Governor Signs Hill Bill to Enable Nonviolent Young Adult Felons To Serve Their Time in Juvenile Hall Instead of County Jail
Four-Year Pilot Project Aims to Give Young Offenders a Better Shot
At Rehabilitation with Age-Appropriate Programs
SACRAMENTO – Governor Brown signed legislation by Senator Jerry Hill today to authorize the launch of a three-year pilot program that would give young adult offenders the opportunity to take advantage of educational and support services in the juvenile justice system, rather than serve their time in county jails with adults.
SB 1004 enables five counties – Alameda, Butte, Napa, Nevada and Santa Clara – to set up the pilot program for low-level, nonviolent felons, ages 18 to 21, who don’t have a history of crime. Individuals eligible to participate would be limited to serving one year in a juvenile justice facility and their offense would be expunged from their record if they successfully complete the program. The law takes effect January 1 and the pilot would run until January 1, 2020, in each of the five counties if their boards of supervisors approve participation.
Governor Brown praised Senate Bill 1004 as an “innovative approach” and urged the Legislature to also explore avenues for diversion that would not involve custody for young, low-level offenders.
“While this bill represents an innovative approach to addressing low-level youthful offenders, there are also other avenues worth exploring,” said Governor Brown in a statement. “While this is a promising start, I encourage the Legislature to look beyond deferred entry of judgment and explore options such as non-custody based diversion where appropriate.”
“This bill reflects the growing trend in our criminal justice system to provide opportunities for rehabilitation to offenders when circumstances merit,” said Senator Hill, D-San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties. “This chance can make all the difference to young adults who have their whole lives ahead of them. If they successfully complete the pilot program, they could restart their adult lives with a clean record.”
"Today is a good day for our criminal justice system,” said Laura Garnette, chief probation officer for Santa Clara County. “I applaud Senator Jerry Hill and Governor Brown for their insight and compassion in supporting a bill that will make our communities safer and reduce crime by using developmentally appropriate evidence based approaches for young adults. While still holding young adults accountable, this bill allows them to succeed in their rehabilitation."
Young offenders ages 18 to 21 are legally adults, but they are still undergoing significant brain development, according to psychologists, who say offenders in that age group may be better served by the juvenile justice system where there are age-appropriate intensive services. Experts point to research showing that people do not develop adult-caliber, decision-making skills until their early 20s, resulting in a “maturity gap” that makes young adults more likely to engage in risk-seeking behavior.
To counter such risks, juvenile detention facilities provide cognitive behavioral therapy, mental health treatment, vocational training and education and other programs tailored for youths in transition from their late teens. In contrast, county jails typically do not provide services to address the needs of young adults or the risks they face, including exposure to older and possibly experienced offenders.
SB 1004 authorizes the five counties to set up a test project to address those issues. The legislation also lays out rules and requirements for operating the pilot program, such as:
- Young adults who commit serious or violent felonies, have prior serious or violent offenses, or must register as sex offenders are not eligible for the program. Potential participants will be assessed by the county probation department to determine whether inclusion in the program would be appropriate.
- Upon being charged with an offense, young adults who are deemed eligible for the program must enter into deferred entry of judgment – plead guilty to their crime – in order to participate.
- Young adults in the program may not serve more than a year in county juvenile hall, and if they successfully complete their program, their record of the offense would be expunged.
- Young adults participating in the pilot program cannot be housed with younger offenders and must reside in a separate wing of a juvenile detention facility.
- The Board of State and Community Corrections must deem that facilities for juvenile offenders in the participating counties are also suitable housing young adults.
- Pilot counties are to submit data on their program to the BSCC, which will measure the program’s effectiveness and provide a report to the Assembly and Senate Public Safety committees.
- The law enabling the pilot would remain in effect until January 1, 2020, unless the Legislature decides terminate it, or modify or continue the program.
Senate Bill 1004 Fact Sheet:
Senator Hill’s Letter to Governor Brown
Governor Brown’s Signing Message
Contact: Leslie Guevarra, 415-298-3404 cell or Leslie.Guevarra@sen.ca.gov