Board of Corrections (5430)

The state's Board of Corrections oversees the operations of the state's 460 local jails. It does this by inspecting facilities biennially, establishing various standards, including staff training, and administering state and federal funds for jail and juvenile detention facility construction. In addition, the board maintains data on the state's jails and juvenile halls. The board also sets standards for, and inspects, local juvenile detention facilities, and is responsible for the administration of two juvenile justice grant programs.

The budget proposes expenditures of $144 million in 1999-00 ($71 million from the General Fund). This is about $74.8 million, or 108 percent, more than estimated current-year expenditures. The increase is due to (1) the implementing of several law enforcement and juvenile justice local assistance grant programs authorized by the Legislature last year and (2) providing state and federal prison construction funds to jails and local juvenile detention facilities

Board Responsibilities Have Increased Dramatically

The Board of Corrections has been assigned responsibility for distributing almost $200 million in local assistance funds in the current and budget years. These funds are for grants for juvenile crime programs, grants to counties to reduce the population of mentally ill offenders in the jails, and grants to counties for jail construction and juvenile facility construction and renovation. The board is requesting 10.1 positions in the current year and 13.1 positions in the budget year to administer these grants. The Governor's budget does not propose funds to expand the programs in the budget year, contrary to statements of legislative intent included in the measure that established and funded several of the programs.

The proposed 1999-00 budget for the board is more than double its expected expenditures for the current year, and the current year expenditures are estimated to be 72 percent higher than in 1997-98. This dramatic rate of increase reflects the significant increases in responsibilities which the board has absorbed in recent years. The majority of these new funds have been appropriated to the board to distribute to counties for a variety of new grant programs related to juvenile justice and local correctional facility construction, renovation, and management.

Juvenile Justice Grant Programs. The board is currently administering two juvenile justice grant programs--the Repeat Offender Prevention Program (ROPP) and the Juvenile Crime Enforcement and Accountability Challenge Grant--which distribute state funds to county probation departments for juvenile justice-related demonstration programs. The ROPP program was initiated in the 1996-97 Budget Act with an appropriation of $3.3 million dollars for seven counties (Fresno, Humboldt, Los Angeles, Orange, San Diego, San Mateo, and Solano). The program is based on research conducted by the Orange County probation department indicating that a significant proportion of juvenile crime is committed by a chronic 8 percent of the offender population. Each of the projects funded by this program is aimed at identifying and intervening with this population at an early stage (at the beginning or before the onset of their offending). The 1997-98 and 1998-99 budgets provided additional funds to continue the program until 2001 ($3.4 million and $3.8 million, respectively), and the 1998-99 budget added the City and County of San Francisco as a grantee. The board is requesting a partial position in the current and budget years to handle the workload associated with the addition of San Francisco and the extension of the program

The Juvenile Challenge Grant program was established by Chapter 133, Statutes of 1996 (SB 1760, Lockyer) with an initial 1996-97 Budget Act appropriation of $50 million to fund a five-year program cycle. This first round of funds was distributed to 14 counties to fund 29 different community-based demonstration programs targeting juvenile offenders. The programs were selected through a competitive process in which 52 counties applied. In 1998-99, the Challenge Grant program received an additional $60 million which will be distributed again on a competitive basis very similar to that employed for the first round. The board has requested position authority for three positions in the current year, and 3.9 positions in the budget year to administer this program. The positions would be supported by the funds already appropriated to the board for administration of the grants.

The 1999-00 Governor's Budget includes no additional funds for the Challenge Grants. However, Chapter 325, Statutes of 1998 (AB 2261, Aguiar) expressed the Legislature's intent to appropriate at least an additional $25 million annually to the program through 2001-02. During the first round of Challenge Grant funding, the board received proposals requesting over $137 million for the available pool of $50 million. The board anticipates that the demand for Challenge Grant funds will again far outstrip the $60 million currently available. Awards for the second round of the Challenge Grants will be made in May 1999.

Both of these programs require that the recipient counties undertake a rigorous quantitative evaluation designed to measure the outcomes of the various programs. The final report for the first round of the Challenge Grant program is due to the Legislature by March 1, 2001, and the final report on the ROPP is due on December 31, 2001. The findings of these reports will be important as the Legislature considers the proper role for the state in funding juvenile justice programs.

Mentally Ill Offender Crime Reduction Grant Program . The Mentally Ill Offender Crime Reduction Grant program is designed as a demonstration grant project to aid counties in finding new collaborative strategies for more effectively responding to the mentally ill offenders who cycle through already overcrowded county jails. Chapter 501, Statutes of 1998 (SB 1485, Rosenthal) created the program, and requires the board to develop an evaluation design that will assess the effect of the program on crime reduction, overcrowding in jails, and local criminal justice costs.

Chapter 502, Statutes of 1998 (SB 2108, Vasconcellos) appropriated $27 million for the program, and Chapter 501 expressed the Legislature's intent to appropriate an additional $25 million for the program in the budget year. However, the Governor's budget does not include any additional funds for this program.

The distribution of the grant funds will be on a competitive basis, and includes a planning grant process that allows counties to receive funds in order to assess their needs and develop programming proposals. Because 45 counties applied for and received initial small planning grants and at least two others appear likely to apply for demonstration grants, it is likely that the demand for the demonstration grant funds will outstrip the $23.7 million currently available. Grant awards for this program will be made in May 1999. The board is requesting one position in the current and budget years to administer this program.

