David Steinhart has been the Director of the Commonweal Juvenile Justice Program since 1992. David is recognized, both within California and nationally, as an advocate, expert and author on a wide range of youth justice issues.
In California, David was a key contributor to the 2020 landmark youth justice reform (SB 823) that shuts down the state’s troubled youth prison system (Div. of Juvenile Justice) by July of 2023, with “realignment” of the state youth custody population to local control. He helped design and draft 2021 California legislation establishing local Secure Youth Treatment Facilities for realigned DJJ youth. Previously, he was a prime architect of the 2007 juvenile justice realignment law (SB 81) that moved non-violent youth out of the state Division of Juvenile Justice and into local control with more than $100 million per year million in state funds. David also co-drafted California’s Juvenile Justice Crime Prevention Act which has provided local agencies with more than $100 million per year in state funds for youth programs since its inception in 2000. Between 2014 and 2020, he was the lead sponsor and drafter of five California laws that now allow many more justice system youth to seal their old offense records, opening pathways to jobs, education, military service and other re-entry options. Previously he co-drafted California laws removing children from adult jails, revising the law of youth emancipation, establishing youth service programs in major California cities and increasing children’s access to mental health services.
On the national front, David was the principal advisor on detention risk assessment for the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI), training justice system personnel on detention reform in more than 30 states. He is the author of the JDAI Practice Guide on Juvenile Detention Risk Assessment. Commonweal’s technical assistance training grant from the Annie Casey Foundation ended in 2018.
David served for ten years as the state Senate appointee to the California Board of State and Community Corrections (BSCC), which sets standards for local juvenile facilities and has oversight responsibilities for both juvenile and adult corrections realignment. His final term ended in 2022. While on the Board, David chaired the Juvenile Justice Standing Committee and multiple grant allocation and facility standards committees. He served previously on California’s State Juvenile Justice Commission (2007-09); the California Governor’s Juvenile Justice Working Group (2004-05); and the California Juvenile Crime Task Force (1995-6). He previously chaired a national Advisory Committee for the Positive Youth Justice Initiative of the Sierra Health Foundation, as well as a Youth Justice Policy Board of justice system leaders and experts for the California Endowment.
He is the author of numerous articles and reports on subjects including youth corrections realignment, alternatives to youth incarceration, status offender reforms, teen courts, juvenile bootcamps, detention risk assessment and related matters. Formerly David was Policy Director for the National Council on Crime and Delinquency and Executive Director of the California Child, Youth and Family Coalition. He is a graduate of Stanford University and the U.C. Berkeley School of Law.