Juvenile Justice Act


For states to achieve better outcomes with each dollar spent on the juvenile justice system, they need to economize on their use of expensive juvenile correctional facilities and invest in programs and practices that research indicates will be effective in reducing recidivism. This Act encourages states to focus expensive out-of-home facilities on higher level offenders, expand effective alternatives to incarceration for lower level offenders, and enhance oversight and ensure government performance.

Juvenile Justice Act

Model Policy

I. Definitions

Section 1. {Definitions.}

(A) “Agency” means the Department of Juvenile Justice or the state agency responsible for the care, control and custody of children   adjudicated as delinquent after having been committed or probated to the care of the agency.

(B) “Child” means a person under the age of majority.

(C) “Delinquent” means an act designated as a crime if committed by an adult under the law of this state, under any ordinance of any city or county of this state, under any federal law, or under the law of another state if the act occurred in that state.

(D) “Evidence-based” practice means programs and practices that scientific research demonstrates reduce recidivism among juvenile offenders.

(E) “Graduated sanction” means any of a wide range of non-residential offender accountability measures and monitoring including, but not limited to, day or evening reporting centers; teen court; writing or homework assignments; electronic monitoring; reduced curfew; rehabilitative interventions such as substance abuse or mental health treatment; reporting requirements; community service or work crews.

(F) “Non-secure facility” means a group facility or home at which each child is continuously under staff supervision. A staff non-secure facility may not be a locked facility.

(G) “Out-of-home placement” means placement of a child in a secure or non-secure facility.

(H) “Secure facility” means a facility characterized by physically restricting construction, hardware and procedures.

(I) “Status offender” means an act that would not be a crime if committed by an adult, but is an offense due to the age of the child, including truancy, being beyond the control of parents, running away, and possessing alcohol or tobacco.

(J) “Misdemeanor violent offense” means any misdemeanor offense involving the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person of another, or the threatened use of a deadly weapon.

II. Intent

Section 2. {Intent.}

(A) It is the intent of this state that juvenile corrections dollars be allocated based on what evidence and research has demonstrated is the most effective at reducing recidivism and enhancing public safety. State resources should be appropriated to programs and services that produce the best outcomes for children, families and the citizens of this state. The expensive state residential facilities should be focused on higher-level offenders, while lower-level offenders should be treated in the community which is what the research demonstrates is most effective.

(B) It is further the intent that the court system shall not be the first resort for addressing status offense and lower level delinquent behavior. It is the policy of the state that schools, mental health, child welfare and other systems are best suited to complement and strengthen the family’s capacity to address these lower-level behaviors. They should be the first choice in dealing with status offenders and less serious delinquent behaviors when possible, rather than moving juveniles into the juvenile justice system. Further, families should have greater involvement and accountability in the programs and services offered in the juvenile justice system.

III. Pre-Court Diversion

Section 3. {Pre-Court Diversion Process.}

(A) All referrals for a status or misdemeanor offense shall be reviewed to determine whether there is probable cause to find the child has committed the offense. For status offenses, if probable cause exists, the review should determine if steps were taken to address the issues leading to the status offense behavior prior to the filing of the referral. If steps were not taken, the child and family shall be referred to community-based resources to attempt to address the behaviors prior to filing a petition. If steps have been taken to address the issues, but have been unsuccessful, or if the referral is for a misdemeanor delinquent offense, the referral may be accepted.

(B) Once a referral is accepted, evidence-based assessments should be administered as appropriate to determine what services if any are necessary.

(C) If the referral is the first referral for a status or misdemeanor offense, the child shall receive a diversion of that offense.

(D) In order to receive a diversion for this offense, the child and family shall be required to enter into a diversion contract that requires completion of the services determined necessary by the assessments.

(E) If the child is successful in completing his or her requirements under the diversion contract, the case shall be dismissed. If the child is not successful, the case may be referred for further proceedings in juvenile court.

(F) Referrals for status and misdemeanor offenses may be accepted for diversion, in addition to the one mandatory diversion permitted in this Section, at the discretion of the prosecuting attorney.

IV. Status offenders

Section 4. {Prohibit or Limit Detention.}

(A) A child charged or adjudicated as a status offender may be detained in a non-secure facility, or a secure facility if a non-secure facility is not available, if the court determines the placement is necessary for the protection of the child or community. If a child is placed in out-of-home placement the child may not be held with delinquent offenders and may not be held longer than 24 hours, or until the next business day if the child is detained on a weekend or holiday. If the child is in need of out-of-home placement beyond the time permitted under this Section, the state child welfare agency shall institute a child welfare investigation.

(B) If the court finds an adjudicated status offender is in contempt of court for violating the terms of the court order of disposition as a status offender, the court may punish the child for contempt. A child who is found to have committed contempt of court may be taken into custody and ordered to serve an alternative sanction or placed in a non-secure facility in accordance with Subsection (A) of this Section. In no case may a status offender be placed in a secure or non-secure facility with delinquent youth. Prior to placing the youth in the short-term placement under this Section, the court shall determine that alternative or graduated sanctions have been attempted and have not been successful.

