California Bill to Eliminate ‘Voluntary’ Youth Probation Now onto Governor’s Desk
SACRAMENTO, Calif --- After a successful concurrent vote this week, Assembly Bill 901 by Assemblymember Mike A. Gipson (D-Carson) has passed in the Legislature and now makes its way onto Governor Gavin Newsom’s desk for his consideration. This bill seeks to eliminate the practice of “voluntary” probation in which youth are placed under probation supervision for behavioral issues, even though they have not committed any crime.
“There is a deep-rooted issue around the school-to-prison pipeline which AB 901 aims to address,” said Assemblymember Gipson. “Under “voluntary” probation, tens of thousands of youth, mostly of color, across the state are required to check-in with a probation officer and subjected to conditions that allow for random searches, curfews, surprise home visits, drug tests and interrogations. These are young men and women who have not actually committed a crime, yet they are treated like they are under formal court supervision. Many of them come from families who do not have the resources to hire an attorney, nor do they know their legal rights and, as a result, their parents ultimately feel coerced to have them participate without legal consultation. This is detrimental to restorative justice.”
The vast majority of youth under voluntary probation programs are referred for academic performance, attendance, or general school behavior issues. In Los Angeles County during the 2017-2018 school year – before the community pushed their probation department to eliminate the program – there were over 21,000 youth on voluntary probation or related supervision, and 81 percent were referred because of school attendance or low grades.
AB 901 seeks to bring current law in line with the new direction of youth development and diversion. It will allow for referrals to community-based youth development programs instead of probation supervision.
“The goal of this effort is to unify resources to help prevent youth from entering the juvenile justice system altogether. A signature on AB 901 by the Governor would implement a necessary limit to the school-to-prison pipeline by ensuring that there are safeguards in place to reduce system contact and instead provide youth with the tools they need to succeed into adulthood.”