LOS ANGELES—The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors unanimously agreed to expand juvenile diversion reforms on Tuesday, January 24 to keep kids out of the criminal justice system.
The reforms should be seen as “delinquency prevention” rather than focusing on diversion which assumes that the kids are already part of the criminal justice system, urges criminal defense lawyer and probation commissioner Cyn Yamashiro.
“While there are a number of promising programs, access to them and their accompanying services, like mentoring and restorative justice, depends in large part on where a young person lives and what law enforcement agency is patrolling that region,” said supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Janice Hahn in the motion.
The motion indicates that white kids and black/brown kids commit minor offenses like drugs, truancy, stealing etc. at the same rates, About 95 percent of the county halls and camps are filled with kids of minority communities, advocates of the reforms point out that the system has more of an impact on the minorities.
“The majority of kids in the justice system are either black or brown,” said Probation Chief Deputy Sheila Mitchell, responsible for managing the department’s juvenile halls and camps, in a statement.
Dr. Robert Ross, CEO and president of the nonprofit health foundation California Endowment indicated that minor instances of delinquency by kids were once handled by their teachers, but are now increasingly turned over to police by some communities.
Ross indicated that because of this trend, kids who are of little threat to the society become a part of the criminal justice system and are separated from their families at a young age, and hence are not in a position to finish school and start indulging in serious crimes later.
Mitchell noted that minors in juvenile halls have reduced from 1,800 to 600 over the last 15 years, but stresses that this is primarily because of lower crime rates but diversion efforts also played a significant role in them.
Hahn, a big fan of gang alternative programs indicated that the reforms could also save $247,000, the amount spent to house a child for a year in a county probation camp.
The board has directed CEO Sachi Hamai to hire a consultant and create a subcommittee of the Countywide Criminal Justice Coordination Committee to analyze the issue and report back with a plan to expand reforms in four months.