V. Focus Residential Facilities on Higher Level Offenders

Section 5. {Risk Assessment at Disposition.}

Prior to disposing a youth for a delinquent offense the court shall be provided the results of a validated risk assessment in order to determine the risk of the youth to reoffend. If the court has not been provided with the risk assessment prior to disposition, the hearing may be continued for no longer than 72 hours in order to complete the assessment.

Section 6. {Out-Of-Home Placement of Misdemeanor Offenders.}

(A) A child may not be placed in out-of-home placement as a post-adjudication disposition for a misdemeanor offense unless the child has a prior criminal history that includes three or more prior adjudications for delinquent offenses and at least one of the prior adjudications must have occurred in the year prior to the current offense, or if the offense is a misdemeanor violent offense.

(B) A child who is adjudicated for a misdemeanor offense, who is eligible for out-of-home placement in accordance with Subsection (A) of this Section, may not be placed in out-of-home placement for a period longer than an adult would be permitted by law to be incarcerated for the same offense.

Section 7. {Violations of Conditions of Supervision.}

(A) Supervision is a finite period of time imposed on a child to ensure compliance with the sanctions ordered by the court. Supervision is not intended to be an ongoing process for the duration of the child’s youth during which additional services and requirements are added to the child’s requirements for successful completion. The supervision is imposed to hold the child accountable for his or her actions and to address the issues that lead to the behaviors as determined by the validated risk and needs assessment performed prior to disposition. The purpose of imposing sanctions for violations of conditions of supervision is to encourage the child to comply with the original terms of supervision.

(B) If the court finds a child has violated the terms of supervision, the court should employ a graduated sanctions grid to encourage compliance with supervision. In addition to graduated sanctions, the court may also employ alternatives available at the time of disposition, except that a child may not be held in out-of-home placement longer than 30 days as a sanction for the violation. If the child has committed a new offense, the offense should be prosecuted as a new delinquent offense and not as a violation.

VI. Restorative Justice

Section 8. {Restorative Justice Policy}

(A) It is the intent of the state that principles of restorative justice be included in how the juvenile justice system responds to children charged with delinquent and status offenses. The objectives are to resolve conflicts and disputes in a non-adversarial community-based process, repair damage caused by the delinquent acts to the communities in which they occur and the individual victims, and to reduce the likelihood the child will commit delinquent acts in the future.

(B) Restorative justice programs should involve community members, law enforcement and victims when they choose to participate. The programs should be aimed at holding youth accountable for damage caused to communities and victims and restoring youth to productive lives as law-abiding citizens. Restorative justice programs may include, but are not limited to, the following:

(1) Offenders acknowledging wrongdoing and apologizing to victims;

(2) Restitution;

(3) Community service; and

(4) Treatment or other services as appropriate.

VII. Enhance oversight and ensure government performance

Section 9. {Evidence-Based Practice.}

(A) The agency shall adopt policies within one year of the effective date of this Act that require the use of validated risk and needs assessments.

(B) The agency shall utilize evidence-based programs and practices in the continuum of interventions provided to the children committed or probated to their care and their families. No later than one year after the effective date of this Act, the agency shall apportion no less than 50 percent of the state funds the agency receives for delinquent programs and services to be utilized for evidence-based programs and practices. No later than two years after the effective date of this Act, the agency shall apportion no less than 75 percent of the state funds the agency receives for delinquent programs and services to be utilized for evidence-based programs and practices.

(C) The agency shall utilize performance-based funding in its contracts for services and interventions provided to delinquent youth beginning no later than one year following the effective date of this Act.

Section 10. {Data Collection and Sharing.}

(A) The agency and other state agencies responsible for education, mental health, behavioral health, child welfare, or other services, shall collect data necessary to measure the outcomes of the policies incorporated in this Act.

(B) The data required to be collected in Subsection (A) of this Section shall be reported to the Oversight Council created in this Act no later than one year following the effective date of this Act and each year thereafter.

Section 11. {Oversight Council.}

(A) An Oversight Council shall be established no later than three months following the effective date of this Act.

(B) Membership of the Oversight Council shall consist of no more than 12 members including legislative leaders from the House and Senate who shall serve as chairs of the council; judicial leadership; agency representatives from the agencies providing mental health, substance abuse and other treatment services to juvenile justice involved youth, Department of Juvenile Justice, and the administrative office of the courts; local government representation; and other juvenile justice stakeholders appointed by the chairs of the council, or their delegates.

(C) The duties of the Council shall include, but are not limited to, the following:

(1) Ensure the policies of this Act are implemented according to the requirements and timeframes required in the Act;

(2) Review the performance measures for the policies contained in this Act to ensure the policies are achieving the outcomes intended; and

(3) Make recommendations to the legislature for additional reforms, revisions or additional data collection and reporting requirements.

(D) The council shall report its findings and recommendations to the appropriate committees of the legislature no later than December 1st following the effective date of this Act.

VIII. Miscellaneous

Section 12. {Severability Clause.}

Section 13. {Repealer Clause.}

Section 14. {Effective Date.}


Approved by the ALEC Board of Directors January 9, 2015.