NCSL Juvenile Justice Quarterly Newsletter



NCSL Juvenile Justice Site Visit to South Carolina

The National Conference of State Legislatures held a “Juvenile Justice Model Site Visit” for state legislators from all over the country in Charleston, S.C., June 14-16.

The meeting, convened through a partnership with NCSL and the John T. and Catherine D. MacArthur Foundation, provided an opportunity for state legislators to learn from local leaders about South Carolina’s youth reforms and from national experts on mental health and juvenile justice defense models. The group also toured AMIKids in Beaufort, a model nonprofit residential placement program that gives troubled youth opportunities to transform into responsible young adults.  A group of young men led a PowerPoint presentation and tour of the facility, showing legislators how they build boats, catch crabs, go to school, swim, weld and develop leadership skills that help to change the trajectories of their lives.

At the conclusion of the meeting, the group participated in a legislator roundtable where they reviewed and reflected on what they had learned over the previous few days and developed juvenile justice priority action items to bring home. Each state shared ideas and perspectives with each other, learning from their similarities and differences. 

State Policy and Legislative News

West Virginia

In March, West Virginia enacted Senate Bill 393, a measure informed by recommendations made by the Intergovernmental Task Force on Juvenile Justice. The new law directs $4.5 million to reduce the state’s dependence on incarcerating juveniles for low level crimes. Nearly 75 percent of youth sent to detention centers were for status offense crimes. SB 393 places truancy diversion specialists in every county to provide early intervention services, expands community-based alternatives and supports evidence-based services and pilot programs for restorative justice programs, substance abuse recovery services, mental health programs and family therapies.

Incarcerating youth is expensive for West Virginia, costing $100,000 per child per year. Under the new law, West Virginia is projected to save $20 million by 2020.

New Jersey

In June, the New Jersey Legislature passed Senate Bill 2003, sending juvenile justice reforms to the desk of Governor Chris Christie. If signed, the bill would make several changes to the state’s juvenile waiver statutes (laws that allow juveniles to be prosecuted in adult court) including limiting waiver to juveniles who are 15 years or older and who have committed certain serious crimes. The bill would also require prosecutors to explain in writing why they support waiver for each individual case. It also grants the court the authority to deny waiver if the prosecutor abuses his or her discretion by misrepresenting the nature and circumstances of the offense charged, maturity of the juvenile or the youth’s degree of criminal sophistication.

Senate Bill 2003 also would restrict the use of solitary confinement for juveniles to situations where the juvenile poses an immediate risk of harm to others or to the security of the facility, and all other means have been exhausted. Each use of solitary confinement would be required to be documented and made available to the public as a public record.


In April, Indiana enacted HB 1196 to better coordinate services and supervision provided by the Department of Child Services (DCS) and county probation departments. The new law requires courts to conduct a dual determination of whether a child has been adjudicated delinquent and whether they are a child in need of services. The court also will determine if DCS or the probation department shall be the lead agency for the child’s supervision.

The law also creates dual status assessment teams to determine if courts should proceed with applicable CHINS petitions and delinquency petitions.

From the Courts

In December 2014, Pennsylvania’s highest court ruled in In re J.B, that lifetime registration of juvenile sex offenders under the state’s SORNA law was unconstitutional. The court reasoned that juvenile’s right to reputation was harmed by SORNA's presumption of recidivism. Juvenile sex offenders are much less likely than adults to be repeat offenders, and as a result, the application of SORNA's lifetime registration requirements violates their due process.

A growing body of research supports the conclusion reached by the court. For example, in 2013, the Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission released a report, required by legislation, analyzing best practices for youth who have sexually offended. The report made several recommendations, including removing juveniles from sex offender registries, because unlike adult offenders, most juveniles did not offend based on deviant desires. Rather it was usually because of immature sexual curiosity. As a result, only between 2 and 7 percent of juvenile sex offenders reoffend. Furthermore, the report concluded, there is no compelling statistical evidence to support that registries reduce reoffending.

State In Focus


In June, Texas lawmakers enacted HB 2398, making several changes to the way the state handles truant behavior by juveniles. Under the previous law, truancy was prosecuted in criminal court as a Class C misdemeanor and offenders could pay up to a $500 fine. The new law, which applies to actions after Sept. 1, 2015, provides truancy can only be processed as a civil case in truancy court. It also prohibits a truant adjudication from being used as evidence in a future proceeding and sets “beyond a reasonable doubt” as the standard of proof. A truant adjudication also will no longer prevent a juvenile from applying for a civil service position. The bill’s sponsor Representative James White (R), said “Truancy, like school discipline, is a schoolhouse issue primarily, and we want to provide our school districts with discretion and tools.”

The former Texas law had sent more than 100,000 students to criminal court for skipping school in 2013. And, according to the Texas Office of Court Administration, court fees and fines levied for truancy during the 2014 fiscal year brought in $10 million. Before passing the new law, Texas was one of two states to prosecute truancy in adult criminal court. 

Federal News

Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Reauthorization

On Thursday July 23rd, 2015 the Senate Judiciary Committee approved S. 1169, the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) of 2015.  The JJDPA is the only federal statute that sets out national standards for the custody and care of youth in the juvenile justice system and provides direction and support for state juvenile justice system improvements.

S. 1169 would build upon these national standards by:

  • Reducing the placement of youth in adult jails pre-trial,
  • Providing more structure to the law's requirement to decrease racial and ethnic disparities, and
  • Phasing out exceptions that allow the detention of youth who have engaged in status offense behaviors.

The bill also promotes the use of alternatives to incarceration and calls for the implementation of trauma-informed, evidence-based practices. It improves conditions and educational services for incarcerated youth and increases accountability for states receiving funding under the Act.


In addition to Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), the bill is co-sponsored by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Senator John Cornyn (R-TX), Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL), Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Senator Christopher Coons (D-DE), Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL). 

The bill will next go to the Senate floor for a full vote.

Mark Your Calendar

2015 Legislative Summit in Seattle

Join us in Seattle Aug. 3-6, as the nation’s legislators and staff will gather 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. 

Applications due Aug. 21, 2015, for Multi-System Integration Certificate Program

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 Multi-System Integration Certificate Program is now open through  Aug. 21, 2015. The Multi-System Integration Certificate Program will be held Oct. 29-Nov. 4, 2015 at the Georgetown University Hotel and Conference Center. It is designed to support local jurisdictions in their efforts to improve outcomes for youth known to both the child welfare and juvenile justice system (i.e. crossover youth) through a multi-disciplinary approach that highlights integration and collaboration.

 For more information, please visit our website where you will find detailed information about the program, including how to apply, tuition, and available subsidies for those with financial need.  Again, applications are due by Aug. 21, 2015. Please direct questions to