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Board of Supervisors Department

For Immediate Release

Sonoma County Launches In-Depth Reviewof its Juvenile Justice System

Santa Rosa,CA | May 09, 2019


Today, the Sonoma County Probation Department launched a comprehensive review of its juvenile justice system to determine how well department policies and practices align with what research shows works to improve outcomes for youth while using resources efficiently.

The review will be conducted under the direction of the Sonoma County Improving Outcomes for Youth (IOYouth) Task Force, a group established by the Probation Department and composed of probation leadership, district attorney and public defender representatives, the presiding juvenile court judge, and leaders from the education and behavioral health departments, among others. The review will be conducted by The Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center, a national nonpartisan nonprofit that develops research-driven strategies to improve public safety and strengthen communities.

Sonoma County has long been committed to helping young people in the juvenile justice system thrive. We have seen significant reductions in the number of youth on supervision—a 40 percent decrease from 2014 to 2018—but we can and must do more,” said Sonoma County Board of Supervisors Chair David Rabbitt. “This review will help us identify ways to better use taxpayer dollars to set kids up to succeed.

The Sonoma County Probation Department was selected by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention and the CSG Justice Center to receive assistance through the IOYouth initiative after a competitive process. The IOYouth initiative helps states and local jurisdictions align their polices, practices, and resources with what the research shows works to improve public safety and outcomes for youth.

The Sonoma County Probation Department is committed to using research-based practices to enhance our services,” said Chief Probation Officer David Koch. “While we have adopted many such practices and have already seen positive results, there are gaps in our implementation. We applied for support from the IOYouth initiative to help us pinpoint what is working well and what we can continue to improve, so we can most effectively reduce youth recidivism and achieve better futures for our community’s youth.

Across the country, far more youth are now being supervised and served in the community rather than in secure facilities; the Sonoma County Probation Department was selected to participate in the IOYouth initiative in part due to its leadership’s interest in assessing how youth in the community are faring and identifying systemic policy and practice changes to reduce recidivism and improve other outcomes for youth that come into contact with the juvenile justice system. The review will analyze case-level juvenile justice and fiscal data, examine probation department policies, and convene focus groups and interviews with key stakeholders, including youth and families who have experienced the system firsthand. These steps will shed light on how the system currently operates, what challenges remain, and what can be done to improve it.

Keeping our communities safe by providing appropriate supervision and services to youth is a goal shared by our courts, probation department, and human services and health agencies,” said Presiding Juvenile Court Judge Kenneth Gnoss. “The inclusive nature of this assessment will enable stronger collaboration between youth-serving agencies, so collectively we can take concrete steps to achieve that goal.

Over the coming 10-12 months, the CSG Justice Center will present its findings and policy options to the Sonoma County IOYouth Task Force. Task force members and probation leadership will use these recommendations to guide future policy and resource allocation decisions.


Contact Information

Paul Gullixson, Communications Manager
County Administrator's Office, County of Sonoma