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LA County Preparing To House Youth Locally When State Juvenile Prisons Close

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — With the state planning to close all three state-run juvenile prisons, LA County officials are making plans to transition those youth into county programs.

Starting in January of next year, the Department of Juvenile Justice will no longer take new youth, who will instead will be housed at the county level to keep them closer to their communities and families.

Los Angeles County's Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved a motion to move forward with preparations for the transition of youth who would have been sent into the state youth prison system. The motion clears the way for county officials to begin planning the transformation of its juvenile justice system, and determine if any other county agencies other than the probation department can be responsible for the custody and rehabilitation of young people previously sent to the Department of Juvenile Justice.

"The closure of the Division of Juvenile Justice presents both a challenge and an opportunity for Los Angeles County, and we must begin planning immediately to ensure we are ready," Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who made the motion, said in a statement. "Connecting this planning effort with the work of restructuring and reimagining the county's juvenile justice system, already underway, is an opportunity to ensure a rehabilitative model for youth who may otherwise be sentenced to adult prison."

The closure of California's juvenile prisons was largely prompted by the budget shortfall caused by the coronavirus pandemic, but also works into Gov. Gavin Newsom's philosophy of investing more in schools rather than prisons.

Even before the pandemic, Supervisor Sheila Kuehl says the county was moving toward a more rehabilitative, treatment-focused approach for juvenile justice.

"Research demonstrates that such an approach is more effective, and our goal for all our young people is to set them on a path toward a healthy and productive life," she said in a statement.

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