conditions that contribute to declining mental health and suicidal behavior. Staff rely heavily on harmful and traumatizing use of force techniques, particularly pepper spray. Requests for information on reported life-threatening drug overdoses and DJJ’s capacity surrounding medical care, training, and procedures have been ignored, while concerns exist around who is bringing in the contraband. Widespread staff shortages are exacerbating these dangerous conditions and contributing to youth isolation.

The following key findings raise serious concerns about youths’ safety:

  • Drug overdoses are occurring regularly inside DJJ’s high security institutions. There appears to be a conscious and coordinated effort by DJJ to withhold information about the crisis from the public and state officials.
  • Staff at the Ventura Youth Correctional Facility routinely employ chemical spray against youth at rates higher than any other DJJ facility.
  • Staff shortages have grown significantly. Nearly four in ten positions are now unfilled, further increasing youths’ risk of violence and isolation.
  • Youth in the general population spend less than 10 hours a day outside of their cells. Youth in DJJ’s disciplinary units (Behavior Treatment Program) are even more isolated and are kept in their cells for more than 20 hours a day.

Confinement time has also been affected by a lack of adequate programming at DJJ and is leaving some of California’s highest needs youth without the vital treatment they need for successful reentry. Failing education programs and a lack of engagement with outside community-based agencies waiting to serve youth locally only furthers concerns for some of our state’s most vulnerable youth.

Want to read the full report? Download below.

3 Cameo House families receive permanent housing

With the support of Cameo House, three families have secured permanent housing!

CJCJ’s Cameo House program was created to support the unique needs of justice-involved mothers and their children. Together with our staff, participants, and community partners we work to build foundations for successful community reentry. We strive to meet these needs and celebrate our participants’ accomplishments and milestones whenever we can.

We are proud to congratulate three participating families on their graduation and successful securement of permanent housing! This is a goal for all of our mothers upon arrival, and necessary for a healthy foundation and future for them and their families. One participant, Maria also recently received a culinary program certification she has been working towards for some time now. This will allow her to work in the food handling field. Please join us in wishing all of our program graduates the best in their future endeavors as they transition to their own homes with their families.

Cameo House Program Manager Charity Harris helps with a kids Frozen themed birthday party.

As part of Cameo House’s commitment to wellness and healing, staff encourage physical exercise. This builds a healthy foundation for our families. We are constantly looking for positive physical activities for our children and their mothers. This has looked like summer karate courses for our kids at local Quantum Karate, our staff shooting hoops with kids in the backyard, and monthly fun birthday celebrations for the children. Recently the entire Cameo House staff and families attended a winning playoff basketball game for one of our participants’ children at Mission Dolores Academy. We are grateful for our ongoing community relationships and partnerships that make opportunities for growth and joy like this possible for our mothers and their children.

Learn more about our Cameo House program here»

CJCJ’s Justice Policy Journal spotlights new research

Justice Policy Journal provides cutting-edge criminal justice research.

CJCJ recently released its Fall 2022 Justice Policy Journal (JPJ). The JPJ provides policymakers and researchers with an international forum to examine current justice issues, while promoting innovative policy solutions.

  • Videos of victims of color are more prevalent than white victims.
  • Physical force is often unnecessary and used against people in custody, or to resolve verbal exchanges during police/​resident encounters.

Other JPJ articles in this issue explore wide-ranging justice topics such as reducing recidivism by creating and measuring fair chances and research on fighting in high schools being linked to social disorganization.

Find out more in the latest issue of CJCJ’s Justice Policy Journal »