Dear Fellow Nebraskans:
A few weeks ago, I signed into law one of the most important bills of the 2013 Legislative Session - Legislative Bill 561 which is aimed at improving the juvenile justice system in our state. It shifts the supervision of all juvenile offenders in the community to the state's probation system which reduces reliance on detention and focuses on rehabilitation for youth while keeping families involved.
In addition to transferring the supervision of these youth, the legislation also places a renewed emphasis on community-based rehabilitation with a renewed focus on diversion. This forward-looking and innovative approach to dealing with youth who break the law, represents an important step forward as we continue to find ways for the state to deal with youth in juvenile justice system. The focus at the Department of Health and Human Services will be on helping children in the system who are victims of abuse and neglect.
By moving the juvenile justice youth into the probation system, the Department of Health and Human Services will be able to focus their attention more directly on assisting youth in the child welfare system, where children who are victims of abuse are cared for, instead of the youth breaking the law.
I applaud and commend the leadership of Senator Brad Ashford of Omaha on this important issue. Senator Ashford has worked tirelessly to find new ways for successful changes to help improve this system and I appreciate his hard work for the citizens of Nebraska.
LB 561 contains several points:
Provides $14.5 million over the next two years for juvenile justice reform to ensure proper implantation and to encourage further development of juvenile justice services.
Transfers the supervision of juvenile offenders in the community from the Department of Health and Human Services to the Office of Probation Administration in the Nebraska Supreme Court. This includes all juvenile offenders who have committed crimes and who are status offenders.
Retains Health and Human Services control of the Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Centers at Kearney and Geneva.
Increases the juvenile services aid grant program to counties at the Crime Commission, and allows the Crime Commission to hire a Director of Juvenile Diversion and a Director of Community-based Juvenile Services to help coordinate juvenile justice diversion and juvenile services in Nebraska.
By providing these juvenile justice reforms, increased funding for services and the ability of the Department of Health and Human Services to better focus on the child welfare system, LB 561 will lead to better outcomes for Nebraska youth and safer Nebraska communities.
- Dave Heineman
Governor of Nebraska