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Is Nebraska the next “Comeback State”?

Last week, the National Juvenile Justice Network and the Texas Public Policy Foundation released a new report on the promising juvenile justice trends in a number of states.

These nine comeback states  have successfully reversed earlier trends and significantly reduced youth incarceration, all while maintaining public safety.

In large part, it is the comeback states’ progress in juvenile justice reform that have resulted in the huge drop in juvenile incarceration across the United States highlighted by the Annie E. Casey Foundation earlier this year.

Just how did they do it? The Comeback States report argues that meaningful, statewide policy change in a number of areas is at the core of these states’ successes and the sustainability of their juvenile justice reform efforts. While not all of the states have adopted each of the six key policy changes identified in the report, they have each adopted a majority of them.

  1. All 9 states have invested funding in community alternatives to detention and incarceration.
  2. 7 of 9 states have restricted the use of detention.
  3. All 9 states have closed or significantly downsized youth facilities.
  4. 2 states have begun work to shrink the school to prison pipeline.
  5. 6 states have placed a ban on incarcerating youth for minor offenses.
  6. 6 of the states have adopted funding formulas that share costs between counties and the state that help keep kids in their communities and invest the dollars states are saving on reductions in incarceration back into alternatives. This is commonly referred to as realignment and reinvestment.

So what does this mean for Nebraska? First, it means that our high and growing rate of incarcerating youth can change. Second, when we look at the policies that have made a difference it looks like Nebraska might be on our way to being a comeback state in our own right. While we’re not there yet, the passage of a major juvenile justice overhaul bill this year, combined with past efforts put us just a few policy changes away from being a comeback state in our own right.

There’s more work to do here in Nebraska and across the country (even in the comeback states!). The good news is we know what works and we know that these reforms make a huge difference for kids and communities.

So what do you think? Does Nebraska have what it takes to be the next comeback state?

Thank you to taking the time to share!


  1. REPLY
    Annette McClure says

    I believe Nebraska can accomplish the task as long as we invest in our youth…time and energy…utilizing cognitive based community programs and wrap around services. I continually try to start a program that is evidenced based and/or find someone to at least listen to the possibility. Texas and Iowa use the program…why not us? For the youth of our state!

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