Like most juvenile justice systems across the country, Utah's juvenile justice system could do more to produce the outcomes that we all want for our kids and communities. Our system should be restructured to more effectively ensure that as many kids as possible can stay in their homes and in their schools, instead of being detained in environments that don't lead to justice or positive change.
A report released this week by the ACLU of Utah and our community partners reveals stark racial disparities such as:
- • Black/African-American youth make up 1% of Utah's youth population, but they represent 12% of all kids placed with the Utah Division of Child and Family Services through the juvenile justice system.
- • In one judicial district, Latino/Hispanic youth make up 24% of the youth population — but 52% of all "secure care" dispositions resulting in out-of-home detention for these youth.
- • In another district, Native American youth make up 9% of the overall youth population, yet 41% of "secure care" disposition are imposed on Native American youth.
Ask your legislator to support H.B. 239, Juvenile Justice Amendments, sponsored by Rep. Lowry Snow and Sen. Todd Weiler. This bill would offer some common-sense reforms to Utah's juvenile justice system including:
- • Keeping kids out of court for low-level status offenses like truancy.
- • Bringing much-needed structure to the sentencing process in the juvenile justice system.
- • Ensuring that kids don't spend time in detention just because they can't pay restitutions and fines.
- • Creating specific performance requirements for community placement programs.
Overall, this bill will bring much-needed structure to juvenile sentencing, and require important training for system workers. Young people, who might in the past have been inappropriately sent into juvenile court, will now have access to community-based and school-based interventions that offer more opportunities for positive change.
TAKE ACTION TODAY! Send an email to your state Representative and Senator asking them to support H.B. 239, Juvenile Justice Amendments.