Audit Highlights . . .
Our audit of the spending, reporting, and evaluation of JJCPA funds by five counties, including their decision making related to these funds, highlighted the following:
- » Although required to establish Coordinating Councils with members from a variety of local agencies and community groups to develop annual comprehensive plans, some counties we reviewed failed to do so.
- One county did not have a Coordinating Council and two others did not have all the required representatives during fiscal years 2013–14 through 2017–18.
- Despite significant changes in the statewide juvenile justice landscape over the last 20 years, the five counties generally made limited revisions to their comprehensive plans.
- Four of the counties do not define the types of youth they consider to be at risk or identify risk factors in their comprehensive plans.
- » Limited oversight from Community Corrections has contributed to counties' inadequate and outdated plans.
- » Although counties must annually report to Community Corrections about the effectiveness of their JJCPA-funded programs, none of the counties we reviewed have done so.
- » Despite posting JJCPA‑funded program information it receives from counties on its website, Community Corrections does not review the information or ensure its accuracy.
Results in Brief
The Legislature has taken steps to transfer the responsibility for managing juvenile offenders from the State to counties—commonly referred to as juvenile justice realignment. For nearly 20 years, the State has allocated funding to counties under the Juvenile Justice Crime Prevention Act (JJCPA) with the goal of helping them reduce juvenile crime and delinquency by implementing crime prevention strategies, among other activities.Throughout this report, we refer to the Schiff‑Cardenas Crime Prevention Act of 2000 as the Juvenile Justice Crime Prevention Act, as it is now known. The JJCPA requires that each county establish a Juvenile Justice Coordinating Council (Coordinating Council) that consists of representatives from a variety of local agencies and community groups to ensure the county’s approach is collaborative. The Coordinating Council must develop a comprehensive multiagency juvenile justice plan (comprehensive plan) for the county. The county must annually submit this comprehensive plan to the Board of State and Community Corrections (Community Corrections), along with a separate year‑end report that describes the programs the county operated with its JJCPA funds and how those programs may have affected juvenile justice trends. Although state law does not explicitly require Community Corrections to review or approve the information that counties submit to it, state law does require that Community Corrections post the information on its website and annually submit a summarized report of the information to the Governor and Legislature.
Despite being required to use a multiagency approach to develop their comprehensive plans, some counties we reviewed have failed to do so. We reviewed five counties—Kern, Los Angeles, Mendocino, San Joaquin, and Santa Barbara—and found that Mendocino did not have a Coordinating Council and that Kern and Los Angeles did not have all of the required representatives on their Coordinating Councils during fiscal years 2013–14 through 2017–18. In fact, Mendocino has not had a Coordinating Council since 2009. Because Mendocino lacked a Coordinating Council but still received JJCPA funds, we researched whether any of the remaining 53 counties also lacked Coordinating Councils. We found that 10 additional counties either lacked Coordinating Councils or did not indicate they had councils on their websites and did not respond to our inquiries. When a county lacks a Coordinating Council or fails to ensure that its council includes the diverse representation that the JJCPA mandates, that county is unable to meet the JJCPA’s requirement that it take a multiagency approach to updating its comprehensive plan.
Moreover, the Coordinating Councils at the five counties generally made limited revisions to their comprehensive plans over the last 20 years, despite significant changes in the statewide juvenile justice landscape. For instance, California voters approved propositions in 2014 and 2016 that reduced certain crimes from felonies to misdemeanors and reduced the penalties for certain drug‑related offenses. We expected that in response to these shifts in state policy, counties would periodically reassess the areas in their communities at significant risk of juvenile crime or make changes to their strategies for addressing juvenile crime. However, Kern, Mendocino, and San Joaquin made only infrequent changes, such as eliminating or expanding programs that they funded with their JJCPA allocations, without indicating whether the changes reflected revisions to their strategies for addressing juvenile crime and delinquency. As a result, these three counties’ comprehensive plans are likely outdated. In contrast, Santa Barbara made several significant changes to its plan that indicated shifts in its strategy for addressing juvenile crime and delinquency, and it completely revised its plan for fiscal year 2018–19. Although Los Angeles’s changes to its comprehensive plan have been limited over the past 20 years, it also recently took steps to completely revise its plan for fiscal year 2019–20.
Community Corrections’ limited oversight of the contents of counties’ comprehensive plans contributed to the inadequacies we identified. Community Corrections allowed counties to submit a form indicating that they had made changes to their comprehensive plans but did not require them to submit copies of their revised plans. Further, if counties made no changes to their plans, Community Corrections allowed them to simply indicate that they proposed to continue using JJCPA funding, instead of requiring them to report the reasons they made no changes. Counties that do not update their comprehensive plans limit the ability of the stakeholders, decision makers, and the public to understand whether and how the counties’ approaches to juvenile crime and delinquency have changed over time.
Further, four of the five counties we reviewed failed to define the types of youth they consider to be at risk or to identify risk factors in their comprehensive plans. The JJCPA requires counties to describe their approach to responding to at‑risk youth in their comprehensive plans. Although it does not explicitly define the term at risk, the JJCPA suggests that the term includes youth who are at risk of committing crimes. It is appropriate for counties to have different definitions of at‑riskAB 413 (Chapter 800, Statutes of 2019) deleted the term “at-risk” used to describe youth for purposes of various provisions in the California Education and Penal Codes and replaced it with the term “at-promise.” However, the term “at-risk” currently remains in JJCPA as part of the California Government Code. As a result, we use the term “at-risk” consistent with the JJCPA throughout our report. youth because their at‑risk populations may have unique needs and face different challenges. However, when counties do not specifically identify their at‑risk populations, they cannot demonstrate that they have complied with state law requiring them to develop comprehensive plans that assess existing services for at‑risk youth.
