Overview Cameo House Community Options for Youth (COY) Detention Diversion Advocacy Program (DDAP) Expert Witness, Court Navigation, & Sentencing Mitigation Services Juvenile Collaborative Reentry Unit (JCRU) No Violence Alliance (NoVA) Overview Technical Assistance California Sentencing Institute Next Generation Fellowship Legislation Transparency & Accountability

Beyond Repair: Envisioning a Humane Future After 132 Years of Brutality in California Youth Prisons

A new report chronicles the 132-year history of California’s Division of Juvenile Justice

California’s Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) was officially shut down on June 30th, 2023. This date marks the end of a brutal era in our state’s history. Now, the state must reckon with its shameful past and safeguard future generations of youth. We released our final monitoring report on the in-depth history of DJJ on the eve of its closure.
From the reform school era in the 1890s to the present day, our report focuses on the youth confined in these traumatic facilities. It provides a detailed timeline, historic photographs, current-day interviews from different generations, data, and a set of recommendations for the future.

In tracing the history of DJJ and California’s path forward, the report aims to:

  • Pay tribute to the tens of thousands of people confined in these state-run institutions who suffered throughout history;
  • Highlight the lessons of DJJ’s closure for other states and jurisdictions; and
  • Ensure that California counties do not replicate past failures.

Young children who were confined to California’s state institutions.

Key recommendations:

1. Pay reparations: Pay people who were left traumatized by their years at DJJ and have had to carry these burdens into adulthood.

2. Close prisons: Close all prison-like youth institutions nationwide to protect youth from the devastating effects of institutionalization.

3. Protect youth: Apply the lessons of DJJ to the rampant mistreatment of youth in California’s county-run youth facilities, where DJJ’s closure is boosting youth populations and expanding the influence of harmful probation systems.

Generations of youth formerly committed to California youth prisons were interviewed for this report. We thank them for sharing their experiences with us and contributing to our extensive archives. If you were committed to CYA or DJJ and would like to share your story with us, please contact us at cjcjmedia@​cjcj.​org

Next Generation Fellowship’s 2023 Cohort Graduates

NGF facilitates leadership development, team building skills, and more among ancient redwoods in Santa Cruz, CA

The restorative Santa Cruz mountains were the location of our Next Generation Fellowship’s (NGF) third and final session. Fellows came from across the state to further build relations and share their intentions for their future work and projects.

We spent our first day we appreciating the beautiful outdoors. Fellows had a chance to work on trust and team building skills through activities leading up to a guided ropes course. A focus throughout the day was that we cannot do anything in life alone; we need to work collectively towards common goals. From silent communication activities, to climbing trees, we are as strong as our team. Being surrounded by redwoods in the mountains for this activity was healing for our bodies and spirits.

NGF fellows and facilitators team building

NGF fellows supporting each other on the ropes course 

Our second day started with a powerful workshop by NGF fellow Alejandro Juarez who was our maestro for the day, sharing various instruments with us so that we could create music together. Flutes, rattles, and drums were just some of the instruments we played. Alejandro explained that the instruments also brought in the spirits of birds and outside energies, along with our good intentions and collective melodies. Our day closed out with fellows sharing their work going forward, followed by a graduation. The strength of the collective and intergenerational possibility and power became the overarching theme for our two days together.

The Next Generation Fellowship (NGF) is leadership development and policy advocacy fellowship and training for emerging leaders across California who are formerly incarcerated and/​or have experienced another form of involvement in the justice system. The fellowship is co-facilitated by CJCJ and MILPA (Motivating Individual Leadership for Public Advancement) and focuses on advancing racial justice, cultural healing, and ending mass incarceration by promoting healthy, safe communities. We are excited to see the incredible work this cohort does in their communities and across the state!

Click here to watch a video of our NGF family making beautiful music together!

Our NGF 2023 cohort

All Youth Are Sacred” Second Convening in Oakland, CA

Community partners, advocates, youth, researchers, and leaders gather to discuss youth crime trends and the headlines around the data

CJCJ was proud to co-organize and co-facilitate a second statewide convening around youth crime trends and combatting harmful media narratives. Invested community members, directly impacted youth, and leaders gathered in Oakland to discuss current crime rates and trends over the decades. Our Senior Research Fellow Mike Males, PhD. shared his research on the subject, showing that California is currently experiencing an unclaimed and too often ignored youth revolution.

CJCJ’s Nancy Juarez with fellow event organizers

The history behind youth incarceration was also discussed through a group mapping exercise in which attendees viewed their lives alongside the building (and now closing) of youth prisons in California. Central Valley artist Patty Pratt was in attendance for an interactive, live art painting exploring the words Safe”, Whole”, and Free”. We wrapped up with fleshing out next steps as our convenings continue and grow.

From a community theater piece and visioning, to youth taking the lead on facilitating, this powerful day was an example of what working together towards a collective goal can look like. Thank you to all our fellow organizers and those in attendance. This was truly a team effort. And to our youth in attendance and assisting in the whole process’ we see you, and appreciate you, and can’t wait for the next convening!

Photos are of youth during the history of juvenile justice and mapping activity, and our Pedagogy of the Oppressed group theater piece acting out All Youth Are Sacred”.

Click here to see our Instagram post with more photos from this powerful event! »

CJCJ Employee Spotlight, Community Options for Youth (COY): Gabriela Lopez-Gaston

Our employee spotlight is a space to meet the amazing individuals who work at CJCJ. We are excited to introduce one of our outstanding employees with you, Gabriela Lopez-Gaston.

Our Community Options for Youth (COY) program provides mental health support for high-needs youth ages 12 – 24 in the San Francisco juvenile justice system. COY is a behavioral health program providing services to ensure client safety and stability, life skills development, increased prosocial behaviors, and participation in education and employment. This is critical work of building community and next-generation health, wellness, and safety that we are proud to do at CJCJ. Below you will meet one of COY’s bilingual clinicians, Gabriela Lopez-Gaston.

Name: Gabriela Lopez-Gaston

Job Title:
I am a bilingual clinician for CJCJ Community Options for Youth (COY) program

Behind the scenes fact about you:
I enjoy dancing flamenco, trying new restaurants and cuisines, and road trips!

How would you describe your job to a friend?
I typically describe my job as one where I provide support and counseling to youth within the community, by meeting them where they are at, both metaphorically and physically.

Why is this work important to you?
I believe that through doing this work, I can provide our young people with the support they need as they go through their life and various transitions, help to empower them, recognize their capabilities, and provide them with a safe space to be heard. It is in this way that I feel it is important that I contribute as much as possible to the lives of our youth so that they can go on living their best lives.

Dreaming out loud:
If you were given unlimited funds to build out part of your program, what would you create and why? I would want to have additional funds to extend the support we already provide in obtaining supplies for clients’ extracurricular activities, cell phones, and gifts for the holidays so that our youth can live out their passions and not be limited by their financial situation.

Want to learn more about COY’s amazing team? You can meet them on their page on our website.