Violent Offender Incarceration/Truth-in-Sentencing Grant. The Violent Offender Incarceration/Truth-in-Sentencing (VOI/TIS) Grant Program is a federally funded program that distributes money to states to construct or upgrade state and local correctional facilities. Under this program, states can spend up to 15 percent of their grant for local adult or juvenile facility construction. However, if the state declares that there are exigent circumstances, a state can use up to the entire amount for local juvenile facility construction.

In 1998, the Legislature enacted Chapter 339 (AB 2793, Migden) which declared exigent circumstances, awarded all of the 1998-99 VOI/TIS funds to counties for adult jail and juvenile detention facility construction, and announced the Legislature's intent to distribute the 1999-00 VOI/TIS funds in the same manner--15 percent for jail construction, and 85 percent for juvenile facility construction. However, the Governor's budget does not include any proposal to expend the 1999-00 federal funds. The board estimates that by 2002, the counties will need to spend an additional $735 million for local adult and juvenile facilities. The board will award the 1998-99 funds in May 1999. The budget includes three positions in the current year and 3.9 positions in the budget year to administer these funds.

Juvenile Hall/Camp Restoration Program. Because the need to restore and maintain existing juvenile facilities is at least as great as the need to expand existing bed capacity, the Legislature enacted Chapter 499, Statutes of 1998 (AB 2796, Wright). This measure appropriated $100 million in General Fund monies to support renovation, reconstruction, and deferred maintenance for juvenile halls and camps. The board will distribute these funds on a competitive basis in conjunction with the federal VOI/TIS funds available for juvenile facilities. Funds for this program are also expected to be awarded in May 1999. The board is requesting three positions in the current year and 3.9 positions in the budget year to administer these funds.

Board of Prison Terms (5440)

The Board of Prison Terms (BPT) is composed of nine members appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Senate for terms of four years. The BPT considers parole release for all persons sentenced to state prison under the indeterminate sentencing laws. The BPT may also suspend or revoke the parole of any prisoner under its jurisdiction who has violated parole. In addition, the BPT advises the Governor on applications for clemency and helps screen prison inmates who are scheduled for parole to determine if they are sexually violent predators subject to potential civil commitment.

The proposed 1999-00 Governor's Budget for the support of the BPT is $15.5 million from the General Fund. This is an increase of $778,000, or 5.3 percent, above estimated expenditures for the current year. The proposed current- and budget-year increases are primarily the result of the steadily increasing workload for hearing cases of parole violators and indeterminately sentenced prison inmates. In addition, the budget requests additional staff and contract funding related to expansion of the state Mentally Disordered Offender (MDO) program. This program commits prison inmates who are seriously mentally ill to state mental hospitals (we discuss this proposal below).

Rate Increases for Evaluators Should Be Rejected

We recommend approval of the Board of Prison Terms (BPT) request for $520,000 for two new staff positions and additional contract funding related to expansion of a state program to commit mentally disordered offenders nearing the end of their prison terms to state mental hospitals. However, we recommend reducing by $100,000 the funding proposed for rate increases to private psychiatrists and psychologists paid to evaluate these offenders because BPT's concern that it is being outbid for these services by the Department of Mental Health (DMH) is better addressed by granting part of the BPT rate increase, but also lowering DMH's rates to equal the new BPT rates.

We further recommend that DMH report at budget hearings on where and how DMH will hold the additional mentally disordered offenders resulting from this expansion of the commitment process. (Reduce Item 5440-001-0001 by $100,000 and reduce Item 4440-001-0001 by $137,000.)

The BPT Role in Commitment Process. The MDO program was established by Chapters 1418 and 1419, Statutes of 1985 (SB 1054, Lockyer and SB 1296, McCorquodale) to commit mentally ill prison inmates to state mental hospitals. To be deemed an MDO, an inmate must have committed one of a number of specified violent crimes, be nearing release on parole, have a severe mental disorder, and pose a substantial danger of causing physical harm to others if released to the community. Also, in order to be committed as an MDO, the offender must have been receiving mental health treatment in state prison for at least 90 days in the year prior to his or her anticipated release date.

State law provides that BPT must certify that an inmate being considered for an MDO commitment meets the necessary criteria. The BPT schedules and coordinates the evaluation of such offenders by psychiatrists or psychologists representing DMH and the California Department of Corrections (CDC). If the DMH and CDC evaluators disagree about whether an inmate is eligible for an MDO commitment, state law requires BPT to solicit the opinion of two other, independent evaluators to resolve the matter. Both must concur in an MDO commitment if it is to proceed; otherwise, the offender would likely be released on parole.

MDO Workload Increasing. The BPT has requested a General Fund augmentation of $620,000 to hire a staff psychiatrist and office technician and for additional contract funding to help address an increase in its projected MDO workload. In response to recent court decisions, many more inmates are now receiving ongoing mental health treatment at CDC institutions, with the result that the number of offenders approaching their release dates and potentially eligible for MDO commitments is growing significantly. Accordingly, CDC and DMH also propose to increase their efforts to commit more such offenders to state mental hospitals as MDOs instead of permitting their release to the community on parole.

