The Juvenile Justice Quarterly is an NCSL electronic newsletter for state legislators, legislative staff, and others interested in state juvenile justice policy. This newsletter provides quarterly updates on state juvenile justice legislation and budgets; highlights innovative policies and programs; and connects you with reports and news of upcoming NCSL events.
On March 13, 2015, South Dakota lawmakers enacted SB 73— the Juvenile Justice Public Safety Improvement Act—making several significant changes to the state’s juvenile justice system. The new law increases diversion alternatives, expands the use of evidence-based community programs, and provides more comprehensive support for youth and their families to prevent deeper involvement in the justice system.
The legislation was developed from recommendations made by the Juvenile Justice Reinvestment Initiative Working Group. The working group was charged with studying policy options that could reduce the number of juveniles in detention in South Dakota, lower recidivism rates and reduce costs. The group’s report, released in November 2014, offers a full analysis of the state’s juvenile system as well as 12 recommendations to improve its services.
Four members of the South Dakota Legislature served on the working group, including Representative Brian Gosch (R), the current majority Leader and, at the time, House speaker; Representative Julie Bartling (D); Senator Alan Solano (R); and Senator Billie Sutton (D). When the report was released, Gosch said: “The recommendations in the report provide the Legislature with a guide for achieving better outcomes for our state’s youth and for becoming national leaders in juvenile justice.”
Efforts to reform Georgia’s juvenile justice system are already paying dividends, according to a February report from the Georgia Council on Criminal Justice Reform. A little over a year since the juvenile reform law was enacted, the state has increased community-based options for low-level juvenile offenders and reduced their secure detention population by 14 percent, allowing the state to close two facilities. Georgia has been able to create more community-based alternatives by using an incentive grant program, which distributes a combination of federal and state funding that now totals $7.1 million, and has expanded to 60 counties serving 70 percent of Georgia’s at-risk youth.
The council also made additional recommendations for reform, including improving data collection and sharing throughout the juvenile system. Specific data recommendations included creating uniform data elements so that it is easier to share information across the state and requiring statewide reporting of risk assessment, detention assessment, and juvenile case disposition data.
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In March 2015, the Florida Supreme Court ruled in four cases concerning the retroactive application of Miller v. Alabama to juveniles sentenced in their state. Last year, Florida lawmakers passed a law to come into compliance with the Miller ruling, but the question of whether it applied to juveniles sentenced before its enactment was left open. The rulings found that new sentencing hearings must be granted to two juveniles sentenced to life without parole for murder as well as for two other juveniles sentenced to 70 and 90 years for nonhomicide felonies respectively. The decisions in effect require resentencing hearings for all of Florida’s juvenile population serving similar sentences.
The opinions from Florida’s high court can be found here:
For more information on juvenile life without parole, visit NCSL’s resources.
A growing number of states are re-examining and amending juvenile detention policies to reduce unnecessary reliance on secure confinement. NCSL recently published “Legislative Reforms in Juvenile Detention and the Justice System,” a report that explores recent legislative reforms within the juvenile justice system including alternatives to secure detention.
“Juvenile Records: A National Review of State Laws on Confidentiality, Sealing and Expungement,” a new report from the Juvenile Law Center, 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.
Thirty-three U.S. states and jurisdictions spend $100,000 or more annually to incarcerate a young person. The Justice Policy Institute's report, “Sticker Shock: Calculating the Full Price Tag for Youth Incarceration,” documents the direct, state-by-state costs to incarcerate youth, and using new methodologies advanced by academics and researchers in the field, provides an estimate of long term costs of confining young people in secure facilities.
Developed by the National Center for Juvenile Justice for the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, “Juvenile Offenders and Victims: 2014 National Report” is the fourth edition of a comprehensive report on juvenile crime, victimization and the juvenile justice system. The report consists of the most requested information on juveniles and the juvenile justice system in the U.S. It draws on reliable data and relevant research to provide a comprehensive and insightful view of young offenders and victims, and what happens to those who enter the juvenile justice system in the United States.
In February 2015, the American Bar Association passed a resolution to oppose the automatic shackling of youth in courts. The resolution, passed during the ABA's Midyear Meeting, "urges all federal, state, local, territorial and tribal governments to adopt a presumption against the use of restraints on juveniles in court and to permit a court to allow such use only after providing the juvenile with an in-person opportunity to be heard and finding that the restraints are the least restrictive means necessary to prevent flight or harm to the juvenile or others."
The Center for Juvenile Justice Reform (CJJR) at Georgetown University‘s McCourt School of Public Policy is pleased to announce that the application window for the 2015 Reducing Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Juvenile Justice Certificate Program is now open through May 15, 2015. The Reducing Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Juvenile Justice Certificate Program, held Aug. 3-7, 2015, is an intensive training designed to support local jurisdictions in their efforts to reduce racial and ethnic disparities in their juvenile justice systems. The program is operated jointly by the Georgetown Center for Juvenile Justice Reform and the Center for Children's Law and Policy.
Join us in Seattle Aug. 3-6 as the nation’s legislators and staff will gather in Seattle at the 2015 NCSL Legislative Summit. Republicans and Democrats come together at legislative summit to work on the nation’s pressing problems, share experiences and influence federal policy. The meeting, structured around the needs of legislators and legislative staff, is an opportunity to share experiences and learn together with many legislative colleagues from across the nation.
NCSL is a bipartisan organization that serves the legislators and staffs of the states, commonwealths and territories. It provides research, technical assistance and opportunities for policymakers to exchange ideas on the most pressing state issues and is an effective and respected advocate for the interests of the states in the American federal system.