Juvenile Justice Quarterly
This article appeared in Juvenile Justice Quarterly, Issue 8, March 2014 (Full newsletter in pdf)
2013 Year in Review
At both the federal and state level, an ever-growing body of research on adolescent brain development and behavioral science has provided the basis for many new policies that seek to more effectively address and prevent youth crime. State juvenile justice legislation in 2013 focused on distinguishing juveniles from adult offenders, restoring the jurisdiction of the juvenile court, and addressing sentencing reforms. Illinois and Massachusetts raised the age of juvenile court jurisdiction and Arkansas and Washington passed legislation related to juvenile mental health. At least six states—including California, Delaware, Indiana, Louisiana, South Dakota, and Wyoming – passed sentencing reforms in 2013. California and Wyoming mandated parole hearings for juvenile life without parole (JLWOP) cases. Other states such as Nevada, Texas and Virginia passed laws to divert juveniles from the system and amended transfer laws. For example, Nevada changed its criteria for transferring youth to adult court so that only juveniles who are 16 years old, have committed a specified felony and have previously been convicted of a felony, may be transferred to adult court. While Nebraska, Maryland, New York and Ohio all passed legislation closing down institutions and shifting the resources to community based alternatives. For more information please see 2013 Juvenile Justice Legislation and Trends in Juvenile Justice State Legislation 2001-2011.
Interim Committees Report
Interim committees in Colorado and Kentucky each issued reports in late 2013 addressing juvenile justice issues.
The Colorado General Assembly passed House Joint Resolution 1019, which created the Juvenile Defense Attorney Interim Committee. The committee was assigned the task to study the role of legal defense counsel in the juvenile justice system.
In its final report to the Legislative Council in December 2013, the committee advanced two bills. The first bill would require a juvenile who is detained to be represented by private counsel or a public defender at a detention hearing. The bill also creates procedures requiring that courts accept only “knowing, intelligent, and voluntary waivers of counsel by juveniles.” The second bill would authorize the Office of Public Defenders to hire social workers to assist in defending juveniles.
The Kentucky legislature established the Task Force on the Unified Juvenile Code in House Concurrent Resolution 129 in 2012. A senate resolution continued the task force’s work through 2013 and their final report was published in December 2013.
The task force found that Kentucky spends significant resources on out-of-home placement for low-level status offenders. They also found the length of time probation/court order violators and misdemeanor offenders spend in out-of-home facilities has increased by 31 percent and 21 percent, respectively, over the past decade. In order to address these findings, the task force made suggestions, underpinning the importance of focusing expensive out-of-home facilities on more serious offenders and strengthening early intervention and prevention programs.
In 2014, a number of states, including Arkansas, Kansas, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee and Washington, are also studying juvenile justice issues.