Creating Buy-In & Authority to Reimagine Youth Justice

Historically, Los Angeles County youth who enter the justice system has been overseen by the Probation Department and the Chief Probation Officer. This carceral approach to youth justice has resulted in lasting, negative outcomes for even single-time offenders. In 2020 and 2021, Los Angeles County convened the Youth Justice Work Group (YJWG) to “explore the transitioning of the Los Angeles County’s juvenile justice system out of the Probation Department into another agency, with the goal of creating a rehabilitative, health-focused and care-first system.” The group recommended the creation of a Department of Youth Development (DYD), tasked with collaborating across County stakeholders in government, community, and private sectors to divert youth away from the justice system and toward community-based organizations that adopt trauma-responsive approaches and provide supportive services appropriate to young people’s individual strengths, needs, and experiences.

In spite of local government support, additional legislation is required in order to move forward with this vision for DYD. Los Angeles County will partner with FUSE Corps to develop and implement a legislative agenda and action plan to provide the DYD with the legal authority and resources to operate effectively and implement the Youth Justice Reimagined Initiative (YJR). The FUSE Executive Fellow will conduct research and craft a phased set of state-level and other policy priorities and a strategy to advocate for and advance the legislation to approval. In addition, they will develop an implementation plan for DYD to partner with a cross-sectoral set of stakeholders and sustainably advance the YJR agenda. This work will equip DYD with the legal mandate and resource infrastructure necessary to transform the County’s juvenile justice system from one that is punitive to a restorative holistic system of care.

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