As we wrote this week in the Omaha World-Herald, the vast majority of youth involved with our justice system come before the courts on either misdemeanor offenses or offenses that would not be considered crimes if the offender were an adult. Known as “status offenders,” these youths have engaged in behavior that would not be criminal if an adult committed it: skipping school, running away from home, drinking alcohol, breaking curfew or being ungovernable.
This afternoon, Voices for Children Child Welfare and Juvenile Justice Policy Coordinator Juliet Summers testified in favor of LB 482, which would addresses children coming before the court only on noncriminal status offenses. LB 482 emphasizes the need to screen these youths away from the courts and into appropriate services that offer immediate help. It eliminates indiscriminate shackling and fingerprinting. By mandating certain findings before a case goes before a judge or detention, it requires courts, families and juveniles to put their efforts toward addressing behaviors in the home, where children belong.