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Juvenile Justice Crime Prevention Act

Weak Oversight Has Hindered Its Meaningful Implementation

Report Number: 2019-116



Juvenile justice realignment refers to the steps the Legislature has taken to transfer the responsibility for managing juvenile offenders from the State to counties. Generally, the Legislature based its realignment efforts on the idea that a rehabilitative model of care and treatment, which is an overarching goal of the juvenile justice system, is more successful when juveniles can be closer to their families or other sources of support, such as social services. In 1996 the Legislature amended state law regarding how counties paid for a share of the State’s cost to house juveniles in its custody. Specifically, the counties began paying a higher share of costs for lower‑level offenders to incentivize counties to manage less serious offenders locally. About 10 years later, the Legislature amended state law to limit the counties’ ability to send juvenile offenders to state juvenile facilities. At the same time, the State authorized reimbursing counties $300 million to construct or renovate local juvenile facilities. Also, in 2007 state law established the Youthful Offender Block Grant, which allocates state funding for counties to provide services related to the custody and parole of specific juvenile offenders whom the counties would previously have sent to state juvenile facilities. In 2011 the State acted to further realign revenues to local governments in areas related to criminal justice, mental health, and social services programs.

As a part of the 2011 realignment, the State modified how it funds certain existing programs for local agencies. For instance, although the Legislature enacted the Juvenile Justice Crime Prevention Act (JJCPA) in 2000, in 2011 the State shifted the funding source for the JJCPA to a realignment account.Throughout this report, we refer to the Schiff‑Cardenas Crime Prevention Act of 2000 as the Juvenile Justice Crime Prevention Act, as it is now known.  Despite the modification to the source of funding, the State has allocated funding to counties under the JJCPA for nearly 20 years with the goal of helping them reduce crime and delinquency among young people by implementing crime prevention strategies, among other activities. Crime prevention generally refers to a broad array of strategies and programs that address the root causes or risk factors associated with criminal behavior. A research project funded by the U.S. Department of Justice found that although few high‑quality evaluations exist that have measured the impact of crime prevention programs, these programs for children can reduce their serious offenses in their early adulthood. According to the 2018 Juvenile Justice in California report by the California Department of Justice, sources such as schools, parents, and law enforcement agencies referred about 65,000 juveniles—or less than 1 percent of all individuals under the age of 18 in California—to probation departments for determinations about how to proceed with each juvenile.

Required Components of a
JJCPA Comprehensive Plan

  • An assessment of existing services that specifically target at‑risk youth, juvenile offenders, and their families.
  • An identification and prioritization of neighborhoods, schools, and other areas in the community at significant risk of juvenile crime.
  • A local action strategy for implementing a continuum of responses to juvenile crime and delinquency that demonstrates a collaborative and integrated approach for responding to at‑risk youth and juvenile offenders.
  • A description of the programs, strategies, or system enhancements funded by the JJCPA.

Source: State law.

JJCPA Planning Requirements

Enacted in 2000, in part with the intent of reducing juvenile crime and delinquency, the JJCPA requires each county to implement a comprehensive multiagency juvenile justice plan (comprehensive plan). Counties must include in their comprehensive plans the four components that the text box lists. These components generally summarize counties’ holistic efforts to reduce juvenile crime. Specifically, the JJCPA requires counties to assess the existing services that various local entities, such as county probation departments or social services agencies, may provide juvenile offenders, at‑riskAB 413 (Chapter 800, Statutes of 2019) deleted the term “at-risk” used to describe youth for purposes of various provisions in the California Education and Penal Codes and replaced it with the term “at-promise.” However, the term “at-risk” currently remains in JJCPA as part of the California Government Code. As a result, we use the term “at-risk” consistent with the JJCPA throughout our report. youth, and their families. Counties must also identify and prioritize in their comprehensive plans the areas in their communities that face a significant risk of juvenile crime, including gang activity, vandalism, truancy, firearm‑related violence, and juvenile substance abuse and alcohol use.

Additionally, the JJCPA requires counties’ comprehensive plans to describe their local action strategies for providing a continuum of responses to juvenile crime and delinquency. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, an effective continuum of services and strategies offers a range of programs and services that provide “the right resources for the right individual at the right time.” Each local action strategy must also demonstrate a collaborative and integrated approach for implementing a system of swift, certain, and graduated responses for at‑risk youth and juvenile offenders. Essentially, counties should describe in this component how they plan to use their programs and services to respond, in collaboration with various local entities, to juvenile offenders and at‑risk youth.

Although the JJCPA requires comprehensive plans to include an assessment of existing resources and strategies for responding to both juvenile offenders and at‑risk youth, it does not explicitly define at‑risk youth. However, it is reasonable to conclude that at a minimum, at‑risk youth include youth who are at risk of committing crimes. Accordingly, the law leaves counties to develop their own definitions of the factors that may place youth at risk, based on the specific circumstances in their communities.

Lastly, the law requires counties to describe in their comprehensive plans the programs they will provide with their JJCPA funding. The JJCPA requires counties to base their programs on approaches that are effective in reducing juvenile crime and delinquency. For example, the Pew‑MacArthur Results First Initiative created the Results First Clearinghouse Database, an online resource that brings together information from nine national clearinghouses on the effectiveness of roughly 3,000 programs in social policy areas, such as criminal justice, behavioral health, and education.The Pew‑MacArthur Results First Initiative provides assistance and a suite of tools to help state and county leaders interested in using evidence to improve their programs and policies. Such a database can help counties identify programs for their specific needs and research their effectiveness. The JJCPA also requires that counties design JJCPA‑funded programs and strategies to provide data for measuring their success. For instance, counties could measure the rate of arrests for individuals who participated in a JJCPA‑funded program compared to the rate for those who did not participate in the program.

