Status Offenders in Juvenile Hall

Position Paper

Position: the Chief Probation Officers of California are opposed to the detention of Status Offenders in Juvenile Halls and oppose any legislation that so mandates. CPOC does not necessarily oppose placing minors into longer period of confinement than is now commonly practiced and is possible underexisting law. The primary issue is one of capacity.

Summary of Issues: the last major needs assessment for juvenile hall bed space was completed in 1991 and reflected a need for over 600 beds for juvenile criminal offenders at a cost of over $300,000,000. A status offense is an act of non-criminal misbehavior committed by a period under the age of majority. Status offenders in custody are often very difficult to return to their family because of complex social and psychological problems. Since most, if not all, juvenile facilities are at or over capacity, it does not make good public policy to release criminal offenders who are a threat to society in order to house status offenders.

If state funding is made available to seriously address this important juvenile problem, the Chief Probation Officers will stand willing and able to address this important issue for public safety and youth development. To pass legislation that mandates confinement of runaway and beyond control youth without addressing the overcrowding problems within existing juvenile halls could send exactly the wrong message to a very vulnerable population of pre-delinquent children. It would be worse to threaten and be unable to follow through than it would be to continue to use the current under funded and broken system.