The Public Defender’s Office assigns an attorney and social worker to work with youth committed to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s (CDCR) Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) both pre- and post-disposition. The DJJ Unit serves clients currently housed at DJJ institutions throughout the state, consults on cases where a DJJ disposition is being sought, represents DJJ youth released on reentry supervision pursuant to the Public Safety and Rehabilitation Act of 2010 (Assembly Bill 1628), serves on the Juvenile Justice Task Force, and represents all youth who have been committed to DJJ, irrespective of their prior representation, to seek relief from the collateral consequences of their DJJ commitment by applying for rehabilitated youth’s Honorable Discharge (Senate Bill 625), relief from sex registration (Senate Bill 394) and filing motions to dismiss pursuant to Welfare and Institutions Code (WIC) section 782.
The DJJ Unit was established following the implementation of Senate Bill (SB) 459 in 2004, which required DJJ to comply with case planning requirements and regular reporting to the courts and WIC 779, allowing courts to modify or recall DJJ commitments. The DJJ Unit monitors, advocates for, and visits approximately 50 public defender clients currently committed to DJJ which includes: monitoring the conditions at each of the State’s Youth Correctional Facilities at Ventura, Stockton and Pine Grove; remaining updated on the current programming available at the facilities and the related legislation pertaining to DJJ; advocating for our client’s educational and mental health treatment while at DJJ, and filing WIC 779 petitions in Juvenile Court on behalf of our clients who are no longer benefitting from the rehabilitation available 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 services or in the alternative, request that the Court order DJJ to provide services if DJJ is failing to provide adequate rehabilitation programs or services.
The DJJ Unit staff prepares youth for reentry while at the CDCR institutions and represents youth once they are released. The DJJ Unit staff represents youth at their reentry hearings at Eastlake Juvenile Court, at which time the court sets the terms and conditions of probation. The DJJ Unit staff continue to represent the youth’s rights at all court appearances, including progress reports, and probation violation hearings. They advocate for necessary services such as housing, transportation and any other needs the youth may require. For example, they assist DJJ reentry youth in forming a relapse prevention plan, locating community based organizations that provide treatment and housing, and other services that may include 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 Transfer withdrawals for DJJ, and advising on legal issues relating to DJJ commitments.
The DJJ Unit attorney is an active member of the Juvenile Justice Task Force, a collaborative group of stakeholders committed to ensuring that the reentry needs of DJJ youth are met. Currently, the DJJ task force is comprised of juvenile justice partners from the Los Angeles Superior Court, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, Los Angeles County Probation, Los Angeles Mayor’s Office for Reentry, Anti-Recidivism Coalition, Women of Substance & Men of Honor, Reentry Coordinators, Board of Juvenile Hearing Officers, Intake and Court Liaison’s from CDCR’s DJJ.
Recent legislation (SB 625), authorizes an award of Honorable Discharge (HD) to be made by the Board Juvenile Hearings (BJH). The Public Defender’s Office’s DJJ Unit worked closely with the author and stakeholders in the design and drafting of SB 625 and now assists eligible DJJ reentry youth apply for an HD. A grant of honorable discharge will allow a youth to be free from employment, housing and licensing restrictions and can be the first step on a youth’s path to apply for a dismissal, sealing and/or Penal Code section 290 sex registration removal.
The newly restored process for HD includes the following main features:
SB 384, effective, January 1, 2021, established two tiers of registration for periods of five or 10 years for juveniles committed to DJJ for specified sex offenses.
A tier one juvenile offender “is subject to registration for a minimum of five years. A person is a tier one juvenile offender if the person is required to register after being adjudicated as a ward of the court and discharged or paroled from the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation for an offense listed in subdivision (c) that is not a serious or violent felony as described in subdivision (c) of Section 667.5 or subdivision (c) of Section 1192.7.”
A tier two juvenile offender “is subject to registration for a minimum of 10 years.” A person is a tier two juvenile offender if the person is required to register after being adjudicated as a ward of the court and discharged or paroled from the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation for an offense listed in subdivision (c) that is a serious or violent felony as described in subdivision (c) of Section 667.5 or subdivision (c) of Section 1192.7.
In select cases, the Judge of the Juvenile Court in which a petition was filed may dismiss the petition, or may set aside the findings and dismiss the petition, if the court finds that the interests of justice and the welfare of the person who is the subject of the petition require that dismissal, or if it finds that he or she is not in need of treatment or rehabilitation. The court has jurisdiction to order dismissal or setting aside of the findings and dismissal regardless of whether the person who is the subject of the petition is, at the time of the order, a ward or dependent child of the court. Nothing in this section shall be interpreted to require the court to maintain jurisdiction over a person who is the subject of a petition between the time the court’s jurisdiction over that person terminates and the point at which his or her petition is dismissed (WIC 782.)