Governor Brian Sandoval, First Lady Kathleen Sandoval, State Supreme Court Justice Nancy Saitta, and other legislative and community leaders gathered on July 12 at the Nevada State Supreme Court to launch an effort to strengthen public safety and improve outcomes for youth who are involved with the juvenile justice system.
At the event, the governor announced that the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) selected Nevada to receive technical assistance to undertake a comprehensive review of its juvenile justice system. The review will be led by the Statewide Juvenile Justice Improvement Initiative Task Force, which includes lawmakers, judges, state and local juvenile justice leaders, and other stakeholders. First Lady Sandoval and Justice Saitta will co-chair the task force.
The governor reinforced the goals of the initiative: to determine whether state and local resources are being used efficiently, and to build upon the momentum of recent successful legislative reforms in Nevada. Between 2006 and 2014, Nevada saw a 47-percent decrease in juvenile arrests, including a 70-percent decline in arrests for violent and weapons offenses. Commitments to the Division of Child and Family Services for delinquent offenses also decreased by 54 percent over that same period.
“Nevada has already positioned many of our children for greater success by seeing our incarcerated juvenile population reduced to its lowest level in 10 years and emphasizing supervision in the community where family and friends can support them,” Governor Sandoval said.
But Nevada currently lacks sufficient data to determine whether its juvenile justice programs and services are cost effective and aligned with research and evidence-based practices. The state spent $28 million last year on its juvenile justice system, and Nevada’s two most populous counties—Clark and Washoe—spend $61 million collectively each year on community supervision and services.
“This initiative will provide lawmakers with the hard data necessary to craft meaningful policy and to improve accountability and transparency toward how these funds are used and determining the return on our investment,” Assembly Speaker John Hambrick said.
The state and a majority of counties don’t currently track recidivism data, leaving policymakers, judges, and juvenile justice agencies unable to determine who is cycling through the system and whether resources are being used effectively.
“Having access to this data will help us make sure that no child falls through the cracks,” First Lady Sandoval said. “For the first time, we will be able to see what is working and where we can do better.”
Under the guidance of the inter-branch task force, The CSG Justice Center, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, will conduct the analysis of Nevada’s juvenile justice system and report back to the task force, with the goal of developing policy changes for introduction to the Nevada Legislature in early 2017.
“From past efforts to increase information sharing between agencies to legislative reforms dealing with detention and the sealing of juvenile records, Nevada has long been a leader in creating a fairer, more effective juvenile justice system,” Justice Saitta said. “I look forward to working with my fellow task force members to tackle further challenges.”