ON JUVENILE JUSTICE REFORM
The time is now to improve our Juvenile Justice System. As legislators, we recognize the urgency of reforming the system to 1) better integrate our youth back into society; and 2) to emphasize community involvement when possible, rather than relying solely on incarceration and youth-treatment centers.
Our package will reflect comprehensive reform that addresses changes in the system, from the Courts and Community-based Service Providers to the Division of Youth Services (DYS).
We will introduce legislation to implement:
- Changes in juvenile delinquency sentencing to require a pre-adjudication validated risk assessment (SAVRY) to identify whether a youth is at risk of reoffending. These changes would encourage diverting low-risk youth to community and family-based services.
- Collaboration with local courts and DYS to develop local family and youth services based on the needs of each judicial district; expanding diversion, FINS, family reunification, and aftercare services.
- Changes in DYS policies to require validated risk assessments for youth and families. Treatment plans should focus on individualized needs that minimize the length of stay in out-of-home placements while ensuring continued in-home services following release. Additionally, this legislation would downsize secure residential facilities; maximize funding for community-based and residential services; and identify and fund evidence-based programs. DYS will collaborate with the Courts and Community Providers to strengthen data collection, analysis, and decision-making.