The BPT has requested the two new positions to coordinate this expansion of MDO-related activities. It has also requested the contract funding necessary for it to address the resulting increase in its evaluation and hearing caseload.

Proposed Rates Should Be Reduced. Our analysis of DMH data documenting recent MDO caseload trends demonstrates that the $177,000 sought for the additional staffing and $125,000 sought for increases in its hearing and evaluation workload are justified. However, we have concluded that an additional $318,000 sought by BPT to increase the rate it pays psychiatrists and psychologists to conduct MDO evaluations is not justified and should be reduced by $100,000.

The BPT based its request on the increasing difficulty it has experienced in finding clinical professionals to conduct its evaluations. According to BPT, this difficulty stems from the fact that the psychiatrists and psychologists who have been performing this type of work have been offered higher rates for similar work by DMH. The BPT noted that, while it has been paying a flat rate of $320 per MDO evaluation, DMH has been paying $614 for MDO evaluations and paying an average of $1,500 for evaluation of offenders being considered for commitments under the Sexually Violent Predator program. The BPT has requested funding sufficient to raise its rates to $568 per evaluation to reduce the rate disparity.

The BPT's concerns about the disparity in rates appears to be valid. However, we believe a better approach to reducing the gap would be to increase the rate BPT pays for MDO evaluations to $490 (an increase of more than 50 percent), and to reduce DMH rates to $490. This change would restore BPT's basic rates to the $400 level they were at until a 1993 budget cut, and additionally provide the same $90 allowance for travel and court-appearance time received by DMH contractors. This approach would reduce the BPT budget request by $100,000 and permit a further $137,000 reduction in the DMH budget. Our recommendation to reduce the DMH rates paid for MDO evaluations is discussed in our analysis of the DMH budget in the Health and Social Services chapter of this Analysis.

No Plan for Holding Additional MDOs. We are also concerned that, while both the BPT and DMH are requesting additional funding to expand the MDO commitment process, the DMH budget does not provide additional funding to hold and provide treatment for the additional MDOs that would result from this proposed expansion of commitment efforts. We believe it would be unwise for the Legislature to provide additional funding for the processing of MDO cases unless there is funding and an acceptable plan for holding and treating these offenders.

Accordingly, in our analysis of DMH (please see the Health and Social Services chapter), we recommend that DMH report at budget hearings on its caseload estimates for mentally disordered offenders, along with projected support and capital outlay costs associated with the growing number of MDO referrals.

Analyst's Recommendation. For these reasons, we recommend approval of a $520,000 augmentation for BPT for MDO-related positions and contract evaluations, with a reduction of $100,000 from its original budget request. We also recommend that DMH report at budget hearings regarding the operating and any capital outlay costs relating to the proposed expansion of the MDOs in the state mental hospital system and its plan for holding and providing treatment for these additional offenders.

Department of the Youth Authority (5460)

The Department of the Youth Authority is responsible for the protection of society from the criminal and delinquent behavior of young people (generally ages 12 to 24, average age 19). The department operates training and treatment programs that seek to educate, correct, and rehabilitate youthful offenders rather than punish them. The department operates 11 institutions, including two reception centers/clinics, and four conservation camps. In addition, the department supervises parolees through 16 offices located throughout the state.

The budget proposes total expenditures of $392 million for the Youth Authority in 1999-00. This is $3.1 million, or about 1 percent, more than current-year expenditures. General Fund expenditures are proposed to total $320 million in the budget year, an increase of $4.5 million, or 1.4 percent, above expenditures in 1998-99. The department's proposed General Fund expenditures include $36.6 million in Proposition 98 educational funds. The Youth Authority also estimates that it will receive about $68 million in reimbursements in 1999-00. These reimbursements primarily come from the fees that counties pay for the wards they send to the Youth Authority.

The primary reason for the slight increase in General Fund spending for the budget year is that $15 million of a $25 million appropriation provided to the department in Chapter 499, Statutes of 1998 (AB 2796, Wright) for allocation to nonprofit organizations for youth shelters is proposed to be expended in the budget year.

Approximately 72 percent of the total funds requested for the department is for operation of the department's institutions and camps and 16 percent is for parole and community services. The remaining 12 percent of total funds is for the Youth Authority's education program.

Ward Population

Who Is in the Youth Authority?

There are several ways that an individual can be committed to the Youth Authority's institution and camp population, including:

Characteristics of the Youth Authority Wards. Wards in Youth Authority institutions are predominately male, 19 years old on average, and come primarily from southern California, with 34 percent coming from Los Angeles County. Hispanics make up the largest racial and ethnic group in Youth Authority institutions, accounting for 49 percent of the total population. African Americans make up 29 percent of the population, whites are 14 percent, and Asians and others are approximately 8 percent.

Most Wards Committed for Violent Offenses. Figure 1 shows the Youth Authority population by type of offense.

As of December 1998, 67 percent of the wards housed in departmental institutions were committed for a violent offense, such as homicide, robbery, assault, and various sex offenses.

