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Juvenile Crime And Prevention

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A traditional role of state government has been to ensure statewide standardization of juvenile crime prevention programming so that those at one end of the State can find the same services to meet needs as those at the other end. Even those who are frustrated by the uneven nature of community programs, however, are not suggesting that the State should target juvenile crime by mandating a specific array of services and programs. Top-down enforcement of solutions that would meet the diversity of needs throughout the State strike many as a concept that is impossible, too authoritarian and destined to fail.
Writing about the delicacy required to use the clout of state government to empower families and communities, experts at Pennsylvania State University urged that states strive for policies that are family-centered, preventive and "decategorized," meaning that regulations, eligibility criteria and other rules should be more flexible to allow combined funding streams and services. Among the principles outlined at a Pennsylvania Family Policy Seminar was that the "first presumption of policies and programs should be to support and supplement family functioning, rather than substituting for family functioning." 40
Testifying to the Little Hoover Commission about the proper state role, the California Youth Authority said that while history shows that the juvenile justice system has been a shared state-local responsibility, prevention activities have been primarily local activities:
The state role is limited to advising, evaluating, coordinating and providing technical assistance and information. Indeed, the juvenile justice system in its entirety is somewhat limited in its ability to fundamentally alter the causes and correlates of juvenile crime. Rather, the Youth Authority believes that the most effective approaches to prevention of youth crime and delinquency are those which address the fundamental transfers of societal values to our young. The values of personal self-worth, sense of community and responsibility are most frequently transmitted by families, by schools, by religious communities and by the society as a whole. When these instruments of society, these conduits of values communication, cease to function effectively, we find ourselves forced to develop corrective -- not preventive -- strategies to issues such as juvenile crime. 41

Several State bodies share role of fighting juvenile crime A s the most visible state component of the juvenile justice system, the California Youth Authority has a statutory obligation to promote prevention activities. But the CYA is not alone in being entrusted with this mission at the state level. A brief description of mandates and programmatic efforts follows:

The Delinquency Prevention Act of 1974 charged the California Youth Authority with the responsibility of "assisting the development, establishment and operation of comprehensive public and private community-based programs for crime and delinquency prevention...[including exercising] leadership on behalf of the State....All state agencies shall cooperate with the Department of the Youth Authority to bring about a statewide program for the reduction and prevention of crime and delinquency. 42 While CYA provided delinquency prevention training and technical assistance to local governments both before and after the act was adopted, budget cuts and the realignment of state funds into block grants to counties for these and other purposes in the past three years sharply reduced the CYA's involvement in prevention activities. CYA continues low-budget-impact efforts, such as having wards speak to schoolchildren and teaching wards good parenting skills.

The State's central planning mechanism for delinquency prevention, however, is not the CYA but the Office of Criminal Justice Planning (OCJP) acting with the advice and approval of the California Council on Criminal ...

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