Report Confirms Need for NV Juvenile Justice Reform: Nevada cited for "systemic or recurring" violent or abusive situations in juvenile facilities

Note: More info on this new report can be found here.

From: Fox Reno, Oct 4th, 2011

CARSON CITY, Nev. – A new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation provides evidence that youth correctional facilities do not keep kids from committing crimes later or benefit public safety, while wasting taxpayer dollars and exposing young people to violence and abuse.

After a federal civil rights investigation at the Youth Training Center in Elko, a Nevada Supreme Court task force is already examining alternatives. State Sen. Sheila Leslie (D-Washoe Co.), who is on the task force, says Nevada sends its mostly urban young offenders into remote rural settings, which adds to the problem.

“We need to look at closing down these large institutions, which cost a lot of money and don’t work, restructuring our system, moving those kids back to their home communities and providing evidence-based treatment that does work, at a fraction of the cost.”

Nevada is one state cited in the report for “systemic or recurring” violent or abusive situations in juvenile facilities. It adds that several states are already moving away from youth incarceration, mainly because of budget woes or scandals over abuse in institutions.

Bart Lubow, Juvenile Justice Strategy Group director for the Annie E. Casey Foundation, says it is time for states like Nevada to adopt different policies and invest in alternatives that focus on treatment and supervision.

“Comprehensive, well-thought-out strategies in state juvenile justice systems will not only ensure that fewer kids are locked up, but will ensure that there’s less crime and less money spent, and that kids have better odds of being successful in adulthood.”

The report recommends that large institutions be replaced with small, treatment-oriented facilities. Leslie does not expect that idea to go over well in rural areas where the training centers are big employers, although she says it is among the options being considered.

Read the rest here.

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LEGISLATURE 2011: Bill: Juveniles can’t face life without parole unless the crime is murder

Nevada Appeal, Feb 12, 2011

Legislation introduced in the Assembly Friday would prohibit sentencing a juvenile offender to life without parole unless the crime was homicide.

Existing law already prohibits the death sentence for a juvenile who commits a crime before age 18.

The reason for the legislation, according to the legislative counsel, is a recent decision by the U.S. Supreme Court ruling life without parole unconstitutional for juvenile offenders.

In addition, the bill applies retroactively to any current Nevada inmates who were sentenced to life in prison without parole for crimes committed before age 18.

The maximum sentence for a juvenile offender would be life with the possibility of parole.

Assembly Bill 134 was referred to the Judiciary Committee.

In addition, the Judiciary Committee introduced Assembly Bill 136, which allows criminals serving time for class B felonies to apply good time credits to reduce their minimum sentences. Inmates convicted of lesser felonies can already have their minimum sentences reduced by good time credits but that has been denied in the case of more serious and, particularly, violent crimes. Study committees made the recommendation noting that some B felonies aren’t crimes of violence.

The change would help relieve prison crowding by getting some of those inmates out of prison earlier.

Testimony before the Legislative Committee on Child Welfare and Juvenile Justice

On Wednesday, April 14, Campaign For Youth Justice’s CEO Liz Ryan provided testimony before Nevada’s Legislative Committee on Child Welfare and Juvenile Justice.

The Legislative Committee on Child Welfare and Juvenile Justice is an ongoing statutory committee of the Nevada Legislature which meets between the biennial sessions of the Legislature and consists of three members from the Senate and three members from the Assembly. The Committee reviews and evaluates issues relating to the provision of child welfare services and juvenile justice in the state and recommends legislation concerning child welfare and juvenile justice to the Legislature.

On this occasion, the Committee heard testimony from a number of witnesses on juvenile justice issues, including the prosecution of youth as adults. In her testimony Ryan stated that,

“An overwhelming body of research shows that prosecuting youth as adults does not work. Over the past three years, we have witnessed a steady stream of research demonstrating unequivocally that trying and sentencing children in adult court does not reduce crime; in fact, it does just the opposite.”

Further, Ryan noted that,

“In light of the research, particularly the data showing that youth prosecuted in adult criminal court are much more likely to re-offend than similarly situated youth in the juvenile justice system, a number of states have begun to reexamine their states policies and several states have changed their policies.”

According to Ryan, states have undertaken or are considering undertaking a number of policy reforms in these areas:

1. Changing the age at which youth can be eligible to be considered in adult criminal court, which Nevada did in the last session;

2. Changing the types of crimes for which youth can be eligible to be considered in adult criminal court;

3. Ending the automatic prosecution of all youth at certain ages in adult criminal court, such as at age 16 or 17;

4. Narrowing the circumstances under which youth can be placed in adult jails pretrial;

5. Removing youth from adult jails and prisons pretrial and post-conviction;

6. Providing adult criminal court judges additional discretion on whether to send youth back to juvenile court rather than prosecuting youth in adult court;

7. Changing the law to disallow youth to be subsequently tried in adult criminal court if they have been tried in adult court once; and

8. Disallowing adult mandatory minimums from applying to juveniles.

A full copy of Ryan’s testimony to Nevada’s Legislative Committee on Child Welfare and Juvenile Justice is available online at:

http://www.campaignforyouthjustice.org/documents/cfyj%20testimony%20liz%20ryan%204%2014%2010.pdf (PDF)

Further testimonies in other states here.