San Francisco's cornerstone juvenile justice reform program barely alive, says UC Berkeley report

By Patricia McBroom, Public Affairs

BERKELEY--San Francisco's experiment in juvenile justice reform, launched two years ago with high expectations, is barely breathing, according to a research report from the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley.

After 10 months of operation, the Community Assessment and Referral Center - an intake facility for youth detained by the police and run by the award-winning Delancey Street Foundation - has processed only a handful of juveniles instead of the hundreds envisioned by the city's forward-looking Juvenile Justice Action Plan, says the report.

The report was written by four graduate students in public policy, under the direction of Eugene Bardach, UC Berkeley professor of public policy.

"This doesn't look good," said Bardach. "The program is drifting, and no one seems to be paying any attention. It's an experiment that isn't experimenting."

The researchers found that the intake center had evaluated only six percent, or 125, of the roughly 2,000 juveniles detained by police over a 10-month period in four neighborhoods chosen for the Delancey Street pilot project.

That is a rate of less than three juveniles per week, at a cost of $5,000 per youth, the university students discovered.

The program, funded at $827,000 for three years, is the cornerstone of a juvenile justice reform package put together with a $5 million grant from the state.

Bardach said that five staffers, including case managers, a probation officer and a psychological worker, are "sitting there for ten hours a day and getting on average one kid every two days.

"Is this enough? Clearly, it's not," he said.

The investigation was carried out by Laurence Freitas, Gregory Paulos, Sonia Worcel and Junya Yamazaki over three months and was based on interviews throughout the juvenile justice system, plus an analysis of data.

The Community Assessment and Referral Center is only one of six new services funded by the $5 million reform package to keep as many juveniles as possible out of detention. But it is the entry point for the total program.

Depending on the facility's assessment, youth are to receive a range of multi-agency services covering health, mental health, education and social needs rather than being automatically channeled into the Youth Guidance Center, where they may be held in custody even though they may not have committed a crime.

The UC Berkeley researchers identified a number of reasons for the center's low performance.

o It was not open around the clock. Its hours, from noon to 10 p.m. at night during weekdays, missed half of its target population. Fifty percent of juveniles are detained during night and morning hours and on weekends.

o The Department of Probation seemed to resist the reforms and failed to supply enough probation officers to staff the center around the clock. Without the officers, the center could not stay open.

o The center applied highly limiting criteria for the youth it would evaluate. It excluded juveniles involved in violent crime, those with outstanding arrest warrants and youth from other counties.

o There has been no management oversight of the program. The San Francisco Mayor's Criminal Justice Council, which received the $5 million grant from the California State Board of Corrections, has failed to supervise its implementation. Meanwhile, the agencies involved, the police department, the probation department and Delancey Street, are not accountable to each other, nor to a single administrative body.

"Where you go from here is not clear," said Bardach. "But someone higher up ought to be dealing with this. The next level is the mayor's office."

This server has been established by the University of California at Berkeley Public Information Office. Copyright for all items on this server held by The Regents of the University of California. Thanks for your interest in UC Berkeley.
More Press Releases | More Campus News and Events | UC Berkeley Home Page


Send comments to: