Nebraska Juvenile Justice Reform Amendments Pass Committee Vote

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The Nebraska Legislature has pushed forward a proposed piece of juvenile justice reform legislation, following a judiciary committee re-write, the Omaha World-Herald reports.

Legislators approved amendments Tuesday to Legislative Bill 561. If passed, the proposal would reroute the state’s estimated 3,500 juvenile offenders away from Nebraska’s Department of Health and Human Services and place them under the authority of the state Office of Probation Administration instead.

Although the bill’s original language called for the closing of two facilities in the cities of Kearney and Geneva, the recent rewrite would keep the two centers open, albeit, with stricter standards in place. Further, the proposed legislation would establish new re-entry processes for young people leaving the two facilities, and encourage counties to implement diversion programs for juvenile offenders.

Each year, Nebraska spends approximately $20 million operating the two facilities. According to the Omaha World-Herald, judiciary committee chairman Sen. Brad Ashford (I-Omaha) said that under the bill, the state may halve the total populations at the centers.

The bill also includes funding for a new juvenile court judge and court reporter in Douglas County, totalling $254,000 in total salaries and benefits. The legislation would also pump $10 million per year into a current county grant program. At present, the same program provides $1.6 million in annual funding.

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