The County Voice

Santa Cruz County Investigates the Impacts of COVID-19 on Juvenile Justice

As COVID-19 continues to change the way counties do business, Santa Cruz County continues to emphasize the importance of being data driven in their decision making during this ever-changing situation. With help from the CSAC Support Hub for Criminal Justice Programming, Santa Cruz County is looking at how communities have responded where there have been clear declines in juvenile hall bookings.

The common wisdom is that changes in policing has led to the decline, but Santa Cruz Probation is looking into the “collective impact” of services in the county. The county will combine data from its intake unit where citations for new crimes would be logged and data from the juvenile hall analysis tool to see where communities and county services like probation have helped support kids at risk and families.

Rob Doty, Juvenile Services Division Director for Probation explains that “Santa Cruz County is trying to come together to support its families, and we want to lift up areas where we have seen collective impact of programs and strategies.”

In 2019, the CSAC Support Hub developed an analytics tool that provides insight on the juvenile justice population within the county. The tool allows Santa Cruz to analyze trends, conduct analysis of juvenile hall recurrence, as well as estimate scenarios that impact bookings or how long a youth stays within the system.  This tool is now being put to use to help the county to assess changes in their system as well as youth outcomes.

With bookings declining 60 percent in June from pre-COVID levels, the county wants to know what is working and what can be held up as learning opportunities or successes during this challenging time.

“We want to start learning more about how things are going and not wait until things return to normal,” said Valerie Thompson, Assistant Chief of Probation, who is responsible for the oversight of the Juvenile Division and Juvenile Hall. Using the CSAC Support Hub analytics tool, Santa Cruz County will be able to update hall data to see how bookings, lengths of stay, and alternatives to detention have been used during COVID-19 and make adjustments accordingly.

The CSAC Support Hub continues to seek appropriate funding opportunities in order to assist counties that want to use data and evidence to inform their juvenile justice practices. For more information on the CSAC Support Hub please contact Ryan Souza, Program Director, at rsouza@counties.org.

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