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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.

Critique of Maryland's Population Forecast: No Call for a New Youth Detention Facility

July 1, 2010

NCCD, one of the nation's oldest and most respected criminal justice research organizations, has reviewed the bed space needs forecast reported in Maryland's Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services (DPS) Project Program for New Youth Detention Center (Revised December, 2007) and found serious methodological fl aws that put into question the accuracy of its projections. A forecast based on a sound method would almost certainly produce substantially different estimates of future bed space needs for youth transferred to the adult system in Baltimore.DPS projected that a new youth detention center would require at least 180 cells for youth who are awaiting trial in the adult criminal justice system. The new facility design creates a capacity of 230 youth.After a brief summary of findings, this NCCD report describes shortcomings of the DPS forecast in the light of best practices in the field.Summary of FindingsNon-current data.The forecast was made in 2007 and therefore does not account for changes in the past three years. The DPS forecast assumes rises in key factors which actually have been dropping in recent years, such as Baltimore's youth population and youth arrests.Inappropriate aggregate analysis.The DPS forecast attempts to estimate bed space needs in two facilities -- one for youth, one for women -- using a single forecast. Youth and women differ in many ways relevant to the system and therefore should be analyzed separately.Incorrect population data.The DPS projection uses aggregate population data, including youth of all ages and adults. Instead, the forecast should be based only on the segment of the Baltimore population eligible for the proposed youth facility.Incorrect arrest data.The DPS forecast uses a single level of analysis based on arrests for all ages, including adults. The forecast should be based on system data only for the types of offenders the facility will serve.Apparent lack of an independent researcher.The DPS report does not indicate who conducted the forecast; no outside consultant is mentioned. Research and analysis by independent researchers provides the best assurance possible that no unintentional bias impacts the process.No consideration of alternatives.The DPS forecast does not consider changes in policy and practice that would most likely reduce commitments and length of stay such as: risk assessment and standardized decision making in detention decisions; court processing reforms; diversion for substance abusers and mentally ill youth; and increased use of alternatives such as community supervision, house arrest, and electronic/GPS monitoring.NCCD concludes that the DPS forecast cannot be relied upon to accurately estimate future facility needs in Baltimore. Perhaps the strongest indication that the 2007 DPS forecast is unreliable is that recent population trends in the current facility -- that is, the number of youth being held at the Baltimore City Detention Center -- show a strong decline. While DPS projected a need for 178 beds by 2010, as of May of this year there were just 92 youth held in the current facility, just over 50% of the DPS forecast.1 We strongly recommend that DPS conduct a new forecast using current, youth-specific data, and more reliable methodology.

The Extravagance of Imprisonment Revisited

January 15, 2010

This report analyzes prison and jail populations in the US as a whole and in four key states -- California, Florida, New York, and Texas -- to determine 1) how many prisoners are nonserious offenders and what it costs to lock them up, 2) what proven effective alternatives are in use and what they cost, and 3) what savings could be realized if a portion of the nonserious offenders were sentenced to alternatives instead of prison and jail.

Children Exposed to Violence (Focus)

August 1, 2009

A review of the types of violence to which children are exposed, the effects of that violence on their development, and promising approaches for improving outcomes

Youth in Gangs: Who Is at Risk?

July 1, 2009

Youth gangs pose a significant challenge for communities across the United States, in urban, suburban, and rural areas alike. Nationwide, 23% of students report the presence of gangs at their schools (Dinkes, Kemp, & Baum, 2009), and approximately 35% of law enforcement agencies indicate gang problems (such as gang-related crime) in their jurisdictions (Egley & O'Donnell, 2009).(see footnote 1) Self-reported youth surveys show varying estimates of gang membership, from single digits among a national sample of students to about 30% among high-risk youth in large cities (Howell & Egley, 2009).For this Focus, NCCD analyzed data from national, state, and local youth surveys and drew on the results of previous gang research to provide a snapshot of youth gangs. This includes a summary of risk factors for gang membership and selected characteristics of gang-involved youth. California, which has faced significant and disproportionate levels of gang membership for decades, serves as a state case study. The local data highlight the San Francisco Bay Area cities of Oakland and Richmond; both Oakland and Richmond have entrenched gang problems and very high homicide rates.(see footnote 2)

Attitudes of US Voters toward Nonserious Offenders and Alternatives to Incarceration

June 1, 2009

In April, 2009, NCCD commissioned Zogby International to conduct a national public opinion poll about American voter attitudes toward our nation's response to nonviolent, nonserious crime. The results showed that striking majorities favor using methods other than incarceration to respond to nonserious crime.

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.

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.

Attitudes of US Voters toward Prisoner Rehabilitation and Reentry Policies (FOCUS)

April 1, 2006

In February, 2006, NCCD commissioned Zogby International to conduct a national public opinion poll about American attitudes toward rehabilitation and reentry of prisoners into their home communities. The results of the poll showed that striking majorities favor rehabilitation as a major goal of incarceration.

California Corrections at the Crossroads (FOCUS)

March 22, 2005

California was once a leader in innovative corrections legislation and programming. However, over the last 20 years, a number of factors have left the state with a huge and dysfunctional criminal justice system in dire need of reform. This publication addresses the many issues that contribute to the need for major reforms in the California corrections system and the first strategic steps toward achieving those reforms.

Attitudes of Californians Toward Effective Correctional Policies (FOCUS)

June 24, 2004

Over the past several decades, California has experimented with a variety of sentencing policies to reduce crime. Most of those reforms have emphasized punishment rather than rehabilitation. Survey data reported in this publication suggest that the state's public is looking for a reconsideration of these policies.