Home Our Work Our Publications Advances in Juvenile Justice Reform | Nebraska

Advances in Juvenile Justice Reform | Nebraska

Nebraska: 2016 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 



  • Organizational and Large-Scale Change — Nebraska Passes Comprehensive Juvenile Justice Reform Bill: Legislative Bill 894 is a comprehensive juvenile justice reform bill dealing with lower age of court jurisdiction, legal representation for youth, solitary confinement, and youth who commit status offenses. L.B. 894 establishes, for the first time, a minimum age of 11 years old for bringing delinquency charges against a child, effective July 1, 2017. Juvenile courts can provide services to children age 10 and younger through the Department of Health and Human Services. L.B. 894 also protects youth’s right to counsel by placing restrictions on when youth can waive the right to counsel and requiring that juvenile courts in Nebraska’s largest jurisdictions to appoint lawyers for youth immediately upon the filing of charges. It enables counties to create Guardian Ad Litem divisions, from which attorneys are appointed to represent the best interests of youth in child welfare or juvenile justice cases. L.B. 894 also requires all juvenile facilities to submit quarterly reports to the Legislature documenting details of any use of solitary or “room confinement.” The reports will be reviewed annually to identify changes that could be made in policy or practice to limit the use of solitary confinement. Facilities must also seek supervisor approval and issue reports when solitary confinement lasts longer than two hours. Lastly, the bill clarifies terms to ensure youth who haven’t committed crimes aren’t confined in locked facilities in keeping with federal guidelines. Legislative Bill 894 was introduced by Senator Patty Pansing Brooks and co-introduced by Senators Chambers, Coash, Ebke, Howard, Krist, McCollister, Morfeld, and Williams. L.B. 894 was signed into law on April 7, 2016.


  • Adjudication and Sentencing — Nebraska Eliminates Mandatory Juvenile Life without Parole: Coming into compliance with the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Miller v. Alabama, Nebraska eliminated mandatory sentences of life without parole for offenses committed by youth under the age of eighteen. Under the new law, youth may still be sentenced to 40 years to life. At sentencing, courts must consider mitigating factors, including the youth’s age, family and community environment, intellectual capacity, mental health, and “ability to appreciate the risks and consequences” of his or her conduct. After becoming eligible for parole, if individuals are denied, they must be reconsidered each subsequent year. The Board of Parole must consider individuals’ participation in educational and rehabilitative programs, maturity level, intellectual capacity, and other mitigating factors. L.B. 44, signed into law May 8, 2013; effective September 6, 2013.
  • Alternatives to Detention and Youth Prisons — Nebraska Expands Use of Community-Based Programs and Limits Secure Confinement: CThe Nebraska Legislature passed a broad juvenile justice reform bill that emphasizes treatment rather than punishment through expansion of local, community-based alternatives to incarceration and research-based prevention programs, and limitations on the use of secure confinement. The law prohibits commitment of youth to the state Office of Juvenile Services for status offenses; requires exhaustion of all available community-based services before a youth is committed; limits confinement of youth only to cases where it is immediately necessary for protection of the youth or public safety, or if a youth is at high risk for fleeing the jurisdiction of the court; requires therapeutic services and reentry planning for committed youth; and establishes a grant program for funding of community-based services. The law also converts the Nebraska Juvenile Service Delivery Project of 2012 (L.B. 985, see above) from a pilot program into a permanent statewide initiative, giving the Office of Probation Administration more funding to provide services to youth, and leaving the Office of Juvenile Services responsible only for managing two state facilities for youth. L.B. 561, signed into law May 29, 2013; effective September 6, 2013.

Back to the top »



  • Alternatives to Detention and Youth Prisons — Nebraska Expands Community-Based Services for Youth on Probation: Through the Nebraska Juvenile Service Delivery Project, Nebraska expanded a pilot program to provide community-based services for youth on probation. Legislation expanded the program to three sites and allocated over $8 million for it from the state’s general fund. The legislation’s stated goals include preventing unnecessary commitment of youth, eliminating barriers to services, preventing unnecessary penetration of youth deeper into the juvenile justice system, using the least intrusive and restrictive means of meeting youth’s needs and maintaining public safety, and improving outcomes for youth by using evidence-based practices and responsive case management. L.B. 985 and L.B. 985A, signed into law and effective April 5, 2012.
  • Alternatives to Detention and Youth Prisons — Nebraska Establishes Commission to Study Juvenile Justice Facilities and Services: The Nebraska Legislature created the Nebraska Children’s Commission as a permanent forum for collaboration among state, local, community, public, and private stakeholders in child welfare and juvenile justice programs and services. The Juvenile Services (OJS) Committee was also established as a subcommittee of the Nebraska Children’s Commission, with the mandate to review the role and effectiveness of Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Centers (YRTCs), including what populations should be served, what treatment services should be provided at YRTCs, how mental and behavioral health services are provided to youth in secure residential placements, and the need for such services in Nebraska’s juvenile justice system. The committee’s December 2013 report includes recommendations related to foundational system principles and a core framework for the system, legal system changes, YRTC facilities and services, and behavioral and mental health systems of care. L.B. 821, signed into law April 11, 2012; effective April 12, 2012 and L.B. 561 signed into law May 29, 2013; effective September 6, 2013.
  • Youth in the Adult System — Nebraska Raises the Minimum Age for Youth to Be Sent to Secure Juvenile Facilities: The Nebraska Legislature raised the minimum age for commitment to youth rehabilitation and treatment centers (YRTCs) from 12 to 14, with exceptions for youth who commit murder or manslaughter, commit other offenses that lead the court to deem commitment is necessary, or violate probation. The law also mandates employee training to improve YRTC safety. Notably, the legislature rejected a bill that would have moved YRTCs under the control of the Department of Correctional Services, where youth would be unable to access the rehabilitative services provided by the Office of Juvenile Services. L.B. 972, signed into law April 10, 2012; effective July 19, 2012.

Back to the top »



  • Alternatives to Detention and Youth Prisons — Legislature Funds Diversion Programming: The Nebraska Legislature ordered the transfer of $100,000 to the Supreme Court Education Fund to assist the juvenile justice system in providing pre-filing and diversion programming designed to reduce excessive absenteeism from school and unnecessary involvement with the juvenile justice system. L.B. 463, signed into law and effective May 11, 2011.

Back to the top »



  • Organizational and Large-Scale Change — State Moves Toward More Positive Treatment of At-Risk and Court-Involved Youth: The Nebraska Legislature recently passed a law that enacts numerous positive changes to the statutory provisions governing juvenile delinquency and status offenses. Some of the main provisions of the law include phase-out by January 1, 2013 of the detention of status offenders who violate a valid court order; codification of a program of graduated sanctions for youth who violate probation; provision of a clear and comprehensive process for sealing many juvenile court records; prioritization of certain grant money for programs that reduce the detention population; the establishment of a pilot project allowing law enforcement to issue civil citations to youth in place of making an arrest; and a shortened timeline for completion of post-adjudication evaluations. L.B. 800, signed into law April 13, 2010.

Back to the top »


Having trouble viewing the PDFs linked above in your Google Chrome web browser? Try opening the page using another web browser, such as Firefox. Alternatively, here are instructions on how to fix the problem in your Chrome browser.

Back to the top »

Photo: erjkprunczýk, under Creative Commons License.