Published by The Mercury News
SANTA CLARA COUNTY, CA – After spending her teenage years in and out of juvenile detention, Arabella Guevara was used to crowded conditions such as mattresses on the floor and girls triple-bunked in cells meant for two.
But nothing prepared Guevara for her final stint at the 96-bed William F. James Ranch in Morgan Hill. As other young women finished their terms and headed home, no one arrived to replace them. By June 2020, Guevara, who had been arrested on car theft and burglary charges, found herself alone with a handful of probation staff.
“It was depressing,” said Guevara, 19, of San Jose. “You’re already away from your family and friends. And now you’re just by yourself.”
What Guevara didn’t know was that the quiet around her reflected a flurry of activity on the outside involving the local courts, probation department, prosecutors, mental health providers and community groups. Santa Clara County’s Juvenile Justice Gender Responsive Task Force had been meeting regularly in service of an ambitious goal: ending the incarceration of girls.