Home Our Work Our Publications Advances in Juvenile Justice Reform: Organizational and Large-Scale Change

Advances in Juvenile Justice Reform: Organizational and Large-Scale Change

2016 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009  


  • 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.

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  • Colorado Funds Capacity Resource Center to Support Evidence-Based Practices: Colorado established a capacity resource center to help youth- and adult-serving agencies develop and sustain effective implementation strategies for evidence-based practices. The goal of the center offers educational and skill-building resources as well as consultation. H.B. 1129/Act No. 197, signed into law May 11, 2013; effective August 7, 2013.
  • Georgia Passes Sweeping Juvenile Justice Reform Bill: Georgia passed a comprehensive reform of the state’s juvenile code, aimed at reducing the number of youth in confinement and ensuring the juvenile justice system is focused on rehabilitation. The 248-page law prohibits detention of youth who commit status offenses, and instead designates them as “children in need of services.” The new code increases use of alternatives to detention for youth who are classified as low-to-medium risk and includes an increased emphasis on risk and behavioral health assessments. Additionally, the code ensures representation for youth at every stage of the legal process. In FY 2014, the law invested five million new dollars ($4 million state/$1 million federal) in community-based programs and in the second year, FY 2015, the law invested $8.85 million ($7.85 million state/$1 million federal) into such services. The changes stemming from the law are expected to save the state $88 billion over five years. H.B. 242/Act No. 127, signed into law May 2, 2013; effective January 1, 2014.
  • Illinois Creates Violence Prevention Task Force: The Illinois General Assembly established a task force to assist with violence prevention initiatives. Specifically, the task force is to assist with providing jobs, resources and opportunities for at-risk youth in order to prevent crime; create, develop, and implement recreation, social, and educational initiatives for at-risk youth; provide state resources to public schools to assist with behavioral health; organize community mental health providers in at-risk communities; increase awareness of violence prevention resources in the state; and assist violence prevention groups. The task force must report annually to the governor and General Assembly. H.B. 2879/Act No. 98-0194, signed into law and effective August 7, 2013.
  • Indiana Creates Commission on Improving the Status of Children: The Indiana General Assembly established the Commission on Improving the Status of Children in Indiana (CISC), charged with studying and evaluating services for vulnerable youth, promoting information-sharing and best practices, and reviewing and making recommendations concerning pending legislation. The 18-member commission consists of leadership from all three branches of government and includes representatives from the juvenile justice system. Its stated priorities include expanding juvenile justice reform and improving data sharing, communication, and collaboration across child-serving agencies. The commission’s Cross-System Youth Task Force is working to expand JDAI, increase alternatives to detention for youth with mental health issues, improve transitions for youth leaving the juvenile justice system, and improve coordination and develop polices to better meet the needs of dually-adjudicated youth. S.E.A. 125/P.L. 119-2013, signed into law April 30, 2013; effective July 1, 2013.
  • Louisiana Designates Primary Researcher and Advisor to Legislature on Juvenile Justice Issues: The Louisiana legislature designated the Institute for Public Health and Justice of the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center in New Orleans as the primary researcher and advisor to the legislature on issues related to youth involved with the criminal justice system and youth with behavioral needs. The institute is to provide reliable and current information about best practices and successful local models, prepare annual reports for the legislature, offer technical assistance to the Juvenile Justice Reform Act Implementation Commission, and monitor juvenile justice reforms. H.B. 177/Act No. 3, signed into law May 23, 2013; effective August 1, 2013.
  • Minnesota Establishes Work Group to Address Juvenile Justice System Goals:  The Minnesota Legislature passed a law establishing a work group to discuss statewide goals for youth in the juvenile justice system, necessary services for youth in the juvenile justice system and their families, strategies for identifying and responding to the needs of youth in the system or at risk of entering it, and system changes needed in order to better respond to these needs. The legislation also instructs the work group to develop an implementation plan to achieve service delivery and meet outcome goals. The work group submitted its report in March 2014, calling for funding for evidence-based early intervention programs, improved mental health screenings in the juvenile justice and child welfare systems, and the creation of a state Office of Juvenile Justice to help implement the work group’s recommendations. S.F. 671/Act. No.86, signed into law May 23, 2013; effective August 1, 2013.
  • Oklahoma’s Governor Establishes Committee to Study Juvenile Justice System: Through an executive order, Oklahoma’s governor established the Juvenile Justice Reform Committee to study the state’s juvenile justice system and recommend improvements. The committee is to consider the most efficient and effective programs, recidivism rates, diversion programs, and national best practices concerning housing and treatment of youth. Executive Order 18, signed May 16, 2013.
  • Ohio’s Budget Directs Funding to Youth in the Juvenile Justice System: Ohio’s FY 2014-15 budget bill contained provisions benefiting youth in the justice system. First, the law establishes that the Ohio Office of the Public Defender is to provide legal assistance to youth in Department of Youth Services (DYS) facilities. In addition, the budget provides that DYS can use up to 45 percent of the savings stemming from facility closures to expand evidence-based community programs, including those funded through the Targeted RECLAIM and Behavioral Health and Juvenile Justice initiatives. H.B. 59, signed into law and effective June 30, 2013.
  • Rhode Island Improves its Data Capacity: Rhode Island has begun to implement the JDAI Quarterly Reporting Spreadsheet (QRS), a tool that integrates data from the Rhode Island Family Court and the Department of Children, Youth and Families, making it possible to track a host of juvenile justice system data that were previously not available. The QRS includes data on race and ethnicity, gender, length of stay, average daily population, and the reasons youth were sent to the training school (e.g., offense type, probation violation, placement failure).
  • Vermont Engages in Cost-Benefit Analysis of Criminal and Juvenile Justice Practices: The Vermont legislature charged the Criminal Consensus Cost-Benefit Working Group with developing a criminal and juvenile justice cost-benefit model for the state. The goal of the model is to provide policymakers with information needed to weigh the costs and benefits of various programs and to evaluate those policies with the greatest net social benefit. Specifically, the model will be used to estimate costs related to arrest, prosecution, defense, adjudication, and corrections of adults and youth, as well as the cost of victimization. A report submitted by the working group in April 2014 recommends that the state “reinvigorate” its commitment to evidence-based programs, study staff costs further (as having the greatest potential to generate cost savings), and provide the results of their study to criminal and juvenile justice agencies in the state, along with technical assistance for those agencies to evaluate opportunity costs. S.B. 1/Act No. 0061, signed into law and effective June 3, 2013.

