2010 Juvenile Justice State Legislation

State juvenile justice legislation in 2010 focused on providing adequate legal services and other due process protections to juveniles during court proceedings, detention reform, distinguishing juvenile from adult offenders and prevention and reentry/aftercare.

Exploring ways to keep youth in the juvenile justice system and out of the adult system continues to be a growing trend in the states. Utah now allows an adult court judge to transfer a matter concerning a child down to the juvenile court, if the judge determines it is in the best interest of the child. Another way states protect juvenile offenders and distinguish them from adults is by addressing transfer and direct file ages and the age of juvenile court jurisdiction. For example, a Colorado law raises the minimum age that juvenile defendants can be direct filed from 14 to 16 years, except in the case of first degree murder, second degree murder or a sex offense.  An Illinois act requires the Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission to study the expansion of the jurisdiction of the Illinois Juvenile Court to include youth age 17 charged with felony offenses, and directs the Commission to submit recommendations to do so within a year to the General Assembly. Another new Illinois law removes the requirement that the Department of Juvenile Justice share administrative services and facilities with the Adult Department of Corrections, and encourages instead its collaboration with “child serving” agencies.

States laws in 2010 also focused on the mental health needs of juvenile offenders and on providing due process protections for juvenile defendants, with measures requiring quality defense counsel, including for indigent youth, and clarifying admissibility of a juvenile’s confession and competency proceedings.  Illustratively, Louisiana now provides for appointment of counsel for indigent youth and sets guidelines for the admissibility of a child’s confession.  A Maine measure establishes the Maine Commission on Indigent Legal Services to provide efficient high quality representation to juvenile defendants.  In Illinois, an act provides that any incriminating information made by or obtained from a minor or parent as part of any behavioral health screening, evaluation or treatment, not be admissible as evidence of guilt during the juvenile court proceeding.  California law provides that during proceedings when a minor’s competence comes into question, the judge is required to order a hearing to determine competency to proceed.  And Tennessee legislation requires the state to pay for court ordered mental health evaluation of juveniles charged with an offense that would be a felony if committed by an adult.

Other states addressed detention reform for juveniles in various ways, such as reducing the unwarranted detention of certain juveniles and providing meaningful alternatives to detention. While Delaware legislation expands the list of possible acts for which a child could be detained in a secure facility, it provides significant safeguards against abuse of detention on these grounds.  The new law also requires that other less restrictive options be examined and considered before imposing secured detention.  In Wyoming a new law requires sheriffs to develop and implement standard for juvenile detention facilities. Another 2010 Wyoming measure requires sheriffs to approve juvenile detention risk assessment instruments.

Other juvenile justice legislation addressed improving intervention and aftercare services for juveniles.   A comprehensive Nebraska measure enacts major reform in the juvenile justice system by providing for early intervention with at-risk children and families, including addressing parental involvement, school attendance, alternatives to detention and improved aftercare services. In Illinois, a new juvenile parole reform law provides that the Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission develop recommendations regarding due process protections for youth during release decision-making processes, including parole and parole revocation proceedings. The bill also clarifies that the Prisoner Review Board has options other than re-incarceration for juvenile parolees who may violate a condition of parole.

Appendix

Treating Juveniles in Juvenile System 
Colorado HB 1274; Illinois SB 3085 and HB 5913; Utah HB 14

Due Process Rights and Mental Health
California AB 2212; Illinois HB 6129; Louisiana HB 663; Maine SB 423; Tennessee HB 459

Detention Reform
Wyoming HB 12 and SB 9; Delaware SB 264

Intervention, Reentry/Aftercare
Illinois HB 5914; Nebraska LB 800