Juvenile Halls Empty Across California

According to newly released data, there has been a huge decrease in the number of youth incarcerated across California over the past decade. Programs that target at-risk youth and their families are working, despite the predictions made by some political figures a decade ago. The California Prison system has been able to decrease the amount of youth that come into the system by easing laws and procedures when it comes to youth and making the quality of their life outside of jail or school a priority, rather than only reprimanding youth for crimes.

According to Chief Probation Officer Adolfo Gonzales of the San Diego County, just 311 youth are being held inside the county’s prisons and camps, the same camps which held 1,008 youth in 2010. This plummet has not only taken place in the San Diego, but in counties all across California.

In 2002, 4,212 youth were incarcerated in Los Angeles; this year, Los Angeles holds 1,250 incarcerated youth. In Sacramento County, those numbers went from 590 youth in 2006 to just 215 youth today.

A study done by MIT scholar Joseph Doyle back in 2015 focused on the effects of youth incarceration. The study found that juvenile incarceration decreases the probability of youth completing high school and increased the probability of youth entering the prison system as adults.

Sacramento County, along with many other counties in California, are changing their focus when it comes to handling at-risk youth because they are finding positive change in the work that they have been doing now within the past decade.

“When I came here over a decade ago, it was the height of overcrowding in the California Prison System. You didn’t have enough staff, there was very little rehabilitative programming. I was committed to not repeating those mistakes,” says Sacramento County Chief Probation Officer Lee Seale.

Sacramento County’s Juvenile Hall was just recognized nationally by receiving the 2018 Performance-Based Standards Barbara Allen-Hagen Award. The award was created to honor Barbara Allen-Hagen, an advocate for improving juvenile hall facilities. This is Sacramento’s third time winning this award in the past seven years, according to SacCounty News.

The Sacramento Juvenile Hall also partnered with the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Sacramento in June of 2014. Last August, the Sacramento Youth Detention Facility was recognized as one of the top ten national finalists in a Boys & Girls Clubs of America contest.

“The Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Sacramento juvenile hall program focuses on supporting the kids that truly need us the most by providing hope, opportunity, and programs designed to ensure our members are empowered to make good choices and stay on a positive path towards a productive future,” said CEO Kimberly Key of Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Sacramento.

After Prop 21 was passed in 2001, a proposition that aimed to bring more youth offenders into the adult criminal justice system and increase penalties for youth, more funding was put into crime prevention.

“It is collaborative efforts with our officers, community-based organizations, the courts, counselors, and educators that are having a major impact in the “rehabilitation” of minors that have crossed into the justice system,” says Coleen Kincheloe, Assistant Chief Deputy of the Sacramento Probation Department.