California counties face time crunch after juvenile justice realignment from state
By Rachel Looker, National Association of Counties


Juvenile justice services realignment in California has created added responsibility for counties with only a short amount of time.

Governor Gavin Newsom signed a bill at the end of September which closed the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) and juvenile prisons, which shifts responsibility for youth involved in the criminal justice system to county oversight. This transfer will begin next year on July 1, 2021. Below are excerpts from the article originally posted on the National Association of Counties website:

County probation departments will bear the brunt of the responsibility to provide services for high-risk, justice-involved youth.

Karen Pank, executive director of the Chief Probation Officers of California, said probation departments will be finding ways to incorporate and build off successful programs that are currently operating and serving youth with significant needs in other counties.

“It’s a big step, a historic step, but probation departments around the state I believe are up for the challenge,” she said.

Pank said the reallocation does not come without challenges, specifically the short timeline and funding formula.

“We certainly don’t want to see justice by geography become a problem… but the funding formula doesn’t really set up to help with that unfortunately,” she said.

Counties that are already keeping higher-level offenders in their systems will likely consider collaboration options with other counties that may not have programs to meet these needs, Pank explained.

“It’s really the strength of counties — our ability to collaborate to resolve really tough issues,” she said.

Despite the challenges, Pank said county probation departments do not want to see a lack of confidence in this new system that results in more youth being transferred to adult prisons.

“We kind of have to build the airplane in mid-flight and so we will be doing that again,” Pank said. “We’ve usually been very successful in the outcome so we’re hopeful for that result here as well.”

El Dorado County Chief Probation Officer Brian Richart…president of the Chief Probation Officers of California, said the passing of this bill is going to have different impacts on counties of varying sizes.

In El Dorado County, which is considered a rural county, Richart said there is an average of two youth from the county in the state DJJ. However, he explained one year, four individuals were in custody simultaneously.

“That’s obviously a bubble… but the idea of dealing with a bubble like that without a DJJ takes on a whole different construct because we won’t have the resources to be able to build up a program locally that will just handle our DJJ cases,” he said.

El Dorado County is looking for solutions to meet the July 1 transition date including becoming a regionalized program to provide for youth from other counties or contract services from another county and move youth to those locations.

Richart said the timeline “puts a lot of pressure on counties.”

“Usually you would have a couple of years to figure out the program components, the resources, the distribution of revenues… all of those things take specialized treatment and specialized programming and if we don’t have that, you need to create it,” he said.

“I think it would be helpful for people to think about when you’re doing this, when you’re closing down resources, you need to do that very thoughtfully and I think that a lot remains to be seen as to whether this legislation was created thoughtfully enough,” he added.

To read the full article, visit the National Association of Counties website here