NCSL Juvenile Justice Quarterly Newsletter

State Policy and Legislative News


House Bill 1328 codifies the current policy limiting the use of solitary confinement and establishes procedures to be followed when a child is secluded for more than four hours. "We got some pretty compelling evidence, even from the state department, that in the past the department of youth corrections had not been following state law in terms of protections of people in solitary confinement," said Senator Kent Lambert, co-sponsor of the legislation. The bill also includes recording requirements and the establishment of a working group to ensure implementation of the law and to prevent reverting reversion to harmful seclusion practices. Another co-sponsor, Representative Pete Lee said, “We know that isolating angry, out-of-control kids only exacerbates their antisocial impulses. I want to protect our children by restricting this practice and guaranteeing that such treatment is never used as a punishment or in retaliation.”


Illinois lawmakers enacted Senate Bill 2370 requiring that minors under 15, who are charged with murder or sex offenses, must be represented by counsel throughout the entire custodial interrogation. The new law’s sponsor, Senator Patricia Van Pelt said, “I consider this a huge win for those who are underrepresented in this state.” The law also allows public defenders or attorneys under contract with the county to have access to these youth during custodial interrogations. Additionally, it requires a simplified version of Miranda warnings be given to minors under the age of 18 and requires videotaping of all custodial interrogations for minors charged with any felony offense or misdemeanor sex offense.

State In Focus:  Louisiana

Louisiana lawmakers passed four new laws in 2016 as part of efforts to reform their juvenile justice system. At the center of the bill package was Senate Bill 324, which raised the upper age of juvenile court jurisdiction from 16 to 17, bringing Louisiana in line with 42 other states. The law also provided that the juvenile court has original jurisdiction over a child (ages 15 and up) who commits a serious crime such as murder. Transfer can only occur once the child is charged with the crime or if the juvenile court finds probable cause that the child committed the offense. The new measure also creates the Louisiana Juvenile Justice Jurisdiction to be responsible for implementing the requirements of the law.  

Senate Bill 301, the Juvenile Justice Accountability and Cost Effectiveness Act of 2016, improves data collection and funding for the juvenile justice system. The law requires the Office of Juvenile Justice to report data on the services it provides, the youth it serves, their outcomes and their expenditures. The first report of these statistics can be no later than Jan. 15, 2018. The law also creates a Juvenile Justice Reinvestment Program, developing fiscal incentives to fund local efforts to enhance safety while reducing juvenile justice system costs. The law states that contracts to provide services to youth or their families shall be performance based determined by the results achieved by the contractor. The Office of Juvenile Justice must annually publish a report detailing all of these contracts. In addition, the law establishes probation standards for youth who commit violent crimes.

Senate Bill 302 provides that representation by a public defender creates an assumption of indigence for a juvenile defendant and provides that relevant records must be given to the child and their representatives and guardians at no cost. It also requires that any parole granted to a juvenile in commitment cannot exceed the time given to their original sentence. The new law also creates the Safe Return Representation Program, and funding for the program, to provide legal representation to indigent children. The Louisiana Public Defender Board is charged with administering the program.

Senate Bill 303 creates the office of juvenile justice schools to provide educational services to students in secure care at the Department of Public Safety and Corrections. It also requires the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to create team in charge of an accountability program for the office of juvenile justice schools. The program must be in place by March 1, 2017.

Federal News

2016 Tribal Juvenile Code

The U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) released a draft model juvenile justice code as a template for tribal law. The update to the 1988 model code assists “federally recognized tribes in creating individual codes focused on juvenile matters,” according to a BIA press release. Tribal governments face unique challenges in juvenile justice, with systems of overlapping jurisdictions causing confusion and gaps in services.

According to the BIA, The code focuses on three areas: Juvenile Delinquency, Truancy, and At Risk Youth Code as well as several principles which include, but are not limited to:

  • The ability to divert out of formal process at each decision point.
  • Embedding the right to counsel for juveniles in delinquency/truancy.
  • Restricting the use of detention.
  • Commentary on choices made in the code and discussion of options for implementation, including diversion examples.
  • Distinguishing between delinquent acts and need for services (for delinquent acts, focus on supervision, treatment and rehabilitation).
  • A process for ensuring the rights of parties.
  • The coordination of services.

DOJ Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) Administrator Robert Listenbee called the draft code “an important step forward in ensuring tribal courts have the resources they need to respond effectively to at-risk and delinquent youth in Indian Country…” Acting Administrator Kana Enomoto, of U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) said “the updates recognize the need for trauma-informed practices in juvenile courts and diverting juveniles with behavioral health problems to treatment services.”

