External Evaluation: 2017 to Present

To accelerate a statewide movement toward a juvenile justice system that focuses on well-being, reduces system involvement and improves justice system practices, The Center decided to strengthen the capacity of coalitions led by youth and families impacted by juvenile justice system throughout California to advocate for the transformation of juvenile justice locally and across the state. In early 2017, with support from Sierra Health Foundation, The California Endowment, The California Wellness Foundation and the Zellerbach Family Foundation, 11 nonprofit community-based organizations and their countywide collaboratives received a total of $1.3 million as partners in Organizing for a Healthy Justice System.

The Center, through a competitive process and in consultation with representatives of the coalition partners, selected The National Council on Crime and Delinquency (NCCD) to carry out the external evaluation of Organizing for a Health Justice System. NCCD is drawing on a range of data sources, including focus groups with youth advocates and staff at the coalitions, surveys and analysis of data provided by the coalition partners in their progress reports, among other approaches, to respond to the following questions:

  1. How (if at all) does the advocacy environment/infrastructure in the counties with funded community partners change over the grant period?
  2. To what extent and in what ways (if any) does community power to advocate for a healthy justice system in the counties with funded community partners change over the grant period?
  3. What lessons are learned by The Center and community partners about organizing for a healthy justice system?

Preliminary Findings

NCCD provided the following summary of preliminary findings to The Center in March 2018:

  • More than 500 youth participated in coalition activities in the first year of the grant funding. More than half of these youth have been impacted by the juvenile justice system and approximately 150 have received leadership development training.
  • Several coalitions have documented important successes already. Following are two examples:
  • In Los Angeles County, the Youth Justice Coalition and its partners obtained a commitment from the probation chief and county supervisors to end the practice of “voluntary probation” in which youth report to probation officers and/or the district attorney despite not having been referred to court or to the probation department.
  • Youth organizers with Fathers and Families of San Joaquin participated in the development of a report card about Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) funding allocations in the Stockton Unified School District and presented recommendations about funding to the school board. For the youth and the coalition, it was a victory when the district did not designate any LCFF funds toward on-school police.

While some of the successes reflect work that had started before the grants from The Center, the NCCD evaluation team found that support through the Organizing for a Healthy Justice System initiative has helped the coalition partners accelerate the work, deepen their ability to develop youth leaders, and strengthen organizational and community capacity and power for advocacy, including conducting base-building activities to grow local networks of allies and champions, deepening engagement with system-impacted youth and their families, and engaging in peer-to-peer opportunities to share, collaborate and learn.

External Evaluation: 2013 to 2016

Sierra Health Foundation launched the Positive Youth Justice Initiative (PYJI) in 2012 with the goal of improving the lives of young people involved with the juvenile justice system. From 2013 to 2016, managed by The Center at Sierra Health Foundation, the initiative supported public systems in California counties in designing and implementing a series of reforms through an integrated model that invests in youth, treats trauma, provides wraparound service delivery and strengthens local infrastructure.

An independent, external evaluation team from Resource Development Associates (RDA) was selected to evaluate this phase of the initiative. The evaluation culminated with the report, Moving Positive Youth Justice Forward: Lessons Learned from Investing in Public Systems. The RDA team distilled lessons for public agencies that are implementing systems reforms and for funders of public systems-led initiatives. In addition, they reported the progress that the PYJI-funded counties made in their systems reforms. These included increased interagency partnerships and collaboration, integrated staff training and increased access to services for justice-involved youth. At the same time, the systems had to manage competing priorities, inconsistent staff buy-in, limited data capacity and other challenges. RDA’s report concludes, “Thus, while funded counties made great progress in moving toward systems that treat and support youth in a more holistic and developmentally appropriate manner, ultimately Sierra Health Foundation felt that the approach fell short of the transformational change that PYJI sought to promote.”