Justice Nancy Saitta was elected in 2006 to the Nevada Supreme Court, where she served as chief justice from September 2011 to May 2012. A former prosecutor and municipal and state district court judge, Saitta has been a tireless advocate for children, youth and juvenile justice reform. Saitta retired her seat on the Nevada Supreme Court in August, but remains a senior justice and will continue to fight for the state’s children and youth as chair of the state Blue Ribbon for Kids Commission, the Coalition to Combat Criminal Sexual Exploitation of Children and the Juvenile Justice Reform Commission. Saitta serves as co-chair of the CSG Interbranch Affairs Committee and is a 2009 CSG Toll Fellow.

By Emily Morgan and Katy Albis
People between the ages of 18 and 24—often referred to as young adults—are generally considered to be undergoing a period of transition. According to a 2015 CSG Justice Center brief, Reducing Recidivism and Improving Other Outcomes for Young Adults in the Juvenile and Adult Criminal Justice Systems, research shows that young adults have tendencies that are distinct from those of both youth and older adults: Although young adults are more cognitively developed than youth, compared to older adults, they are more impulsive, less emotionally mature and less cognizant of the consequences of their actions. Many young adults also lack engagement in school and work, face mental health and substance use issues, are disconnected from family and other caring adults, and experience homelessness—all factors that put them at risk of justice system involvement.

CSG Midwest

Kansas will cut by three-fifths the number of juvenile offenders sent to out-of-state facilities, under legislation (SB 367) signed into law in April by Gov. Sam Brownback. The law resulted from recommendations issued in November 2015 by a bipartisan working group that included members from the legislative, executive and judicial branches. (The group also got assistance from The Pew Charitable Trusts and the Crime and Justice Institute at Community Resources for Justice.) 

CSG Midwest

According to the National Center for Juvenile Justice, every state has a set of “age boundaries” that help determine jurisdiction in these cases — in particular, whether they should go through juvenile court or criminal court. As of 2014, most U.S. states (41) set the “upper age” of juvenile court jurisdiction at 17. This age limit, though, is lower in two Midwestern states: Wisconsin and Michigan, where the upper age for juvenile court jurisdiction is only...

CSG Midwest
Each year, tens of thousands of incarcerated youths rely on state residential facilities to provide them with essential services during their time of commitment, including education. But according to a 2015 study by The Council of State Governments Justice Center and the Council of Juvenile Correctional Administrators, most of these youths lack access to many of the same educational opportunities as their peers in the community — such as credit recovery programs, GED preparation, and career and technical education courses.
The 50-state analysis (“Locked Out: Improving Educational and Vocational Outcomes for Incarcerated Youth”) has a number of recommendations to address this imbalance, including holding juvenile facility schools and educators accountable for providing services that adhere to state curricular standards.
In 2012, the Indiana Department of Correction’s Division of Youth Services had that goal in mind when it implemented a new model for evaluating its teachers. The model, known as RISE, is the same one used in Indiana’s public schools.

The Supreme Court held 6-3 in Montgomery v. Louisiana that juvenile offenders sentenced to life in prison without parole before Miller v. Alabama (2012) was decided may have their sentences reviewed. In Miller v. Alabama the Court held that a juvenile may not be sentenced to life in prison without parole “absent consideration of the juvenile’s special circumstances in light of the principles and purposes of juvenile sentencing.” The Court suggested that rather than relitigating sentences states may allow relevant juvenile offenders to be eligible for parole.      

A first-of-its-kind report released today by The Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center found that most incarcerated youth do not have access to the same educational services as their peers in the community, and little accountability exists to ensure educational standards are met in lock-up. The report, “Locked Out: Improving Educational and Vocational Outcomes for Incarcerated Youth,” reveals that despite spending between $100,000 to $300,000 per incarcerated child in secure facilities, only 13 states provide all incarcerated youth with access to the same types of educational services that students have in the community. Meanwhile, only nine states offer community-equivalent vocational services to all kids in lock-up.

CSG Midwest

Illinois lawmakers say a series of legislative reforms this year will help “right-size” the state’s juvenile justice system. The bills were signed into law in July. Under SB 1560, minors will not be committed to Department of Juvenile Justice facilities for misdemeanor offenses, and minors cannot be detained in a county jail for “status offenses.”

CSG Midwest

A year ago, officials from all three branches of South Dakota government began taking a close, critical look at the state’s juvenile justice system. The working group didn’t like what it saw. “What we found is that South Dakota was an outlier nationally,” Sen. Alan Solano says. “While juvenile commitments were declining,” he adds, “South Dakota had the second-highest incarceration rate in the country in 2011, a rate of 385 youth per 100,000.” Further, that high commitment rate was not connected to a correspondingly high rate of violent crime, and South Dakota’s juvenile offenders were staying longer in out-of-home placements than they had in the past. Those placements were costly (anywhere from $41,000 to $144,000 per bed); were often for misdemeanors, probation violations and status offenses (such as truancy and underage drinking); and were not necessarily effective in treating young people (community-based supervision tends to yield better results).

CSG Midwest
Two years after passing milestone legislation to reform the state’s criminal justice system for adults, lawmakers in South Dakota have changed the state’s approach to managing and treating juvenile offenders. SB 73 was signed into law in March. Its goals are to cut costs, invest more in proven intervention programs and reduce recidivism among young people.