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LB 561: Change provisions and transfer responsibilities regarding the juvenile justice system (YRTC and community based services)

As introduced: The bill intended to reform Nebraska’s juvenile justice system by emphasizing treatment, rehabilitation, and prevention of youth from entering the system in the first place. The bill appropriated $10 million for community-based services aid each fiscal year. It also made a number of structural changes:

1)      The Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Centers (YRTCs) in Kearney and Geneva were to be closed on January 1, 2015 and the Office of Juvenile Services dissolved.

2)      A new Office of Juvenile Assistance would have been created under the judicial branch and would have included:  juvenile probation, the newly created Office of Juvenile Diversion Programs and Detention Alternatives, the Community-Based Juvenile Services Aid Program, formerly known as the County Juvenile Services Aid Program, and other related grants administered by the Crime Commission, and the Office of Violence Prevention. The new Office would have been charged with developing community-based services and best practices in juvenile justice and providing services through the Juvenile Services Delivery Project.

As Amended:  The final version of the bill did not consolidate all juvenile justice services into a single agency nor did it close the YRTCs, but it does make a number of significant changes:

1)      On October 1, 2013, courts will no longer have the option to make youth state wards for status or delinquency offenses. Between July 1, 2013 and June 30, 2014, the responsibilities of the Office of Juvenile Services will be limited to management of the YRTCs and supervising the youth sent to them.

2)      The Juvenile Services Delivery Project will expand statewide by June 30, 2014. Youth sent to the YRTCs will be committed as a condition of intensive probation starting July 1, 2013, allowing probation to take over parole functions. Beginning October 1, 2013, OJS evaluations will be replaced with single focus evaluations paid for by probation. Probation will also be responsible for providing services and supervision pre-adjudication where it is deemed necessary. The Inspector General for Child Welfare has access to information on providers with whom Probation contracts.

3)      Juvenile diversion services are strengthened and expanded. An emphasis is placed on pre-filing diversion, screening becomes a standard part of programs, small counties are given additional resources through probation, and a Director of Juvenile Diversion Programs at the Crime Commission will provide technical assistance to counties and help them expand and improve programming.

4)      The bill sets limits on detaining and incarcerating youth. Only in cases where it is a, “matter of immediate and urgent necessity for the protection of such juvenile or the person or property of another or if it appears that such juvenile is likely to flee the jurisdiction of the court,” can a youth be placed in detention or at a YRTC. It also specifies that evaluations should not occur at detention centers unless the youth meets the above criteria and that evaluations are not necessary if an equivalent one has been completed within the past 12 months.

5)      The bill requires re-entry planning for youth committed to YRTCs as well as the provision of therapeutic services either at the YRTCs or through transferring the youth to a more appropriate placement. Conditions for release are also specified in the bill.

6)      A Community-based Juvenile Services Aid program is established expanding the current county juvenile services aid program. Tribes are now eligible to apply for funds, as well as counties. Grants awarded under this program can be used for: local planning and service coordination; screening, assessment, and evaluation; diversion; alternatives to detention; family support services; treatment services; reentry services; truancy prevention and intervention programs; and other evidence-based services. All county plans must have measurable outcomes and be research –based (LB 562). A new Director of Community-based Juvenile Services will be housed at the Crime Commission.

7)      The Children’s Commission Office of Juvenile Services subcommittee is charged with making recommendations about Nebraska’s YRTCs, and access to behavioral and mental health services.

The final version of the bill was also amended to include provisions from LB 86 (McGill), which puts county-run staff-secure facilities under the Jail Standards Board and LB 342 (Coash), which alters the right to counsel in child custody proceedings. It also requires a study on alternative response by DHHS and the Children’s Commission.

Introducing Senator(s): Ashford, Campbell, McGill, Krist, Chambers (Judiciary Committee Priority Bill)

Committee: Judiciary

Committee Hearing Date: March 7, 2013

Current Status: Approved by Governor on May 29, 2013

Estimated Fiscal Impact: FY 2013-2014: $5,864,004 and FY 2014-2015: $8,635,996, in new General Funds. Additional funds are transferred from the Department of Health and Human Services to the Supreme Court for the Office of Probation Administration. $1,807,404 from the General Fund for FY2013-14 and (2) $3,801,726 from the General Fund for FY2014-15 are appropriated to the Crime Commission for County Aid and the new directors.

Voices for Children’s Position: Support (see our testimony)


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  1. REPLY
    Lawrence Gardner says

    Guidance to Success Youth Club (GtS) is a program that has been serving youth in Lincoln, Ne for the past 5+ years. It is a forward thinking, prevention program centered-around education, exercise and mental health (or cognitive functioning).

    We recently moved into a 4500 sq ft building, which was an in-kind donation valued at more than a hundred thousand dollars. GtS’ goal is to increase the academic performance, increase community productivity and increase the mental health of those we serve by employing engaging education, fun exercise and new experiences for our youth.

    Please contact me at 402 440 4122 as I believe GtS, with its infrastructure, mobility and partnerships, is the alternative program to costly and ineffective treatment centers


    Lawrence Gardiner, MA PLMHP

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