Juvenile Justice

Why does it matter?

Keeping our children and youth safe is essential to their healthy development. Responding to the troubling behaviors of children and youth in developmentally appropriate ways while promoting community safety is key to ensuring every child can build a successful, independent adult life.

61.8% of youth cases in juvenile court had access to legal counsel in 2015.

356 youth cases were prosecuted in adult court in 2015.

Source: JUSTICE, Administrative Office of the Courts.

Arrests 

Youth arrests (2015)

Type Male Female Total % of Total
Status Offenses
Runaway 163 161 324 3.2%
Curfew 81 61 142 1.4%
Alcohol 538 415 953 9.3%
Drug-Related 1,070 374 1,444 14.2%
Violent 179 23 202 2.0%
Person 1,051 523 1,574 15.4%
Property 2,162 1,179 3,341 32.8%
Public Order 364 204 568 5.6%
Weapons 106 9 115 1.1%
Other 980 440 1,420 13.9%
DUI 91 24 115 1.1%
Total 6,785 3,413 10,198

Offense types

“Status offenses” are non-criminal behaviors, like skipping school, that could not be charged but for the “status” of being a minor.

Violent offenses include: criminal homicide, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault.

Person offenses include: offense against family and children, simple assault, sex offenses, and prostitution.

Property offenses include: burglary, larceny, motor vehicle theft, arson, forgery, fraud, embezzlement, stolen property, and vandalism.

Public order offenses include: disorderly conduct, and vagrancy.

10,198 youth were arrested in 2015. Of those arrests, only 202 or 2% were for violent crimes.

Number of youth arrested (2006-2015)

Youth arrested by age (2015)

  • Ages 9 and under (114) (0.8%)
  • Ages 10-12 (605) (7%)
  • Ages 13-14 (2,019) (20.3%)
  • Age 15 (1,914) (17%)
  • Age 16 (2,807) (25.4%)
  • Age 17 (3,080) (29.5%)
Source: Nebraska Commission on Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice

 Disproportionate Minority Contact

Disproportionate minority contact (DMC)

Despite the promise of equal protection under the law, national research shows that youth of color are overrepresented in the juvenile justice system. This overrepresentation often is a product of decisions made at early points of contact with the juvenile justice system. Where racial differences are found to exist, they tend to accumulate as youth are processed deeper into the system.1

i. U.S. Census Bureau, 2015 American Community Survey 1-year estimates, Tables B01001-B01001B-I.
ii. Nebraska Commission on Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice.
iii. JUSTICE, Administrative Office of the Courts.
iv. Analysis based on data from individual facilities including Lancaster County Detention Center, North East Nebraska Juvenile Services, Scotts Bluff County Detention Center, Douglas County Youth Center, and the Patrick J. Thomas Juvenile Justice Center.
v. SFY 2015/16 Annual Reports for Kearney and Geneva Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Centers.
1. “And Justice for Some: Differential Treatment of Youth of Color in the Juvenile Justice System,” National Council on Crime and Delinquency, (January 2007).

Pre-Trial Diversion 

Juvenile diversion program

Pretrial diversion programs are based on the belief that many juvenile cases are better handled outside the courthouse doors. These voluntary programs are designed to provide eligible youth an opportunity to demonstrate rehabilitation and make things right with the community, while reducing the cost and burden to taxpayers and courts that come with formal charges being filed. By successfully completing his or her diversion plan, a minor has the opportunity to avoid formal charges in the court and get all record of the matter sealed. By diverting these cases from the court system, counties save significant dollars, making successful diversion programs a win-win.

4,181

youth were referred to the diversion program.

776

of those referred did not participate.

2,378

youth successfully completed diversion.

59

counties participated in the diversion program.

511

youth did not complete diversion successfully and were discharged for failing to comply or for a new law violation.

Youth participating in the Juvenile Diversion Program (2015)

  • 9 years and under
  • 10-12 years
  • 13-14 years
  • 15-16 years
  • 17-18 years

Youth participating in the Juvenile Diversion Program (2015)

  • Male
  • Female

Counties participating in the Juvenile Diversion Program (2015)

Community-Based Juvenile Services Aid Program (2015)

256 programs in 72 counties and 2 tribes were funded through the Community-Based Juvenile Services Aid Program with an average funding of $6300.

