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Senator tackles issue of juvenile justice
Now that the new session has started, one lawmaker is tackling the topic of troubled youth. How do we handle juvenile justice in the state of Nebraska?
State Senator Brad Ashford is proposing a new juvenile justice agency that would change the way troubled youth are handled. He plans to introduce the bill as early as next week.
The main idea is focusing more on rehabilitation rather than incarceration.
How do we handle our troubled youth? It's not a new question, but Senator Ashford is hoping he may have the answer in a new proposal.
"What I understand is that Senator Ashford is concerned that the situation in juvenile courts is that juvenile courts are relying too much on punishment incarceration and not enough on treatment and rehabilitation," said Grand Island City Attorney Bob Sivick.
And treatment and rehabilitation are the focus of the new proposal.
Grand Island City Attorney Bob Sivick is part of the legal department. The legal department manages juvenile diversion programs in Grand Island.
"A large part of city's criminal prosecution function is in juvenile court," said Sivick.
He says that incarceration is usually a last resort for the courts.
"The problem we've had in the last several years is it's been difficult to translate those intentions into appropriate action and that's been a problem financially and otherwise," Sivick said.
Currently, serious juvenile crimes are filed in adult court first, but one of the provisions in the proposal is to reverse that order and have all crimes committed by juveniles filed first in juvenile court.
Sivick agrees this topic needs to be looked at.
"Let me put it to you this way, our state penitentiary is full of people who did not suddenly wake up at the age of 25 and say I'm going to become a criminal today, these are all people who started out as kids and they all started out in a juvenile justice system," said Sivick.
Adding that they end up in the penitentiary for years causing an enormous amount of money to the taxpayers.
If the bill is approved, what would that mean for our local communities and how we handle troubled youth?
"If it passed in the proposed form it would mean we would be filing charges in juvenile court, how these cases would be resolved by the courts would be different," said Sivick.
The proposal seeks $10 million in additional funds, which would help counties to develop the new community based services.
As far as the Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Center in Kearney it would be placed under the new state juvenile agency.
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