By the time children enter the criminal justice system, they have typically endured tremendous stress, abuse and neglect, and, when incarcerated, are often traumatized further, according to the 2020 California Children’s Report Card provided by Children Now.
This, plus the fact that current brain research shows that the section of a teen’s brain which weighs consequences is typically not fully developed until at least age 25, means that children simply cannot be handled as mini-adults. Rather, they must be provided with treatment appropriate for their age and level of development and which takes into account their ability to change and mature.
We are Making a Difference.
Everychild Foundation first became involved with juvenile justice issues when it awarded its 2003 grant to Optimist Youth Homes and Family Services. The gift funded construction of a new learning center for kids exiting the justice system and transitioning back into the community. Our interactions with Optimist helped our members become more familiar with the deep needs of this very neglected population and the failure of the County of Los Angeles Probation Department to address them.
Everychild Founder, Jacqueline Caster, in particular, has since become an outspoken critic of the Department which runs the County’s juvenile incarceration facilities. She has been published in the Los Angeles Times and frequently quoted in local news coverage.* During the Obama Administration, she was a participant in two different White House convenings on juvenile justice matters. Currently, she serves on the Los Angeles County Probation Commission which conducts inspections of the juvenile facilities and is a member of a task force authorized by the Board of Supervisors to create a blueprint for a reformed system. The mandate is to design a system focused upon well-being of the youth in its care instead of the existing failed punishment-based model that only leads more youth toward the path to adult incarceration. One of her strong areas of focus has been to assure that any system includes an independent grievance process for the youth to assure better care and protection of their rights and general transparency.
Other issues of importance to the Committee include:
The members of our Juvenile Justice Task Force have supported numerous pieces of state legislation related to sentencing reform that has been signed into law by the Governor. In some cases, members made calls and visits to decision-makers, and, in others, encouraged the general Everychild membership to join them in writing letters and emails. Some of the more recent successful bills supported are below:
AB 1308 – Signed by Governor, 2017: Amends Penal Code Section 3501, which provided that the Board of Parole conduct youth offender parole hearings to consider the release of offenders who committed specified crimes when they were under 23 years of age and who were sentenced to state prison. The amendment instead requires the Board of Parole Hearings to conduct youth offender parole hearings for offenders sentenced to state prison who committed those specified crimes when they were 25 years of age or younger. The law required the board to complete, by January 1, 2020, all youth offender parole hearings for individuals who were sentenced to indeterminate life terms who become entitled to have their parole suitability considered at a youth offender parole hearing on the effective date of the bill. The bill also requires the board to complete all youth offender parole hearings for individuals who were sentenced to determinate terms who become entitled to have their parole suitability considered at a youth offender parole hearing on the effective date of the bill by January 1, 2022, and required the board, for these individuals, to conduct a specified consultation before January 1, 2019. A letter was sent to Gov. Brown September 2017.
SB 9 – Signed by Governor, September 2012: Allows youth sentenced to die in prison the chance to petition for reconsideration of the sentences after they have served 15 years; at that point, judges will have the option to change a sentence from life without parole to 25 years to life. Many calls and letters were sent to key Senators, including several conversations with one who turned out to be the critical swing voter, and to the Governor.
SB 190 – Signed by Governor, October 11, 2017: Abolishes all administrative fees in juvenile delinquency cases. Previously, California gave counties the discretion to impose a variety of fees in juvenile cases, and every county in the state, except, San Francisco chose to impose some or all of the fees. SB 190 eliminates the ability of counties to assess fees for justice-involved youth related to incarceration, legal representation, electronic monitoring, probation of home supervision, or drug testing. Letter sent to Governor Brown September 25, 2017.
SB 260 – Signed by Governor, September 2013: Requires the Board of Parole Hearings to conduct a youth offender parole hearing to consider release of offenders who committed specified crimes prior to being 18 years of age and who were sentenced to state prison. The bill makes a person eligible for release on parole at a youth offender parole hearing during the 15th year of incarceration if the person meeting these criteria received a determinate sentence, during the 20th year if the person received a sentence that was less than 25 years to life, and during the 25th year of incarceration if the person received a sentence that was 25 years to life. The bill requires the board, in reviewing a prisoner’s suitability for parole, to give great weight to the diminished culpability of juveniles as compared to adults, the hallmark features of youth, and any subsequent growth and increased maturity of the prisoner in accordance with relevant case law. Letters and calls were made to various key State Senators and to the Governor.
