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August 31, 2011

Are Ventura County prosecutors involved in a kind of "kids for cash" scheme by trying more juves as adults?

The provocative question in the title of this post is prompted by this recent report on juvenile case processing in California issued by the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice. (Hat tip: The Crime Report.)   This local article, headlined "Is Ventura Trying More Kids As Adults Than Any Other County….for the Money?," provides this summary of the report and its disturbing implications:

This week the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice released a brand new report that shows, surprisingly, that Ventura and Orange counties are trying way, WAY more kids as adults than is LA County, particularly kids 15 and under.  However, the real surprise came when the study’s researchers concluded that the impetus behind those outsized numbers may have more to do with fiscal incentives than public safety....

In trying to figure out why certain counties filed so much more than others, the researchers noticed something interesting: a possible financial incentive.  As noted earlier, counties like Ventura and Orange not only direct-filed at a much higher rate than their neighbors like LA and San Diego County, they direct-filed on the youngest kids who qualified — 12, 13 and 14-year-olds — at an even higher rate.

But here’s the intriguing little secret: if you try a 13-year-old as a juvenile, he or she will be sentenced to a county juvenile facility — meaning the county will pay the kid’s hotel bills.  However, if those same kids are tried and sentenced as adults, they are sent to a state youth facility — and the state taxpayers, not the county, picks up the tab — at a rate of $200,000 per year per kid.

The researchers began to conclude that the DA’s in high filing counties were using the post Prop 21 mechanism simply to pass on the cost of locking up kids to the state — regardless of whether trying the kid as an adult was really warranted.   In other words, to hell with the health and well being of the kid or the community.  It’s all about the money.

Here, from the report itself, are some of the researchers' main findings:

• California counties vary widely in prosecutorial use of direct adult criminal court filing.

• During the 2003-09 period, California prosecutors direct-filed 4,045 youth in adult criminal court, with rates per qualifying felony offense in major counties ranging from 1.5 in San Francisco, 6.2 in Alameda, and 8.2 in Fresno to 122.1 in Ventura, 106.9 in Yolo, and 84.7 in Kings.

• The 30 counties that used direct-filing at rates higher than the state average experienced a lesser reduction in juvenile crime trends, both for qualifying felonies and other serious offenses, than the 28 counties that used the procedure at lower than average rates. Thus, prosecutor predilection towards direct adult criminal court filing is not founded upon any demonstrable effect of reducing juvenile crime rates.

• A youth committing a qualifying felony offense is five times more likely to be subject to direct-filing in Ventura County than in other counties.

August 31, 2011 at 11:34 AM | Permalink

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Comments

sounds like some DA's and Judges need to be arrested and tried and locked up for misuse of govt funds!

Posted by: rodsmith | Aug 31, 2011 2:06:55 PM

I agree with Rod. If any internal communication discussed this scheme, they may be charged with conspiracy, RICO, even if the prosecutors claim their discretions and false charges were protected by a litigation privilege.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Sep 1, 2011 7:43:05 AM

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