Juvenile Justice Update is an NCSL digital newsletter for state legislators, legislative staff and others interested in juvenile justice policy. This newsletter provides quarterly updates on state interests, actions and resources and provides links to the latest research. Please feel free to share with all those who are interested, and subscribe to the Update here.
On Nov. 8, 2021 Delaware enacted numerous juvenile justice reform bills including modifying the age of juvenile court jurisdiction and specific transfer laws. House Bill 115 set the minimum age of juvenile court jurisdiction to 12, meaning the prosecution of children under 12 is prohibited except in the case of serious charges like rape or murder. The law also provides that children younger than 16 cannot be transferred into adult court, except when they face charges of rape or murder. The sponsor of the bill, Rep. Nnamdi Chukwuocha (D) said, “There are better ways to hold young children accountable for minor incidents without causing lifelong problems by putting them into the criminal justice system at such a young age.”
House Bill 215 requires law enforcement to electronically record custodial interrogations for both adults and young people in the system, and House Bill 162 established the Juvenile Re-Entry Services Fund which provides funding to community based services that support young people after they have been released from secure confinement.
Finally, Delaware enacted the Clean Slate Act, which will automate Delaware’s existing criminal-record expungement process for thousands of adults and youth in the juvenile legal system by eliminating the need for them to file a petition with the State Bureau of Identification (SBI).
All states have procedures allowing young people to petition to either seal or expunge their records in certain cases. However, these procedures can be confusing and cumbersome, and in many instances, the young person is never notified if, when or how the record can be expunged. Twenty-two states have laws that automatically seal or expunge juvenile records in certain circumstances, meaning the records are sealed or expunged without any action on the part of the youth. Read more>>
Universities from Georgia and Michigan recently released comprehensive data snapshots of their states’ criminal justice systems, including their juvenile justice systems.
The University of Georgia’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government released the Georgia Criminal Justice Data Landscape Report which provides data, information and insights on Georgia’s juvenile justice reform efforts and how they have affected the justice system as a whole.
The report includes data on reductions at multiple decision points in the system in the eight years since House Bill 242, Georgia’s sweeping juvenile justice overhaul in 2013. These include:
In Michigan, the report “Overview of the Criminal Legal System in Michigan: Adults and Youth,” examined information available and determined there was a serious gap in data. “The youth justice system in Michigan is decentralized and aggregate data reporting on key indicators is non-existent.” The report mentioned that because court case load counts do not include young people who have been diverted from court processing, the total number of youth in the justice system is unknown.
Nevertheless, researchers found that in Michigan, most adolescents involved with the youth justice system were involved with child protection, regardless of race or sex. The research also illustrates racial and ethnic disparities in the juvenile justice system. For example, Black youth accounted for 15% of the general population in 2017 but they accounted for 35.3% of the petitioned population (those that were arrested and then formally charged with an offense.)
In 2017, Louisiana enacted a bipartisan package of 10 criminal justice reform bills, one of the most comprehensive criminal justice reforms in state history. Known as the Justice Reinvestment Legislation, the bill required 20% of any savings (resulting from the reforms) to be directed to juvenile justice. The latest annual performance report shows $3,560,067 from the savings was allocated to the Office of Juvenile Justice in August 2019. That money went to 14 programs throughout the state designed “to divert youth arrested for certain offenses into programming to address the behavior as an alternative detention.” Additionally, the money went to 13 community-based alternatives to detention. The services provided by these programs include supervised release programs and court notification programs. These programs are designed to keep young people in the community and to maintain and build family and residential connections.
NCSL’s 2021 Legislative Summit in Tampa, Fla., included a session entitled “Juvenile Justice in a Post-pandemic World” discussing COVID-19’s effects on youth justice and recent state policy enactments. The session featured North Dakota Senate Judiciary Chair Diane Larson (R), who spoke about her state’s major overhaul to the juvenile justice code—something that has not happened since 1969. One of the main features of the legislation involved changing the way the state handles status offenses. “That means they no longer go to court,” she said. “If there is a police report, it is no longer referred to court, it is referred to social services for evaluation and support for both the child and the family.”
Nevada Speaker Pro Tem Steven Yeager (D) outlined all the reforms made in the Silver State in 2021, including requiring police officers in Nevada to give a Miranda warning specifically geared towards juveniles so they would understand they have a constitutional right to have a parent or lawyer present.
Many of these reforms follow the key principles in NCSL’s Principles of Effective Juvenile Justice Policy.
Click here to watch the Facebook Livestream of the session.
See the latest research and publications on juvenile justice policy.
This newsletter was created with support from and developed in partnership with The Pew Charitable Trusts’ public safety performance project (PSPP).