Criminal Justice Reforms in the State of California

The State of California has opted to close its youth prisons in a bid to reform the criminal juvenile justice system. The state currently runs four prisons that house youth offenders aged between 13 and 25 years old. The facilities include:

  • Ventura Youth Correctional Facility, Camarillo, Ventura County.
  • N.A. Chaderjian Youth Correctional Facility, Stockton, San Joaquin County.
  • Pine Grove Youth Conservation Camp, Pine Grove, Amador County.
  • O.H. Close Youth Correctional Facility Stockton, San Joaquin County.

Typically, the county jail located in the jurisdiction where the youth is charged with a crime initially holds them. Upon conviction of a serious offense, such persons are transferred to the youth prisons. There have been some criticisms about this process due to the conditions in which the offenders are housed in the prisons. The prison environment that youth offenders are sentenced to is quite similar to adult prisons. It exposes the youths to cruel conditions that impede their rehabilitation process.

Upon the passing of the Senate Bill 823 signed into law, the state decided to take a big step towards reforming the youth criminal justice system by shutting down all youth prisons by June 30, 2023. Counties were also prohibited from referring youth offenders to state-run facilities as of July 1, 2021. This means that the government of each California county will be responsible for maintaining facilities to house and rehabilitate youth offenders sentenced by their county court. 

This law will see youth offenders closer to their community will result in a positive outlook for their rehabilitation process. Moreover, the conditions of the jail facilities of California counties are better than the state-run facilities. The juvenile offenders will have access to community resources such as education at the local schools. Data showing the test results of youth offenders in state-run facilities asserts that a sizable number of the participants fail to grade level. 

In a bid to develop youth criminal justice reform, the State of California has launched the Office of Youth and Community Restoration (OYCR). The OYCR will collaborate with the state Health & Human Services (CalHHS) Agency to use public health methods to introduce encouraging youth programs and assist youth offenders through their trauma. 

The state-run youth facilities currently only houses youth offenders convicted before the law, and counties have until the closure of these facilities to implement a process to house youth offenders sentenced within their jurisdiction.