A Look Back on 11 Years of Juvenile Justice Reform
Earlier this summer, the National Conference of State Legislatures published a report detailing the progress made in the juvenile justice arena at the state and national levels. The report, “Trends in Juvenile Justice State Legislation: 2001-2011,” begins with an brief look into the past:
“A rise in serious juvenile crime in the late 1980s and early 1990s led to state laws that moved away from the traditional emphasis on rehabilitation in the juvenile justice system toward tougher, more punitive treatment of youth, including adult handling.”
Over the past decade, the pendulum has swung the other way, focusing more on rehabilitation rather than punishment with thanks primarily to new research on cognitive development. Via the report:
“Findings by the MacArthur Foundation’s Research Network on Adolescent Development and Juvenile Justice show that adolescent brains do not fully develop until about age 25, and the immature, emotional and impulsive nature characteristic of adolescents makes them more susceptible to committing crimes.”
The report outlines the major milestones and trends at both the state and national level, which are presented chronologically below. Post in the comments if there are any major milestones from your state that are missing from the list below!
Juvenile Justice Milestones, 2001-2012 (via the report)
Arizona - Requires residential treatment if the court finds that the young person has psychological and mental health needs and requires the court to periodically review the progress of the treatment given.
Connecticut - Authorizes the court to order a young person charged with cruelty to animals to undergo counseling or participate in an animal cruelty prevention and education program.
Illinois, Louisiana and Maryland prohibit teens from waiving their right to counsel. For teens who are appealing their case, Utah created an expedited process for appeals from juvenile court orders.
llinois - Establishes Redeploy Illinois, which has become a model for other states. Redeploy encouraged counties to develop community-based programs for youth rather than confine them in state correctional facilities.
Maryland - Law requires “step-down aftercare” to provide individualized rehabilitation and services to youths returning to their communities.
Oklahoma (and Virginia in 2005) - Implement regulations for mental health, substance abuse and other therapeutic treatment services for teens who are returning to the community.
California - Provides education on mental health and developmental disability issues affecting teens in delinquency proceedings to judicial officers, and other public officers and entities that may be involved in the arrest, evaluation, prosecution, defense, disposition and post-disposition or placement phases of delinquency proceedings.
Federal - U.S. Supreme Court holds the Eighth Amendment’s ban against cruel and unusual punishment prohibits teens from being sentenced to death for crimes they committed before they reached age 18 in Roper v. Simmons.
Oregon - Legislation allows a teen an affirmative defense of mental disease or defect constituting insanity.
Colorado - Law allows a 90-day suspended sentence, during which treatment is provided to developmentally disabled or mentally ill young people.
Texas - Act requires juvenile probation departments to have youth complete the MAYSI-2 screening instrument that identified potential mental health and substance abuse needs.
Idaho - Allows juvenile courts to order mental health assessment and treatment plans for young people.
Georgia - Requires a full mental health evaluation if the teen is found not competent. Requires such teens to be treated in the least restrictive environment and that community-based treatment options be exhausted before treatment in a secure facility is considered. Requires that a teen be represented by an attorney when being evaluated for competency.
Colorado - Changes its mandatory sentence of life without parole to 40 years before the possibility of parole, and in 2011, in response to the Graham ruling.
Nevada - Ends the sentence of life without parole for teens for non-homicide crimes.
Mississippi - Act mandates that youth be ordered only to detention centers that have certified educational services and adequate on-site medical and mental health services.
New Jersey - Requires suicide and mental health screening of youth in county detention centers. Requires every suicide gesture or attempt to be reported.
Connecticut - Raises the age of juvenile court jurisdiction from 16 to 18.
Rhode Island - General Assembly reverses the governor’s recommendation to decrease the age of juvenile jurisdiction from 18 to 17 and restored the jurisdiction age to 18.
Missouri - Expands juvenile court jurisdiction to include status offenders age 18 and younger.
Virginia - Measure changes the “once an adult, always an adult” law. Previously, a one-time transfer of a teen to adult court was enough to keep a young person in the adult system for all future proceedings, no matter how minor the charge, or even an acquittal.
Colorado - Establishes juvenile risk assessment instruments and required their use to determine whether a young person requires detention. The same year, New Jersey required suicide and mental health screening for youth in detention centers, in order to properly assess their needs.
Illinois - Provides that minors under age 17 (instead of age 12) cannot be detained in a county jail or municipal lockup for more than six hours.
Mississippi - Requires that community-based services be provided for all youth leaving detention facilities.
