California has one of the highest rates of juvenile incarceration in the country. Despite actual declines in juvenile crime, tougher crime legislation continues to set the tone for juvenile corrections.
According to an article in the San Diego Union Tribune (May 9, 2008) on the need for justice reform, Daniel Macallair of the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice, similar trends hold true for the broader U.S. system:
With just 5 percent of the world's population we have 25 percent of the world's prisoners.
The reason why the United States imprisons 740 out of every 100,000 citizens compared with Europe's rate of 110 per 100,000 is the size of its prison establishment and the acceptance of imprisonment as a sentence for both violent and nonviolent offenders. Other countries choose to use prison sentences very sparingly on the understanding that prisons are cruel and brutalizing places that should be reserved for only the dangerous. Instead, European countries prefer to rely on penalties such as day fines that are tied to the individual's income.
Prisoner re-entry programs are trying to undo the damage caused when felons return to their communities having been submitted to such brutalizing systems but they aren't the only ones who pay. For more on the topic, see the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice's website, funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, among others.