| LA County’s New Youth Development Department Aims to Transform Youth Justice


Los Angeles County officially launched the new Department of Youth Development on July 5. As the nation as a whole shifts to a model of rehabilitation rather than punishment, the county’s new Department of Youth Development is going one step further, with the goal of transforming the way county systems treat young people. and invest in their development, well-being and security.

“Youth justice is not just about making sure we provide fair alternatives to arrest and system involvement,” said Vincent Holmes, the new acting director of the Ministry of Development. the youth. “It also means ensuring that every young person in LA County has access to the youth development and care opportunities they deserve.”

While previous reforms and interventions have reduced the number of young people involved in the justice system, with fewer than 450 young people in the county’s juvenile centers and camps, thousands of children are arrested or cited each year in LA County. . Evidence shows that their lives are disrupted even by first contact with the justice system and that negative outcomes increase exponentially with deeper involvement of the system.

Supervisor Holly J. Mitchell, who chairs the Board of Supervisors, views the Department of Youth Development’s mission as a necessary step in improving community safety and equity in LA County.

“This department will further expand the county’s ability to meaningfully invest in and improve the lives of young people who rely on us to do so.” Our black and brown youth continue to be disproportionately represented in our justice system that does not truly serve them. The Department of Youth Development is one of the tools we have to change that,” she said. “Intentionally working with young people and equipping them with the skills and resources to succeed is how we achieve our goal as a county to move from failing systems based solely on punishment to proven solutions for youth development that strengthen the overall vitality and safety of our communities. ”

Black youth and other youth of color are increasingly disproportionately affected by the negative effects of contact with the justice system at every stage.

About 80% of arrests or citations of minors are for alleged “status offences,” such as violating curfew, or involve alleged non-serious, non-violent misdemeanors or crimes that are legally eligible for referral to services community diversion and development initiatives that better support positive outcomes for youth and community safety.

“We say our young people are our future, so we need to protect their future, working with their family and support systems, in a caring environment that prioritizes their well-being and supports their growth instead. to penalize them as they progress to adulthood. said supervisor Hilda L. Solis. “The establishment of the county’s youth development department is the commitment we are making not only to their future, but also to the future of the county.”

Holmes brings more than 32 years of public sector experience with the County and Superior Court of Los Angeles, including extensive work creating innovative programs to serve justice-serving populations through the ATI Incubation Academy, Measure J/Care First Community Investment, the Gang Violence Reduction Project, and My Brother’s Keeper Initiative, among others.

Since 2017, he has helped advance the collaborative planning and design of the county’s innovative youth diversion and development model that the new Department of Youth Development will build upon. He has built relationships with partners in the justice system and is highly respected by local leaders, the community and the young people who will be needed to support the ministry’s transformative youth development agenda.

When launched, the Department of Youth Development also has the benefit of leveraging the work of the county’s Youth Justice Reimagined initiative. Holmes is excited to continue working alongside youth advocates with lived experience who have helped inspire the Commission’s bold vision for youth justice.

Supervisor Sheila Kuehl said the work is innovative, but well-researched.

“Historically, youth justice systems have focused on incarceration, which often means simply abandoning young people instead of investing in prevention, rehabilitation and second chances. The county is following the successful example of other local jurisdictions like San Francisco, Houston and St. Paul in being bold and innovative, thinking outside the box in creating and reforming youth justice” , she said. “The Department of Youth Development is a big step forward in reinventing LA County’s criminal justice system because we know and the data shows we are better at helping young people thrive and improving safety. of the community by providing rehabilitative, health-focused and care-first programming.

Providing early and equitable access to resources that help young people grow and develop can change the trajectory of their lives. Expanding diversion and youth development programs to continue to equitably reduce involvement of the youth justice system, building the capacity of youth and youth development centers, and supporting credible messengers in schools and other youth-serving systems are just a few of the key program elements of the Department of Youth Development. initial view.

“Supporting our young people means offering them resources to help them thrive before they risk coming into contact with the justice system, from mental health services to well-paying jobs when the time comes,” said the supervisor. Janice Hahn. “With this new service, we reinforce our commitment to making these resources accessible to all young people, in all neighbourhoods.

Supervisor Kathryn Barger emphasized the importance of other county departments supporting this work.

“We need to help young people in our system reach their full potential so they can be successfully integrated into our workplaces and communities,” she said. “In order to holistically meet the needs of youth involved in justice, all of our county departments must work together to equip them with all the tools necessary to succeed physically, academically, mentally and emotionally. As Dr. D’Artagnan Scorza, our Executive Director of Racial Equity, has repeatedly emphasized, it’s crucial that we engage with our young people as soon as possible and put them on the best path to thriving.

Going forward, the Department of Youth Development hopes to engage an even larger group of young people in shaping the department’s strategy through community meetings and other interactions. Anyone interested in following the work of the Department of Youth Development can sign up to receive updates from the Department of Youth Development.


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