Nebraska will shift how it treats juvenile offenders under a bill signed into law by the governor.
Gov. Dave Heineman has signed LB 561e, juvenile justice reform approved by the legislature.
Heineman, during a news conference in his Capitol office, called the bill complex. Still, he has hopes for a simple outcome.
“I just hope every day we can make improvement, that we can help more kids that we can keep them out of the prison system,” Heineman told reporters.
The bill signals a shift in the state juvenile justice system; away from punishment and incarceration and toward treatment. The state probation system will supervise juvenile offenders in a community. The focus will be on rehabilitation rather than detention.
Families will be involved.
Sen. Brad Ashford of Omaha, the bill’s sponsor, says family therapy will prepare a family for a youth’s return.
“Not every kid has a traditional, two-parent family,” Ashford stated, “but there are family units involved in most of these cases. We need to reinvigorate those families.”
The bill provides $14.5 million over the next two fiscal years to pay for juvenile justice reform.
The Department of Health and Human Services will continue to care for juveniles who have been abused. DHHS will continue to operate the Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Centers at Kearney and Geneva.
The bill contains an emergency clause, making it law upon the signature of the governor.
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:40]