Children and the Division of Juvenile Justice
When a minor is accused of a criminal offense in juvenile court, there are a number of different outcomes that can occur depending on the offense alleged and the juvenile’s record. Juvenile court is not intended to be punitive but instead is meant to rehabilitate minors and return them to their parents so that they can correct previous behaviors and reintegrate into society. In the most serious juvenile cases, a minor offender can be sent to a locked facility operated by the Division of Juvenile Justice (“DDJ”) formerly known as the California Youth Authority.Who Gets Sent to the Division of Juvenile Justice?
Minors who commit the most serious felony offenses or who have lengthy juvenile court records are sent to the DJJ, usually, after other attempts at rehabilitation have failed.
A minor can be sent to the DDJ if they are committed by a juvenile court judge, if they were tried as an adult and sentenced by a criminal court or if they were tried as an adult and committed to Adult Programs and Adult Operations but ordered to be sent to a DJJ facility.
The DJJ houses those between the ages of 12 and 25. Minors who have been sentenced as an adult to a state prison facility will be transferred from the DJJ to an adult facility on or before their 18th birthday. The DJJ operates three locked facilities and one fire/forestry camp that house approximately 700 youth offenders. The locked facilities include the Ventura Youth Correctional Facility in Camarillo and the N.A. Chaderjian Youth Correctional Facility and the O.H. Close Youth Correctional Facility in Stockton. The DJJ also operates the Pine Grove Youth Conversation Camp located in Pine Grove which is operated jointly with CAL Fire. Youth offenders at the conservation camp are involved in stream clearance, fire prevention tasks and restoration work.What Happens at a DJJ Facility?
Youth offenders sent to a DJJ facility are housed in secure housing units, similar to prison but geared towards the age of the offender. The DJJ can house offenders up to the age of 25, however younger juvenile offenders are typically segregated from older offenders when possible.
Upon arrival at a DJJ facility, a minor will be assessed and assigned to a program based on a number of different criteria, including age, maturity level, educational needs and the circumstances of the underlying crime. Specialized programs include the Successfully Dressed program, sexual behavior treatment, substance abuse treatment, anger management, and victim awareness activities.
All youths in a DJJ facility are required to attend school full-time. Classes provided at DJJ facilities are accredited by the California Department of Education. Minors that complete their high school education can participate in a college program, vocational training or both. Youths may be assigned paying jobs while at the DJJ facility and will be assigned a Youth Correctional Counselor who will monitor their progress and behavior.DJJ and the Juvenile Parole Board
The Juvenile Parole Board (“JPB”) decides when a minor has been sufficiently rehabilitated to justify release from the facility and return to the community. The JPB will recommend specific conditions of supervision to the Juvenile Court if the minor is released and placed on juvenile parole. A minor can be recommended for release if they have successfully completed all program goals. The length of a parole period and discharge from parole is determined by the Juvenile Court Judge.Transfer to Adult Prison
Juvenile offenders who are convicted of a crime in adult court will typically be sent to a DJJ facility until they turn 18, at which point they will be transferred a California Prison Facility to serve the remainder of their sentence. They will receive credit for the time spent in the DJJ facility. Only certain juvenile offenses can be transferred to adult court following a fitness hearing in juvenile court.