Analysis of the 2008-09 Budget Bill: Criminal Justice

Juvenile Justice (5225)

Who Is in the Division of Juvenile Facilities?

The Division of Juvenile Facilities (DJF), the statutory name for the agency often referred to as the Division of Juvenile Justice, is responsible for the housing, supervision, and rehabilitation of individuals that have been committed to their custody. There are several ways that an individual can be committed to the DJF’s institution and camp populations, including:

Characteristics of Wards. Wards in DJF institutions are generally between the ages of 14 and 24, with an average age of just over 19½. Males comprise about 95 percent of the ward population. Latinos make up the largest ethnic group in DJF institutions, accounting for 52 percent of the total population. African–Americans make up 31 percent of the population, whites are 13 percent, and Asians and others are just over 4 percent.

Institutional Population Modestly Lower Than Estimated

The institutional population projection for the Division of Juvenile Facilities appears to be somewhat higher than recent ward population data indicate. However, the projected parole population appears to be slightly understated when compared to the most current data. Accordingly, we recommend the request for population funding be reduced by $4 million for 2007–08 and by $9 million for 2008–09. We will continue to monitor the caseload and will recommend further changes, if necessary, following review of the May Revision. (Reduce Item 5225–001–0001 by $9 million.)

Juvenile Institution Population Decrease. As of June 30, 2007, 2,516 wards resided in DJF facilities. The department forecasts the ward population will decrease to 1,703 wards by June 30, 2009, a projected two–year decrease of 813 wards, or about 32 percent, compared to the beginning of the current fiscal year. Figure 1 shows the year–end ward and parole populations for the period 1998 through 2009.

Division of Juvenile Justice Institutions and Parole Populations

The projected decrease in the ward population is primarily the result of the enactment of Chapter 175, Statutes of 2007 (SB 81, Committee on Budget and Fiscal Review). Under this statute, nonviolent and nonserious juvenile offenders are no longer being accepted into DJF facilities and are instead remaining at the local level. Counties may also choose to take back to local custody offenders meeting these criteria who are now in DJF institutions. In accordance with Chapter 175, counties are receiving state block grant funds to provide local supervision and services for juvenile offenders. For a more comprehensive discussion of these changes, please see the Analysis of the 2007–08 Budget Bill (page D–148) and the California Spending Plan, 2007–08 (page 43).

Juvenile Parole Population Decrease. As of June 30, 2007, CDCR supervised 2,765 youthful offenders on parole. The department forecasts the parole population will decrease to 2,175 by June 30, 2009, a projected two–year decrease of 590 parolees, or about 21 percent. The projected decrease in parole population is largely the result of provisions in Chapter 175 which also requires that all nonviolent and nonserious offenders released from DJF on parole eventually be supervised by county probation officers rather than state parole agents.

As Figure 1 shows, beginning in 2004, the parole population is slightly greater than the institution population and is projected to remain greater through 2009. This is primarily a result of (1) a declining rate of new admissions into DJF, due to the legislation discussed above, and (2) an increasing average length of time that wards are on parole. The increase in the average length of stay on parole results from the fact that wards retained by DJF following Chapter 175 will be increasingly made up of more serious offenders.

Fiscal and Housing Implications of Population Changes. Despite this decline in population, the budget plan for DJF requests an additional $3.1 million from the General Fund in the current year associated with the caseload. This is partially due to unexpected delays in the closure of the DeWitt Nelson Youth Correctional Facility, which we discuss further below. However, the budget does reflect a large reduction in caseload–related costs during the 2008–09 fiscal year relative to the 2007–08 Budget Act spending level of about $57 million General Fund.

The declining population of wards has resulted in a proposal in the Governor’s budget to close two youth correctional facilities by August 2008. The 2007–08 Budget Act reflected a plan to close DeWitt Nelson Youth Correctional Facility (located in Stockton) by June 2008. However, due to unexpected delays, the closure date is now proposed in the 2008–09 Governor’s budget to be August 2008. The budget plan also proposes to close the El Paso de Robles Youth Correctional Facility (in Paso Robles) about that same time. The administration does not currently have a plan for the reuse or disposition of the closed facilities.

Due to declining parolee populations, the Governor’s budget proposes that several parole field offices be consolidated during 2008–09.

Some Variance in Recent Numbers From Budget Plan Assumptions. Recent population data indicate that the number of wards in DJF institutions may be modestly lower than is assumed in the budget, while actual parole population appears to be somewhat higher than the budget assumes. If these trends hold, the net effect would be that DJF is overbudgeted from the General Fund by as much as $4 million in the current year and $9 million in the budget year.

However, it is possible these trends could change significantly between now and the May Revision, when the administration will update the budget to reflect any further population adjustments that are warranted.

Analyst’s Recommendation. Given the recent ward population trends, we recommend the caseload funding request be reduced by $4 million for 2007–08 and $9 million for 2008–09. Further appropriate adjustments should be made to Proposition 98 and federal funds associated with these wards. We will continue to monitor the DJF population and will make further recommendations at the time of the May Revision if necessary.

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