Skip to main content

Juvenile Justice Update | October 2023

October 3, 2023

State in Focus: Illinois 

Beginning on Jan. 1, 2024, Illinois HB 3140 will prohibit the use of solitary confinement unless a young person poses an immediate and serious risk of self-harm or harm to others. Other provisions in the new law include transferring a juvenile requiring ongoing seclusion to a facility or location where appropriate services can be provided “without relying on room confinement.” 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. 

Currently, 24 states and the District of Columbia have statutory limitations on the use of solitary confinement in juvenile facilities. Many of these enactments demonstrate a trend away from using solitary confinement as a disciplinary measure and instead narrow its use to when a young person presents a danger to self or others. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Commission on Correctional Healthcare have endorsed reducing or eliminating the use of isolation as well as creating guidelines for when solitary confinement must be used for safety purposes. 

To learn more, see NCSL's States that Limit or Prohibit Juvenile Shackling and Solitary Confinement.

Research and Response: Mobile Response for Youth in Crisis 

For over a decade, Connecticut’s Mobile Crisis Intervention Services has been responding to children and young people experiencing mental and behavioral crises. Funded by the state’s Department of Children and Families and comprised of more than 150 behavioral health clinicians, the program connects residents with a mental health professional via phone or face-to-face interaction. 

This community-based response has been credited with diverting youth away from emergency rooms as well as the juvenile justice system. Mobile Crisis Intervention Services are free to use and have been incorporated into Connecticut’s School-Based Diversion Initiative—an initiative which has reduced court referrals by 29%. 

Oklahoma has a similar mobile response program which between 2019 and 2021 diverted 79% of calls involving children, youth and young adults away from a change in placement and helped 90% of young people at risk of school disruption return to class. More recently, ConnecticutNevadaOregon, and Washington have included youth-specific behavioral health crisis provisions in their legislation related to the implementation of 988. 

Read A Safe Place to Be: Crisis Stabilization Services and Other Supports for Children and Youth published by the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors to learn more. 

On the Fiscal Front: Colorado Appropriates Millions to Reduce Juvenile Justice System Involvement 

In the fiscal year 2023-2024, Colorado will appropriate $3.4 million to the state’s Department of Health and Human Services. Under legislation that took effect in August, these funds will support community-based programs serving youth at risk of justice system involvement or those who are facing delinquency charges. 

Using local collaborative management programs (CMPs), youth and their families can be referred to several resources including behavioral health programs and child welfare services. The law includes data gathering and oversight provisions such as annual reports regarding the number of young people served by a collaborative management program, who were referred by the juvenile justice system as well as a requirement that district attorneys submit yearly reports detailing referrals to juvenile diversion programs. A working group is also tasked with examining the dispositions of juveniles alleged or adjudicated delinquent who received services through county departments. 

Originally, the bill sought to raise the minimum age of arrest from 10 to 13—except in cases involving suspected homicide—and would have increased the minimum age at which a young person could be tried as an adult from 12 to 14. 

“The juvenile justice system is a pipeline to prison. We must do better, and I know that we can. In the meantime, the strike below is our attempt to the most immediate good for young people with the funding that’s available,” said bill sponsor Sen. James Coleman (D). However, even in its final form, the legislation garnered opposition. “In my district, I have three counties that don’t have CMPs. The CMPs that we do have, we’re overloaded with child welfare as it is. Adding to it with the CMPs, it’s just going to overload us,” remarked Sen. Bryon Pelton (R). 

To access the fiscal note for HB 1249 (2023), see Colorado Legislative Council Staff's Final Fiscal Note

The Latest in Data: Drug and Alcohol Use Reported by Youth in Juvenile Facilities, 2008-2018 

A recently released report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics examines drug and alcohol use among young people prior to entering a juvenile detention facility. 

Key findings include: 

  • 60% of youth in juvenile facilities met the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition criteria for substance use disorder (SUD) and 36% met the criteria for alcohol use disorder (AUD) in the 12 months before entering custody. 
  • Female youth were more likely to have met the criteria for SUD (72%) or AUD (48%) than male youth (59% SUD and 34% AUD). 
  • Black youth had the lowest reported occurrence of substance use disorder and alcohol use disorder compared to white, Hispanic, American Indian/Alaska Native, Asian/Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Island, and youth who identified as two or more races. 
  • Youth victims of sexual assault (82%) were more likely to report ever drinking alcohol compared to youth who did not indicate prior sexual victimization (76%). 
  • Marijuana was the most commonly reported drug used; 81% of surveyed youth reported using marijuana in their lifetime. 
  • 15% of youth in juvenile facilities reported never using drugs or alcohol in their lifetime in 2018 compared to 9% of youth in juvenile facilities surveyed between 2008–2009. 

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. 

This project 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.

  • Contact NCSL

  • For more information on this topic, use this form to reach NCSL staff.