Our Work

Commonweal’s Juvenile Justice Program specializes in the development of laws, policies and programs for children and youth who become involved with the juvenile justice system. We also disseminate relevant research and policy information to interested stakeholders. Our activities include:

Policymaker education: Commonweal meets frequently with key state and local decision makers to discuss juvenile justice policies and budget priorities across disciplines that include juvenile justice, child welfare, education, and health/mental health.

Research and analysis: Commonweal provides research and analysis of juvenile justice laws, policies and reform initiatives. Within California, we publish regular bulletins on legislation and state budget developments affecting juvenile justice realignment, youth crime and violence prevention programs, re-entry and probation supervision programs, key court decisions, juvenile justice/ mental health and other issues. Nationally, we provide training and technical assistance for the Casey Foundation’s Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative.

Advocacy: Commonweal has actively supported laws and reforms that advance to advance the rehabilitative principles that lie at the foundation of the juvenile justice system. For example, we had a lead state role in landmark California legislation that moved non-violent youth out of the troubled state youth corrections facilities and into local care (2007), in the restoration of mental health program funds for justice system youth (2014-15) and in the design and drafting of a series of laws allowing more California youth to seal their old juvenile offense records, opening pathways to employment, housing, education and other re-entry options (2014-18). We are dedicated to preserving the due process rights and serving the developmental needs of justice-involved youth. We have opposed proposals that erode those rights or ignore those needs.

Program development: Commonweal has helped California policymakers design large state grant programs supporting a range of youth service, crime and violence prevention and re-entry programs. Notable achievements include key roles in the creation of the California Juvenile Justice Crime Prevention Act (2000) and the Youthful Offender Block Grant program (2007).

Foundation initiatives: Commonweal participates in foundation-based initiatives that advance the goals of treatment, rehabilitation and public safety for youth and communities. These have included the national Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative of the Annie E. Casey Foundation; the Youth Violence Prevention Initiative of the California Wellness Foundation; multiple youth-based initiatives launched by the California Endowment; and the Positive Youth Justice Initiative of the Sierra Health Foundation.