Over the past few days, Voices has been posting updates on the policies we will be tracking in 2015. So far we’ve covered health care and child welfare, and today we are talking about juvenile justice. One of our core mission values is to promote policies that assure children can grow into healthy and productive adults, by holding youth accountable for their actions in appropriate ways that promote community safety. The legislative session has only just begun, but already there are several juvenile justice initiatives on the table. Here are just a handful of the many policy suggestions we will be following closely:
–LB13 implements a common data collection system at the UNO Juvenile Justice Institute to assess the effectiveness of the Community-Based Juvenile Services Aid Program, to assist counties using funds from the grant to report on their programs, and ultimately, to identify those interventions that are the most effective at reducing recidivism and rates of detention.
–LB25 permits the incremental extension of juvenile court jurisdiction up to age 21 in probation cases by agreement of all the parties, for the purposes of continuing treatment or necessary services. This bill would provide extra time for juveniles who begin a course of court-ordered treatment but are unable to complete it by the age of 19, when juvenile court jurisdiction usually terminates.
–LB212 eliminates the indiscriminate shackling of children in juvenile courtrooms. Under this bill, in order for a child to be chained in court, the judge would first have to make a particular finding that the restraints are necessary either to prevent physical harm to the juvenile or another person, or because the child represents a substantial flight risk from the courtroom, and there is no less restrictive measure that would keep all parties safe.
-On the national scene, S.2999 is bipartisan legislation introduced in the U.S. Senate to reauthorize and strengthen the Juvenile Justice Delinquency and Prevention Act of 1974. Core provisions include requiring all states to completely eliminate the detention of non-criminal status offenders, to implement data-driven approaches to reduce racial and ethnic disparities in juvenile justice systems, and to improve conditions of confinement for incarcerated children. For more information on the reauthorization, visit Act 4 Juvenile Justice.
These are just a few of the numerous proposals we have seen in the realm of juvenile justice. We will continue to post more information, updates, and hearing schedules as the session goes along, but please check out www.nebraskalegislature.gov to follow all the bills being introduced. As always, we encourage you to reach out to your representative on issues that are important to you and your community.