California Begins to Shut Down Its Youth Prison System

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SANTA BARBARA, CA - JUNE 12: The Santa Barbara County Detention and Correctional Facility.  (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

In a historic change, California’s youth prisons will stop taking in new offenders in July. In 2023, all state juvenile detention facilities will close and responsibility for youth offenders will shift to counties. The state’s youth lockups have long been plagued by scandals and allegations of mistreatment. The move to smaller, local facilities is intended to provide a less punitive approach and increase rehabilitation and access to services. But some advocates for youth offenders worry conditions will get worse when counties take control. As counties formulate their plans ahead of the closures, we’ll talk about what juvenile justice may look like in California’s near future.


Frankie Guzman, Director and Attorney, California Youth Justice Initiative at the National Center for Youth Law.

Renee Menart, Communications and Policy Analyst, Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice