Vegas Lost: Five letters that could change the system
LAS VEGAS (KSNV) —
The government is shut down, while Washington DC gridlock dominates the headlines, one bill that has managed to pass with bipartisan support promises to make dramatic changes to the future of children in jail.
“It means they could have a more engaged experience in the courts", Cheri Ely says of the juveniles now serving time.
Ely is with the Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, she tells us the renewal of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act could change the way Nevada handles a growing number of young offenders.
The Federal Law that had been tied up in DC gridlock for a decade, passed just before Christmas. With it comes some fundamental changes;
Anyone under eighteen charged as an adult cannot be housed in an adult facility until they’re convicted. Even then there are new restrictions on where they can serve their sentences.
States need to ensure a juvenile is going back home to a safe environment and has a plan when they are released.
States must start recording and studying statistics on a child’s race and their punishment. Those stats then must be made public.
“We know in all states, Nevada included, there are higher levels of detention for youth of color compared to white counterparts," Ely says.
National advocates are praising the changes.
“I think what the government is doing is saying we know more than half the states are already operating in this capacity,” Marcy Mistrett with the Campaign for Youth Justice tells us. “Allowing young adults to stay in facilities suited for their age. It’s a way to incentivize states to do the right thing.”
It’s going to be a challenge for Nevada; a state that does not have a secure facility to house teens convicted as adults doesn’t have a computer system that tracks those convicted as juveniles and does not track recidivism rates at all.