Children and youth need to be held accountable for their actions in effective, appropriate ways that put them on the path to a successful, productive adulthood. Voices for Children in Nebraska supports AM 1674 to LB464 because it makes a number of important changes that will continue this Legislature’s work to reform our juvenile justice system. Most importantly, it ensures that more of Nebraska’s young people will be able to access the evidence-based, developmentally-appropriate services that are increasingly available in our juvenile justice system.
Voices for Children recently conducted an in-depth analysis of data from JUSTICE on Nebraska youth charged in adult court in 2012. Our analysis shows that AM 1674 will have a modest, but important impact in bringing youth back to the juvenile justice system. Specifically we found:
- Around 1,200 youth who would have previously been charged in adult criminal court will have the benefit of their cases starting in juvenile court or accessing juvenile diversion services.
- Prosecutors will retain their discretion and ability to file for a transfer to adult court in the vast majority of cases. 90% of youth currently charged as adults in Nebraska were 16 years of age or older at the time of their offense. It is not yet clear how many of these cases will actually be transferred to adult court.
- Over 200 youth were sentenced to jail terms (44 days was the median length) in adult court and 185 were placed on adult probation. While some youth served their sentences in juvenile detention facilities, others served them in adult jails and lock-ups, where they are exposed to greater risk of suicide, assault, and sexual abuse. In both instances youth are not able to access the same level of developmentally appropriate programming with an emphasis on rehabilitation rather than punishment.
When youth are sent to our adult criminal court system, we make them more likely to commit crimes in the future. By changing our laws so that more Nebraska youth remain in the juvenile justice system, we can make sure young people access the services and treatment that will put them on the path to a productive, successful adulthood. Our children and communities will be safer and more prosperous when we hold youth accountable for their actions within the juvenile justice system.