Leader of California’s Juvenile Justice System Steps Down

Division of Juvenile Justice Director Chuck Supple is stepping down this week because of health issues.  Photo: California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation

Soon after California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) proposed widespread reforms for the state’s Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ), its director has stepped down.

A press release issued this week by Newsom’s office said that Chuck Supple would leave his post immediately, as a result of health issues.

“He has played a critical role in DJJ for the last 16 years, and his infectious enthusiasm will be truly missed. We fully support his decision, and wish him all the best,” Newsom said in the press release.

Back in January, Newsom vowed to “end the juvenile justice system as we know it.” Part of that effort involved moving the DJJ from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and placing it under the supervision of the California Health and Human Services Agency. Newsom also plans to rename the agency the Department of Youth and Community Restoration by 2020.

DJJ now holds about 700 of the state’s most serious juvenile and young adult offenders in three institutional facilities. In a recent report, just 146 of the 661 inmates in its facilities were younger than 18; most are 20 or older.

That is a far different than two decades ago, when the agency held more than 10,000 youth and was known as the California Youth Authority.

The DJJ has long struggled with poor outcomes for these youth. A report released earlier this year alleged that even after leaving legal oversight in 2016, the system still struggles with violence at its facilities and high recidivism rates.

Newsom’s reform efforts for the agency includes an $8 million investment in therapeutic communities inside DJJ facilities, based on the widely cited small-group “Missouri Model.” The governor also has included money for AmeriCorps to work with DJJ youth during the re-entry process.

Supple was a 16-year veteran of the DJJ who also served as as a commissioner and executive officer on California’s Juvenile Parole Board before his appointment as DJJ director in October 2017.

Heather Bowlds has been named chief deputy director of DJJ, and will be acting director until a permanent replacement for Supple is announced. Ross Meier has been appointed deputy director of operations and programs.

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Jeremy Loudenback
About Jeremy Loudenback 313 Articles
Jeremy is the child trauma editor for The Chronicle of Social Change.