In contrast, only 42 percent of the CDC's population has been incarcerated for violent offenses. The number of wards incarcerated for property offenses, such as burglary and auto theft, was 22 percent of the total population. The number of wards incarcerated for drug offenses was 5 percent in 1998, and the remaining 6 percent was incarcerated for various other offenses. We believe that the percentage of wards that are incarcerated for violent offenses will probably increase in future years. This is because the state has implemented a sliding fee schedule that provides the counties with an incentive to commit more serious offenders to the Youth Authority while retaining the less serious offenders at the local level. Specifically, counties are charged higher fees for less serious offenders committed to the Youth Authority and lower fees for more serious offenders (we describe this later in this analysis).

Average Period of Incarceration Is Increasing. Wards committed to the Youth Authority for violent offenses serve longer periods of incarceration than offenders committed for property or drug offenses. Because of an increase in violent offender commitments, the average length of stay for a ward in an institution is increasing. For example, the Youth Authority estimates that on average, wards who are first paroled in 1998-99 will have spent 31.3 months in a Youth Authority institution compared to 23.6 months for a ward paroled in 1993-94. This trend is expected to continue; the Youth Authority projects that the length of stay for first parolees in 2002-03 will be 32.3 months, a 3 percent increase.

The longer lengths of stay are explained in part by the fact that wards committed by the juvenile court serve "indeterminate" periods of incarceration, rather than a specified period of incarceration. Wards receive a parole consideration date when they are first admitted to the Youth Authority, based on their commitment offense. Time can be added or reduced by the Youthful Offender Parole Board (YOPB), based on the ward's behavior and whether the ward has completed rehabilitation programs. In contrast, juveniles and most adults sentenced in criminal court serve "determinate" sentences--generally a fixed number of years--that can be reduced by "work" credits and time served prior to sentencing.

As the Youth Authority population changes, so that the number of wards committed for violent offenses makes up a larger share of the total population, the length of stay will become a significant factor in calculating population growth. However, as we point out in our analysis of the YOPB, not all of the increase can be attributed to a change in the population mix, as less serious offenders are experiencing even sharper increases in their lengths of stay than more serious offenders.

Ward Population Continues to Decline

The Youth Authority's institutional population continued to decrease in the current year and it is projected to decline further over the next several years until June 2001, at which point it will start to increase. The Youth Authority's forecast is to have 7,510 wards at the end of the budget year and 7,880 wards in 2002-03.

Youth Authority parole populations are expected to decline in the budget year to about 5,060 parolees, and will continue to decrease to about 4,865 parolees by the end of 2002-03. The decline is due to fewer Youth Authority admissions and longer lengths of stay for those wards who are currently incarcerated.

The Youth Authority's September 1998 ward population projections (which form the basis for the 1999-00 Governor's Budget) estimate that the number of wards and inmates housed in the Youth Authority will decrease by 397, or 5 percent, by the end of 1998-99, compared to 1997-98. A primary reason for this decline in population is the implementation of Chapter 195 which transferred CDC inmates housed at the Youth Authority back to the CDC. In addition, implementation of Chapter 6, Statutes of 1996 (SB 681, Hurtt) increased the fees that counties pay the state for placement of juvenile offenders in the Youth Authority. The new fees went into effect January 1, 1997, and have had an impact on Youth Authority commitments (we discuss the effect of this legislation in more detail below).

For the budget year through 2002-03, the Youth Authority projects that its population will decline and then grow slightly, reaching just under 8,000 incarcerated wards on June 30, 2003. These estimates are significantly lower than the projections made by the Youth Authority in the spring of 1998 (which was the basis for the enacted 1998-99 budget) and appear to fully reflect the effects of the fee increase discussed below.

While the Youth Authority is experiencing a significant decline in the number of parolees it supervises in the current year, it does not expect a further significant decline in the budget year. Parole populations will decline by only 40 cases, or less than 1 percent, in the budget year. The number of parolees will continue to decline slowly through 2003. Figure 2 (see next page) shows the Youth Authority's institutional and parolee populations from 1997-98 through 2002-03.

Ward and Parolee Population Projections Will Be Updated in May

We withhold recommendation on a net $1.4 million decrease from the General Fund based on projected ward and parolee population changes, pending receipt of the revised budget proposal and population projections to be contained in the May Revision.

Ward and Parolee Population in the Budget Year. The Youth Authority population is projected to decrease by 215 wards, or 5 percent, from the end of the current year to the end of the budget year. The budget proposes a net decrease of $1.4 million from the General Fund reflecting this decrease in the Youth Authority population. The dollar decrease is relatively modest because the Youth Authority has decided not to close any housing units in response to the projected drop in population. In fact, the budget requests a small net increase in the number of security personnel staffing the institutions.

The department will submit a revised budget proposal as part of the May Revision that will reflect more current population projections. These revised projections could affect the department's request for funding. To the extent that population decline is greater than currently assumed, it could necessitate closing a housing unit or one of the department's 16 parole offices, which would result in substantially greater savings.

In recent years, Youth Authority projections have tended to be somewhat higher than the actual population, leading to downward revisions for the future projected population. For example, the projection of the June 30, 1999 institutional population projection dropped from 8,315 in the fall 1997 projections to 7,830 in the spring 1998 projections, and currently stands at 7,510.

These decreases appear to be partly caused by the changes in Youth Authority fees. While these changes appear to have stabilized, there is sufficient uncertainty to warrant withholding recommendation on the budget changes associated with the population size pending receipt and analysis of the revised budget proposal.

