Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Counties To Assume Supervision of State Youthful Offenders on Parole

Legislation begins three-year shift from state Division of Juvenile Justice

SACRAMENTO – Continuing a trend toward increased local control of youthful offenders, county probation departments across the state will begin supervising youths released from state Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) facilities, according to legislation that takes effect today.

Under the terms of AB 1628, The Public Safety and Rehabilitation Act of 2010, counties will gradually assume juvenile supervision over the next three years and courts will establish the conditions for supervision, assuming that responsibility from the Juvenile Parole Board.

“This shift of parole supervision to the counties reinforces a trend that gives local officials more responsibility for the rehabilitation of youth who live in their communities,” DJJ Chief Deputy Secretary Rachel Rios said.

The legislation calls for the Juvenile Parole Board to determine when a youth is sufficiently rehabilitated to warrant release from a DJJ facility, but authorizes local courts to establish supervision conditions and for county probation officers to ensure those conditions have been met. The legislation also authorizes the courts, rather than the Juvenile Parole Board, to conduct hearings to modify those terms, which could include re-confinement, when it is warranted by a youth’s behavior.

The DJJ will continue to supervise approximately 1,500 youthful offenders currently on parole, but all youth will be transferred to county authority no later than July 1, 2014.

The legislation also authorizes counties to establish a Juvenile Reentry Fund that would accept state money to address the costs of local supervision and rehabilitative programs.

The population of youthful offenders in DJJ, formerly known as the California Youth Authority, has declined from a peak of approximately 10,000 in the mid-1990s to approximately 1,200 today, less than 1 percent of all youth arrested each year, as most youth are committed to county facilities through legislative and policy changes.

That population shift began in 1995 as counties were granted an increased financial incentive to house low-level offenders locally. Legislation adopted in 2007 (SB 81 and AB 191) also changed the mission of the DJJ, sending to the state only those youths who have committed serious and violent felonies, including sex offenses. Most such youths have severe treatment needs.

In response to the declining population, the DJJ has closed eight facilities since 2002 and has realigned its staff to operate as cost-effectively as possible. The Division recently announced its intention to close the Preston Youth Correctional Facility in Ione by June 2011, a move that is expected to result in a savings of approximately $30 million this fiscal year. Also, in early 2010 the DJJ completed a “right-sizing” of its staff to better reflect both the size and treatment needs of its population, eliminating approximately 425 positions, resulting in a savings of approximately $30 million to $40 million.

The DJJ provides treatment programs for mental health, substance abuse and sexual behavior, and also operates an accredited school district that provides specialized education as well as GED certificates and high school diplomas.

Contact: Bill Sessa (916) 205-9193