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Trigger cuts: CA counties to pay state $125,000 to house juvenile offenders

Gov. Jerry Brown announced earlier this week the state has to pull the trigger on a series of mid-year budget cuts due to low tax revenues. One of those reductions shaves $67 million from the state’s juvenile justice budget. The cut will force counties to foot the bill for Juvenile Justice wards in state custody.

In the 1990s the state’s Division of Juvenile Justice oversaw 10,000 young offenders. Then, about a decade ago, state lawmakers restricted the types of offenders counties can send to state juvenile facilities to those convicted of violent and serious felonies and sex offenses.

The belief was that keeping youth closer to home would reduce their risk of becoming a repeat offender. The change shrunk the Division of Juvenile Justice population to 1,100.

All this time the state has paid most of the tab for its juvenile offenders. That changes Jan. 1.

"Counties will now pay the state $125,000 for each youth that we house for them," says Bill Sessa with the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Sessa says counties will have to decide whether to pony up the money, or take custody of their wards.

He predicts officials will make that decision on a case by case basis. "In some cases they may be able to provide treatment for those youth. But in most cases the youth that we have have already exhausted most of the treatment options in the county and have been sentenced by the court."

Sessa says it might make more sense for counties to recall juvenile offenders with only a short time left to serve of their sentences than to recall someone with five years to go.

Los Angeles County has 320 youth under the state’s division of juvenile justice. The state oversees fewer than 30 wards each for San Bernardino, Riverside and Orange counties.