Over the past couple of years, the Legislature has taken important action to improve the lives of Nebraska’s children – from prenatal care to child welfare reform, from child care to steps to transform our juvenile justice system. All of these investments have made and will continue to make a big difference for our state’s kids, helping them to grow up healthy, safe, and educated.
While our focus at Voices for Children is on how kids are doing, it’s not just kids that have benefitted from these investments; our whole state has.
Last week, the Legislature gave second round approval to LB 464, a bill that will make sure more of Nebraska’s kids have the opportunity to be held accountable within the juvenile justice system. The bill now only needs a few finishing touches, a final vote, and the Governor’s signature before it becomes law.
This is extremely good news for children and youth who get in trouble with the law. They will be able to access appropriate services. They won’t be burdened with permanent records that keep them from educational and employment opportunities. They won’t be exposed to the elevated risks of assault that involvement in the adult criminal justice system carries with it for children and youth.
LB 464 isn’t just good news for kids, though – it’s good news for all of us. Here’s how:
- Keeping kids in juvenile court improves public safety. While opponents of LB 464 have been raising concerns that LB 464 encourages youth crime and poses a danger to public safety, the research simply doesn’t back them up. In fact, it resoundingly contradicts them. In fact, study after study has found that, even when controlling for types of crimes and criminal histories, youth held accountable in the juvenile justice system are actually less likely to commit crimes, especially violent crimes, in the future.
- Parents and families can stay involved. When a young person breaks the law and is tried in the adult criminal justice system, parents lose their ability to be involved in holding their child accountable and helping determine what the best path for them will be. By passing LB 464, Nebraska strengthens the family unit and parental rights.
- It saves taxpayer dollars. Treating kids like kids and keeping them in the juvenile justice system reduces their likelihood to commit crimes in the future. This means fewer dollars will need to be spent on the adult criminal justice and correctional system. With Nebraska already facing prison overcrowding, LB 464 represents a good way to keep our community safe and help reduce our prison population and state costs in the long term.
As Legislators move LB 464 forward to the Governor in the next few days, they should be proud to say that they have made a big improvement for kids. But they shouldn’t forget to take credit for the other benefits this legislation will bring, either.
Treating kids like kids is good for all of us.