A Santa Clara Superior Court Judge will lead a new effort to overhaul the state’s juvenile justice system.

Katherine Lucero has stepped down after 20 years as a judge to become director of the Office of Community and Youth Restoration.

The new office was created by Senate Bill 823, passed in 2020, and is part of the state’s overhaul of its juvenile justice system, which will shutter state youth prisons in favor of providing rehabilitation services closer to home.

The announcement was made in a Jan. 7 news release from the California Courts newsroom. It credits Lucero with helping launch several programs while she was a judge, including the following:

• Collaborative courts such as Family Treatment Court (assists parents with substance abuse interfering with custody or visitation);

• Family Wellness Court (supports drug exposed infants and toddlers); and

• Teen Court (specializing in therapeutic approaches for teenagers in dependency court).

In the news release, Lucero said the bill closed the statewide youth prison system and mandated counties keep their highest-need youth as close to home as possible.

“Evidence has demonstrated that youth in the justice system who stay close to home are more connected to their families, have lower recidivism rates, and are more prepared for the transition back to their community.”