Petition to Demand Governor Newsom, CDCR and DJJ Take COVID-19 Related Action to Release Youth in DJJ State Custody 

Gavin Newsom, DJJ Director Heather Bowlds, CDCR Director Ralph M. Diaz

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No youth in the care and supervision of the Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) deserves to die because of the Governor’s failure to act. Failure to take action now constitutes systemic negligence and callous indifference to the risk of death of children and youth during a pandemic. If the Governor does not respond appropriately to what is currently taking place in DJJ as a result of this pandemic, the result could potentially mean life long health complications or even the death penalty for the children and youth in DJJ custody.

To: Gavin Newsom, DJJ Director Heather Bowlds, CDCR Director Ralph M. Diaz
From: [Your Name]

Community, Director of DJJ, Secretary of CDCR and Governor Newsom,

No youth in the care and supervision of the Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) deserves to die because of the Governor’s failure to act. Failure to take action now constitutes systemic negligence and callous indifference to the risk of death of children and youth during a pandemic. If the Governor does not respond appropriately to what is currently taking place in DJJ as a result of this pandemic, the result could potentially mean life long health complications or even the death penalty for the children and youth in DJJ custody.

A COVID-19 outbreak is currently taking place within DJJ youth detention facilities. As of Monday, July 28, 2020, 46 youth in the care and supervision of DJJ, which is overseen by CDCR and by extension Governor Newsom, have tested positive for COVID-19. 

Hundreds of families and thousands of community members are asking Governor Newsom to protect the young people currently in the care and supervision of the State of California. There must be a commitment by the State of California to bring vulnerable youth home in a process oriented, and public health, wellness and safety minded manner with the presumption in favor of health centered releases.  

In that spirit, the signatories below recommend:

To prevent further spread of COVID-19 and to facilitate physical distancing and the safety of youth and staff in DJJ facilities, the Secretary of California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) shall within 15 days implement a plan to reduce the population at DJJ facilities.

The Secretary shall review the current population at DJJ and expedite the release of youth. 

The Secretary shall:

Release youth from the facilities with priority for youth who are pregnant, those who are within 1 year of release AND those with medical conditions that put them at greatest risk of serious illness, including asthma and youth who use an inhaler, from the virus. 

Collaborate with Defenders to identify youth who may be eligible for a 779 Petition. 

Mandate a case review with the presumption that youth should be released, for the following children and youth:

Youth in the low and moderate core units, if they are within a year of eligibility for being released.

Any youth in DJJ facilities on a probation violation. 

Youth who have been denied parole, but are eligible for release.

Youth who cannot complete rehabilitative programming requirements because services are not being provided during the emergency.

Any other youth currently eligible for release, including youth who are not a substantial and immediate safety risk to others.

The Secretary shall take all precautions necessary to prevent, limit and/or mitigate the spread of COVID-19 within DJJ facilities:

The Secretary shall:

Ensure that youth remaining in DJJ facilities are able to maintain six feet or greater distance in all directions at all times, and that facilities free up sufficient housing space so that individuals who are sick can be effectively quarantined without creating conditions that resemble solitary confinement.

Ensure that all youth and staff are issued clean and properly fitted face coverings on a daily basis in order to resume programming with the utmost precautions.

Make COVID-19 testing available to 100% of youth.

Mandate testing for 100% of DJJ staff. 

Mandate routine accessible medical follow ups and testing for both youth and staff.

Ensure daily testing is available.

Ensure that youth test negative three times before joining the general population.

Ensure that once a unit is quarantined, NO new positives are added.

Ensure safe and limited staff movement. 

The Secretary shall ensure sanitary and safe conditions for youth who are quarantined.

The Secretary shall:

Limit the movement of staff through the facilities to stop the spread of COVID-19 across living units.

Ensure that youth on quarantine have access to video communication with loved ones, individual programming and access to mental health supports on a daily and nightly basis.

Ensure that phone calls and video visitations are free of charge.

Shall ensure that phone and video visitations are open to friends, cousins, and lawyers.

Enforce safety protocols and procedures and ensure compliance from all staff.

The Secretary shall create and implement a process for the successful discharge and re-entry of youth to the community.

The Secretary shall:

Ensure that probation provide monetary re-entry support upon release in the form of, but not limited to, a $500 stipend to each youth released. 

Ensure that youth have the option for a supported release directly from any given DJJ facility. 

Ensure that youth have all paperwork and documents necessary for successful re-entry.

Coordinate with counties to develop expedited release plans and ensure that youth who are released have adequate support and care, including health care and at least 3 months of medication supplies.

Work with counties to establish whether youth in DJJ facilities have homes to which they may return and identify housing opportunities for youth without homes to which they may return.

Ensure that youth are not transferred to or held in county adult or juvenile facilities for purposes of reentry.

Ensure that until the court convenes a reentry disposition hearing per Executive Order N-49-20, terms for release for all youth released pursuant to these recommendations shall be: Stay where placed and do not change residences without the permission of probation; obey current county and state public orders regarding COVID-19; respond to calls from probation; have no contact with victims; and attend reentry disposition hearing when set.

The Secretary shall ensure that daily data is gathered, published, accessible, available, clear and updated daily. 

The Secretary shall:

Ensure that COVID-19 infection data is gathered and published daily, disaggregated by facility. 

Ensure that data includes release dates by county, COVID-19 cases, etc.

Ensure that families are notified immediately if their child tests positive (under 18 only).

Mandate regular testing (not just when youth are symptomatic).

Ensure that data is disaggregated by facility, county, age, race/ethnicity, and SOGIE (Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, and gender Expression).

Respectfully,