Children’s Defense Fund–California (CDF-CA) released two publications that explore the challenges and opportunities in the ways justice and education systems jointly support justice-involved youth in Los Angeles County. As the nation moves towards changing our juvenile justice system in a way that improves outcomes for young people, these reports highlight the need for investments in positive youth development.

“’Unhidden Figures: Examining the Characteristics of Justice-Involved Students in Los Angeles County,’” a fact sheet, sheds light on the array of identities and needs of students who are either being detained or on probation. These students, who often have the most needs, are less likely than other to access high quality education.

“’Unhidden Figures’ speaks to how we hope to unearth the different variables that can impact justice-involved students’ learning experiences and learning needs, which are often hidden or buried because of the educational instability students face,” said author Betty Fang, who is also the education and youth justice policy associate for CDF-CA. “We also want to recognize that in many cases, justice-involved students are in fact not hidden – and neither are their needs – but despite their visibility, or even hyper-visibility, they continue to be underserved.”

According to the fact sheet, there are 1.5 million students enrolled in Los Angeles County. Among those:

· 14 percent are in special education compared to 30 percent of justice-involved students
· 1 percent are in foster care compared to 32 percent of justice-involved students
· 4 percent have experienced homelessness compared to 15 percent of justice-involved students

CDF-CA also released “Juvenile Justice Crime Prevention Act in Los Angeles: A Case Study on Advocacy & Collaborative Reform.” This report tracks the history of the Juvenile Justice Crime Prevention Act (JJCPA) and more specifically, chronicles strategies used in L.A. County to improve community involvement in JJCPA governance and spending. It also notes past issues with the Los Angeles County, including an audit finding in 2015 that showed over $25 million of JJCPA funds for youth intervention and prevention programs went unspent.

“This report records important collaboration in recent years in Los Angeles to ensure the effective, accountable use of funds that were created by a law almost 18 years ago to reduce youth crime but has not yet been meaningfully updated since,” said Patricia Soung, author and director of youth justice policy for CDF-CA. “Among the most exciting shifts for JJCPA money are the increased community leadership in deciding how dollars are spent, and the focus on resourcing holistic youth development.”