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California state auditor finds positives in shifting juveniles to county care

September 11, 2012 | 10:01 am

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The number of juvenile criminal offenders in state custody and supervision has been cut significantly since the state in 2007 began shifting nonviolent offenders to county supervision, the state auditor found in an evaluation of the five-year effort.

To save the state money and improve services to non-serious offenders, the Legislature in 2007 approved a bill that ended the intake of nonviolent minors to the state Division of Juvenile Facilities, stipulating that the counties should handle custody and care from then on. The audit found the number of juvenile offenders in state custody dropped from 5,400 in 2007 to 2,500 as of June 2011, but that number has continued to drop and now is at less than 1,000.

It also directed that non-serious, youthful offenders released on parole after September 2007 also become the responsibilities of counties.

Auditor Elaine Howle said her audit found that unclear goals and poor data collection by an oversight panel prevented a "meaningful assessment'' of the program and made it  hard to determine  whether the realignment is working as intended, but she said her staff found positive impacts in talking to officials in  Los Angeles, San Diego, Sacramento and Yuba counties.

"Without clear goals, measuring whether realignment has been successful is challenging," Howle wrote to Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature. "Nonetheless, the chief probation officers of the four counties we visited all believe that realignment has been effective based on various indicators, such as a reduction in juvenile crime, new and enhanced services, and reduced state costs."

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-- Patrick McGreevy in Sacramento

 Photo:  Youths march single file to classrooms at the Fred C. Nellus Youth Correctional Facility in Whittier before it was closed in 2004. The state has scaled back its role in jailing juvenile offenders, sending nonviolent minors to counties for custody and supervision. Credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

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