Juvenile Justice Reform



Colorado, Maryland, Utah, and Washington all enacted legislation or legislative reform surrounding truancy laws. All of the states moved to modifying truancy related offenses, ensuring the least restrictive dispositions possible. Washington went further, requiring school districts to collect data on truancy to address causes and focus on prevention.


In 2018, Arizona, California, Missouri, and Washington all expanded the jurisdiction of their juvenile courts. While Arizona and Missouri increased the age of the court’s jurisdiction (19 and 18, respectively) California prohibits the transfer of children under the age of 16 to adult court. Washington put the focus on types of crimes where transfer to adult criminal court would be prohibited. Delaware passed related legislation, mandating that children charged in adult criminal court still be detained in a juvenile facility.


Oklahoma and Louisiana put significant restrictions on when restraints can be used on minors.  Oklahoma prohibits the use of restraints on pregnant juveniles;  Louisiana requires that less restrictive measures be used in all circumstances when appropriate.


Delaware and Florida both passed legislation giving law enforcement broader discretion in using diversion programs for both prearrest and misdemeanor -level offenses. Both states note that participation in counseling treatment, community service, or any other appropriate intervention has a positive effect on the justice system in general


Oklahoma now requires children to be represented by counsel from the first initial hearing all the way through completion/dismissal

Getting it Right for children using data to target Gaps in due process, with a focus on: Arizona: Bringing Gault Home, An Assessment of Access to and Quality of Juvenile Defense Counsel

The Center for Children, Law, & Policy at the University of Houston Law Center hosted a 50th-year anniversary for Gault more than a year ago, celebrating the game changing United Supreme Court case that “affirm[ed] children’s constitutional right to due process.” The Gault case began in Arizona, and the National Juvenile Devender Center (“NJDC”) also celebrated the 50th-year anniversary of Gault – by checking in to gather data on the true outcomes post-Gault in Arizona, with improvements suggested in Arizona Bringing Gault Home.

The results between counties in Arizona were mixed, with some counties providing counsel representation for children, others in Arizona continued to ignore due process by not providing Gault-required services. All assessments completed by the NJDC are available at http://njdc.info/our-work/juvenile-indigent-defense-assessments/, and an article providing additional information can be found here http://njdc.info/our-work/juvenile-indigent-defense-assessments/arizona-assessment/.

The reports in Arizona show children continue to be underserved, and Bringing Gault Home recommends, in part, the following improvements:

  • Automatically appointing counsel to all youth,
  • Giving youth an opportunity to consult with a lawyer prior to the court considering accepting any waiver of counsel,
  • Appointing counsel for all youth prior to their first appearance before a judge and ensuring access to counsel for youth post-disposition,
  • Improving the collection and reportability of data,
  • Implementing policies and practices to address significant racial disparities, and
  • Ensuring youth receive legal representation that is individualized and rooted in adolescent development.

A news story on the release of information from the NJDC may also be found at: https://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/arizona-child-welfare/2018/09/25/study-juvenile-justice-arizona-hurt-uneven-representation-fees/1362562002/.


SAVE THE DATE!!!! November 12th at noon we will be hosting a CLE with a delegation from Swansea, Wales on ways to improve Juvenile Justice services using techniques successful in Wales. Please feel free to message us on the blog for more information!

Weekly Roundup

Utah Passes “Free-Range” Parenting Law – First of its Kind

After a New York mom allowed her 8-year-old son to ride the subway home alone, her story went viral with people calling her “America’s Worst Mom.” But now, the Utah state legislature is using her story as a basis for a new law.

The measure, sponsored by Utah state Sen. Lincoln Fillmore, R, exempts from the definition of child neglect various activities children can do without supervision, permitting “a child, whose basic needs are met and who is of sufficient age and maturity to avoid harm or unreasonable risk of harm, to engage in independent activities . . .” Those activities include letting children “walk, run or bike to and from school, travel to commercial or recreational facilities, play outside and remain at home unattended.” The law does not say what the “sufficient age” is.

Utah Governor Gary R. Herbert, R, signed the bill into law earlier this month after it passed unanimously in both chambers of Utah’s legislature. Critics, of course, have argued that this style is not safest for children, despite the fact that stranger abduction is rare. This story begs the question, what implications will this have for state child-welfare authorities in Utah? Will other states follow suit? You can read more about this measure here and here.

Black Students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High Speak Out

A mostly white group of Stoneman Douglas survivors started a movement after the shooting to honor the victims and rally Americans to stop gun violence. Last weekend, they took their fight for stricter gun control laws to Washington and other cities in what they called a March for Our Lives. Many citizens are lauding these young people for their achievements and bravery, but what about the African American students who attend the same school?

“I would say that our voices were not intentionally excluded, but they were not intentionally included,” said Kai Koerber, a junior. “Now more than ever, it is time to represent the diversity of our school, and the diversity in the world.” Kai is part of a group of students who feel that their Black peers were unable to muster the same kind of support as the mostly-white students have, dating all the way back to activism surrounding the Trayvon Martin death. About 11% of the high school’s 3,000 students are black.

The other students from Stoneman stand in solidarity with their African American peers, and hope that they can combine forces to shed light on Black Lives Matter in their fight. It is truly inspiring to see what these kids have accomplished in mere months, regardless of whether you agree with their point of view. You can read all about it here.

Study Finds Second-Born Brother More Likely to Get Involved in Criminal Justice System

A new study conducted at MIT found that second-born children are more likely to break the law. It looked at hundreds of sets of brothers and found that the younger counterparts were 20-40% more likely to get in trouble at school and enter the criminal justice system.

Those who conducted the study have a few theories as to why this may be the case. Parents often don’t dote on their second-born children as much as they do on their first-born. They tend to spend less one-on-one time with them and are often less enthusiastic about doing engaging activities like reading bedtime stories and playing games. Parents also tend to take less time off from work with a second-born child. As a result, second-born children may feel like they have to compete for their parents’ attention and may act out more. You can read more about the study here.

It will be interesting to see whether this study has any implications on the school-to-prison pipeline research already being conducted across the country. Why does “getting in trouble at school” have to immediately translate to “entering the criminal justice system”? Is this study biased in and of itself? Regardless, it is important for parents to think critically about how their parenting style may shift from child to child and how that will effect their children long term.