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Geography Matters

If you’re a kid in Nebraska and you break the law, does where you live impact what happens to you?

In an ideal world, the answer to this question would be a resounding no. Kids across our state, rural, urban, and suburban, would be held accountable in similar ways and have access to the services they need to be put on the path to a better future.

Unfortunately, geography does matter for Nebraska’s kids. This is especially true when we look at which Nebraska kids who break the law end up in adult criminal court instead of juvenile court.

Over the past few months we have been digging into the data on Nebraska’s youth in adult court, we found that where you live in Nebraska has a lot to do with whether you are able to access the rehabilitative services available in juvenile court or not.

More than 60% of Nebraska’s children tried as adults live in Nebraska’s less populous counties. While Douglas, Lancaster, and Sarpy counties make up the majority of the state’s population, they are responsible for only a little over 30% of the youth in Nebraska’s adult system.

When we further break down the data by judicial district we found large disparities in how many youth were charged as adults, who they were (age, race, and gender), what they were charged for, and what the outcomes were.  You can find fact sheets for each of Nebraska’s 12 judicial districts below:

Being prosecuted as an adult has serious consequences for children and youth. They lose the opportunity to access rehabilitative services, their family can’t participate in their case, and they face the long-term consequences of a permanent criminal record. Nebraska needs a better system to make decisions on whether to treat kids like kids or prosecute them like adults, so that we can make sure all of our kids access rehabilitative services.

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