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A New Era in California Juvenile Justice

October 1, 2010

Behind the media and political attention focused on California prisons, which are plagued with severe levels of crowding, and a federal court order to reduce the inmate population by over 40,000, lies one of California's best-kept secrets: the state's youth correctional custodial population has declined over 80% in just over the past decade. Just since 2004 the California Youth Authority (CYA) population declined by over 5,000 inmates. The state has already closed five major juvenile facilities and four forestry camps for juvenile offenders.A number of factors have contributed significantly to the drop in the population of the CYA. The most frequently cited is the very negative media publicity in the early 2000s about the conditions inside facilities, the case of Farrell v. Harper in 2003, and realignment legislation passed in 2007 that required that more youthful offenders be managed at the county level. However, the CYA population began declining as early as 1997. The trend towards increased costs for counties to send youth to the CYA, and doubt that the CYA was an appropriate setting for many of the youth being sent there, had already begun in the late 1990s.While no single factor accounts for the drastic change in the CYA population, the research presented here points to multiple forces that came together in the mid- to late-1990s and early 2000s to change public perception, judicial behaviors, probation programs, sentencing policies, and state funding streams.We also find that this population reduction is particularly notable because it did not result in an increase in juvenile crime, as some had erroneously predicted.

Special Report: Crime and Economic Hard Times

February 21, 2009

As concerns over the current economic situation continue to grow, the question of the correlation between increased crime and a depressed economy has resurfaced. Do economic instability and its discontents, such as unemployment, reduced wages, and reduced social services lead to a general increase in criminal activity? News stories about a supposed rise in crime caused by the economic crisis are appearing regularly around the country. Recent reports by Associated Press, the Los Angeles Times, and USA Today seem to start from the assumption of a distinct and causal relationship. In addition, articles often focus on one city's problems. For example, the Times headline reads "Crime continues to fall in Los Angeles despite bad economy," while USA Today cites residents of Fitchburg, Massachusetts, who are convinced that "Desperate people do desperate things" because their city has seen an increase in property crimes. Both the causes of crime and the workings of the economy are immensely complex questions, and a clear, direct relationship is nearly impossible to prove.Crime stems from a multitude of variables including economic measures, demographic dynamics, health indicators, and social safety nets.There is very little conclusive research on the relationship between crime and the economy. This report examines the question using state and national data. A review of the literature discusses how this topic has been studied to date and is followed by an NCCD analysis that examines criminal justice data in conjunction with economic recessions and expansions.

Youth Violence Myths and Realities: A Tale of Three Cities

February 12, 2009

A study of media coverage of youth violence, actual crime data, and interviews with committed youth and the professionals that work with them.

Testimony - Youth Violence Myths and Realities: A Tale of Three Cities

February 11, 2009

Testimony by Dr. Barry Krisberg, President of the National Council on Crime and Delinquency, to the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security.

Rebuilding the Infrastructure for At-risk Youth

February 5, 2009

The term "at-risk youth" generally refers to those ages 10 to 17, vulnerable to delinquency, violence, substance abuse, or involvement with the justice system. Though definitions vary, the risk factors remain fairly constant: prior history of violence, poor family functioning, severe substance abuse, poverty, negative peer influences such as gangs, and school failure.Despite, or maybe due to, the inherent limitations of the juvenile justice system to positively impact families and communities, many services for at-risk youth have emerged in the form of neighborhood collaboratives, before- and after-school programs, family support systems, and diversion programs designed to keep youth out of the juvenile justice system. Unfortunately, in the past eight years, these programs have received little attention, and many cuts in the federal budget have had devastating consequences for our nation's children and future. The Bush Administration radically reduced funding for a wide range of services and programs. NCCD strongly recommends reinstating an infrastructure that we know helps youth stay out of trouble while improving the conditions of juvenile detention facilities so that they are safe and rehabilitative.

Breaking the Cycle of Abuse in Juvenile Facilities

February 1, 2009

A special account of abuse of youth in custody in California, Texas, Florida, and Indiana and recommendations for reform.

Getting the Genie Back in the Bottle: California's Prison Gulag (Special Report)

December 30, 2008

An essay from NCCD president Barry Krisberg on the growth of the prison complex in California and what the state could do about it.

The Declining Number of Youth in Custody in the Juvenile Justice System

August 13, 2008

During the last decade, custody rates for youth in the US have declined significantly. This Focus describes this trend by race/ethnicity, gender, and state. Measured by arrest rates, juvenile crime, especially serious crime, has also decreased during this period, contrary to a prevalent misconception that young people pose a growing threat to society.

Accelerated Release: A Literature Review (FOCUS)

January 10, 2008

A review of 13 major studies in the US and Canada on the accelerated release of prisoners and its impact on public safety.

Continuing the Struggle for Justice: 100 Years of the National Council on Crime and Delinquency

April 25, 2007

A collection of essays and original research studies that capture the varied spectrum of philosophies and concerns of the Board and staff of the National Council on Crime and Delinquency over the past century.

Attitudes of US Voters Toward Youth Crime and the Justice System

February 15, 2007

In January, 2007, NCCD commissioned Zogby International to conduct a national public opinion poll about American attitudes toward our nation's response to youth crime. The results of this poll showed that striking majorities favor rehabilitative services for young people and, despite a lack of confidence in the juvenile system, are largely opposed to prosecuting youth in the adult court and incarcerating youth in adult facilities.The public apparently recognizes that young people need and deserve assistance and forbearance on the part of society and its institutions. It is clear from the survey responses that most of the American voting public thinks that giving young people the help they need to mature, learn, and overcome the mistakes of youth is key to enhanced public safety.

Stopping Sexual Assaults in Juvenile Corrections Facilities: A Case Study of the California Division of Juvenile Justice

June 5, 2006

Testimony of President Barry Krisberg before the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission.