A decade and a half ago, the California Youth Authority (now the Division of Juvenile Justice) incarcerated 10,000 young offenders, says The California Report. A lawsuit by the Prison Law Office and other advocates forced dramatic changes in the treatment of teenagers who’ve run afoul of the law. At the same time, state leaders with scarce funds have become eager to trim their tight budgets. County governments have taken on an increasingly large role in rehabilitating teenage offenders.
California’s five facilities now house just 1,200 inmates, referred to as wards in the juvenile justice system. This year, Gov. Jerry Brown suggested that California become the first state in the nation to shut its youth correctional system completely and turn over the remaining wards to the custody of counties. Local officials pushed back, and Brown responded with a compromise plan. His goal remains to slash tens of millions of dollars from the state’s general fund obligations by turning over juvenile justice to California’s 58 counties. Brown aims to find new revenue for counties to handle the state’s most difficult young offenders in a package of tax extensions he hopes to put before voters in June. The tax plan is stalled in the legislature, lacking the two-thirds vote needed to put the measure on a special election ballot.