Source: Nebraska Commission on Law Enforcement & Criminal Justice.
Funded programs:
Direct intervention 192
Prevention/promotion event 8
Direct service 19
System improvement 37

 Juvenile Cases

New juvenile court cases by race/ethnicity (2015)

Traffic offense Status offense Misdemeanor Felony
American Indian 0 0% 14 1.6% 78 2.1% 12 2.8%
Asian or Pacific Islander 0 0% 7 0.8% 15 0.4% 4 0.9%
Black/African American 4 3.4% 77 8.9% 541 14.5% 116 27.2%
Hispanic 40 33.6% 111 12.8% 416 11.1% 55 12.9%
White 67 56.3% 327 37.7% 1,606 43% 230 53.9%
Other 0 0% 3 0.3% 24 0.6% 2 0.5%
Unknown 8 6.7% 329 37.9% 1,059 28.3% 195 45.7%
Total Cases 119 61% of cases were adjudicated as “admit” 868 62% of cases were adjudicated as “admit” 3,736 67% of cases were adjudicated as “admit” 427 70% of cases were adjudicated as “admit”

413 days
is the average length of time from filing to case termination.

472 days
is the average length of time from filing to case termination for status offense cases.

397 days
is the average length of time from filing to case termination for delinquency cases.

Source: JUSTICE, Administrative Office of the Courts.

Access to Counsel 

Juvenile access to counsel

Having an attorney present during proceedings in the juvenile justice system is not only important for youth, but a guaranteed constitutional right. The right to counsel is also enshrined in Nebraska statute 43-272(1). The law is meant to protect children at every stage of legal proceedings, and requires the court to advise youth, along with their parents, of their right to an attorney and that legal counsel can be provided at no cost if they are unable to afford it. Unfortunately, all too frequently youth are not accessing this important protection.

Criminal (adult) court Juvenile court
Total cases # with counsel % with counsel Total cases # with counsel % with counsel
Age
10 & under 4 3 75% 75 37 49.3%
11-13 19 3 15.8% 878 544 62%
14-15 154 43 27.9% 2,204 1,328 60.3%
16 525 126 24% 1,846 1,136 61.5%
17 1,289 484 37.5% 1,718 1,102 64.1%
Gender
Female 535 132 24.7% 2,105 1,210 57.5%
Male 1,389 496 35.7% 4,472 2,872 64.2%
Unknown 67 29 43.3% 144 65 45.1%
Race/Ethnicity
American Indian 30 17 56.7% 119 68 57.1%
Asian or Pacific Islander 16 6 37.5% 34 26 76.5%
Black/African American 231 125 54.1% 1,070 936 87.5%
Hispanic 332 126 38% 744 440 59.1%
White 1,105 279 25.2% 2,743 1,627 59.3%
Other 12 5 41.7% 43 39 90.7%
Unknown 265 101 38.1% 1,968 1,011 51.4%
Total Cases 1,961 642 32.7% 6,602 4,079 61.8%
Source: JUSTICE, Administrative Office of the Courts.

 Probation

Youth supervised on probation (2015)

6,041 youth were supervised on juvenile probation in 2015, an increase from 5,106 in 2014. 108 from adult court, 5,933 from juvenile court. 2,906 youth began probation in 2015; 443 for felony offenses, 1,671 for misdemeanors, and 792 for status offenses. 2,407 youth were released from probation.

Supervised on probation Placed on probation for felony offenses Placed on probation for misdemeanor offenses Placed on probation for status offenses Released from probation (successful) Released from probation (unsuccessful)
Number Percent Number Percent Number Percent Number Percent Number Percent Number Percent
Gender
Male 4,007 66.3% 361 81.5% 1,162 69.5% 422 53.3% 1,547 64.3% 438 68.7%
Female 2,034/ 33.7% 82 18.5% 509 30.5% 370 46.7% 860 35.7% 200 31.3%
Race
American Indian 212 3.5% 20 4.5% 68 4.1% 26 3.3% 60 2.5% 33 5.2%
Asian 55 0.9% 2 0.5% 6 0.4% 13 1.6% 21 0.9% 8 1.3%
Black 1,089 18% 100 22.6% 295 17.7% 79 10% 423 17.6% 126 19.7%
White 3,398 56.2% 235 53% 929 55.6% 473 59.7% 1,380 57.3% 320 50.2%
Other 1,287 21.3% 86 19.4% 373 22.3% 201 25.4% 523 21.7% 151 23.7%
Ethnicity
Hispanic 1,377 22.8% 103 23.3% 412 24.7% 216 27.3% 551 22.9% 150 23.5%
Non-Hispanic 4,664 77.2% 340 76.7% 1,259 75.3% 576 72.7% 1,856 77.1% 488 76.5%
Age
14 & under 571 9.5% 58 13.1% 228 13.6% 108 13.6% 147 6.1% 12 1.9%
15 & 16 1,720 28.5% 153 34.5% 553 33.1% 268 33.8% 531 22.1% 58 9.1%
17 1,593 26.4% 116 26.2% 464 27.8% 251 31.7% 603 25.1% 85 13.3%
18 2,157 35.7% 116 26.2% 426 25.5% 165 20.8% 1,126 46.8% 483 75.7%
Total 6,041 443 1,672 792 2,407 638

$4,336
is the average total cost per juvenile receiving in-home services.

