Story and photos by Ike Dodson, CDCR PIO
Office of Public and Employee Communications

The aptly named Grand Nave Ballroom of the Sheraton Grand Sacramento Hotel provided a striking setting for the Chief Probation Officers of California (CPOC) Foundation’s juvenile justice conference.

The event, dubbed “A Decade of Progress: Probation’s Success with Juvenile Realignment,” featured the brightest minds in youth correctional thinking and featured Gov. Jerry Brown, a host of CPOC speakers, and an hour-long presentation by CDCR and the Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ).

On the second day of the conference, Oct. 20, CDCR Secretary Scott Kernan thanked CPOC for the invitation to celebrate the hard work and advancement achieved over the last decade, and shared the history of the department. He spoke to reforms that transformed the landscape of juvenile justice.

“Last month marked the 10-year anniversary of the Juvenile Justice Reform – Realignment (SB 81), preceding the much more massive adult realignment of AB 109,” Kernan explained. “It was effectively the start of realignment in California’s criminal justice history. As a result, there was a dramatic shift in population from the former California Youth Authority (CYA) to county probation, and leading to the closure of several state facilities. This left our Division of Juvenile Justice largely with California’s most serious and violent juvenile offenders, representing a complicated set of mental and behavioral challenges.”

The transformation didn’t end there.

Simultaneously to the legislation, DJJ agreed to develop and implement six detailed remedial plans in safety and welfare, mental health, education, sexual behavior treatment, health care, dental services, and youth with disabilities.

One of the most important reforms was the implementation of the Integrated Behavior Treatment Model (IBTM), a comprehensive approach to assessing, understanding and treating youth. The IBTM helps to reduce institutional violence and the risk of future criminal behavior.

“We also continue to invest in rehabilitation, educational and vocational opportunities to develop the youths’ strengths and better prepare them for successful reentry to their communities,” Kernan said. “I strongly believe that SB81 reflects the principle that public safety and rehabilitation are a shared responsibility between local and state agencies in California.

“The law codifies a close working relationship between the state and our colleagues in probation. I also believe that your and our shared experience with SB81 provides valuable lessons on how to improve our collective efforts on the adult side with AB109.”

Kernan introduced DJJ Director Chuck Supple, who led a panel discussion with Heather Bowlds, DJJ Deputy Director;  Christienne Sanders, Associate Director of the Juvenile Acceptance and Community Relief Accountability Section;  and DaiNette Bowens, Board of Juvenile Hearings Commissioner.

Supple spoke of the DJJ’s re-emerging role as the country’s premier youth and young adult rehabilitation program, and quest to solidify and strengthen the gains made in reforms of the last decade. He explained DJJ’s devotion to create “strength-based space” filled with vocational/educational and other activities to give youth opportunity to explore new identities and develop skills and knowledge for accessing jobs and education in the community.

This is only achieved through successful partnerships. Supple asserted the need for DJJ and CPOC to work as a seamless virtual agency to optimize re-entry. It’s why Supple worked with CPOC to form a collaborative council to do just that.

“We need to bring in the community and former offenders in early and often to inspire and mentor youth and help them practice prosocial skills, contacts and connections with community-based resources and opportunities,” Supple said.

It’s how the next decade of juvenile justice gets even better.