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Reforms to Juvenile Justice in NV?

PHOTO: Nevada would receive incentives for locking up fewer juveniles under a newly updated Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act introduced in Congress. Photo courtesy of Douglas County, Nevada.
PHOTO: Nevada would receive incentives for locking up fewer juveniles under a newly updated Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act introduced in Congress. Photo courtesy of Douglas County, Nevada.
December 22, 2014

CARSON CITY, Nev. - Congress is set to consider updating a decades-old law that guides Nevada and all states on the custody and care of juveniles in the criminal justice system. The Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act was introduced earlier this month, and one big change would be providing incentives to states to lock up fewer children.

Investigative journalist Nell Bernstein says locking kids up is expensive for states, and can cause harm that follows them for the rest of their lives.

"The ones we incarcerate are twice as likely, when you control for everything under the sun including the delinquent act, to end up as adult prisoners," says Nell.

Her research into juvenile justice has focused on lawsuits related to guards abusing kids in custody. She also claims guards are rarely punished, and kids often are afraid to speak up or don't have safe ways to file grievances.

Bernstein advocates for closing most juvenile detention facilities, saying treating the underlying issues closer to kids' homes has been proven to be more effective. Plus, she believes the acting out, mouthing off, skipping school or shoplifting that often leads to kids being put behind bars is a developmental phase.

"We have to unlock ourselves from this concept that the first-line response when a young person does something we don't want them to do is to remove them from home and community, and place them in a locked institution," Nell says.

The JJDPA is sponsored by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Sen. Grassley (R-Iowa).

Troy Wilde, Public News Service - NV