Youth Authority Fees Charged to Counties

Legislation that took effect in 1997 to substantially increase the fees paid by counties for committing less serious offenders to the Youth Authority appears to be having its desired effects. Admissions in less serious offense categories are down significantly, and counties are moving to increase their menu of local programming options for these offenders. County efforts in this direction have been aided by the availability of over $700 million in state and federal funds for juvenile probation programs. As a result of these successes, we recommend that the state maintain the sliding scale structure.

In this section, we review the 1997 legislation that increased fees paid by counties for commitments to the Youth Authority. We begin by describing the fee changes and outline steps taken to provide additional funding to counties for juvenile justice programs. We then discuss the effects of the fee changes on both the Youth Authority and the counties. This information is based on our review of data and discussions with Youth Authority staff and county probation departments. We follow this with our conclusion about the effects of the fee reforms and several recommendations to the Legislature based on our findings.

Legislation Increased Fees Counties Pay for the Youth Authority

Effective January 1, 1997, counties are charged new and higher fees for their commitments of juvenile offenders to the Youth Authority. These fees were enacted by Chapter 6.

Prior to the enactment of Chapter 6, counties paid a monthly fee of $25 for each offender sent to the Youth Authority. That fee was set in 1961, and was increased to $150 by Chapter 6 in order to take account of inflationary cost increases to the Youth Authority. In addition, Chapter 6 established a new "sliding scale" fee structure which requires counties to pay a percentage of the per capita monthly cost of wards with less serious offenses who are committed to the Youth Authority.

Sliding Scale Fees Based on Type of Offender. The sliding scale fees are determined by the YOPB based on the category that a ward is assigned to at his initial parole board hearing. The board assigns each juvenile committed to the jurisdiction of the Youth Authority a category number--from I to VII--based on the seriousness of his commitment offense. Because most juveniles are committed on the basis of their entire records, this number would correspond to the most serious offense in their records, not necessarily their most recent offense. Generally, offenses in categories I through IV are considered the most serious, while categories V through VII are less serious. Figure 3 provides typical examples of the offenses in each category.
Figure 3
Youth Authority Wards--

Categories and Typical Offenses

Ward Category Typical Offenses Baseline PCDa Monthly Charge to County
I Murder, torture, kidnapping resulting in death 7 years $150
II Voluntary manslaughter, child molestation, kidnappingb 4 years 150
III Rape/sexual assaultb, carjacking 3 years 150
IV Armed robberyb, arsonb, drug selling offenses 2 years 150
V Assault with a deadly weaponb, robberyb, residential burglaryb, sexual battery 18 months 1,300
VI Carrying a concealed firearm, commercial

burglary, batteryb, all felonies not contained in categories I-V

1 year 1,950
VII Technical parole violations, all offenses not

contained in categories I-VI (for example, misdemeanors)

1 year or less 2,600
a Parole consideration date.
b If offense results in substantial injury then it would fall into the more serious adjacent category (for example, rape is generally a category III offense, but a rape with substantial injury is a category II offense).

Commitments of wards in categories I through IV are billed the $150 monthly fee. Category V commitments are billed to the counties at 50 percent of per capita cost ($1,300 per month), category VI at 75 percent ($1,950 per month), and category VII commitments are billed the full cost of the commitment ($2,600 per month).

Legislation Enacted in 1998 Caps the Fees. This fee structure was modified somewhat by Chapter 632, Statutes of 1998 (SB 2055, Costa) which froze the per capita costs on which the sliding scale fees are based at the levels in effect on January 1, 1997 ($31,200 per year). This legislation was enacted in response to county concerns about rapidly increasing per capita costs as a consequence of recent declines in the Youth Authority population (the smaller the ward population, the greater the per capita costs of the Youth Authority). This legislation ensures that counties will not pay higher fees simply because the population decline resulting from the implementation of the sliding scale generates higher per capita costs. However, as a result of this legislation, the Youth Authority's reimbursements from the counties will be continually smaller than the state's actual costs, as both inflation and a declining population lead to increases in per capita costs.

Intent of Sliding Scale Legislation. The sliding scale legislation was intended to provide counties with a fiscal incentive to utilize and develop more locally-based programs for less serious juvenile offenders, and to reduce their dependence on costly Youth Authority commitments. Prior to the passage of the legislation, counties had a strong fiscal incentive to send offenders to the Youth Authority because they only paid a nominal $25 monthly fee per ward. As a result, Youth Authority commitments, while often more expensive than other sanction and treatment options, were far less expensive from the counties' perspective.

While some counties developed their own locally based programs despite these incentives, other counties appeared to be over-relying on Youth Authority commitments. This disparate usage of the Youth Authority was reflected in the widely ranging first admission rates across counties. Figure 4 (see next page) shows the 1996 first admission rates to the Youth Authority for the 15 counties with the largest populations aged 12 through 17 years (the population from which first admissions generally are drawn). The figure shows the large disparities among counties in the use of the Youth Authority that existed prior to the legislation.

