Skip navigation
× You have 2 more free articles available this month. Subscribe today.

Lawsuit By California Youth Alliance Prompts County Probation Chiefs to Dissolve Secretive Nonprofit

by Jo Ellen Nott

On June 23, 2023, a group consisting of 55 of the 58 California county probation chiefs quietly disbanded the nonprofit they formed out of the public’s eye to provide housing and treatment to youth being transferred out of the state juvenile justice system. They had worked just as quietly to avoid transparency when forming and operating the nonprofit.

The nonprofit sprang up in reaction to state-ordered reform of juvenile justice by Gov. Gavin Newsome (D) in 2020, aimed at getting the state out of the business of jailing young people. The immediate problem facing the probation chiefs was that not all counties have secure facilities for youth. The nonprofit was created by the chiefs to focus on housing and treating those youth who needed to be held in those type of facilities.

In June 2021 the chiefs quietly decided to work together to coordinate how to handle those young people who were deemed most dangerous and had to be detained. They set up a “consortium” a long and awkward handle — the County Probation Consortium Partnering for Youth Realignment –incorporating as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit “funded with membership dues drawn from the public funds of each county and a contract with the state,” as the Los Angeles Times later noted.

The consortium funded itself by collecting $750,000 from public realignment funds each of the member counties had received, in addition to a consulting contract for another $75,000 from a new state agency created to oversee the shift from state to county management of juvenile detention centers.

When juvenile justice advocacy groups asked for records of the meetings and other documents in August 2022, the consortium responded by saying it was not subject to the open records or meetings laws because the group was not a government agency and was not making policy or legislation. That insistence on operating without transparency – despite using so much public money – triggered a lawsuit.

The suit was brought by the California Alliance for Youth and Community Justice (CAYCJ), a coalition of 15 organizations that work to end youth incarceration and promote youth well-being in California. CAYCJ filed the lawsuit in February 2023, alleging that the consortium was violating state laws concerning open meetings and open records. The consortium denied the allegations, but the lawsuit created negative and unwanted attention to the group’s operations.

CAYCJ sought a court order requiring the consortium to comply with California's public meetings and records laws. In June 2023, a judge ruled in favor of CAYCJ, finding that the consortium had violated the law. The consortium was ordered to release its meeting minutes and other records, and to start meeting in public.

The consortium appealed, but the appeal was dismissed in July 2023. The consortium then announced that it would be dissolving. CAYCJ welcomed the consortium’s decision, saying that it was a victory for transparency and accountability in juvenile justice.

Erin Palacios, a lawyer with the Youth Law Center in San Francisco and one of the attorneys who filed the suit on behalf of CAYCJ, said that “[a]n organization that fights so hard to avoid transparency and public participation cannot effectively or appropriately coordinate California’s juvenile justice realignment.”

According to Palacios, the lawsuit was still pending on July 5, 2023, with the coalition of youth groups still wanting to know “how the money was used to benefit the public, how much remains, and where the remaining funds will go now.” Along with her group, CAYCJ is represented in its suit by attorneys with Baker McKenzie in Palo Alto. See: Calif. Alliance for Youth and Comm. Justice v. Cty. Probat’n Consortium Partnering for Youth Realignment, Cal. Super (Cty. of Sacramento), Case No. 34-2022-00331508.


Additional sources:  Los Angeles Times, San Diego Union Tribune 

As a digital subscriber to Prison Legal News, you can access full text and downloads for this and other premium content.

Subscribe today

Already a subscriber? Login

Related legal case

Calif. Alliance for Youth and Comm. Justice v. Cty. Probat’n Consortium Partnering for Youth Realignment