State in Focus: Minnesota
Minnesota lawmakers passed SB 2909. The new law, passed in May, prohibits juvenile life without parole, making Minnesota the 28th state to ban life sentences without consideration for release in cases where the defendant was under 18 at the time of the offense. Beginning July 1, 2023, most adults who were given a life sentence when they were young will be eligible for parole after 15 years of time served; the law will apply retroactively.
The bill also includes limitations on the use of juvenile solitary confinement, appropriations for community-based prevention and diversion programs for at-risk or justice-involved youth and establishes the Office of Restorative Practices. Operating within the state’s Department of Public Safety, the new office will be tasked with providing technical support and training related to restorative justice practices—including diversion—to communities throughout Minnesota.
Some legislators, however, voiced concern regarding the bill’s restorative justice provisions. “If I tell you I'm going to open an office of restorative justice, I have no idea what that means, and neither does the public. And so there needs to be a more drawn-out, detailed plan of accountability,” remarked Representative Walter Hudson (R). (Learn more about this approach by reading NCSL’s Restorative Justice report).
Commenting on the legislation after it was passed in the Senate, Vice Chair of the House Public Safety Committee Rep. Sandra Feist (D) stated, “I am thrilled that my youth justice provisions were incorporated into the final bill. Collectively, these provisions will enhance public safety and address the deep injustices in the status quo by strategically and generously investing in Minnesota youth.”
On the Federal Level: Fines & Fees
The U.S. Department of Justice recently issued a letter encouraging state and local courts to reexamine their practices surrounding the imposition of fines and fees in the juvenile justice system.
According to the department, “Fines and fees can be particularly burdensome for youth, who may be unable to pay court issued fines and fees themselves, burdening parents and guardians who may face untenable choices between paying court debts or paying for the entire family unit’s basic necessities, like food, clothing, and shelter. Children subjected to unaffordable fines and fees often suffer escalating negative consequences from the justice system that may follow them into adulthood.”
With the growing body of research showing legal financial obligations can adversely impact a young person’s or family’s wellbeing, states have been reconsidering their use.
This year, Arizona passed SB 1197 which eliminates court-ordered fees for juveniles, except for victim restitution and specified driving under the influence offenses. The Indiana Legislature passed House Enrolled Act 1493 which will prohibit the court from imposing fines and fees on young people or their families unless there is a specific finding they are able to pay.
The Latest in Data: New Arrests Are Uncommon After Months of Supervision
As detailed in a recent report from The Pew Charitable Trusts, young people who are not arrested during their first year of probation are unlikely to be rearrested during the remainder of their supervision term.
Key takeaways from the report include:
- 246,000 young people were placed on probation in 2019.
- Despite probation being the most frequently used sanction in delinquency cases, there is not much research on the relationship between long-term supervision and recidivism.
- Length of supervision varies by jurisdiction. For example, youth adjudicated delinquent in Utah spend an average of three years on probation, while youth in Colorado, Florida, and Virginia typically spend one year on supervision.
- Data provided by the Texas Department of Juvenile Justice showed:
- 33% of young people on probation were arrested for a new offense.
- Most of the arrests occurred within the first five months of supervision.
- 9 in 10 arrests were for low-level and non-violent offenses.
- Monthly arrest rates for new offenses significantly decreased over the first year of supervision and then fell below an average of 1% in the subsequent months.
- Despite being assessed as low-risk for recidivism, many young people remained on probation for one year or longer.
To learn more, read the full report here and visit NCSL’s Juvenile Probation webpage.
NCSL Summit: Public Safety and Better Outcomes for Kids
Juvenile justice policy requires balancing healthy youth development with community safety and the need to hold young offenders accountable. Elizabeth Cauffman, director of the Center for Psychology and Law at the University of California, Irvine, will discuss the latest research on social and neurobiological science and provide information on federal and state priorities related to crime, public safety and creating the best outcomes. Check out all of the criminal justice sessions at this year’s event! Learn more
Juvenile Justice Publications and Resources
See the latest research and publications on juvenile justice policy.
Links to external websites and reports are for information purposes only and do not indicate NCSL’s endorsement of the content.
Support for this project was provided by The Pew Charitable Trusts. The views expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Pew Charitable Trusts.