The Michigan Legislature passed several bills addressing the needs of young people who come into contact with the justice system.
The new laws create guidelines for using research-based, validated risk and mental health screening tools to determine diversion eligibility, as well as limit pre-court diversion to three months unless it is determined a young person needs longer to complete a treatment program. Risk and mental health screening tool results must also be reviewed when a court is considering placing a young person in a program as an alternative to formal processing.
A detention screening tool must be used to determine whether secure confinement prior to a hearing is appropriate. Also, if a prosecuting attorney petitions for a minor to be tried as an adult, the court is required to consider the young person’s prior delinquency record and the minor’s developmental maturity and emotional and mental health.
The legislation also eliminates certain fees in the juvenile justice system, including late fees and certain fees or costs associated with a court case, court proceedings, agency costs of care and services, or post-disposition care.
The new laws take effect in October 2024.
Minnesota enacted an extensive reform bill prohibiting juvenile life without parole. Individuals serving a life sentence for an offense committed when they were under 18 will now be eligible for parole after serving 15, 20, or 30 years depending upon the original sentence; the law will apply retroactively. The bill also includes limitations on the use of juvenile solitary confinement and appropriates funds for community-based prevention and diversion programs. A new Office of Restorative Practices is tasked with providing technical support and training related to restorative justice practices—including diversion—to communities throughout Minnesota.
To learn more, read NCSL’s report, Juvenile Justice: Young People and Restorative Justice.
Four states—Colorado, Connecticut, Texas and West Virginia—passed bills directing young people away from formal court processing.
Colorado will appropriate $3.4 million to the state’s Department of Health and Human Services to support community-based programs serving youth at risk of justice system involvement or those who are facing delinquency charges. The law also includes data gathering and oversight provisions such as annual reports requiring data from prosecutors detailing referrals to juvenile diversion programs. A working group is tasked with examining the data.
Connecticut now requires an implementation team to develop a plan for prearrest diversion for youth who have committed low-level offenses. The team must also develop a plan to automatically divert young people who have committed certain first- and second-time offenses to community-based services.
Some youth in Texas who are suspected of misdemeanors punishable by a fine will now be referred to diversion services.
The West Virginia Legislature has tasked a multidisciplinary study group to develop and implement a Sequential Intercept Model to divert young people with behavioral health issues, substance use disorders or developmental disabilities away from the juvenile justice system.
Click here to read more about the Sequential Intercept Model.
Due Process Protections and Police Interrogation
Colorado, Illinois , Indiana and Nevada passed laws making a young person’s statement inadmissible if law enforcement is found to have used deceptive tactics during custodial interrogation.
The new law in Colorado also mandates that the interrogation be recorded and appropriates $37,500 to develop a training program for officers who interact with young people during questioning.
Utah will now require police to read a version of Miranda rights that is more easily understood by young people prior to interrogating a minor taken into custody.
Conditions of Confinement
The use of solitary confinement is now prohibited in Illinois unless a young person poses an immediate and serious risk of self-harm or harm to others. Facilities must also document all instances in which room confinement is used as well as any restrictions on access to programming and services while the young person is in isolation. A monthly report must be submitted to the ombudsperson for the state’s Department of Juvenile Justice.
Montana lawmakers narrowed the circumstances in which restraints can be used on youth during court proceedings. For children under 10, restraints cannot be used under any circumstance. Youth 10 or older can only be restrained during a court proceeding if there is substantial risk of harm to self or others or risk of absconding.
Juvenile Life Without Parole
Juvenile life without parole is now statutorily prohibited in Illinois, New Mexico and Minnesota.
Illinois abolished life without parole for young people convicted of first-degree murder. Under the new law, young people serving life sentences for crimes committed when they were under the age of 21 will be eligible for parole after 40 years.
In New Mexico, individuals serving a life sentence for a crime committed before the age of 18, will be eligible for a parole hearing after serving 15, 20, or 25 years depending on the offense. Similarly, young people in Minnesota sentenced to life in prison will now be eligible for parole after 15, 20, or 30 years of time served.
Reducing Collateral Consequences: Fines and Fees
Arizona, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Montana, Texas and Washington eliminated or limited imposing legal financial obligations on minors and their families.
Lawmakers in Arizona eliminated court-ordered fees for youth, except for victim restitution and specified driving under the influence offenses. Likewise, in Illinois, the court can no longer order young people or their families to pay fines, fees or administrative costs that are not associated with traffic, boating, fish and game law, or municipal ordinance violations. Under the state’s new law, existing legal financial obligations will be cancelled, and any payments made after the legislation’s enactment will be automatically reimbursed.
In Indiana, costs connected to the supplemental public defender services fund and the public defense administration fee have been eliminated.
As mentioned above, Michigan enacted limits on fines and fees in its comprehensive reform.
Legislation passed in Montana prohibits young people under 18 from being assessed legal financial obligations and makes collection of any previously ordered fines and fees unenforceable. Texas similarly repealed existing laws concerning imposing fees related to services such as community supervision, legal counsel and other costs incurred during out-of-home placement.
Juvenile courts in Washington are now barred from ordering a range of legal financial obligations including costs related to administrative fees to treatment programs, but restitution still must be paid.
Three states—Idaho, Kentucky and Oregon—enacted laws expanding record expungement eligibility for youth who have been adjudicated delinquent.
In Idaho, young people who committed qualifying offenses can petition the court for record expungement after three years instead of five years provided certain conditions are met.
Kentucky lawmakers also expanded the state’s expungement law to include all status offenses, misdemeanors and juvenile records with multiple felonies as long as the felony offenses are not classified as sex offenses or violent crimes.
Oregon’s new law will create a process for county juvenile departments to file applications for automatic record expungement. The legislation also allows the court, under certain circumstances, to grant the expunction request without a hearing and reduces the required record clearance waiting period from five years to four for young people who do not qualify for automatic record expungement.
Racial and Ethnic Disparities
The Colorado Legislature established a task force to examine and make recommendations to the state’s Youth Advisory Council Review Committee regarding school discipline practices as they relate to school district size, location and demographics.
A new law in Oregon directs the state’s Youth Authority to collect and maintain demographic data related to young people adjudicated delinquent. This data is to be used to examine disparities between justice-involved youth and to develop culturally appropriate programming.
Legislative Oversight of Juvenile Institutions
The ombudsperson of California’s Office of Youth and Community Restoration is now statutorily authorized to enter and inspect a juvenile facility at any time without notice. The new law requires the ombudsperson to include recommendations for improving the juvenile justice system in their reports to the state legislature.
Beginning in 2025, county-run youth facilities in Illinois will fall under the purview of the Department of Juvenile Justice Independent Juvenile Ombudsman who must report to the General Assembly, Governor, chief judge and administrative office of the courts.
In Vermont, lawmakers passed legislation establishing the Council for Equitable Youth Justice, which is tasked with monitoring and reporting the state’s compliance with the requirements of the federal Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act. Every three years, the council must develop a state-wide plan to promote an effective juvenile justice system. Every two years, the council is required to submit a written report to the governor, the Joint Legislative Justice Oversight Committee and Department for Children and Families outlining its efforts to comply with the federal act and offering recommendations to improve Vermont’s juvenile justice system.
This publication was supported by Grant #15PJDP-22-GK-04988- TITL awarded by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this [publication/program/exhibition] are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of the Department of Justice.