NCSL Juvenile Justice Quarterly Newsletter


 2014 Year-end State Policy and Legislative News

The Florida Legislature passed sweeping juvenile justice legislation in House Bill 7055 in 2014. The bill updates juvenile justice legislative intent language and definitions and provides the Department of Juvenile Justice more authority to develop community re-entry programs. The bill also allows technical violations to be resolved through an alternative consequence program, so low-level offenders will stay out of the court system. State Representative Ray Pilon said, “As a strong advocate on ways to keep young offenders from becoming more serious criminals, I am excited that HB 7055 was able to pass this legislative session. As a sponsor of the bill…I am proud we were able to pass commonsense solutions to reducing juvenile recidivism while being good stewards of taxpayer dollars.”

Ohio passed significant detention reform in 2014 through the administrative regulatory process. Ohio’s jail standards were revised to state that youth should only be held in adult jails in “rare circumstances” and only after: 1) there is a court order to send the youth to the jail, 2) all other alternative placements, including the juvenile detention center, have been considered and rejected, and 3) the jail has provided information to the juvenile court on the conditions under which the youth will be held.

Also in 2014, the Illinois legislature passed Senate Bill 2352, which creates the Office of Independent Juvenile Ombudsman within the state's youth prison system. The duties of the Ombudsman include reviewing and monitoring Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice (IDJJ) operations and compliance with statute. The job also entails being an advocate for the rights of youth and helping them obtain needed services, and investigating and resolving complaints made by or on behalf of youth in state youth prisons and those youth released on aftercare before final discharge.  "The Department of Juvenile Justice actively advocated in support of the creation of the new Office of Independent Juvenile Ombudsman with the General Assembly, and we are pleased that Governor Quinn has signed this bill into law," said IDJJ Acting Director Candice Jones. "We welcome increased support for the youth in our care and an Ombudsman to help ensure our youth's concerns are heard."     

Top of page

On the Fiscal Front

Idaho Reforms State Juvenile Justice System

Juveniles who enter the justice system often have mental health and substance use issues in addition to the behavior that led to their delinquency. In 2008, Idaho began screening youth who entered their juvenile detention centers to determine which juveniles had these issues and to recommend treatment alternatives. Screening statistics reveal that 62 percent of juveniles entering Idaho’s juvenile detention centers have a mental health issue, while 47 percent have a substance abuse problem. Thirty-three percent of the youth are facing both issues. With the high demand for services, the state’s treatment system was facing cost overruns and waitlists for care. Over the last few years, Idaho policymakers and service providers have worked to develop, fund and coordinate more comprehensive and accessible treatment for juveniles in custody facing these issues. 

In 2011, the Idaho legislature appropriated $4,032,000 to the Department of Juvenile Corrections to better coordinate state resources for substance use and mental health treatment. With the funds, the Department was charged with overseeing and supporting the local level administration and development of treatment plans. This included tasks such as monitoring costs, overseeing juvenile populations and evaluating results to ensure treatments are cost-effective. The Department of Juvenile Corrections set minimum standards for counties as they developed their local treatment plans, including communicating with judges, the required collection of standard assessment data and the maintenance of minimal and unduplicated administrative costs. These measures have enabled Idaho to streamline their juvenile treatment efforts. To learn more visit Idaho’s Department of Juvenile Correction’s website

Top of page

State in focus: kansas

In 2014, Kansas passed HB 2588 reforming many aspects of the state’s juvenile justice system. The law expanded adjudication alternatives by enabling county or district attorneys to petition for misdemeanor-level juvenile offenders to be diverted from formal court processes. The law enables youth to be referred to the department of children and families for services if there is probable cause that they are a child in need of care. It also prevents juveniles who commit minor offenses from being placed in a juvenile detention facility and prevents all youth under 12 years of age from being prosecuted as adults.

Under the new law, the state’s secretary of corrections is required to conduct several quantitative and qualitative assessments on the state’s youth residential centers and report on those efforts to the Joint Committee on Corrections and Juvenile Justice Oversight. The report must include a cost study analysis of all youth residential centers, an assessment of their resources compared against the needs of juveniles, a fee schedule for residential services, a plan for performance based incentive payment for residential services and a plan for measuring the effectiveness of juvenile offender service providers. 

