A little more than a year ago, the Legislature’s “Session of Children” adjourned after lots of hard work and heated debate. As the 2013 Legislative Session draws to a close, and more bills cross the finish line, it is incredibly encouraging to see that the Legislature’s commitment to investing in children hasn’t waned. Not only has the Legislature maintained their commitment to maintaining last year’s victories for kids, but they are also willing to go a step further and take on new challenges.
One of the largest of those challenges: Nebraska’s juvenile justice system. When lawmakers started their work, they were faced with a system that:
- Locks youth away at the third highest rate in the country.
- Treats youth like adults by prosecuting them in the criminal justice system.
- Spends more on incarcerating youth away from their homes, than it invests in services to meet youth needs and keep them close to home.
Lawmakers have moved forward with a package of hugely important reforms that build on what’s been working in Nebraska and across the nation, holding youth accountable in a way that puts them on a path to future success, while still maintaining public safety. By keeping youth out of the system unnecessarily,expanding access to community-based services, and limiting eligibility for placing children in detention centers and YRTCs, our children and our state will be in a much better position.
As LB 561 crosses the Legislative finish line this afternoon, Nebraska legislators can be proud of the steps they are taking to make sure youth and families access the right services at the right time, as close to home as possible. While there’s certainly more to do, it looks like the 2013 session just might go down in history as the “Session of Youth.”