Overhaul of Nebraska Juvenile Justice System Takes First Step Forward

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Photo courtesy of Nebraska State Government

Last week, The Lincoln Journal Star reported that state senators in Nebraska gave unanimous approval to Legislative Bill 464 (LB 464), with the proposed legislation passing through the state’s single-house system with a 39-0 vote.

If the bill becomes law, it would require that all criminal charges pressed against individuals ages 18 and younger in the state would have to be filed in a juvenile court.

Currently, Nebraska allows juvenile cases to be filed in adult courts before being filed in juvenile courts. With prosecutors having vast authority to decide whether or not a juvenile is charged in an adult or juvenile courtroom, nearly half of the juvenile cases in Nebraska are prosecuted in an adult court.

Under LB 464, cases may still be transferred to an adult court, however, pending both a motion by a prosecutor and a previous hearing in a juvenile court.

State Sen. Brad Ashford (I-Omaha) said the bill represents “an incredibly important part” of a juvenile justice reform package being sent through the state’s Judiciary Committee.

“The system is weighted toward the corrections model -- a prosecutorial model -- and not the treatment model,” he is quoted by the Journal Star. "It is not hard to understand why we incarcerate more juveniles than only three other states.”

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