Unnecessary Incarceration

A primary goal in YLC’s juvenile justice work is to reduce unnecessary incarceration of children, and staff have used a variety of strategies to achieve this goal.


Recent Action

  • Through legislative advocacy and public education, working for legislative changes that give judges more power to reduce length of stay and create financial incentives for local jurisdictions to serve youth in comunity settings.
  • Training juvenile court professionals on ways to reduce unnecessary incarceration and advice on how to fund alternative interventions. In particular, working to reduce the penetration of children with mental health issues and disabilities into the juvenile justice system, and advocacy to assure meaningful access to health care for youth in the system.
  • Working to improve the quality of juvenile delinquency legal representation with a focus on vigorous advocacy in relation to detention and informal resolution of cases.
  • Engaging in appellate advocacy, including in cases filed against juveniles in adult court, to reduce extreme sentences and transfer to adult court.
  • Wriiting investigative reports, training and advocating in relation to “placement delay,” which occurs when children have been ordered by the court to be placed in some other setting, but the placement order is not carried out and the children remain incarcerated – sometimes spending many months doing “dead time.”
  • Sponsoring legislation that changed Medi-Cal laws that posed a barrier to health care access for children coming out of custody.  YLC also co-sponsored AB 2496 (Steinberg, 2002 Session), which would have heightened data collection in relation to placement delay and strengthened court review in cases of protracted delay.
  • Working with the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative, which operates in more than a hundred sites nationally to help jurisdictions understand their use of secure confinement, and where inappropriate detention is found, to help develop alternative, more cost-effective ways to serve families and youth.

Recent Litigation

  • Through the L.H. v. Brown case, litigating to reform the California juvenile parole system, which has resulted in fewer youth being returned to custody or being returned for a shorter period.