Juvenile services committee: Disproportionate amount of minority youth in the system

By  | 

LINCOLN, Neb. — During the Lancaster County Board of Commissioners meeting Tuesday, officials talked about the Lancaster County Juvenile Services Comprehensive Plan, which aims to evaluate and improve the juvenile system and identify areas of needed improvement.

The plan is developed by a subcommittee of the Lancaster County Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI) Collaborative, and found a disproportionate amount of minority youth continue to be in the system.

In 2015, Lancaster County developed a three-year plan with five key priorities:
- Utilize multi-disciplinary collaboration with the schools to partner in preventing juvenile justice system involvement;
- Prevent the onset and recurrence of youth entering the juvenile justice system or committing future offenses;
- Reduce the racial and ethnic disparity of youth in the juvenile justice system;
- Ensure service availability for all youth and their families; and
- Infuse Restorative Justice throughout every system point.

While challenging, authorities said significant contributions toward those priorities was made.

This year, the JDAI Collaborative updated the plan and priorities. Below is the updated list of priorities, which are bolded, and how the subcommittee hopes to achieve those priorities underneath each.

Priority 1: Ensure equitable treatment of our system-involved youth.
Increase cultural awareness and competencies, work collaboratively to reduce racial and ethnic disparities of youth in the juvenile justice system and increase community cohesiveness.

Priority 2: Provide effective services and apply best practices to prevent youth from entering the juvenile justice system.
Provide effective prevention and early diversion strategies (positive mentor matching, promote and provide diverse activities for youth, develop training and preventative measures, etc.) and increase school attendance and graduation rates by engaging parents, evaluating the Truancy Diversion Program and supporting early truancy interventions.

Priority 3: Facilitate respectful and accommodating treatment of all families and youth in the juvenile justice system.
Build relationships between law enforcement and youth to break down stereotypes, provide effective and sensitive response that exhibits a holistic approach to the youth, family and system organization involved, and assist families with services and identification of supports necessary to prevent entry/reentry into the system.

Priority 4: Ensure behavioral health services are accessible to all youth and their families.
Available trauma/mental health treatment for all youth, ensure continuum of behavioral health programs (identify gaps and implement needed resources) and ensure safety and stability of youth reentering the community (crisis follow-up services for youth).

Priority 5: Ensure all juvenile justice system stakeholders are using evidence-based principles to meet the needs of our youthful population.
Ensure proper services are available in a timely manner (continuous quality assurance surveys with families and evaluation of services) and evaluate programs and processes for effectiveness (through data).

Members of the subcommittee, as well as several statistics gathered by the subcommittee, which were used in developing the updated priorities, is attached in this article.