The Public Defender DJJ (Division of Juvenile Justice) Unit, comprised of an attorney and paralegal, serves clients currently housed at DJJ institutions throughout the state, consults on cases where a DJJ disposition is being sought, and represents DJJ youth released on reentry supervision pursuant to the Public Safety and Rehabilitation Act of 2010, AB 1628.
The DJJ Unit was established following the implementation of Senate Bill 459 in 2004. SB 459 requires DJJ to comply with case planning requirements and regular reporting to the courts. In addition, SB 459 modified Welfare and Institutions Code §779, allowing courts to modify or recall DJJ commitments. The DJJ Unit monitors, advocates, and visits the 49 juvenile public defender clients currently committed to DJJ. The DJJ attorney’s duties include: monitoring the conditions at each of the State’s Youth Correctional Facilities at Ventura, Stockton and Pine Grove; remaining updated on the status of the consent decree, inspector general reports, special master reports and related legislation pertaining to DJJ; advocating for our client’s educational and mental health treatment while at DJJ, and filing Welfare and Institutions Code §779 petitions in Juvenile Court on behalf of our clients who are not receiving adequate treatment at DJJ. The DJJ Unit attorney can file 779 motions in the sentencing court arguing for the removal of clients from DJJ due to lack of rehabilitation or in the alternative, request that the Court order DJJ to provide services if DJJ is failing to provide adequate safety, rehabilitation programs or services.
Our DJJ Unit staff prepares youth for reentry while at the CDCR institutions and represents youth once they are released. Our DJJ staff has a caseload of approximately 25 reentry youth. We represent the youth at their reentry hearings at Eastlake Juvenile Court at which time the court sets the terms and conditions of probation. We continue to represent the youth’s rights at all court appearances including progress reports, probation violation hearings, and advocate for necessary services such as housing, transportation and any other need the youth may require. For example, we assist DJJ reentry youth in forming a relapse prevention plan, locating community based organizations that provide treatment and housing, and other services such as job training and educational opportunities which are needed for successful reintegration into the community.
The DJJ Unit attorney also assists juvenile attorneys throughout the county whose clients face DJJ commitments by helping the attorneys prepare for contested dispositions, educating attorneys on current conditions and programs available at DJJ, negotiating fitness withdrawals for DJJ, and advising on legal issues relating to DJJ commitments.