National Center for Youth Law

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Implementing the Closure of California’s State-Run Youth Prisons (2021)

NCYL is working to thoughtfully implement the historic passage of SB 823 (2020), the law that signaled California’s intention to close its Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) and youth prisons, to replace it with a system that honors the potential of youth, not needlessly punish them.

NCYL’s coalition partnered with the leaders from the legislature to develop protections aimed at preventing youth from being excessively charged or being transferred to adult criminal court. In May 2021, Governor Newsom signed SB 92, a measure creating a new judicial framework for determining eligibility and processing of young people.

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Overview

California’s youth prisons have long been plagued with scandals and egregious cases of mistreatment. With California’s state youth prisons closing, responsibility for serving and supervising all youth in the juvenile justice system will shift to counties; and with it an opportunity to create a more supportive and rehabilitative system. However, without thoughtful implementation, closure of DJJ could cause disparate treatment of young people across counties, resulting in greater numbers of youth sent to the adult system, more youth languishing in local juvenile halls, and greater harm to youth. With significant input and participation from community partners, NCYL’s coalition partnered with the budget leaders from the legislature to develop: 

  • Protections to prevent youth from being excessively charged or being transferred to adult criminal court by creating a new judicial framework for determining eligibility and processing of young people that would be committed to local extended terms of confinement. The legislature passed and Governor Newsom signed SB 92 (2021) creating these protections. 
  • Meaningful health-based alternative models: Ensuring trauma-focused, developmentally appropriate services are delivered by multidisciplinary teams that will develop treatment plans with a multitude of stakeholders and service providers.

Read the trailer bills here and here.

NCYL is partnering with W. Haywood Burns Institute, Human Rights Watch, Children’s Defense Fund, Pacific Juvenile Defender Center, and California Alliance for Youth and Community Justice.