Each year, there are over 200,000 arrests of juveniles in California. While many young people learn their lesson, too many offend again and again. Several intensive interventions are proven to prevent juveniles from re-offending. For example, the Functional Family Therapy program cut re-arrests by participants in half and saved $14 for every $1 invested, and the lower-cost Aggression Replacement Training program cut re-arrests by 24 percent and saved $25 for every dollar invested.
Enacted in 2000, the Juvenile Justice Crime Prevention Act (JJCPA) provides a dedicated funding stream for local juvenile justice programs designed to curb juvenile crime, including intensive family interventions, after-school programs for at-risk teens, gang and truancy prevention, job training and diversion programs. JJCPA currently supports over 160 programs in 56 participating counties, and serves more than 100,000 at-risk and delinquent youth annually. According to the State Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, non-participating youth are consistently 20 to 30 percent more likely to be arrested than youth in JJCPA-funded programs. JJCPA funding is linked to the Citizens’ Option for Public Safety (COPS) program, which funds local law enforcement agencies for front-line public safety services.
However, the need for proven interventions for juvenile offenders far outpaces the supply of available funding. For example, in light of repeated budget cuts, current JJCPA funding falls far short of its original $121 million funding level in 2000-2001, without even taking into account the increased cost of living since then. As a result, many counties have been forced to cut the number of JJCPA programs available and/or reduce the amount of services provided in ongoing programs. Moreover, only a few counties are implementing proven intensive family interventions: at most, only 4 percent of eligible young offenders are receiving one of these proven programs.
Full funding of JJCPA is also especially critical given the recent enactment of juvenile justice reform through SB 81 in 2007. To be successful, juvenile justice reform needs to build on the success of existing interventions, rather than merely compensate for cuts to existing programs. In fact, the Department of Finance cited the success of JJCPA in framing its reform proposal, crediting it with deterring “countless thousands” of juveniles from ending up in custody.
We also support continued full funding of the Youthful Offender Block Grant (YOBG), which was enacted through SB 81’s juvenile justice reform. SB 81 limited the categories of offenders that can be housed in state custody (formerly known as the California Youth Authority or “CYA”), and appropriated YOBG funding to counties to provide enhanced services for the increased number of offenders who will remain under county supervision. Twenty counties are using YOBG funding for proven interventions, including Aggression Replacement Training and Functional Family Therapy.