Lawmakers Introduce Bill to Reorganize Nebraska's Juvenile Justice System, Would Mean Closure of Kearney YRTC


At a press conference on Wednesday at the Capitol, Senators Brad Ashford, Kathy Campbell, Amanda McGill and Bob Krist announce the introduction of a proposal to reorganize the juvenile justice system.

The proposal recognizes the original intent of juvenile justice legislation passed years ago to move from a punitive orientation to one of treatment.

From their first contact with the system, juveniles will be screened for mental health issues and histories of trauma. All efforts will be made to divert juveniles from the system.

If a juvenile requires the supervision of the system, they will enter a continuum of care that utilizes evidence-based practices to deliver community-based services in the juvenile's home and community whenever possible.

Senator Brad Ashford says the system now isn't satisfactory at all.

"Right now, the system is incredibly broken. Treatment is not adequate, and the screening process for young people as they progress, does not identify problems they have. The goal now moving forward is to make them well and turn them into productive citizens," said Ashford.

If this proposal is passed and approved, The Office of Juvenile Services and the Youth Rehabilitation Treatment Centers will be eliminated by January 1, 2015. This would include the YRTC in Kearney.

A new Office of Juvenile Assistance will be created under the Judiciary Branch to oversee juvenile probation, a statewide expansion of the Nebraska Juvenile Service Delivery Project, coordination of work with local and national experts in the delivery of evidence-based services, the Office of Violence Prevention, and the newly created Office of Juvenile Diversion Programs and Detention Alternatives.

The proposal includes a $10 million investment in the Community-Based Juvenile Services Aid Program that would be used to create alternatives for treatment of juveniles who are currently made wards of the state.