The problems with the prior fee structure were threefold. First, a large body of research on juvenile justice programs suggests that most juvenile offenders can and should be handled in locally based programs. In part, this is because locally based programs can work more closely with the offender, his family, and the community. Second, these locally based programs tend to be less expensive than a Youth Authority commitment, which meant that state funding was encouraging counties to use a more expensive as well as less effective sanctioning option for many offenders. Finally, taxpayers in those counties with lower admissions rates for less serious offenders were paying not only for their own locally based options, but also for a share of the costs created by those other counties with higher Youth Authority admissions rates. In response to these shortcomings, the Legislature acted to align the fiscal incentives faced by counties with more cost-effective policies, thereby encouraging counties to invest in preventive and early intervention strategies.

New State and Federal Funds Ease the Transition Costs of the Fee Changes. Since the sliding-scale legislation took effect, the Legislature has appropriated over $700 million for various county-based juvenile justice initiatives. These new funds do not directly address the increased fees, but they do help mitigate the financial burden by supplementing existing resources for developing local alternative programs to the Youth Authority. These include:

Thus, while counties have been faced with new costs as a result of the sliding scale reform, these costs--estimated to have cost the counties less than $100 million dollars since the reform took effect--are far outweighed by the new state and federal funds that have been available to them.

Fees Have Changed Profile Of Youth Authority Wards

Admissions in the Least Serious Offender Categories Have Declined Significantly. In the two years since the sliding scale fee took effect, it has significantly reduced the numbers of first admissions to the Youth Authority. Overall, first admissions in 1997 were 30 percent lower than in 1996. Admissions data for 1998 continue the 1997 trends. These trends seem likely to continue into the future.

Not only have overall admissions declined, but admissions for the least serious offenders have dropped significantly. As Figure 5 shows, first admissions for the more serious offenses declined by 15 percent, while admissions in the less serious offense categories declined by 41 percent. This change suggests that counties have responded to the sliding scale fees, but have not been deterred by the increase in the monthly fee from committing more serious offenders when appropriate.

Prior Disparities in Youth Authority Usage Have Diminished Significantly. The new fees have also resulted in a more even distribution among counties of first admission rates for less serious offenders (categories V through VII). An examination of the first admissions rate in Figure 6 illustrates these changes in the 15 counties with the largest juvenile populations. This change ensures that those counties that continue to rely heavily on the Youth Authority are paying a greater share of the costs incurred as a result of those commitments.

Changing Admissions Patterns Have Resulted in a More Violent Youth Authority Population. These changes in the patterns of first admissions have also led to a significant change in the mix of offenders going into the Youth Authority. In 1996, the most serious offenders (categories I through IV) made up 42 percent of the first admissions, while in 1997 they represented 51 percent of first admissions, despite the fact that their numbers dropped in absolute terms by 15 percent. Because offenders in these categories are likely to have much longer stays in the Youth Authority, their proportion of the overall population tends to be significantly greater than their proportion of first admissions. Thus, at the end of 1998, 63 percent of the wards in institutions had committed more serious offenses (categories I through IV), and 37 percent had committed less serious offenses (categories V through VII).

Changes in Population Characteristics Highlight Need for New and Expanded Programming. In the Supplemental Report of 1997-98 Budget Act, the Legislature directed the Youth Authority to review its needs for treatment and programs for wards. In response to this requirement, the Youth Authority submitted to the Legislature a report on its program and treatment needs in the face of "an increasingly violent youthful offender population." This report described the changing character of the wards served and described the existing needs in this population that were going unmet. This report focused on the new security and programming needs that have arisen as the Youth Authority population has become more violent and more emotionally disturbed.

In our view, however, the Youth Authority has not considered how it can change its programming for less serious offenders in order to better serve the needs of counties as they face the new demands of the sliding scale legislation. These new programming challenges are discussed in detail below.

Counties Have Responded to New Fees in Variety of Ways

Significant Changes in Some Counties, But Not Others. Figure 6 shows that most counties have reduced their admission rates in the less serious categories in response to the sliding scale reform, but only a few have done so dramatically. The effects on the counties range from fairly insignificant in counties such as Contra Costa, to more moderate reductions in Alameda, San Joaquin, Los Angeles, and Fresno, to truly dramatic reductions in counties such as Kern, Santa Clara, and San Mateo.

The main issue raised by these reductions is how these counties are dealing with the wards who are no longer being sent to the Youth Authority and whether the counties are providing appropriate alternative services to them. For the most part, we found that counties are adopting fairly similar strategies. These include expansion or creation of boot camp or ranch programs and implementation of programs inside juvenile halls for offenders already adjudicated by the juvenile court (traditionally juvenile halls are used solely for short-term detention of offenders awaiting adjudication). There are a number of out-of-state placements that counties might have used in lieu of a Youth Authority commitment, but the recent controversies surrounding these placements, as well as the new licensing requirements imposed by Chapter 311, Statutes of 1998 (SB 933, Thompson), have made these options less viable.

Counties Frustrated by Certain Intractable, Less Serious Offenders. The programs implemented by the counties are filling the gaps for a large share of chronic delinquents. However, counties find themselves frustrated by the persistence of a small subset of less serious offenders who do not respond to county programs. Many counties are opting to send these "intractable" offenders through the same county program two or three times despite failure, rather than face the costs of a Youth Authority commitment. They have indicated particular concern about this approach because they fear it will lessen the effectiveness of the sanction for first-time participants.

