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This week, the General Assembly passed a comprehensive bill that is a giant step forward in reforming our juvenile justice system. The bill provides for better assessment of our troubled youth and allows for sentencing guidelines that are more appropriate to each person.
This reform is a long overdue response to the needs of youth who are struggling. It holds great potential to improve the life of our youth and to reduce the number who commit another crime and return to the system.
This law does two very important things. First, it requires the court to provide a validated independent assessment of each youth in the system.
This will allow the court and the probation officers to understand the issues that have led the teenager to this point in his or her life. It will point out the risks that may lead the young person to re-offend. And it will help determine the appropriate discipline.
This law will make the system more equitable across the state. When it is necessary to confine a youth to a treatment center, we may be able to move the youth to a facility that is close to his or her community.
This opens the possibility that family and people in the community can better prepare for the young person’s return.
The law also makes it possible for us to offer treatment for drug addiction or mental-health issues when that is appropriate.
The second part of this reform is that we are closing two treatment centers. Over time, this will allow us to reinvest money into local treatment options.
This is a dramatic shift in our system of juvenile justice that will help us get our teenagers back on track when they get into trouble.
The reform of the juvenile justice system has been one of my top priorities since I took office. The month before my first inauguration, in fact, I made a surprise visit to the state’s largest center for juveniles so that I could see the conditions firsthand and make it clear that this issue is important to me.
Now we’ve passed this law and taken an important step to reforming our juvenile justice system.