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Time for a change: Locking youth up in Nebraska

In Nebraska we pride ourselves on having built the good life for our kids and families. Nebraskans can be proud of having made wise investments that have helped our state, children, and families weather recent tough times better than most.

Unfortunately, when it comes to juvenile justice, we have a lot more work to do to make the good life a reality for some of our most vulnerable youth. A report released by the Annie E. Casey Foundation today shows that Nebraska has the 4th highest rate of youth incarceration in the entire nation. Not only that, but our rate of incarceration is growing while national rates are declining. Most youth that we lock away as a state and a nation do not pose any real threat to public safety.

Incarcerating kids has lifelong, negative impacts – reducing their educational achievement and increasing their chances of unemployment, substance abuse and mental health challenges, and future criminal justice involvement. The time has come for meaningful change.

We must do better for our youth in Nebraska, especially our youth of color. Almost 1 of every 50 black youth and 1 of every 100 Native American youth were incarcerated in 2010.

It’s time to place limits on youth incarceration,  invest in community-based alternatives, and reform our whole juvenile justice system, so that all of our kids have a chance at a brighter future.

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