In 2020, California’s legislature voted to dissolve the state Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) and make counties responsible for rehabilitating young people convicted of serious crimes. Instead of confining youth far away from home, the “realignment” aimed to keep them connected to their families and communities, which research shows is critical to their success, and vastly improve the conditions of confinement.
The bill, SB 823, required each county to convene a subcommittee tasked with developing a plan. Staff of the Research and Action Center served as expert consultants to the subcommittees in Alameda and Contra Costa counties, with a focus on ensuring the plans were informed by the experiences of system-involved youth and their families.
We organized and led focus groups to mine firsthand experiences, marshaled national experts, prepared briefing papers, and facilitated committee meetings, to provide each subcommittee with the information they needed to ensure that realignment actually benefited youth in Alameda and Contra Costa counties. For example, we invited Dr. Monique Khumalo to talk to committee members about how to create trauma-informed spaces for youth and why it’s essential. Our briefing papers focused, for example, on gender-specific programming to meet the different needs of girls and gender expansive youth, and how to create a community-based step-down program for youth leaving custody. The Alameda County SB 823 Realignment Plan and Contra Costa County SB 823 Realignment Plan are both available online.
We continue to work with both counties. In Alameda County, we’re tracking implementation of the plan through 2024. In Contra Costa County, we’re helping the subcommittee incorporate all recommendations, create benchmarks, and analyze data through 2025, in addition to completing our own independent evaluation of the plan and impacts.