$7.13
is the average daily cost for supervising a juvenile on probation.

$25,168
is the average total cost per juvenile receiving out-of-home services.

11 months
is the mean length of time on probation — similar to 11 months in 2014.

<1 month
minimum time

88 months
maximum time

Source: Nebraska Office of Probation Administration.

Detention 

Youths ages 17 & under held in juvenile detention facilities* (2015)

Lancaster County Detention Center (Lancaster County) North East Nebraska Juvenile Services (Madison County) Scotts Bluff County Detention Center (Scotts Bluff County) Douglas County Youth Center(Douglas County) Patrick J. Thomas Juvenile Justice Center (Sarpy County)
Number Percent Number Percent Number Percent Number Percent Number Percent
Gender
Female 178 38% 95 27.5% 39 21.5% 334 35.8% 47 29.2%
Male 290 62% 251 72.5% 142 78.5% 819 87.9% 114 70.8%
Race/ethnicity
White, non-Hispanic 227 48.5% 208 60.1% 66 36.5% 280 30% 130 80.7%
Black 165 35.3% 32 9.2% 5 2.8% 684 73.4% 8 5%
American Indian/Alaska Native 19 4.1% 18 5.2% 28 15.5% 33 3.5% 4 2.5%
Asian or Pacific Islander 3 0.6% 2 0.6% 1 0.6% 9 1% 1 0.6%
Hispanic 51 10.9% 86 24.9% 68 37.6% 147 15.8% 17 10.6%
Other 3 0.6% 0 0% 13 7.2% 0 0% 1 0.6%
Age
12 & under 16 3.4% 15 4.3% 3 1.7% 38 4.1% 0 0
13-14 97 20.7% 65 18.8% 29 16% 179 19.2% 21 13%
15-16 267 57.1% 113 32.7% 73 40.3% 512 54.9% 71 44.1%
17+ 290 62% 153 44.2% 64 35.4% 424 45.5% 69 42.9%
Times detained
1 342 73.3% 276 79.8%  **  **  **  ** 120 88.2%
2 99 21.2% 45 13%  **  **  **  ** 29 21.3%
3+ 26 5.6% 25 7.2%  **  **  **  ** 12 8.8%
Total count 468 346 181 1,153 161
Secure*** 640 184 181 974 0
Staff Secure*** 228 112 0 179 161
Average Days Detained 18.7 in staff secure. 18.6 in secure. 22 36 28.3 days 18.6 days
Sources: Individual detention centers.
*Includes secure and staff secure detention.
** Douglas County Youth Center’s & Scotts Bluff County Detention Center’s data systems are unable to provide data on times detained for 2015.
*** Youth may go back and forth between secure and staff secure several times during the year. As a result these two values may sum much higher than the total number of youth detained at each facility.

 Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Centers

Geneva Kearney
Number admitted for treatment 61 142
Average daily population 49 97
Average length of stay 8.5 months 9.6 months
Average age at admission 17 16
Average per diem cost, per youth $384.19 $328.97
Recidivism Rate 15.1% 18%
Race /ethnicity breakdown White, non-Hispanic: 28.0%
Black, non-Hispanic: 26.0%
Other Hispanic: 5.0%
American Indian: 8.0%
Asian: 0.0%
Other: 17.5%
White, Hispanic: 13.0%
White, non-Hispanic: 43.0%
Black, non-Hispanic: 25.0%
Other Hispanic: 26.0%
American Indian: 5.0%
Asian: 1.0%
Other: 0.0%
White, Hispanic: 0.0%
Releases 73 girls released
Parole: 1.0%
Probation: 95.0%
Court Safekeeper: 0.0%
Institutional Discharge: 4.0%
153 boys released
Parole: 1.0%
Probation: 90.0%
Court Safekeeper: 1.0%
Institutional Discharge: 8.0%

Type of offenses in Geneva’s YRTC

  • Status Offense (1.5%)
  • Weapon (0%)
  • Probation (3.1%)
  • Public Order (20%)
  • Drug (13.8%)
  • Property (15.4%)
  • Person (40%)

Type of offenses in Kearney’s YRTC

  • Status Offense (0.6%)
  • Weapon (4.3%)
  • Probation (2.5%)
  • Public Order (24.2%)
  • Drug (6.8%)
  • Property (26.7%)
  • Person (23%)

YRTC admissions (2006-2015)

  • Kearney
  • Geneva
Sources: SFY 2015/16 Annual Reports for Kearney and Geneva Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Centers.

