Utah kickoff in front of Utah capitol building

The Crime and Justice Institute has joined officials in Utah to begin implementing sweeping juvenile justice reforms signed into law by Gov. Gary Herbert in March.

As the recipient of the Smart on Juvenile Justice Initiative grant from the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), CJI staff last week met with Utah’s newly-formed Juvenile Justice Oversight Committee. OJJDP Acting Administrator, Eileen Garry, and OJJDP Senior Policy Advisor, Scott Pestridge, were in state as well to offer support to Utah and kick off the process of implementing the reform package, known as HB 239.

The reforms include:

  • Requiring pre-court diversion for misdemeanors, status offenses, and minor infractions if the youth has limited prior history;
  • Tailoring eligibility for custody in the juvenile justice system for those youth who pose the highest risk to public safety;
  • Eliminating the option to place youth in the custody of a child welfare agency for delinquency or status offenses without a finding of abuse, neglect, or dependency.
  • Setting a presumptive length for the juvenile justice system’s out-of-home placement and probation terms with exceptions for serious offenses and youth completing essential treatment;
  • Setting a maximum on court-ordered financial obligations; and
  • Expanding investment in evidence-based, in-home community services.

In 2016, Utah’s working group, with technical assistance from CJI, reviewed data, national trends, and evidence-based practices. Based on that research, the working group made a series of recommendations for system reform that became the foundation for HB 239.

Through the assistance from OJJDP, CJI will continue partnering with Utah to implement the reform package.

Utah is the seventh state to pass comprehensive juvenile justice reforms and receive assistance from OJJDP and CJI to implement those reforms. The other states are Georgia, Hawaii, Kentucky, South Dakota, West Virginia, and Kansas.

Photo caption: CJI staffers joined representatives from OJJDP last week for the kick off of the implementation phase. From left, Margot Isman, Pam Lachman, Acting OJJDP Administrator Eileen Garry, Sarah Wittig Galgano, and Tessa Upin stand outside the Utah State House in Salt Lake City.