Throughout the campaign and now into his first months as California’s Governor, Gavin Newsom has focused resources on the safety and future prospects for youth. The most recent of these notable reforms is the proposal to scrap the California juvenile justice system as we know it. The juvenile justice system has shaped the lives of many young Californians in a negative way and those that have been affected by it are ready for a change. Kora Spiak from West Campus High School explained “I grew up surrounded by the justice system. My mother is in prison and has been since I was young, and I grew up in an area with countless friends coming in and out of the juvenile system. The current methods of aggressive “rehabilitation” do not work, and make things worse in the long run.”
Newsom recognizes the current failure of the justice system in California and has addressed that in order to make meaningful reform of the justice system, it is crucial to address the juvenile justice system which works as the “feeder system” to the justice system as a whole.
Kora Spiak continues to say “California is one of the 10 states that houses its juvenile justice division under a state corrections agency, and it certainly shows as to how things are dealt with.” Newsom’s proposal would have juvenile justice housed in the agency of Health and Human Services. This reframing of the juvenile justice system is a crucial first step to meaningful reform which clearly values the wellbeing of young people.
As a part of Newsom’s focus on California’s youth, Newsom appointed California’s first Surgeon General, a pediatrician named Dr. Nadine Burke Harris. Dr. Harris was key to the research on adverse childhood experience screenings which can help detect traumas that would risk of substance abuse, suicide attempts, homelessness, and a plethora of other occurrences. Newsom’s plan entails allocating $45 million toward Adverse Childhood Experience screenings which would help direct caregivers and healthcare providers to the resources necessary to address childhood trauma to improve long term health.
Hopefully, these screenings and the total upheaval of the juvenile justice system will help more young people be directed to health resources rather than correctional facilities.