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  • Maryland Abandons Plans to Construct New Youth Jail: Following years of community opposition, in January of 2013 Maryland state officials abandoned plans to build a new jail for youth charged as adults in Baltimore. Officials cited declines in youth crime as the reasoning for the change, and acknowledged the community’s concerns that the jail was the wrong way to address youth in trouble with the law. Instead of building the jail—estimated to cost the state between $70 million and $100 million—the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services plans to retrofit a smaller facility to house youth charged with violent offenses that will cost $30 million. The plan also calls for youth charged as adults for nonviolent offenses to be held in a juvenile facility if they have a pending petition to have their cases sent back to juvenile court. Note that in 2016 advocates continue to fight against building the $30 million jail by working to change the state’s transfer laws so that fewer youth will be transferred to the adult system and the new jail will by unnecessary.
  • Washington Continues to Push for Use of Evidence-Based Practices: Based on the positive reports produced by the Washington State Institute for Public Policy, the Washington State Legislature passed a law requiring a thorough overview, inventory, and assessment of evidence-based, research-based, and promising practices in the areas of child welfare, juvenile rehabilitation, and children’s mental health services. The legislation aims to develop a baseline understanding of the availability and use of such practices in the state, understand their cost-effectiveness, and increase their use in the state in a culturally competent manner. The inventory is updated regularly. H.B. 2536/Act No. 232, signed into law March 30, 2012; effective June 7, 2012.