Colorado - Permits the court to order mental health treatment or services as a part of the disposition. Allows a young person charged with felony murder to serve in the juvenile justice system. Legislation requires use of an objective risk assessment to identify aftercare treatment and parole services for teens.
Maine - Provides that young people under age 16 who receive adult prison sentences can begin serving the sentence in a juvenile facility.
Virginia - Allows a teen sentenced as an adult to gain earned sentence credits while serving the juvenile portion of the sentence in a juvenile center, rather than in an adult facility.
Iowa - Becomes the first state to require a “minority impact statement,” which is required for proposed legislation related to crimes, sentencing, parole and probation.
Connecticut - Requires racial and ethnic impact statements for bills and amendments to increase or decrease the pre-trial or sentenced population of state correctional facilities. Establishes a community-based pilot program to provide reentry services for youth.
Ohio - Act allows representatives of faith-based organizations to provide reentry services to young people.
Montana - Provides children with mental health needs with in-state service alternatives to out of state placement. Establishes reporting requirements regarding high-risk children with multiagency service needs who are suffering from mental health disorders.
Illinois - Raises the age of juvenile court jurisdiction from 17 to 18 for youth charged with misdemeanor offenses.
Colorado - Expands eligibility for sentencing for select youth ages 18 to 21 to the youthful offender system instead of to the adult offender population. Establishes a family advocacy program to work with the community to collaborate in providing services to young people with mental illnesses.
Maine - Establishes a Commission on Indigent Legal Services to provide efficient, high-quality services to indigent juvenile defendants.
Texas - Provides that mentally ill youth be eligible to receive continuity of care and treatment while in the juvenile justice system.
North Dakota and Oregon - Require alcohol and drug education, assessment and treatment for teens who commit alcohol violations.
Georgia - Measure decreases from 60 days to 30 the maximum time a court can order a teen to serve in a detention center.
Tennessee - Requires the state to pay for court ordered mental health evaluations of young people who have been charged with commission of an offense that would be a felony if committed by an adult.
Federal - Court abolishes the sentence of life without the possibility parole for youth. convicted of non-homicide crimes in Graham v. Florida, building on the reasoning it applied in Roper (2005)
Mississippi - Law allows young people charged with certain felonies—robbery, drug offense and arson—to remain in the juvenile justice system. Previously, all 17-year-olds charged with felonies were tried in adult court.
Oklahoma - Measure provides that those up to six months into age 18 can be adjudicated in the juvenile system for misdemeanors.
Iowa - Requires a proceeding to be suspended if the child was ordered into a residential facility for treatment of a mental illness.
Louisiana - Provides for appointment of counsel for indigent youth and set guidelines for admissibility of a child’s confession.
Maryland - Requires cultural competency model training for all law enforcement officers assigned to public school buildings and grounds.
Virginia - Allows teens transferred to or charged in criminal courts to remain in juvenile, rather than adult, detention facilities.
Illinois - Requires the Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission to develop recommendations regarding due process protections for youth during parole and parole revocation proceedings.
Iowa - Provides that if prior to the adjudicatory or dispositional hearing, the child is committed with a mental illness and ordered into a residential facility, institution or hospital for inpatient treatment, the delinquency proceeding be suspended until the juvenile court terminates the order or the child is released for purposes of receiving outpatient treatment.
Idaho - Lawmakers establish standards for evaluating a teen’s competency to proceed.
Vermont - Law requires its Center for Justice Research to evaluate innovative programs and research on evidence-based alternative programs for young offenders.
Ohio - Law urged that 45 percent of savings from corrections facility closures be reinvested in community-based services.
Texas - Combines the state Youth Commission with its Juvenile Probation Commission and tasks the new commission with increasing community-based programs for young people throughout the state.
Illinois - Establishes a task force to create a standardized collection and analysis of data on the racial and ethnic identity of arrestees.
Federal - The Court in Miller v. Alabama ruled that imposing mandatory life sentences without the possibility of parole on youth violates the Eighth Amendment.
Colorado - Law bars district attorneys from charging young people as adults for many low- and mid-level felonies. The act also raises from 14 to 16 the age at which young offenders may be charged as adults for more serious crimes.
Pennsylvania - Provides that juvenile defendants must be represented by counsel and require the juvenile court judges to state in open court the reasoning behind their sentences.
David Backes writes the Friday news roundup for Reclaiming Futures and contributes articles about juvenile justice reform and adolescent substance abuse treatment to ReclaimingFutures.org. He has a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Santa Clara University. David works as an account executive for Prichard Communications.