NCSL’s 2016 Legislative Summit Juvenile Justice Deep Dive

NCSL held a Deep Dive Session titled “Reaching Across the Aisle on Juvenile Justice” during last month’s Legislative Summit in Chicago, Ill. The first of the two-part session featured Senator Deb Peters, South Dakota, and Patrick McCarthy, president and chief executive officer, Annie E. Casey Foundation. McCarthy discussed the growing recognition among policymakers that incarcerating juveniles in detention facilities does not effectively reduce juvenile crime. He discussed cost-effective alternatives to incarceration with a focus on evidence-based programs that effectively treat and rehabilitate young offenders.
Following McCarthy’s discussion, a panel representing the national research perspective, legislatures, agencies, the courts, grass roots communities and a former incarcerated youth voice drilled down and discussed how early intervention, holding young offenders accountable and investing in improved community supervision is reducing juvenile confinement around the country.

Jake Horowitz from the Pew Charitable Trusts and Senator Whitney Westerfield from Kentucky addressed how data and research are being put to work in crafting juvenile reform legislation. Judge Patricia Koch from the Ninth Judicial district in Louisiana and Terry Smith from Dallas County Juvenile Services underscored the importance of providing alternatives to incarceration and educating the judiciary on those alternatives. Benet Magnuson from Kansas Appleseed demonstrated that a grass roots campaign in Kansas helped make reforms in Kansas possible, even in the face of a tough political climate. And Xavier McElrath-Bey, a former incarcerated youth and Youth Justice Advocate for the Campaign For the Fair Sentencing of Youth, called attention to how a system-wide approach can give kids a chance to be productive members of society.

Juvenile Justice Publications

Just Released-- Probation System Review Guidebook, 2nd Edition

  • In August 2016, The RFK National Resource Center for Juvenile Justice released the Probation System Review Guidebook, 2nd Edition written by John A. Tuell and Kari L. Harp. Since the first edition was released in 2011, the RFK National Resource Center has continued to expand the scope and breadth of the Probation System Review process, resulting in further advances and refinement to the review framework. Through the proliferation of these reviews, new tools and resources have been developed to better assist jurisdictions in a review of their probation department and juvenile justice system. The 2nd edition of the Guidebook seeks to provide jurisdictions with the tools and analytical framework that will guide the alignment of their practices with national best practice standards. Based on the up-to-date and relevant research on adolescent development, risks-needs-responsivity approaches, probation supervision, graduated system of responses, family engagement and data-driven decision making, the 2nd edition of the Guidebook aligns its approaches with the most current advances in the field.
  • In June 2016, the Vera Institute of Justice published, It Takes a Village: Diversion Resources for Police and Families, a new document that draws on lessons from jurisdictions nationwide who are implementing new strategies for safely diverting youth away from the justice system and toward supportive services. Informed by interviews with stakeholders, it includes examples of successful programs, as well as stories from participating families, police, and school officials.
  • The Journal of Juvenile Law & Policy recently published, “The 48-Hour Rule and Over-detention in California Juvenile Proceedings”. The article explores the “48 hour rule”, a rule that requires a probable cause determination within 48 hours. It summarizes California statutory law, provides a chart of the implications of current law on days of detention, and presents the results of a statewide survey on actual practice in the counties. The article explains the importance of probable cause determinations, and the compelling reasons to minimize detention of juveniles. It goes on to urge that California should amend its statutory scheme to require probable cause determinations within 48 hours, and hold the initial detention hearing at the same time.
  • Unjust: How the Broken Juvenile and Criminal Justice Systems Fail LGBTQ Youth is a comprehensive new report explores how the U.S. juvenile and criminal justice systems endanger the lives and life chances of young people who are LGBTQ. Among the report’s findings is that the percentage of LGBT youth in juvenile detention is double that of LGBT youth in the general population, 20 percent of youth in juvenile justice facilities identify as LGBT or gender non-conforming compared to 7-9 percent of youth in general. The report also explores the widespread causes of the overrepresentation and documents the disparate treatment of LGBT youth by law enforcement, courts and detention facilities.
  • The Center for Juvenile Justice Reform (CJJR) has released a new issue brief on the importance of partnering with education to better serve youth involved in the juvenile justice system. “Education and Interagency Collaboration: A Lifeline for Justice-Involved Youth,” reviews research on education for system-involved youth, details recent efforts to improve education outcomes for the population, and highlights the Washington Education Advocate Program, a school-based transition program that focuses on bridging the education achievement gap for youth involved in the juvenile justice system in the state of Washington. 

Mark Your Calendars

The Vera Institute of Justice’s Status Offense Reform Center (SORC) will hold its first Policy Academy on Nov. 17-18,  in New Haven, Conn. The two-day event, which is generously supported by the MacArthur Foundation, will be held in Connecticut—a state that has enacted juvenile justice and status offense reform during the past 15 years. Representatives from different states will attend targeted workshops and site visits to learn about and share best practices for system reforms. All states are invited to apply, with final delegations selected in September.