"Today, juvenile justice reform has become a largely bipartisan issue as lawmakers work together to develop new policies to align sound fiscal responsibility, community safety and better outcomes for youth. New legislative reforms reflect an interest in developmentally appropriate approaches to more evidence-based methods and cost-effective alternatives to incarceration. There also now exists an abundance of research that is available to lawmakers and the field on adolescent development—that includes the latest neuro[logical], social and behavioral science that distinguishes juveniles from adult offenders. Recent trends in juvenile justice legislation across the country represent a significant new direction to broadly reform justice systems." "Juvenile justice policies require balancing the interests of public safety, accountability and rehabilitation. The challenge for state lawmakers is to develop policies that seek to disrupt the pathways that youth follow into the justice system. In the past five years, juvenile justice reform legislation in the United States has grown at a remarkable pace. The reforms reflect an interest in developmentally appropriate approaches to more evidence-based and cost-effective alternatives to incarceration" (p. 1). Sections following an executive summary include: federal standards; comprehensive omnibus reforms; human trafficking; returning jurisdiction to the juvenile justice system—reforming transfer, waiver and direct file laws, and raising the age of juvenile court jurisdiction; prevention, intervention, and detention reform—intervention and realignment, status offenders, and detention reform; due process and defense reform—juvenile competency, indigent defense and other procedural issues, shackling, and solitary confinement; treating mental health needs of juvenile offenders; racial and ethnic disparities; restorative justice; reentry/aftercare—confidentiality of juvenile records and expungement; and conclusion.
Back to top
Trends in Juvenile Justice State Legislation 2011-2015