Some counties have opted to separate these program failures from the other offenders, while other counties have shifted them into juvenile hall- based programs in order to impress upon them the consequences of program failure. In either case, it is clear that many counties are frustrated in their attempts to adequately sanction and treat these chronic and intractable delinquents.

Counties Are Expanding Their Prevention and Early Intervention Activities. Despite these difficulties, most counties we spoke to understood the underlying policy rationale that motivated the change in the fees, and are in the process of implementing new prevention and early intervention strategies. In fact, the fees served as an incentive for the counties to increase their array of locally available programming, particularly at the front end of the system. The state funds available from TANF, the Challenge Grants, and ROPP are aiding the counties in these prevention and intervention efforts. The benefits of these efforts are still a few years away, but counties are optimistic that they will help them reduce their dependence on the Youth Authority as a sanctioning option.

Conclusion: Sliding Scale Legislation Is Achieving Its Intended Objectives

The sliding scale legislation was intended to achieve two primary objectives: (1) reduce the over-reliance by counties on the Youth Authority for less serious juvenile offenders and (2) encourage counties to create a fuller spectrum of locally available programming to meet the needs of juvenile offenders. Available data demonstrate that the first objective has been met. Counties are being significantly more judicious in their use of the Youth Authority as a placement option for wards of the juvenile court. Although it is premature to declare the second objective a success as well, it is clear that many counties are responding to the change by creating new local program options.

On the whole, we believe that these trends are positive, as local programming is likely to be more effective and less expensive than a Youth Authority commitment for less serious offenders. Moreover, because their offense histories do not involve serious violent crimes, these wards are not likely to pose a serious threat to public safety if kept within the community.

Given these positive developments, we do not recommend any fundamental changes to the structure of the sliding scale legislation itself, as it appears to be a success. In the analysis below, however, we make several recommendations that we believe would maximize the benefits that the sliding scale legislation was designed to produce.

Target Future State Juvenile Justice Funds

To the extent that the Legislature chooses to continue to provide funding to counties for new or expanded juvenile justice programs, we recommend that the funds be awarded on a competitive basis and modeled after the Challenge Grant program.

As we indicated earlier, the Legislature has provided a substantial amount of funding to counties for juvenile justice programs since enactment of the sliding scale fees. To the extent that the Legislature continues to provide funding to county probation departments or other juvenile justice agencies and service providers, we believe that it should use the Challenge Grants as a model. This would include requiring that counties first undergo a planning process to reach a consensus on where the service gaps are, and include some kind of evaluation component to ensure accountability and cost-effectiveness.

Similarly, allocating funds on a competitive basis rewards counties for excellence in program design and insures a higher level of commitment to the program from the participating agencies. For these reasons we recommend that each of these elements--planning, evaluation, and competitive allocation--be included as requirements for any new juvenile justice funds provided by the state.

Counties Should Have Input Into Length of Stay Decisions

We recommend enactment of legislation to modify the process by which parole consideration dates are established for Youth Authority wards with less serious offenses (categories V though VII). Specifically, the process should be modified in order to permit counties to have a greater say in the length of stay of wards that they send to the Youth Authority.

Under current law, once a young offender is accepted by the Youth Authority as a new admission, he becomes a ward of the department, and all decisions regarding length of stay, parole, and parole revocation are within the sole jurisdiction of the YOPB (see our analysis of the YOPB later in this chapter for a more detailed discussion of this process).

This method of determining length of stay may be appropriate for wards where the state is bearing almost all of the costs. However, it is less appropriate for wards in categories V through VII where counties are paying 50 percent or more of the cost to house the ward. This issue takes on particular importance given the large disparities that apparently exist between what the counties and the YOPB view as appropriate periods of secure confinement for these less serious offenders. For example, as discussed in our analysis of the YOPB, parole consideration dates (PCDs) for less serious offenders in the Youth Authority ranged from 19 months for Category V to 13 months for Category VII. By contrast, most counties are implementing programs for these offenders that are generally six to nine months in duration.

Counties Should Have Greater Say in Length of Stay. Because the counties are now paying a large share of the costs for these wards and given that the wards will likely return to the county from which they were committed when paroled, we believe that the counties should have some role in determining the optimal length of stay for the wards.

For these reasons, we recommend the enactment of legislation to modify the process by which PCDs are established. There are a number of different alternatives that the Legislature could choose from, including:

These alternatives are intended to be suggestive, and only take into account the initial PCD decision. Subsequent decisions that are currently made by the board could be left with it or county input could again be sought in a manner similar to those recommended above.

Fees Should Be Regularly Adjusted To Account for Effects of Inflation

We recommend the enactment of legislation to adjust the sliding scale fees periodically to account for the effects of inflation.

As discussed above, Chapter 632 capped the sliding scale fees charged to counties at the January 1, 1997 level. It makes sense to protect counties from facing higher sliding scale fees simply because the Youth Authority population is dropping as the natural and intended consequence of the fee change. However, we believe that this 1997 base rate should be periodically adjusted to account for the effects of inflation. Likewise, the $150 fee needs periodic adjustment so that the state is not in the position of making such a radical upward adjustment as was the case in 1996 when the $25 fee set in 1961 was adjusted for inflation.

