But Dilulio’s crime bomb – which led to tougher laws and bigger prisons – was a dud. Crime didn’t actually go up; it plummeted, especially among juveniles. Fear of super predators gave way to an era of acknowledgment by prosecutors and judges that locking up children put society at more risk, not less. Throughout the 2000s, laws softened and more money headed toward prevention.
San Diego County’s four detention facilities can hold 855 young people. But on a recent Wednesday, just 311 youths were housed inside the county’s prisons and camps, said Chief Probation Officer Adolfo Gonzales. At least five to six wings of the county’s juvenile detention space are totally empty at present, he said. Just eight years ago, the number of incarcerated kids was three times as high: The average daily population in lockup stood at 1,008 for January 2010.