Juvenile justice practice in California at a crossroads

With the decline in the use of state youth prisons, California counties must develop and implement evidence-based strategies that address the needs of youth with special needs who once were committed to the state. This position is supported by findings contained in Renewing Juvenile Justice, a 2011 report commissioned by Sierra Health Foundation and written by the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice.
In the report, the researchers provide a comprehensive historical account of California’s juvenile justice system that illustrates the origins of the current system’s most concerning challenges. More importantly, it provides a direction for establishing a model 21st century juvenile justice system designed to improve outcomes for youth, their families and caregivers.
Designed to be a helpful tool for local jurisdictions to renew juvenile justice practice, the report offers policy recommendations to return practice to a restorative, rehabilitative approach and expand culturally responsive, community-based services for high-risk youthful offenders.

To create sustainable systems of care, juvenile justice, social service, mental health and education agencies will need to work together in ways they have not in the past. Because counties will be required to do more with less, they will need to more fully utilize existing funding streams like Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnostic, and Treatment (EPSDT) and wraparound service models to improve and expand community-based options that build local capacity to effectively care for their young people.
While this work presents a myriad of challenges, the end goal is clear, achievable and necessary: to ensure all young people involved in the juvenile justice system have an opportunity to lead healthy lives and reach their full potential.
Download the report on Sierra Health Foundation’s web site at www.sierrahealth.org/resources. To request a copy, e-mail info@sierrahealth.org.

Matt Cervantes has served as Program Officer at Sierra Health Foundation since 2008. With a focus on youth programming and grantmaking, he oversees the foundation’s emerging juvenile justice work; Healthy Youth/Healthy Regions, a study on the health and well-being of young people in the California Capital Region; and the REACH Youth Development Program.
Matt brings a great deal of experience in youth development, policy and advocacy to his work at the foundation. During his public health career, he has managed youth advocacy programs at the Yolo County Department of Health, the Great Valley Region of the American Cancer Society, the California Youth Advocacy Network and the Western States Affiliate of the American Heart Association. A fellow of Sierra Health Foundation’s Health Leadership Program, Matt has a passion for ensuring youth not only have a “seat at the table,” but are given the opportunity and space to contribute in meaningful ways.

Updated: February 08 2018