In 1996, the California Division of Juvenile Justice, the state’s youth correctional system, housed over 10,000 children and young adults (ages 12 to 25), according to the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice.
Today, we see a very different picture of juvenile justice in the Golden State. Thanks to several criminal justice reforms and the tireless of countless individuals, rehabilitation is now California’s watchword.
The number of young people housed in juvenile detention centers had fallen to 627, as of June 2018, The San Francisco Chronicle reports. While most people will find this news uplifting, lawmakers still have far to go in ensuring that all children are afforded the same benefits.
Young African Americans and Latinos are over-represented in both arms of the criminal justice system—juvenile and adult. Of the 71,923 juvenile arrests in 2015, black and Latino youths made up 88% of those tried as adults, according to a study from the California Department of Justice.
On numerous occasions, we have written about Proposition 57 on this blog. The legislation took power to try children as adults away from prosecutors in 2016. However, black and Latino youths are still tried as adults at the same rate.
Probation Helps and Hurts Young People
While fewer young people are locked up, there are more than 39,000 youth on probation in California, according to the article. Probation gives kids more options, but the likelihood of violating terms is high. Violations often result in incarceration.
“Probation is a hidden secret of the juvenile justice system,” said Nate Balis, Director of the Juvenile Justice Strategy Group for The Annie E. Casey Foundation. “The proportion of kids put in probation remains the same year after year. It is quite similar to what it looked like with the overall approach in the 1990s. One thing to change is dramatically narrowing who ends up on probation. Kids with first offenses like shoplifting can end up on probation. We must be more discerning and divert far more youth from juvenile justice system.”
Probation can be successful if young people are supported along the way. Expecting teenagers to fall in line after an arrest is wishful if they lack the resources to make necessary changes. We have to remember that teenagers who get in trouble with the law rarely come from stable homes. Bad influences are aplenty inside the house and out.
Reforms are only beneficial when they are in tandem with investments in the community. Diversion programs can give young people the tools to get back on track, stay in school, and avoid incarceration down the road.
California Juvenile Defense Attorney
Parents with a son or daughter facing legal trouble or school expulsion can benefit from seeking the help of juvenile defense expert. Having an experienced advocate in your family’s corner can pay off significantly.
Please contact The Law Offices of Katie Walsh for a free consultation and to learn more about how we can help you overcome your legal challenges.