CDF-CA urges the county to seize opportunity to bring in a transformative leader committed to rehabilitating youth
In response to the resignation of Los Angeles County’s Chief Probation Officer Jerry Powers, Alex Johnson, Executive Director of Children’s Defense Fund-California, issued this statement:
“We must quickly turn the page on the circumstances of Chief Powers’ departure and remain steadfast in ensuring fair, positive and developmentally appropriate treatment for youth inside juvenile justice facilities while preventing youth from ever entering the system. As Los Angeles County is set to identify its sixth probation chief in ten years, it has never been more important to ensure this new leader is committed to investing in youth and uplifting promising, community-based solutions. While recent progress has been made – the Probation Department has reduced the number of young people incarcerated in the county’s 14 juvenile camps from nearly 1800 in 2007 to roughly 700 today, and created a new rehabilitative and trauma-informed model, the LA Model – deeper change is needed for the nation’s largest juvenile justice system.
The Children’s Defense Fund-California is committed to ending the practice of solitary confinement and other inhumane practices inside LA County juvenile justice system, as well as closing juvenile facilities and re-investing the cost savings in community-based alternatives. The next probation chief must be committed to: an explicit focus on rehabilitation and not incarceration; identifying community-based alternatives to incarceration focused on prevention and diversion; utilizing data collection in a meaningful way that promotes accountability and tracks progress toward reducing recidivism; and working in continued collaboration with education partners from the Los Angeles County Office of Education (LACOE) to provide additional pathways to career and college opportunities.
The next probation chief must be a transformative leader who recognizes the disproportionate impact of race as a structural pillar in the prison pipeline, and also understands what experts who study adolescent brain science tell us – that we must treat the young people in our juvenile justice system not as adults but as youth who require healing from the trauma that landed them inside a locked facility in the first place.
The time is ripe for an innovative leader dedicated to ensuring justice for system-involved youth. I urge the County, under the leadership of the Board of Supervisors, to conduct a national search with opportunities for meaningful community input from those most impacted by the juvenile and criminal justice system. True reform is not simply aspirational, it is attainable and a fundamental necessity.”