SB 394 – Signed by Governor, October 11, 2017: Makes a person who was convicted of a controlling offense that was committed before the person had attained 18 years of age and for which a life sentence without the possibility of parole had been imposed eligible for release on parole by the board during his or her 25th year of incarceration at a youth offender parole hearing. The bill requires the board to complete, by July 1, 2020, all hearings for individuals who are or will be entitled to have their parole suitability considered at a youth offender parole hearing by these provisions before July 1, 2020. Letters were sent to Governor Brown September 25, 2017.
SB 395 – Signed by the Governor, October 11, 2017: Requires that a youth 15 years of age or younger consult with legal counsel in person, by telephone, or by video conference prior to a custodial interrogation and before specified rights. The bill prohibits a waiver of the consultation, requires a court to consider the effect of the failure to comply with the above-specified requirement in adjudicating the admissibility of statements of a youth 15 years of age or younger made during or after a custodial interrogation and clarifies that these provisions do not apply to the admissibility of statements of a youth 15 years of age or younger if certain criteria are met. Letter sent to Governor Brown September 25, 2017.
SB 439 – Signed by Governor, September 30, 2018; Sets a minimum age (12) for juvenile court prosecution. Letter of support was sent to Chair, State Senate Committee on Public Safety Nancy Skinner on March 31, 2017.
SB 1391 – Signed by Governor, September 2018: Ends transfer of children, ages 14 and 15 to adult court. Letter of support was sent to Chair of Public Safety Nancy Skinner on March 22, 2018. Members were also encouraged to send letters
Everychild has also been integrally involved in convincing Los Angeles County officials to adopt the highly-renowned Missouri Model restorative justice approach to youth incarceration. In 2008, Ms. Caster organized a trip with an array of county officials, advocates, and academics to Kansas City to meet with the creator of the model, Mark Steward, and to tour its facilities. The trip helped to inspire the County to build a new facility, Campus Kilpatrick in Malibu, which replaced a former traditional camp. Youth at the rebuilt campus live in small cottages instead of a large dormitory, and the co-residents bond as a family unit and learn anger management. They participate in ongoing trauma-informed therapeutic group sessions and their parents are incorporated into the treatment plan. With some tweaks to the original Missouri Model, the Kilpatrick program is referred to as The Los Angeles Model.
In 2011, Everychild Foundation’s annual grant funded a “diversion program” at Centinela Youth Services. The program provides eligible youth offenders with a fresh start and for charges to be dropped if they participate in a therapeutic program which includes victim-offender mediation. Youth would be diverted to the program delinquency court judges. The system was deemed a success as recidivism rates of participating youth were lower compared to non-participants.
However, it soon became evident that the youth would be even better served being diverted earlier, right after arrest, instead of waiting weeks or months for their courtroom appearance. As a result, Ms. Caster approached Chief Beck, then head of the Los Angeles Police Department to initiate a pilot program in their 77th and Southeast districts. The program was, in fact, launched, becoming the first arrest diversion program in the State of California. Due to its effectiveness in reducing recidivism rates even further, it was quickly expanded to other LAPD districts and many other cities in the County (Compton, Hawthorne, and Huntington Park to name just a few). It later helped serve as part of the inspiration for the creation of the County’s new Office of Youth Diversion and Development.
Currently, the Task Force is most focused upon the following issues:
- Assuring Campus Kilpatrick’s Los Angeles Model is implemented with fidelity
- Continued advocacy for the move toward a system of care addressing mental health needs of juvenile offenders and to provide appropriate treatment to incarcerated youth in lieu of solitary confinement and physical force
- More transparency and accountability from the County, especially pertaining to the state Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Act funding stream for preventive services
- More enrichment, academic and social services for youth while under the County’s care
- Increased focus on the County’s youth diversion efforts to keep the referrals going