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One of the most challenging and rewarding adaptions of our model was the public-private partnerships we developed when asked to write and implement a master plan for San Francisco's juvenile justice system. The Plan’s innovations lie in both its development process and the plan itself. The unique planning process included key steps:

  1. The City turned not to professional consultants, but to the people who are the problem to become the solution. In hiring the Delancey Street Foundation, where adult ex-offenders have turned their lives around, as the key designers and implementers of the Plan, the City ensured that all voices would be heard.
  2. Delancey Street solicited insights from the myriad voices of the system, including interviews with over 400 people, from judges to community workers to the juvenile justice youths themselves. The strengths and needs of each neighborhood were identified.
  3. People put aside historical conflicts to focus on the actual needs of real youths. In an innovative “Placement Simulation Exercise,” diverse system players united to study profiles of actual youths in the system and articulate truly life-changing services. Participants from historically “opposing camps” discovered a shared vision of an ideal system that could serve these youths.
“The planning process has emerged as one of the most effective parts of the entire Action Plan. It provided a forum to bridge the philosophical divides that separate systems and providers in their approaches to working with our youth. People stopped talking about politics and started talking about ‘youth’.”
—Kimiko Burton, Deputy City Attorney

In July 1997, the City adopted the Juvenile Justice Action Plan. The Plan had three major goals:

  • To change the system to a true collaborative
  • To provide a Circle of Care which offers entry to youth at any point in the Circle, surrounds them with appropriate intensive services at each stage, and enables youths to move forward or backward within the Circle from prevention to secure custody (Click here for Circle of Care)
  • To provide six specific programs that filled critical gaps in the overall system.

Youth enter the Circle of Care programs through a number of pathways including the police, probation, community-based organizations, schools, parents, or self-referrals.

Program Description

  • Early Risk and Resiliency Program: A program to identify and intervene with young adolescents who demonstrate early signs of behavioral issues. Develop and administer a strengths-based test to youths identified from crime-involved families.
  • Community Assessment and Referral Center (CARC): A central intake site where arrested youth are brought, assessed by providers and referred for appropriate services.
  • Safe Corridor: A program providing youth with safe transport and heightened surveillance along the high crime Mission corridor.
  • Bayview Safe Haven After-school Program: A program with recreational, vocational, and educational programming in an identified high crime area of the city.
  • Life Learning Academy: An intensive, extended-day, public charter high school located on Treasure Island.
  • Life Learning Residential Center for Girls: A residential placement for girls located on Treasure Island. All residents also attend the Life Learning Academy.
“I have much better information on the kids who come through the Action Plan programs as compared with other kids who come before me…When these kids come to court, not only have I talked about their situation with (Action Plan) program staff, but also staff are there with the kid on their court dates to tell me what has been going on, both the good and the bad…and that helps me know what action I should take.”—Hon. Kevin McCarthy, Superior Court Judge

In the first three years of the Action Plan implementation over 2,000 youths suffering from family disintegration, poverty, drugs, crime, and school failure were provided services. Comprehensive independent evaluations of these programs were conducted over a three-year period. These independent evaluations have called that model “phenomenally successful” and given it significant credit for one of the nation’s largest declines in juvenile arrests that occurred during the course of the implementation of the Plan.

Some evaluations highlights:

  • Those who participated in the Community Assessment and Referral Center (CARC) program completed probation at a higher rate, decreased their percentage of suspensions and expulsions from prior to program entry to the follow-up periods, and had fewer sustained petitions and fewer out of home placements, all of which is in direct contrast to the comparison group. In addition, youths who successfully completed CARC were significantly more likely to remain arrest free in the intervention period as well as the three follow-up periods. This was significant in light of the fact that approximately 70% of youths served by CARC successfully completed the program.

From a systemic perspective, the evaluator found that CARC and its community partners have made a major change in the way the City and County of San Francisco responds to youths arrested for committing low- to medium-severity offenses.

“CARC is an example of how to efficiently use Police resources. In the past, it would take an officer 3-4 hours to process a youth case. Now, Police pick up youth, take them to CARC, and get back out on the beat where the taxpayers want them. And officers over time have realized that CARC is effective with all cases, including the tougher felons.”—Lt. Vivian Williams, SFPD
  • Bayview Safe Haven (BVSH) youths are significantly less likely to be suspended from school than their comparison group counterparts. Among those with a history of juvenile justice system involvement, BVSH youths were significantly less likely to recidivate than those in the comparison group. Among those with no history of criminal justice involvement, BVSH youths were significantly less likely to commit their first offense than their comparison group counterparts. BVSH youths were also more likely to end their wardship of court status than their comparison group counterparts.

The Bayview Safe Haven program also created change on a community level. In an analysis of the Safe Haven census tract and comparative tracts, the evaluator found that crime declined significantly in the experimental census tract. Further the data show that while the experimental tract started off with the highest rate of juvenile crime among all of the census tracts under study, in 1999 it had among the lowest rates of juvenile crime among these census tracts. By 1999, only one tract had a rate that was lower (9%) and this tract started off with a considerably lower rate of crime in 1993.

Delancey Street implemented and operated the six Juvenile Justice Plan programs for three years and then facilitated the identification of community-based organizations to take over operation of the programs. Delancey Street continues to operate the Life Learning Academy which is modeled on the principles of the Delancey Street Foundation. (Click here for the Life Learning Academy including evaluation findings.)

Contact Delancey Street at 415-512-5170 for a copy of the Action Plan and summaries of the evaluations.

Related Media
"Full House" San Francisco Bay Guardian (2/99)
"New school for problem kids will lean on founder's record " The Independent (2/98)
"Delancey Street Takes Charge of Juvenile Justice System Overhaul," Mission News (11/97)
“Silbert thrilled by new grant,” San Francisco Examiner (5/18/97)
“Juvenile justice face lift approved,” San Francisco Examiner (5/16/97)
“Juvenile Reform Plan Wins State Funding,” San Francisco Chronicle (5/97)