The JJCPA requires that each county establish a Juvenile Justice Coordinating Council (Coordinating Council) to develop, review, and annually update its comprehensive plan. State law designates the county’s chief probation officer as the chair of its Coordinating Council. In addition, a Coordinating Council must include at least one representative each from several county and local entities, such as the district attorney’s office, the sheriff’s department, the board of supervisors, the department of mental health, and a local education agency. The law also requires each Coordinating Council to include a representative from a community‑based drug and alcohol program and an at‑large community member, as well as representatives from community‑based organizations (CBOs)—nonprofit entities—providing services to minors. Although state law does not identify a maximum number of representatives from CBOs, it requires each Coordinating Council to inform the county board of supervisors of the participating organizations. Moreover, state law does not identify either the process counties should use to appoint representatives to their Coordinating Councils or how long the representatives may serve.

Allocation and Use of JJCPA Funding

The State provides JJCPA funding to counties based on their populations, and counties have broad discretion in how they use these funds. During fiscal year 2018–19, the State allocated almost $160 million in JJCPA funds to counties—an increase of nearly 50 percent from the amount the State allocated in fiscal year 2013–14. The State provides the funding through an annual guaranteed funding amount, as well as an additional variable amount if funds are available, known as growth funding. The State uses revenue from vehicle licensing fees, which vehicle owners pay annually in California, to fund counties’ JJCPA allocations. Table 1 shows the amounts paid to each of the five counties we reviewed—Kern, Los Angeles, Mendocino, San Joaquin, and Santa Barbara—from fiscal years 2013–14 through 2018–19. Although we found that these five counties used JJCPA funds primarily to pay for services and programs that their probation departments provided, counties may choose to direct JJCPA funds to other county departments or local entities. These can include county departments responsible for overseeing education, mental health, social services, health, and parks and recreation. In addition, counties may use JJCPA funds for contracts with CBOs to provide an array of programs, including individual or family counseling and job‑readiness training.

Table 1
The Five Counties We Reviewed Received a Total of Nearly $260 Million in JJCPA Funding in the Past Six Fiscal Years
(Dollars in Thousands)

Fiscal Year
KERN Los Angeles MENDOCINO San Joaquin Santa Barbara Statewide
2013–14 $2,508 $29,124 $258 $2,044 $1,256 $107,100
2014–15 2,738 31,548 280 2,229 1,361 113,800
2015–16 3,011 34,855 306 2,473 1,505 122,800
2016–17 3,161 36,549 317 2,612 1,590 138,500
2017–18 3,379 38,765 337 2,813 1,702 149,300
2018–19 3,619 41,194 358 3,028 1,815 159,300
Totals $18,416 $212,035 $1,856 $15,199 $9,229 $790,800

Source: State Controller’s Office payment documentation.

County Reporting Requirements and State Oversight

The Board of State and Community Corrections (Community Corrections) operates as a quasi‑oversight entity of the JJCPA at the state level, collecting information on the JJCPA programs and expenditures from counties and posting it to its website. State law established Community Corrections in 2012 as the successor to the Corrections Standards Authority, with a mission to provide statewide leadership, coordination, and technical assistance to promote effective state and local efforts and partnerships in California’s adult and juvenile criminal justice systems. As part of this mission, Community Corrections is responsible for collecting and maintaining specific information on adult corrections and juvenile justice. It is also responsible for collecting and making publicly available current information reflecting the impact of specified policies and practices, as well as data concerning promising and evidence‑based practices.

Community Corrections’ responsibility to collect and post information on the counties’ uses of JJCPA funds gives it a key role in ensuring transparency. State law requires counties to provide annual updated descriptions of the programs, strategies, and system enhancements they fund with their JJCPA allocations and an accounting of the expenditures associated with each to Community Corrections. Further, based on available information, counties must summarize or analyze how these programs, strategies, or enhancements may have contributed to or influenced the countywide juvenile justice data trends, such as the number of arrests, incarcerations, and probation violations. State law requires Community Corrections to post on its website a description or summary of the information provided by each county and to provide a report to the Governor and Legislature that includes a summary of the counties’ programs by March 1 each year.

Although Community Corrections collects, posts, and summarizes information the counties provide, state law no longer requires it to review or approve counties’ comprehensive plans or to analyze and interpret their year‑end reports. In 2014 state law established the California Juvenile Justice Data Working Group (Working Group) and tasked it with recommending options to coordinate and modernize state and local juvenile justice data systems by, in part, identifying changes or upgrades to improve the capacity and utility of their data. At the time, the State required counties to report outcome data for the programs they funded with JJCPA funds. The Working Group issued a report in April 2015 that concluded that program‑specific outcome data revealed little about whether youth in funded programs did better than other youth or about whether the programs reduced crime. Further, the report stated that the data did not provide a coherent picture of progress to assess the impact of the JJCPA and youth grant funds on systemwide results. Therefore, the Working Group recommended that counties instead report data for all justice‑involved juveniles in the county’s system, rather than just those participating in funded programs, and describe how the JJCPA‑funded programs comprehensively contributed to or influenced systemwide trends. As a result, in 2016 the Legislature amended state law to eliminate the requirement for counties to report specific outcome information about participants of JJCPA‑funded programs.

Additionally, state law previously required each county to submit separate plans for the JJCPA and the Youthful Offender Block Grant, which is a grant funded by a source other than the JJCPA, and it also required Community Corrections to review and approve these plans. Under current state law, each county submits a comprehensive plan that must include the JJCPA‑required components along with Youthful Offender Block Grant information. Rather than reviewing and approving the plans, Community Corrections is required only to post a description or summary of the counties’ programs, strategies, or system enhancements to its website. Community Corrections is responsible for specifying the format in which counties submit their comprehensive plans and year‑end reports.

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