Basic services, 2017

  • Overall

    Locally operated

  • Detention

    Locally operated

  • Probation

    Locally operated

  • Reentry

    Locally operated

In California, each county is responsible for administering its own detention, probation and reentry services.

Juvenile probation departments are part of the county government structure and are accountable to each county's Board of Supervisors. With the exception of San Francisco, each of California's 58 counties has a probation department that handles both adults and juveniles. San Francisco has separate departments for adults and juveniles; the adult probation department reports through the Superior Court, while juvenile probation reports through the Mayor's Office and an appointed Commission.

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) is the state-level correction agency responsible for providing services to the most serious juvenile offenders in facilities.

Corrections agency, 2015

  • Independent juvenile corrections agency

  • Family/child welfare agency or division

  • Broad human services agency

  • Adult corrections agency or division

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) administers commitments to state juvenile correctional facilities. Reentry services are administered by each of California's 58 counties.

Solitary confinement, 2016

  • Prohibits punitive confinement

  • Limits punitive confinement

  • No limits on punitive confinement

  • Did not respond

Solitary confinement for punitive purposes is allowed in California's juvenile correctional facilities. Punitive room restriction is allowed up to 90 days, with a hearing required for confinement over 24 hours.  (Adapted from 51 Jurisdiction Survey of Juvenile Solitary Confinement Rules in Juvenile Justice Systems, 2016. Lowenstein Center for the Public Interest at Lowenstein Sandler LLP)

Release decision, 2016

  • Agency

  • Court

  • Parole board

  • Agency and court

In California, release decisions from the Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) are made by an independent juvenile parole board. The parole board does use a risk/needs assessment tool to inform release decisions, however, it is only one factor considered when making discharge/release decisions. The parole board's decisions are based on numerous factors, including public safety, demonstrated behavior, treatment and training needs, education, mental health, employability, and group living components. Once discharged, all youth are returned to their county of commitment, in custody, to await their re-entry disposition hearing with the court. Once the youth attends this hearing, DJJ’s jurisdiction is terminated.

Risk assessment, 2020

Organization 2013 2017 2020
Statewide uniform assessment
Layered/regional assessment
Locally administered assessment

In California, juvenile probation is administered locally by each county’s executive branch, and each county is responsible for its own policies and procedures regarding the use of risk/needs assessments. There is no state policy encouraging the consistent application of a risk/needs assessment; however, several counties have incorporated a tool into their practices. For example, Orange County uses an adaptation of the Wisconsin model and applies the results to develop probation case plans. Alameda County uses a criminogenic risk tool to determine how the juvenile should be supervised and the YLS/CMI to inform case plans.

Risk instruments, 2017

  • Statute or agency policy

    Required by state or administrative regulation

  • Agency recommended

    Recommended by probation oversite agency

Risk instruments tool used
No statewide tool in use

Mental health screening, 2014

Requires a research-based mental health screening

  • Secure detention

  • Probation

  • Corrections

Other: For any youth qualifying for Medicaid.

Mental health screening tool used
Massachusetts Youth Screening Instrument –Version 2 (MAYSI-2)

California requires the use of a research-based, standardized mental health screening in its state juvenile residential facility regulations (Title 15 Minimum Standards for Juvenile Facilities). These standards are issued by the California Board of State and Community Corrections (BSCC). A central role of the BSCC is to support public safety realignment in California to community corrections.

The BSCC also is also vested with standard setting authority for county corrections and probation (including juvenile services) and the advancement of evidence based practices. The current regulations require a mental health screening, including suicide risk at intake but do not name or require a specific standardized mental health screening instrument. According to the California Corrections Standards Authority the Massachusetts Youth Screening Instrument, 2nd Edition (MAYSI-2) is the standardized screening instrument of choice for many county operated juvenile detention (juvenile halls) and probation departments. However, in a decentralized juvenile justice landscape practice varies and knowledge is accumulated by surveying local stakeholders. 

California's Mentally Ill Offender Crime Reduction grant program (MIOCR) is a unifying thread for advancing standardized screening. MIOCR helps to fund the proliferation of standardized mental health assessments and adequate follow up and diagnostic and treatment approaches for both youth in custody and on community supervision.

Frameworks for evidence-based practices, 2014

  • Statute

    Supporting commitment to EBPs

  • Administrative regulations

    Either in corrections, probation, or the juvenile court

  • Support center

    Or collaboration dedicated to coordinating activities around implementing, evaluating, and sustaining EBPs

  • No stance

    No official stance on EBPs

  • Did not respond

    State did not respond to the survey

California supports the implementation and proliferation of evidence-based programs and practices (EBPs) in the juvenile justice system in state statute, administrative regulation and the establishment of an university-based resource center. The California Courts and the Board of State and Community Correction (BSCC) has a statute defined responsibility for advancing EBPs in state-wide standards-setting, training and public-safety grant-making. The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) additionally supports the Center for Evidence Based Corrections at the University of California Irvine. The Center receives additional support beyond CDCR and helps to promote the science of corrections and research based policies and practices with empirical research.

Recidivism reporting, 2016

Study populations

The group(s) of youth being studied in states that publicly report recidivism data.

  • Arrest

  • Court action

  • Supervision

  • Placement

Re-offense events

Events that are used to measure recidivism in states that publicly report recidivism data.

  • Arrest

  • Court action

  • Supervision

  • Placement

Follow-up periods

Details regarding the length of time and frequency that youth are tracked in states that publicly report recidivism data.

36 months with interval and adult systems reporting


Additional levels of analysis provided in states that publicly report recidivism data.

  • County

  • Age

  • Gender

  • Race/ethn.

  • Risk level

  • Initial offense

  • Re-offense

  • Prior history

California publishes two reports on juvenile recidivism. The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Office of Research defines recidivism as an individual previously adjudicated and committed to DJJ, released to parole or directly discharged from DJJ and who is subsequently arrested in California or returned/recommitted to DJJ or a CDCR adult institution during a specified follow up period of time, independent of his/her discharge status. Youth are tracked for a maximum of 36 months with recidivism rates presented at 12, 24, and 36 month intervals.

Data sources

2010 Juvenile Justice Outcome Evaluation Report: Youth Released from the Division of Juvenile Justice in Fiscal Year 2004-2005
California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Office of Research
2012 Outcome Evaluation Report
California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Office of Research

About this project

Juvenile Justice GPS (Geography, Policy, Practice, Statistics) is a project to develop a repository providing state policy makers and system stakeholders with a clear understanding of the juvenile justice landscape in the states.

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