As a result, we recommend the enactment of legislation to require the Youth Authority to make an inflationary adjustment of the 1997 per capita sliding scale fees, and the $150 monthly fee set by Chapter 6 periodically, at least every three years, based on changes in the Consumer Price Index.

Youth Authority Needs to Develop Targeted Programming for Certain Less Serious Offenders

We recommend that the Legislature adopt supplemental report language directing the Youth Authority to report on the feasibility of developing programming targeted to chronic and intractable offenders in the less serious categories.

The Youth Authority Has a Role to Play With Some Less Serious Offenders. When the sliding scale reform was implemented, the intent was not to eliminate all offenders in categories V to VII from the Youth Authority, but rather to provide counties with more neutral cost incentives when choosing the proper treatment for these offenders. The recent significant declines in first admissions in these categories appear to be driven by two primary factors: the creation at the local level of new program options for these offenders and a new reluctance to use the Youth Authority for any of these offenders based on the high costs. Discussions with county probation departments make it clear that even with the creation of new programs, there are certain offenders in the less serious categories that they would have sent to the Youth Authority but for the high cost burden. The offenses committed by these offenders are generally property crimes or nonserious assaults, but they are persistent, and the juveniles appear to be unresponsive to the programming made available by the counties.

Shorter Institutional Stays Are Needed With More Services Delivered on Parole. In recent years, the Youth Authority has focused significant attention on the growing proportion of its population who pose a greater threat to staff security and also demand more intensive treatment services. The risk to public safety posed by these wards is significant, such that an extended stay at the Youth Authority which includes a wide array of programming is necessary to meet the demands of public safety as well as the rehabilitative needs of these wards.

For the chronic and intractable delinquents discussed above, however, institutional confinement time is not required primarily to protect the public, but rather to provide structure and accountability for the offender. As a result, institutional confinement time for these offenders should be limited to the time necessary to achieve this objective. At present, the average PCD for these offenders is more than 17 months, while the programs that they are failing at the county level are generally about six months in duration. This 11-month difference appears unnecessarily large, especially given the fact that a Youth Authority commitment of any duration is a more severe and punitive sanction than spending time in a county ranch or camp.

The YOPB is currently responsible for making all decisions on length of stay. One way to encourage it to reduce the length of commitments for these less serious, intractable offenders would be to provide shorter-term institutional programming directly addressed to their needs. Because the counties are opting to use six- to nine-month locally based secure programs, we recommend that the Youth Authority examine the feasibility of providing institutional programming in a similar time frame. We recognize that a six- to nine-month period would not be sufficient to address all of the needs of most of these wards, but many of the issues that require more time, such as substance abuse and academic and vocational skills, could be provided in a community setting under the supervision of Youth Authority parole.

Youth Authority Can Fill a "Market Niche." Clearly there will be wards for whom this intermediate approach is not sufficient, but at present there is a gap in the continuum of graduated sanctions available to most counties that the Youth Authority is in the position to bridge. The next few years present an opportunity for experimentation with such programs because declining populations within Youth Authority institutions and more notably on parole, will create some slack in existing resources that can be used to get pilot programs off the ground. Moreover, if such programs prove effective, they will allow the Youth Authority to more efficiently meet the needs of the greater number of wards expected to enter the juvenile justice system early in the next century.

What Are the Impacts on Counties? These programming changes would also help to ease the cost pressures on counties in a number of ways. Most directly, limiting the confinement time for many of the wards in the less serious categories to six to nine months would reduce the sliding scale fee costs that counties are currently facing. In addition, providing a more cost-effective secure treatment option would relieve the current pressure on counties to recycle offenders through their existing programs despite repeated failure. Counties would prefer to avoid recycling offenders because it diminishes the effect of the local sanction for the offenders who fail as well as the other offenders who see that there is no enhanced penalty as a consequence of program failure. Finally, if the Youth Authority is a more cost-effective treatment option, counties will have less incentive to invest their resources in construction and operation of locally based Youth Authority-style facilities and programs for this group of offenders.

Analyst's Recommendation. We recommend that the Legislature adopt supplemental report language directing the Youth Authority to report on the feasibility of implementing a six- to nine-month institutional program for offenders in categories V through VII, with an intensive parole aftercare component. The report should identify the likely substantive content of such a program, as well as the changes in existing practice and procedures that would be required for implementation to occur. If the Youth Authority concludes that such a program is not feasible, it should report on what steps can be taken to reduce the duration of institutionally based programming for these offenders. We recommend that the report be submitted by December 1, 1999 in order for its findings to be incorporated into the 2000-01 Governor's Budget. The following language is consistent with this recommendation.

The Department of the Youth Authority shall report to the Legislature by December 1, 1999 on the feasibility of implementing a six- to nine-month institutional program for offenders in Youthful Offender Parole Board categories V through VII. The report shall include, but not be limited to: (1) an identification of the core institutional services and programming that less serious offenders require, as well as those that can be effectively delivered on parole; (2) one or more proposals to deliver those services in a sequence that minimizes required institutional time and maximizes the value of aftercare on parole; (3) an estimate of the costs per ward to deliver such programming and any changes in current procedures that would be necessary to implement the programming; and (4) an evaluation of the advantages and disadvantages of adopting the programming which includes discussions of the effects on the rehabilitation of the ward and public safety as well as the cost-effectiveness of the proposal relative to current practice.

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