Counties have broad discretion to use JJCPA funds for any element of response to juvenile crime that has been proven effective. In fiscal year 2017–18, four of the counties we reviewed used all or most of their JJCPA funds for programs that primarily served juvenile offenders and were operated by their probation departments. Three of the counties used some JJCPA funds to contract with other local government entities and community‑based organizations to operate or coordinate with the county probation departments or other agencies to operate programs that served juvenile offenders or at‑risk youth. However, regardless of the programs they chose to operate, counties did not demonstrate in the reports they submitted to Community Corrections that their JJCPA‑funded programs were effective.
State law requires counties to report annually to Community Corrections how their JJCPA‑funded programs may have affected countywide juvenile justice trends. However, the five counties we reviewed did not adequately report such information in their 2018 reports, even though Community Corrections’ reporting template specifically directs them to do so. Moreover, when we asked the five counties to provide us with certain information about the participants in their JJCPA‑funded programs during fiscal years 2013–14 through 2017–18, they could not provide complete or accurate data. For instance, Mendocino could not provide information about the participants in the single JJCPA‑funded program it operated in fiscal years 2016–17 and 2017–18, and Los Angeles did not collect information about the participants in one of its largest programs in fiscal year 2017–18. Both counties explained that they did not collect information about these program participants because state law did not require them to report such information. However, state law does require counties to report whether their JJCPA‑funded programs may have affected countywide trends, and without reliable information regarding their program participants, counties cannot determine the effectiveness of their programs.
The State should also improve its oversight of the JJCPA. Community Corrections is responsible for annually collecting program information, including expenses, from counties and for publishing a description or summary of JJCPA‑funded programs on its website. However, we identified obvious errors in documents that counties submitted, which Community Corrections did not identify because it simply posts the documents on its website. Community Corrections explained that it has taken a narrow view of its responsibilities under the law and does not consider reviewing the accuracy of the program information counties submit to be a part of its role. However, we believe that if Community Corrections reviewed the information and directed counties to fix errors, the counties could easily do so.
Further, Community Corrections does not have the authority to compel counties to comply with JJCPA requirements, resulting in counties’ continuing to receive funding despite their lack of compliance. For example, as we note earlier, Mendocino and up to 10 other counties that received JJCPA funding did not have Coordinating Councils during our audit period. However, Community Corrections has no authority to compel counties to maintain their Coordinating Councils. In order to address these types of issues, state law needs to provide authority for the State to prohibit counties from spending funding until Community Corrections determines that they meet the requirements of the JJCPA.
Additionally, the State has an opportunity to change the mechanism by which counties receive JJCPA funds to make their amounts of funding more predictable. Currently, counties receive JJCPA funds in two allocations: a guaranteed annual amount and an additional amount that varies based on the vehicle license fees that the State collects. The additional JJCPA funding that counties receive has grown over the years but is unpredictable, making it difficult for counties to anticipate the total amount of JJCPA funds they can spend each year. For instance, the additional funding allocated to counties increased by 135 percent from fiscal years 2014–15 through 2015–16, but it increased by only 15 percent from fiscal years 2018–19 through 2019–20. Because counties are uncertain of the amount of growth funding they will receive in future years, they did not spend all of the JJCPA funds they received from the State from fiscal years 2013–14 through 2017–18. Changing the JJCPA funding structure so that the State allocates more of the funds as an annual guaranteed amount, which Community Corrections should determine, would make this funding more reliable for counties.
Summary of Recommendations
To ensure that counties adequately identify how they serve at‑risk youth, the Legislature should require counties to define at‑risk youth in their comprehensive plans. The Legislature should also require Community Corrections to review counties’ comprehensive plans to ensure that each contains an adequate definition of at‑risk youth.
The Legislature should direct Community Corrections to monitor reports that counties submit to ensure that they include meaningful descriptions or analyses of how their JJCPA‑funded programs may have contributed to or influenced countywide juvenile justice trends.
To enable Community Corrections to provide effective oversight of the required elements of the JJCPA, the Legislature should amend state law to describe a process for restricting the spending of JJCPA funding by counties that do not meet JJCPA requirements. As part of that process, the State should prohibit counties from spending JJCPA funds if they have not established Coordinating Councils.
To make JJCPA funding more stable and predictable, the Legislature should amend state law to increase the amount of guaranteed JJCPA funding the State provides to counties.
To ensure that it meets statutory requirements, Mendocino should reinstate its Coordinating Council.
To determine the effectiveness of their use of JJCPA funds, Kern, Los Angeles, Mendocino, San Joaquin, and Santa Barbara should include in their year‑end reports descriptions or analyses of how their JJCPA‑funded programs influenced their juvenile justice trends, as required by law.
Los Angeles and Mendocino should collect data on all individuals participating in each of their JJCPA programs and services to adequately assess the effectiveness of those programs at reducing juvenile crime and delinquency.
Community Corrections should require each Coordinating Council to specify the comprehensive plan components a county is changing and what those changes are. If the county is making no changes, Community Corrections should require the Coordinating Council to explain why no changes to the plan are necessary.
Community Corrections should review the information counties submit to it and follow up with them to obtain missing information or to clarify information that seems incorrect.
The five counties we reviewed agreed with our recommendations and indicated they would take actions to implement them. Although Community Corrections generally agreed with our recommendations, it indicated that it currently lacks the resources necessary to implement our recommendation that it improve the JJCPA information it makes available on its website.