A Call for Shared Sacrifice on Juvenile Corrections Budget
By Brian Heller de Leon
Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice
The Senate and Assembly Budget Subcommittees on Public Safety are being pressured to reconsider the Governor’s revised cost-saving proposal for the state’s youth correctional system, the Division of Juvenile Facilities (commonly referred to as DJJ). Law enforcement agencies are demanding that the Legislature reduce or eliminate the new $24,000 per ward fee structure, which was proposed by the Governor’s office in the May revised budget.
This amount greatly contributes to the $24.8 million in cost savings that the proposed budget targets for the state’s youth prison system. The figure already represents a significant reduction from the Governor’s January 2012-13 juvenile justice realignment proposal, which would have amounted to approximately $200 million in savings to the state over time.
Mid-year budget triggers already cut $980 million from California’s UC & Cal State system, community colleges, libraries, K-12 education, disabled services, and in-home support services, while DJF was spared $67.7 million in mid-year cuts. As youth corrections received this budget reprieve, the Governor’s revised budget made even deeper cuts to necessary public sectors.
Among those cuts:
• California’s judicial system will be cut by $544 million
• $250 cuts to the Cal State University system
• $880 million reductions to CalWorks
• $1.2 billion cut to MediCal
• $452 million in cuts to child care providers
• $225 million in cuts to in-home support services for the elderly and disabled
• Other cuts include reductions to the CalGrant program for low-income students and additional cuts to community colleges, among others .
The public is frustrated with the continuing exemptions made for juvenile and adult corrections in the midst of these record budget deficits. The Governor has called for shared sacrifice and sectors across the state are certainly feeling these cuts. It is clear that counties will be more than able to adapt to increased fees for DJF, as a majority already serve the bulk of their 707b offenders locally.
The state is already spending 20-25 times the per capita investment on youth offenders as it is on students in our UC, Cal State, K-12, and community college systems. With an 80% recidivism rate, the DJF should receive a failing grade yet legislators are asked to protect an expensive and unnecessary institution time and time again.
CJCJ has requested the Governor to stand firm against pressure from these law enforcement associations. Elimination of the $24,000 fee means that $19.9 million in additional cuts would come out of education, social services, health care access for low-income families, or even deeper cuts to the courts.
It is time for the Governor and the Legislature to recognize and address the unnecessary costs to maintain the state’s youth correctional system. The budget "pie" is only so big, especially during an economic downturn. When corrections budgets are spared, the cuts fall elsewhere.
Brian Heller de Leon is the Policy and Government Outreach Coordinator for the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice, where this article was originally published.
He has a background in community organizing, police-community
relations, and the implementation of national best-practice strategies
for youth and gang violence reduction.