Controversial Youth Prison Practice to End

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Abel Habtegeorgis (510) 910 - 2672

Dangerous Time Adds Provision No Longer Allowed in California Youth Prisons, Impacting 1,000 Youth

After many years, guards at the Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) will no longer be able to impose time adds on youths’ sentences. Today the California Legislature voted to end this practice in the corrections budget trailer bill which now awaits the Governor’s signature.

Time adds are a process where guards and other staff can delay youths’ parole consideration hearings without judicial review.  These delays, called time adds, are so overused that on average they add an entire year to youths’ sentences. Research demonstrates that time adds do not lead to desired behavior, and do not contribute to institutional safety.  Times adds are one reason that California youth serve the longest average sentences in the country, at over three years compared to the national average of one year.  Thanks to this reform, youth will now receive timely opportunities for parole consideration, with the ultimate decision as to release resting in the parole board.

The Ella Baker Center for Human Rights has fought against abusive time adds since 2006. Assemblymember Nancy Skinner joined the fight in 2009, championing a legislative end to time adds for two years despite opposition from prison guards. Through multiple bills, authors, and Governors, the Ella Baker Center, families, and champions like Asm. Skinner persisted to demonstrate that time adds are an economic and rehabilitative failure.

“We’re not pleased that once again, low income people, children, and the elderly will have to suffer more cuts for a budget that preserves billions for prisons,” commented Jakada Imani, Executive Director of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights. “But it’s about time the state decided to listen to the research and to common sense, and abolished ineffective practices such as time adds at the  DJJ.”

In California it costs almost $187,000 per year to lock up one youth in a state youth prison. Currently, about 1,000 youth are held in the notorious Division of Juvenile Justice, costing the state about $187 million annually. Ending time adds, and thereby shortening youth sentences will save the state millions of dollars.