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  • Arkansas — Juvenile Court Fees to Be Used for Youth Programs: Under a new law, the fees collected from participants in juvenile court are now used to fund and support youth and court programs. The law provides that the funds in each county may be used to support juvenile drug courts, teen courts, volunteer probation programs, court-appointed special advocates, and after-school and community-based programs. Prior to the law, only limited types of funds collected could be spent on juvenile court programs. The new law broadens the categories of fees that can be used to support youth programs and clarifies which types of juvenile court programs may be supported by the fees. The change stemmed from a need for more funding for juvenile drug courts and after-school programs for youth. H.B. 1812/Act 1175, signed into law April 4, 2011; effective July 27, 2011.
  • Louisiana — Louisiana House Resolves to Assess Juvenile Justice System and Develop Recommendations for Reform: Recognizing the deficiencies of juvenile facilities in Louisiana, past violations of civil rights, dramatic downsizing since 2003, and the positive influence of the MacArthur Foundation’s Louisiana Models for Change initiative, a House Concurrent Resolution urged the Juvenile Justice Reform Act Implementation Commission to assess the current state of the juvenile justice system, evaluate improvements made over the preceding five years, and issue recommendations for a five-year plan for reform. The Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center’s Institute for Public Health and Justice will conduct the study; its report is expected in January 2013. H.C.R. 120, adopted June 8, 2011.
  • Maryland — State Commits to Gathering Data on Outcomes of Juvenile Justice Services: New legislation in Maryland will help increase access to information about the outcomes of services provided by the Department of Juvenile Services (DJS). The law requires the Secretary of DJS to report to the General Assembly on January 1 of each year on the recidivism rates of children committed to DJS for placement in any type of residential care. Prior to the bill’s passage, DJS did not report data by program; the law will now require breakdowns by each program and placement. S.B. 200/Ch. 194, signed into law May 10, 2011; effective October 1, 2011.
  • Nevada — Supreme Court Commission Studies Use of Commitment: The Nevada Supreme Court Commission on Statewide Juvenile Justice Reform is studying Nevada’s use of rural state-run reform schools as placements for committed youth, as well the use of out-of-state placement of delinquent youth in residential treatment centers. The commission will study and evaluate the continuum of care to determine whether smaller, regional facilities are most effective and to assess whether the state should send only youth who commit the most serious offenses to secure placements. The commission will additionally consider redirecting more state commitment funds to community-based services and commitment alternatives, and look to identify long-term funding stabilization plans to prioritize juvenile justice funding in the state.
  • Texas — Texas Youth Commission Merges with Texas Juvenile Probation Commission: The Texas Legislature merged the Texas Youth Commission and the Texas Juvenile Probation Commission to form the new Texas Juvenile Justice Department (TJJD). According to the legislation, TJJD’s purpose is to create a unified juvenile justice system that provides a full continuum of effective services, prioritizing community and family-based programs over commitment to secure facilities. The specific goals of the merger are to support a county-based system that reduces the need for out-of-home placement; locate facilities close to youths’ families and facility employees; encourage regional cooperation; enhance continuity of care; and use secure facilities, when necessary, that are sized for effective rehabilitation. S.B. 653, signed into law May 19, 2011; effective September 1, 2011.

