California Plans to Dismantle Youth Prison System

The state of California will take steps to dismantle the Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) prisons by 2023. While the state has kept teenagers and young adults in separate incarceration facilities for 80 years, scandal and mistreatment of young offenders over the years sparked major reform and over a decade of state court oversight that stopped in 2016.

Under a state law passed last year and Gov. Gavin Newsom’s budget directive issued in January, the three remaining DJJ prisons in Stockton and Ventura will stop taking new prisoners in July and shut down in July 2023.

The new law also requires the creation of the Office of Youth and Community Restoration (OYCR), which will be responsible for guiding counties in creating a system of care, supervision, healing, and rehabilitative programs for juvenile offenders who would have been sent to DJJ prisons. OYCR is also authorized to investigate and resolve allegations of abuse or other violations occurring in county juvenile justice facilities or programs. Beginning in 2025, OYCR will oversee the management of all state juvenile justice grants administered by the Board of State and Community Corrections (BSCC).

Although the new law shows the state of California is committed to embracing rehabilitation over punishment and confinement close to home, rather than in isolated state facilities, it is still a “vast undertaking with an incredibly short timeline and inadequate financial investment.” The state has pledged $200 million a year to aid local governments with the cost of housing and caring for juveniles who previously would have been placed in DJJ prisons. However, juveniles convicted of serious crimes can still be sent to DJJ as a last resort so they aren’t tried and sentenced as adults.

Has your child been charged with a serious crime? Do you have questions about how the juvenile courts work? Then call Lessem, Newstat & Tooson, LLP today at (800) 462-7160 to schedule a case consultation with our juvenile criminal defense lawyers.