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Why juvenile justice reform can’t wait

Today marks the 50th of 90 days in this year’s legislative session, and the start of day-long floor debate. In the midst of furiously reading bills and amendments, analyzing  fiscal notes, and making sense of  negotiations and compromises, it’s sometimes easy to get caught up in the process and forget (at least momentarily) the profound impact that many of the bills being debated will have on kids and families.

The first of a number of juvenile justice bills at the Legislature advanced last week – ensuring that Nebraska treats kids like kids when they come into contact with the justice system. As the Legislature moves forward with LB 464 and LB 561, which will help address our high incarceration rate, we need to keep in mind that this debate is about kids.

Last Friday night, Rock Center did an in-depth report on the state of the juvenile justice system in the United States and it’s devastating impact on children and families. The special highlights the use of solitary confinement, prosecuting youth as adults, and incarceration in particular.


It’s alright for us to think about how these bills will impact state and county budgets and court personnel and policies, but we must keep the stories and experiences of our children, youth, and families front and center as we go forward. We need to keep Kevin and James in mind. We need to think of the children and youth in our families and our communities. Our children can’t wait for us to focus on building a juvenile justice system that gives every child their best chance at a bright future. 

Here’s hoping our Nebraska Legislature is ready to make an investment in our juvenile justice system, too.



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