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Criminal Justice

Where's The $75 Million For Youth Justice Reform That Was Supposed To Be In LA County's Budget?

Entrance sign for Juvenile Court near downtown Los Angeles.
A sign for Juvenile Court near downtown Los Angeles.
(Chava Sanchez
LAist )
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Youth justice reform groups are calling on L.A. County to start funding its plan to move away from incarcerating youth offenders.

Last fall, the L.A. County Board of Supervisors approved a sweeping proposal that calls for dismantling juvenile halls and probation camps in favor of care in a home-like setting. The “Care First” approach would end the Probation Department's supervision of juveniles by 2025, passing control to a new Department of Youth Development.

Youth justice reform groups rejoiced. But five months later, they’re alarmed that the initial $75 million the plan calls for wasn’t included in the County CEO’s initial budget proposal for the next fiscal year, which starts July 1.

The CEO’s office said in a statement that the money wasn’t included in the budget because staff are still working on a progress report and potential timeline.

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It said it expected to provide the supervisors with that information — along with a budget recommendation — “in the coming weeks.”

“We’re hoping that they follow through and that this is just one hiccup to the process, but we’re pretty concerned,” said Emilio Zapién, an organizer with the Youth Justice Coalition.

At a press conference last week, LA Youth Uprising Coalition organizer Jared O’Brien recounted his story of becoming unhoused at the age of 16. He later entered the county’s youth probation system, which he said offered him little in the way of help.

“We need this money to go towards parks and recreation and young people, we need it to go towards youth centers,” O’Brien said.

The CEO’s office said it’s also working to develop a plan “to address things that will take longer to accomplish, including addressing existing legislative barriers, labor relations issues and identifying ongoing and sustainable funding sources.” It said it will have more information on those topics once it provides its report to the board.

While the number of juveniles in detention has dropped considerably over the years, L.A. County still held about 500 young people in its locked facilities last year.