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Advances in Juvenile Justice Reform | MO

Missouri: 2013 | 2011 

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2013

  • Alternatives to Detention and Youth Prisons — Missouri Authorizes Funding for Alternatives to Detention: After the closure of six detention centers in Missouri in 2011, the Judiciary’s Family Court Committee authorized $300,000 for use by the juvenile courts for alternatives to detention prior to adjudication. The funding was authorized in both 2012 and 2013.
  • Youth in the Adult System — Missouri Expands Program Allowing Certain Youth Convicted as Adults to Receive Juvenile Disposition: Stemming from the tragic suicide of a 17-year-old boy who had been sentenced as an adult, was held in isolation in an adult prison, and was awaiting transfer to a notoriously abusive adult prison, the Missouri Legislature passed Jonathan’s Law, which expands the availability of Missouri’s dual jurisdiction program for youth convicted as adults. The dual jurisdiction program allows youth convicted as adults to have their adult criminal sentence suspended and to instead receive a juvenile disposition. The law requires judges to consider giving a juvenile disposition to youth who have been convicted as adults; if judges choose not to give a juvenile disposition—despite acceptance of the youth by the Division of Youth Services (DYS)—they must make findings on the record as to their reasons for imposing an adult sentence. All judges in Missouri must also now order a DYS evaluation for youth who are transferred to adult court to help give all youth an opportunity to qualify for the dual jurisdiction program. The law extends the age of eligibility for the dual jurisdiction program from 17 years to 17 years and six months, helping to ensure youth are not deprived of the option simply because of delays inherent to the court system. Additionally, the law removes the “once an adult, always an adult” for youth who were transferred to adult court, but not convicted. S.B. 36, signed into law June 12, 2013; effective August 28, 2013.

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2011

  • Screening and Assessment — Supreme Court Mandates Use of Juvenile Detention Assessment Instrument: The Missouri Supreme Court mandated that as of January 1, 2012, all youth facing detention receive a risk score through Missouri’s new juvenile detention assessment instrument in order to determine their pre-adjudication placement. The court states that generally youth should not be held in secure detention unless they present a risk to public safety or may fail to appear in court for their hearings. The instrument is to be used to assist in making a decision as to whether a youth should be placed in a secure detention facility, placed in an alternative to detention, or released. The instrument is a written checklist used to rate each youth for specific detention-related risks and was developed to address the inappropriate detention of youth based on race, gender, or offense. The court’s order also directs the state courts administrator to provide training to all circuits on the use of the instrument, and requires circuits using the instrument to keep and report data. Court Operating Rule 28, April 8, 2011.
  • Facility Closures and Downsizing — State Closes Six Juvenile Detention Centers: Missouri closed six of its 15 juvenile detention centers in 2011 after extensive review by the Juvenile Detention Facilities Workgroup, created by the Missouri Circuit Court Budget Committee. Each of the six facilities had an average daily population of four or fewer youth over the course of the past year, totaling a combined average daily population of only 18 youth, yet with a combined staff of over 63 FTEs (full time equivalents). The state estimates it will save approximately $500,000 in just the first year after the closures. The jurisdictions in which facilities were closed will receive additional funding in order to develop alternatives to detention. Thanks to the reduction of state detention rates overall, the remaining Missouri juvenile detention facilities have the space to house youth from jurisdictions that have closed facilities, and will serve as regional centers.
  • Disproportionate Minority Contact (DMC) — Cole County Reduces DMC by Limiting School Referrals to Police: A revision to the school referral policy in Cole County, Missouri eliminated the referral of minor offenses to the juvenile office. In 2009, African American youth were almost ten times as likely as white youth to be referred to the juvenile court. By 2011, the revision to the referral policy had cut that rate by almost half. Minor offenses are now handled at the school, rather than being referred to the juvenile office by school resource officers. Additionally, de-escalation training was provided to special education teachers, based on the high rate of referrals from special education classes.
  • Conditions of Confinement — Judiciary Creates Detention Standards Workgroup: The Missouri judiciary established a workgroup to review current standards for services given to youth placed in detention and recommend changes for improvement. The workgroup must examine all aspects concerning the placement of youth in secure and non-secure detention facilities, including, but not limited to, facility operations, programming, budgeting, and staffing. The judiciary has not reviewed the standards since 1991.

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Photo: Doug Wallick, under Creative Commons License.