PJDC’s work in helping to reduce population in California’s state facilities for juveniles is featured in Breaking Down the Walls, a new report from the Youth First Initiative. The report details transformational campaigns in six states over the past two decades aimed at dismantling the current system of youth incarceration and establishing more effective interventions for adolescents. The report describes the ways that these efforts have improved the lives of children and families impacted by the justice system, and saved taxpayer money without compromising public safety. The Youth First Initiative looked at campaigns in California, New York, Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi, and the District of Columbia, gathering lessons learned and strategies for success. The report recognizes that no state has completely dismantled the youth prison model that has been the signature feature of juvenile justice since the early 1800s, but appreciates the remarkable progress made in those states. The strategies shared in the report are based on public documents as well as hours of conversations with youth, family members, and other advocates who gave their time to explain what made their campaigns successful, as well as what they would do differently knowing what they do now.
From the beginning of the new century, PJDC has been actively involved in the efforts to address abuses, and substantially reduce population at the California Youth Authority – now renamed the Division of Juvenile Facilities. Our work has taken place at the individual client level, as well as through influencing state and local policy. The new report recognizes our efforts and encourages other jurisdictions to learn from our successes.