In September 2020, Governor Newsom signed SB 823, a historic bill that will lead to the closure of California’s Division of Juvenile Justice. Legislature is currently working on the development of the Office of Youth and Community Restoration (OYCR) which will be the agency responsible for overseeing local youth justice systems. OYCR will also be responsible for ensuring that each of California’s 58 counties develop rehabilitative and healing programs that keep youth in their communities while also allocating grants to each county to fund these services.
We want an end to youth imprisonment, however, the implementation of SB 823 poses many challenges. In order to ensure effective implementation of this legislation, each County is required to convene a subcommittee of system stakeholders and at least three community representatives. In many counties these subcommittees are far from being developed and in some, community representatives are being handpicked. Furthermore, the Chief Probation Officers of California, who were opposed to SB 823, are positioning themselves to control the plans for facilities and placement and funding. Meanwhile, prosecutors continue to transfer youth directly into the adult prison—a tactic that negates the intention of SB 823 and the years of organizing it took to get here.
Join us for a two-part series to learn more about SB 823 and what is happening right now to ensure that the community gains control of the transformation of California’s youth justice system and how philanthropy can support closing DJJ the right way.
Register for Part 2, Closing DJJ the Right Way Webinar Series: Register >
Frankie Guzman, Director, National Center for Youth Law
Attorney Francis (“Frankie”) V. Guzman is the Director of the California Youth Justice Initiative at the National Center for Youth Law. Frankie leads a team of attorneys, policy advocates, and community organizers working to eliminate the practice of prosecuting and incarcerating children in California’s adult criminal justice system, reduce incarceration and justice system involvement, and increase developmentally-appropriate services in communities for youth.
Raised in a poor, mostly immigrant community plagued by crime and drugs, Guzman experienced his parents’ divorce and his family’s subsequent homelessness at age 3, the life-imprisonment of his 16-year-old brother at age 5, and lost numerous childhood friends to violence. At age 15, he was arrested for armed robbery and, on his first offense, was sentenced to serve 15 years in the California Youth Authority. Released on parole after six years, Frankie attended law school and became an expert in juvenile law and policy with a focus on ending the prosecution of juveniles as adults.
Through partnerships with community organizations and advocacy groups, Guzman has helped lead California’s effort to reduce the number of youths prosecuted as adults and serving time in adult prisons by passing legislation that established Youth Offender Parole Hearings, reformed Juvenile Transfer Hearings, and eliminated prosecutors’ direct file authority. More recently, Frankie helped lead statewide efforts to eliminate California’s practice of prosecuting 14 and 15-year-olds as adults, prohibit the incarceration of children under age 12 in the juvenile system, and secure approximately $60 million dollars to expand pre-arrest diversion programs and developmentally-appropriate, culturally-relevant community-based services for youth in CA.
Abraham Medina, Convener and Coordinator, California Alliance for Youth and Community Justice
Abraham Medina (he/him) currently serves as the convener, coordinator, and process holder of the California Alliance for Youth and Community Justice (CAYCJ). Prior to that, he served as Executive Director of the National Youth Alliance on Boys and Men of Color (NYABMOC). Abraham left Mexico City when he was seven years old with his mother and younger brother as a result of domestic violence. Abraham and his brother were separated from their mother and crossed the U.S. border experiencing family separation and a form of child detention. Eventually, he reunited with his mother in the U.S. Abraham was undocumented until receiving DACA in 2013 and is in the process of becoming a U.S. Permanent Resident. Abraham grew up an undocumented person of color in the U.S., impacted by and working to transform the school-to-prison-to-deportation pipeline and the justice system as we know it, through Afro-Indigenous concepts, approaches, and models of justice. Due to being undocumented, Abraham was a day laborer and a roasted peanuts street vendor from age 13 to 14. His current focus as a convener is to cultivate transformative collective power for personal, community, and systems transformation.
Abraham earned his B.A. in Sociology from the University of California, Irvine. In 2018, he also earned a master of Legal and Forensic Psychology from the University of California, Irvine studying under the guidance and direction of Dr. Elizabeth Cauffman and Dr. Ray Novaco.
Jessica Nowlan, Executive Director, Young Women’s Freedom Center
Jessica Nowlan is Executive Director of the Young Women’s Freedom Center, a leadership and advocacy organization led by cis and trans women and girls of color who have grown up in poverty, experienced incarceration, worked in the underground street economy, and been criminalized by social services such as foster care, welfare, public education, and the mental health system.
Gina Peralta, Program Officer, Heising-Simons Foundation
Gina Peralta is a program officer with the Human Rights program at the Heising-Simons Foundation. Prior to joining the Foundation in 2019, Gina served as the director of site management at The W. Haywood Burns Institute (the Burns Institute), a national nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing racial and ethnic equity in the justice system by creating community-based alternatives to system involvement. During her tenure, Gina provided strategic direction to system and community stakeholders working to improve local and state policies contributing to racial and ethnic disparities, and also raised awareness about the impact of the justice system on Native American and Latino communities.
Prior to working at the Burns Institute, Gina was an education advocate at Public Counsel Law Center for youth involved in the delinquency and dependency systems in Los Angeles County. Gina is also a former probation officer who has worked with youth, adults, and families involved in the justice system. Gina earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology and women’s studies from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and a master’s degree in social welfare from the University of California, Los Angeles.
This program is open to CCJFG and NCG members and nonmember funders.