Bolstered by grassroots campaigns, leadership by administrators, and research on the harms of confinement, more and more jurisdictions focused in 2017 on keeping young people out of the justice system.
In New Orleans, for example, the city council approved an ordinance allowing police to handle youth accused of certain misdemeanors with warnings or summonses to appear in court, instead of detaining them.Policing Alternatives for Youth (PAY), New Orleans City Council Ord. No. 31,954; and Alex Woodward, “New Orleans Youth Who Commit Minor Crimes Will Face Warnings or Summonses Instead of Arrests,” Best of New Orleans, August 24, 2017. Meanwhile, numerous states enacted legislation aimed at limiting the role of courts in handling non-criminal behaviors, like truancy, and diverting these cases into community-based services.For example, Utah’s state legislature passed Utah HB 239 (2017), which requires diversion for misdemeanors, status offenses, and other minor infractions for youth with limited prior history, and removes statutory language to refer habitual truancy cases to court. Ohio passed Ohio HB 410 (2017), which requires schools to design and implement intervention plans before court referral. Connecticut took a particularly big leap forward: as of August 15, 2017, schools are no longer permitted to file a court petition for truancy cases.Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. §46b-121n (2017).
In King County, Washington, which includes Seattle, County Executive Dow Constantine issued an executive order to place juvenile justice under the purview of the public health department.King County Executive Order JJS-8-1-EO, “Housing of Declined Juveniles,“ November 2, 2017; King County Executive, “Executive Order: Youth Charged as Adults to be Housed at the Youth Services Center,” press release (Seattle, WA: King County Executive, November 2, 2017). “By using a public health model, we will be able to do more for kids,” he stated, adding that the county must do more than just provide services for youth in detention.Chetanya Robinson, “Executive Order Calls for Public Health Approach to Juvenile Justice,” The Stranger, November 16, 2017. “It has to be about changing policies and systems that keep youth from returning to detention, or prevent them from becoming involved in the justice system in the first place."Chetanya Robinson, “Executive Order Calls for Public Health Approach to Juvenile Justice,” The Stranger, November 16, 2017.