Top of page

Juvenile Justice Session at ncsl's 2014 legislative summit

At the 2014 Legislative Summit in Minneapolis, Minn., NCSL’s Law and Criminal Justice Committee sponsored Outgrowing Crime, a session that informed attendees of the latest research on developing juvenile brains and recent state actions related to the Supreme Court ruling in Miller v. Alabama that mandatory life without paroles sentences for juveniles are unconstitutional. The session featured Dr. Ed Mulvey and his research, Pathways to Desistance, showing, among other findings, that most youth who commit felonies greatly reduce their offending as they mature, regardless of any intervention. Senator Stewart Greenleaf (Pennsylvania) and Representative John Tilley (Kentucky) were also on the panel and shared their experiences working on juvenile reform in their respective states. Another panelist, Adam Foss of the Suffolk County District Attorney's Office, gave his perspective as a prosecutor charged with addressing juvenile delinquent behavior, while taking into account their developmental immaturity. Sarah Brown, a program director at NCSL, presented to attendees about state laws that have been enacted to address juvenile life without parole after Miller.

Top of page

Juvenile Justice publications

School Discipline Resources Online

The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) has released an online brief on the Supportive School Discipline Initiative (SSDI), a collaboration among the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice, the Department of Health and Human Services, and other federal partners. SSDI supports school discipline practices that foster safe, supportive, and productive learning environments and keep students engaged in school and out of courts. The brief provides information about SSDI and features links to research, data collection, funding, and related resources, including the school discipline guidance package.

Report from International Association of Chiefs of Police

Last fall, the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) published a report titled "Law Enforcement's Leadership Role in Juvenile Justice Reform: Actionable Recommendations for Practice & Policy" to help law enforcement agencies improve their responses to young people and serve as voices for juvenile justice reforms in their communities. The report makes 33 recommendations for concrete actions that law enforcement leaders can take in collaboration with partners at the local, state, and national levels. The recommendations were developed by a multidisciplinary group of 90 participants that included law enforcement executives and officers at various levels, judges, prosecutors, public defenders, youth, parents, policymakers, researchers, mental health service providers and other juvenile justice stakeholders. The 33 summit recommendations are divided into eight themes: 

1.      Making Juvenile Justice a Priority within Law Enforcement Agencies

2.      Building Partnerships Among Law Enforcement, Youth & Their Families

3.      Collaboration & Information Sharing

4.      Promoting Alternatives to Arrest, Court Referral & Detention

5.      Data Collection and Expanding Evidence-Based & Promising Initiatives

6.      Pathways to School Completion

7.      Responding to Youth with Behavioral Health Conditions & Trauma Histories

8.      Amplifying Law Enforcement’s Advocacy on Juvenile Justice Reform

Report from Campaign for Youth Justice

The Campaign for Youth Justice (CFYJ), released a report, State Trends: Updates from the 2013-2014 Legislative Session. The report takes a look at states that have, and are, taking steps to remove children from the adult criminal justice system. In 2014, advocacy, research, operative Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) regulations and fiscal analysis assisted in the introduction of bills in nine states to remove youth from the adult criminal justice system and give youth an opportunity at more rehabilitative services.

Expungement Report from Juvenile Law Center

The Juvenile Law Center published Juvenile Records: A National Review of State Laws on Confidentiality, Sealing and Expungement. This report provides an in-depth look at states laws and policies governing juvenile records and provides policy recommendations to ensure better record protection and increased opportunities for youth. 

Top of page

In the news

Office of Justice Programs, MacArthur Foundation Renew Partnership With $2 Million Commitment to Advance Juvenile Justice Reform

WASHINGTON– In a renewed private-public partnership, the Office of Justice Programs’ Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation are jointly providing $2 million to advance juvenile justice reform. “Every youth who enters the juvenile justice system deserves to be treated fairly and to receive the help he or she needs,” said OJJDP Administrator Robert L. Listenbee. “Together, our Office and the MacArthur Foundation are working with states and communities to build a better future for youth.”

OJJDP and the MacArthur Foundation will each provide two years of funding at $125,000 per year to four organizations -- the Center for Children’s Law and Policy; the National Youth Screening and Assessment Project at the University of Massachusetts Medical School; the National Center for Mental Health and Juvenile Justice at Policy Research, Inc.; and the Robert F. Kennedy National Resource Center for Juvenile Justice -- to support innovative reforms in treatment and services for youth.

