In 2016, the state of Utah formed an inter-branch Juvenile Justice Working Group, a 19-member task force appointed by state leadership and charged with studying state-specific data as part of a comprehensive review of Utah’s juvenile justice system. The working group found that the majority of referrals into the juvenile justice system in Utah are for misdemeanor offenses, and about 80 percent of youth entering the court system for the first time present a low risk to reoffend. Yet a high proportion of these low-level offenders were being placed out of home, at a significant cost to the state. These findings by the working group laid the foundation for HB 239, which establishes statutory standards for which youth may be removed from their homes and redirects averted costs toward expanding effective community-based services to all court districts in the state. Additionally, the bill establishes standards and criteria for pre-court diversions, caps fines and fees, limits school-based court referrals, and sets limits on the amount of time youth can spend in detention centers and under probation. HB 239 is projected to reduce Utah’s population of youth placed in state custody for delinquency or status offenses by a 47 percent reduction from projected baseline levels without policy change. This is projected to free up more than $70 million in state funds for reinvestment into evidence-based programs from reductions in operating costs and savings from out-of-home placement contracts.
House Bill 239
Summary of 2017 House Bill 239
Summaries and links to full legislation can also be found in NCSL’s Juvenile Justice Bill Tracking Database.
Return to NCSL’s Comprehensive Juvenile Justice Policy Reform page or learn more about NCSL’s Juvenile Justice Program.