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A new era for juvenile justice

Image CC BY 2.0 by “Mike” Michael L. Baird, flickr.bairdphotos.com


If you follow the news, you probably noticed that a lot of things happened this Tuesday.

On October 1st, the new health care exchanges got up and running, a new fiscal year for the federal government started,  and… the federal government shut down, since Congress failed to pass a continuing resolution.

So while news stations have been busy covering all the turmoil in Washington and America’s changing health care system, they’ve missed out on another big change for Nebraska’s kids that started on October 1st: the start of a new era in our juvenile justice system.

Just a few months ago Nebraska lawmakers made huge strides towards improving our juvenile justice system, by passing LB 561. The law has many different components and its overall goal is to strengthen communities to better serve youth and their families close to home, reduce the use of incarceration and detention, and prevent unnecessary involvement in the juvenile justice system.

October 1st was the implementation date for a number of critical changes.  Most importantly, youth who come to the attention of the juvenile justice system will no longer be made state wards to access services. Instead, they will receive services through Probation. While this  is a major change for our system and in who will be doing the work, those who are expecting significant, immediate changes to our juvenile justice system (either good or bad), you will likely be disappointed.

Perhaps you’ve heard the expression: “Rome wasn’t built in a day.”

It’s going to take some time to really change the way we’ve been doing things across our state and effectively serve our kids in new ways. New, effective services will have to be created and offered in both rural and urban regions of our state to keep kids safe, close to home, and out of detention centers and the YRTCs. Families are going to have to be meaningfully involved. County and state governments are going to have to collaborate to achieve outcomes for kids.

The Legislature showed tremendous leadership in passing juvenile justice reform legislation and providing additional financial resources to build new, effective services. Now it’s up to all of us to keep the momentum going and make sure the right kinds of changes happen.

LB 561 created a huge opportunity to make sure we’re putting all of our kids on the path to a bright future. Now it’s up to all of us to make it happen.

So what do you think needs to be done to make our juvenile justice system work?

Thank you to taking the time to share!

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