Office of Juvenile Services (OJS) Wards 

OJS Wards

Most state wards are committed to DHHS custody through child welfare proceedings, typically on allegations of parental neglect or abuse, with the exception of wards under OJS supervision. Under current law, youth who are committed to one of Nebraska’s two YRTCs for law violations are made wards of the state under OJS. There are also a handful of youth still in OJS custody but not placed at YRTC, who were grandfathered in from before the law changed.

379
OJS wards

258
were male

121
were female

OJS wards by race/ethnicity (2015)

OJS wards by age (2015)

Placements of OJS wards (2015)*
Group home 12 3.2%
Independent living 14 3.7%
Runaway 22 5.8%
Foster home 14 3.7%
Medical/treatment facility 38 10%
Jail/detention/prison facility/YRTC 341 90%
Emergency shelter 3 0.8%
Kinship/relative care 9 2.4%
Parents 11 2.9%
Developmentally disabled placement 4 1.1%
School 1 0.3%
*An OJS ward may have been in more than one type of placement during the year.

Services to OJS wards (2015)**
Education 2 0.5%
Medical 1 0.3%
Basic needs (housing, food, clothing, stipend, interpreter) 42 11.1%
Life skills (independent skills, driving, mentoring, parenting) 1 0.3%
Mental/behavioral health 13 3.4%
Group home 9 2.4%
Out-of-home Care 27 7.1%
Family 10 2.6%
**71 different youth received these 137 non-OJS services. OJS services provided to youth include: transportation, electronic monitoring, trackers, reporting center, drug and alcohol assessments, and drug testing.

 Youth Treated as Adults

In 2015, 356 youth cases were prosecuted in Nebraska adult courts, down from 1,972 in 2014.

Of the 356 youth cases, 13% were traffic cases, 53% were misdemeanor cases, and 33% were felony cases.

*Cases may receive multiple sentencing types, so the total by sentence will add to higher than 356.
Source: JUSTICE, Administrative Office of the Courts.

Youth in adult prisons and jails

  • 679 youth sentenced in adult court were sentenced to incarceration.
  • 4 were incarcerated at a youth facility.
  • 675 were incarcerated at a Jail or Adult Correctional Facility.
  • The Nebraska Department of Corrections incarcerated 98 youth at some point in 2015.

An age-appropriate response

Research consistently indicates that treating children as adults neither acts as a deterrent, nor does it prevent crime or reduce violence – instead, prosecution in adult court exposes youth to more risks, delays or prevents treatment, and can burden them with permanent records which may act as barriers to future education and employment opportunities. In 2014, the Nebraska Legislature passed LB 464, a bill intended to bring children back from criminal prosecution and into the developmentally-appropriate juvenile court. Beginning in 2015, Nebraska law now requires that all children age 17 or younger charged with a misdemeanor or lowlevel felony must have their cases originate in juvenile court. This means that many more children are now receiving the benefit of speedy access to treatment services, a developmentally-appropriate court process aimed at rehabilitation, and the potential to have their records sealed to set them up for a brighter future.

1. Nebraska Department of Correctional Services.
2. Nebraska Commission on Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice.

Youth cases tried in adult court (2015)

Youth cases prosecuted in adult court Sentenced to probation Sentenced to jail Sentenced to prison
Male 281 78.9% 167 75.9% 89 75.4% 43 95.6%
Female 61 17.1% 45 20.5% 22 18.6% 0 0%
Unknown 14 3.9% 8 3.6% 7 5.9% 2 4.4%
10 & under 1 0.3% 0 0% 1 0.8% 0 0%
11 to 13 1 0.3% 0 0% 0 0% 1 2.2%
14 to 15 16 4.5% 10 4.5% 2 1.7% 4 8.9%
16 72 20.2% 50 22.7% 9 7.6% 14 31.1%
17 266 74.7% 160 72.7% 106 89.8% 26 57.8%
Total* 356 220 118 45
White 163 45.8% 115 52.3% 47 39.8% 11 24.4%
Black/African American 71 19.9% 33 15% 23 19.5% 17 37.8%
Hispanic 63 17.7% 34 15.5% 24 20.3% 9 20%
American Indian 10 2.8% 5 2.3% 7 5.9% 1 2.2%
Asian 2 0.6% 2 0.9% 0 0% 0 0%
Unknown/other 47 13.2% 31 14.1% 17 14.4% 7 15.6%