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  • Louisiana — Legislature Passes Resolution to Move State Closer to “Missouri Model” of Juvenile Justice: The Louisiana State Legislature passed a resolution to further Louisiana’s efforts to implement the “Missouri Model” of juvenile justice. The resolution establishes a task force, which includes local advocacy organizations, to evaluate Louisiana’s progress towards implementing the Missouri Model and determine what further steps should be taken. Task force meetings are ongoing. S.C.R. 131, adopted June 21, 2010 and H.C.R. 245, adopted on June 16, 2010.
  • Nebraska — 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.
  • Oklahoma — Oklahoma Reviews Juvenile Justice System: The Oklahoma Legislature created the Oklahoma Juvenile Justice Reform Committee in order to thoroughly and systematically study the efficiency and effectiveness of the state’s juvenile justice system and provide recommendations for revision to the Oklahoma Juvenile Code. Topics covered by the committee include prevention, confidentiality, “youthful offender” certification/reverse certification, and due process. Legislation passed in 2012 extended the committee through the end of December 2012, and pushed the deadline for the committee to submit its recommendations to the legislature from December 1, 2011 to December 1, 2012. H.J.R. 1065, passed April 19, 2010/S.B. 674, signed into law May 18, 2011; effective November 1, 2011.
  • Pennsylvania — Interbranch Commission on Juvenile Justice Calls for Reform: Pennsylvania’s Interbranch Commission on Juvenile Justice—which was created in the wake of the 2009 judicial scandal in Luzerne County—issued its final report in May 2010, calling for numerous reforms, including creation of a statewide juvenile justice victim advocate; re-examination of the code of judicial conduct and operations of the Judicial Conduct Board; increased training for judges, masters, prosecutors and public defenders; creation of a statewide indigent defense funding stream; a study to recommend methods to reduce or eliminate shackling in juvenile courtrooms; implementation of the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI); and elimination of school zero tolerance policies.
  • Pennsylvania —Stakeholders Adopt Plan to Improve Services for Youth in the Juvenile Justice System: In November 2010, the Juvenile Court Judges’ Commission, Pennsylvania Council of Chief Juvenile Probation Officers and Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention Committee of the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency adopted a new statewide plan to employ evidence-based practices, with fidelity, at every stage of the juvenile justice process; increase collection and analysis of data; and improve the quality of decisions, services, and programs.

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  • Nevada — Committee to Evaluate and Review Juvenile Justice Issues: Nevada’s new Legislative Committee on Child Welfare and Juvenile Justice is charged with evaluating and reviewing issues relating to juvenile justice, including community-based programs and services within and outside of the state; programs for aftercare and reintegration; overrepresentation and disparate treatment of minorities; gender-specific services; quality of care in state facilities; and the feasibility and necessity of independent monitoring of state facilities. The committee has the authority to conduct investigations and hold hearings in connection with its assigned duties and must report to the legislature every other year. S.B. 3/Ch. 452, signed into law June 4, 2009; effective July 1, 2009.
  • Pennsylvania — Supreme Court Vacates Thousands of Juvenile Adjudications: In an unprecedented decision, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court vacated as many as 6,500 adjudications of delinquency of youth who appeared before former judge Mark Ciavarella between 2003 and 2008. The farreaching order is an exceptional response to the judicial scandal in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, through which Ciavarella and fellow judge Michael T. Conahan allegedly received more than $2.6 million in kickbacks from the owner of two private youth detention centers in exchange for sending youth there. The General Assembly established an Interbranch Commission on Juvenile Justice to investigate the circumstances that led to the corruption, restore public confidence in the administration of justice, and prevent the occurrence of similar events. In Re: Expungement of Juvenile Records and Vacatur of Luzerne County Juvenile Court Consent Decrees or Adjudications from 2003-2008, October 29, 2010; H.B. 1648/Act 32, signed into law and effective August 7, 2009.
  • Washington — Non-Identifying Juvenile Court Records to Be Available for Research Purposes: For the purpose of research only, the Administrative Office of the Courts in Washington must maintain an electronic research copy of all records in the judicial information system related to youth. Access is restricted to the Washington State Center for Court Research, which must protect all confidential records and preserve the anonymity of any people identified in them. The law additionally directs the court to release to the Washington State Office of Public Defense records needed for the office’s oversight and technical assistance, on the condition of maintaining confidentiality. H.B. 1238/Ch. 440, signed into law May 11 2009; effective July 26, 2009.

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