A Gap Analysis of the Los Angeles County Juvenile Justice Crime Prevention Act Portfolio

by Laura Whitaker, Sierra Smucker, Stephanie Brooks Holliday

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Research Questions

  1. What are the best practices for juvenile justice systems?
  2. How are these best practices incorporated into the planning and funding allocation process for JJCPA-funded programs in Los Angeles County?
  3. What are the barriers to ensuring that the slate of funded programs support best practices?
  4. How can the Juvenile Justice Coordinating Council improve its processes to better consider best practices when making funding decisions?

The Juvenile Justice Crime Prevention Act (JJCPA), administered by the California Board of State and Community Corrections, provides funding to counties to support programs that have proven their effectiveness in curbing crime among at-risk youth and youth involved in the juvenile justice system. In Los Angeles County, the Probation Department oversees the implementation of JJCPA-funded programs, which are selected by the Juvenile Justice Coordinating Council (JJCC), which comprises stakeholders from county agencies, city agencies, and community-based organizations, and approved by the county before being submitted to the state. In 2019, the Probation Department selected the RAND Corporation to provide evaluation and technical assistance services related to JJCPA-funded programs, including an annual gap analysis. This report presents findings from this gap analysis, which aimed to examine the extent to which the JJCC has access to and considers information regarding best practices for juvenile justice systems when making funding decisions for JJCPA programs and projects.

Key Findings

Eight best practices emerged in a literature review in the field of juvenile justice programming

  • The eight best practices are (1) providing a continuum of services for different risk and need levels, (2) using a positive youth development approach, (3) ensuring that programming is family-focused and community-led, (4) providing trauma-informed care, (5) applying a racial equity framework, (6) providing culturally appropriate and responsive programming, (7) using evidence-based practices and programs, and (8) attending to implementation and fidelity.

Although stakeholders understand the importance of best practices, several key barriers exist to ensuring that they are reflected in the JJCPA portfolio

  • Stakeholders endorsed the importance of best practices and expressed a desire to consider these best practices when determining which programs and practices receive funding.
  • Barriers include a lack of clear definitions or metrics associated with each best practice, the need for better data regarding program effectiveness, and a lack of information to determine whether programs applying for funding are consistent with the best practices.
  • In addition to a lack of needed information, the process of developing the plan and funding allocations is time-consuming, and stakeholders struggle to meet all of the demands of the current process.

Recommendations

  • Ensure that information about best practices is available to decisionmakers by increasing the alignment between (1) the JJCPA funding request and best practices and (2) the request for community input on programs and projects and the best practices.
  • Ensure that the scoring rubric used to evaluate proposed programs assesses each of the best practices and has clear scoring guidance.
  • Provide clearer operational definitions of best practices in policy guidance along with measurable targets.
  • Ensure that the JJCC has access to evaluation data related to program implementation and outcomes.
  • Use JJCC meetings as forums for expert presentations and information-sharing about evidence-based practices, which will help stakeholders evaluate the evidence base of applicant programs.
  • Consider ways to alleviate the pressure on JJCC members and Probation staff that results from the short timeline for CMJJP development and funding allocations.

Research conducted by

This research was funded by the Los Angeles County Probation Department and conducted in the Justice Policy Program within RAND Social and Economic Well-Being.

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