Juvenile Sentencing Could See Changes


LB-4, recently proposed by Omaha Senator Brad Ashford, plansto set the minimum sentence to 30-years-to-life for juveniles who may choose tocommit crimes. Ashford also mentioned in the past his wish to close YouthRehabilitation and Treatment Centers (YRTC). Both scenarios are designed to help troubledyouth.

"[The goal is] to identify juveniles who have severalmental, or minor, health issues as soon as possible so they won't get furtheror deeper in the system," said Ashford.

Disproportionate Minority Contact Coordinator, Doug Kramer,of Buffalo County, does not shy away from the fact that juveniles should becontained.

"I honestly think there is. Some youth need to belocked up. [It's what's] safe for them. We need to look at safety for the youthand community," shared Kramer.

Voices for Children representative Sarah Forrest wouldagree that Kramer and Ashford should re-think their decisions.

"Studies showthat youth who are low-risk and do not pose a threat are better served closerto home where they can address family issues, or get connected to positive rolemodels," mentioned Forrest.

Ashford proposed LB-44 in light of the Supreme Court ruling,Miller vs. Alabama, which held that a life without parole sentence isunconstitutional for juvenile offenders. Ashford says YRTC's, and the like, are not doing enough and life behind bars is what could bringbetter results in the long run.

"The screening for young people as they progressthrough juvenile justice does not identify early enough the problems they have.Hopefully, the goal is to make children well and to bring them back to thecommunity so they can become productive citizens," said Ashford.

Lawmakers are trying to find a new sentence that balancesthe need for justice with the recognition that adolescent brains haven not fullydeveloped.