Through this partnership, established in 2011, OJJDP and MacArthur will support training and technical assistance for states and local governments to meet the mental health needs of system-involved youth, reduce racial and ethnic disparities, and promote coordination and integration for youth involved in both the child welfare and juvenile justice systems. The funding will support the following projects: 

·         Disproportionate Minority Contact Reduction: Employing a collaborative, data-driven approach to improve equity and enhance outcomes for youth of color who come into contact with the juvenile justice system. The Center for Children’s Law and Policy (CCLP) will provide technical assistance and project oversight. Contact CCLP at and read the press release. 

·         Risk Assessment and Behavioral Health Screening: Using evidence-based tools for effective case planning to achieve reductions in out-of-home placements and delinquency. The National Youth Screening and Assessment Project (NYSAP) at the University of Massachusetts Medical School will provide technical assistance, research and project oversight. Contact NYSAP at and read the press release. 

·         Mental Health Training for Juvenile Justice: Providing comprehensive adolescent development and mental health training to juvenile correctional and detention staff to improve staff knowledge, understanding and ability to respond to youth with mental health needs. The National Center for Mental Health and Juvenile Justice at Policy Research, Inc., will provide technical assistance and project oversight. Contact NCMHJJ at and read the press release. 

·         Dual Status Youth Technical Assistance Initiative: Designing and implementing multi-system responses to improve outcomes for youth involved in both the child welfare and juvenile justice systems, and help systems work more effectively and efficiently together. Technical assistance utilizing a proven framework for system coordination and integration will be provided by the Robert F. Kennedy National Resource Center for Juvenile Justice, led by Robert F. Kennedy Children’s Action Corps. Contact RFK NRCJJ at and read the press release.

“This work will help secure and build on important developmentally-appropriate advances in juvenile justice reform accomplished through the Models for Change initiative,” said Laurie Garduque, MacArthur’s Director of Justice Reform. “This work builds on innovations proven effective in more than 35 states and is critical to continuing the momentum for improving outcomes for youth in contact with the law.” 

Top of page

Opportunity to Improve Diversion of Youth with Behavioral Health Disorders Announced

States seeking to develop or improve policies and practices that divert justice-involved youth with behavioral health disorders to appropriate community-based programs and services are encouraged to apply for the 2015-16 Integrated Policy Academy-Action Network Initiative.

Up to four states will be selected to participate in this effort based on their commitment to improving policies and practices for these youth. Throughout the duration of the initiative, selected states will receive technical assistance to guide the establishment of sustainable models and strategies for diverting youth with behavioral health disorders as early as possible. This initiative will focus specifically on school-based and probation-intake diversion strategies, with special attention paid to the following:

  • Integrated responses to co-occurring mental and substance use disorders
  • Research-based screening and assessment
  • Evidence-based and promising-practice approaches
  • Disparity in treatment of youth of color within the juvenile justice system
  • The role of trauma in lives of youth in contact with the juvenile justice system
  • Deliberate coordination among youth-serving systems to improve outcomes for youth with behavioral disorders who are involved in the juvenile justice system

Improving Diversion Policies and Programs for Justice-Involved Youth with Behavioral Health Disorders: An Integrated Policy Academy-Action Network Initiative, is made possible by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. To view the MacArthur Foundation's press release about this initiative, click here. This initiative is being coordinated by the National Center for Mental Health and Juvenile Justice at Policy Research Associates and the Technical Assistance Collaborative.

The application is available for download here. Applications will be accepted through Friday, February 6, 2015.

Top of page

Federal News

Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act Reauthorization

On December 11, 2014 Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island) and Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) introduced a bipartisan bill, S.B. 2999, the reauthorization of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA). The JJDPA was last reauthorized in 2002, and expired in 2007. 


S.B. 2999:

  • Requires states to phase out their usage of incarceration of children engaged in status offense behaviors
  • Requires states to consider ethnicity in addition to race when assessing and addressing disproportionate minority contact
  • Includes provisions related to trauma-informed care and specialized programming for girls
  • Caps spending levels on JJDPA programs at $159 million in FY15, with incremental increases in subsequent fiscal years, with no more than 20% to be spent on mentoring programs
  • Includes a series of financial accountability measures 

To learn more about S.B. 2999 see the text of the bill

Top of page