CARSON CITY — Nevada’s juvenile justice system will get a thorough review with help from the U.S. Department of Justice in an initiative announced Tuesday by Gov. Brian Sandoval.
The Justice Department’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention selected Nevada as the only state that will receive technical assistance in the endeavor, officials said. Eighteen states applied for the grant, which will come in the form of assistance from the Council of State Governments Justice Center.
“This wasn’t easy and great things are never easy,” Sandoval said during a ceremony in the Nevada Supreme Court chambers, where he signed an executive order creating the Statewide Juvenile Justice Improvement Initiative Task Force.
Sandoval said Nevada’s population of incarcerated juveniles has fallen to its lowest level in a decade with more emphasis on community supervision. Between 2006 and 2014, the state realized a 47 percent reduction in juvenile arrests and an even greater decline in arrests for violent and weapons offenses, he said.
Nevada’s youth, he said, “all have hopes and dreams” but many also face incredible obstacles.
“We have a rare opportunity here … to really take ourselves to the forefront in the United States when it comes to juvenile justice,” Sandoval said. “They are the future of this state and we need to do everything we can for them.”
Officials said Nevada lacks data to evaluate whether its programs are cost effective. Last year the state spent $28 million on its juvenile justice system. The state’s two biggest counties, Clark and Washoe, spend roughly a combined $61 million annually on community supervision and services.
“We’re spending millions of dollars on juvenile justice without a clear picture of whether this investment follows best practices and sets these kids up for success,” said Assembly Speaker John Hambrick, R-Las Vegas, who also will serve on the panel..
Leading the effort will be first lady Kathleen Sandoval and retiring Nevada Supreme Court Justice Nancy Saitta, who will co-chair a state task force comprised of lawmakers, judges, and others at the state and local level who are involved in delinquency and juvenile programs.
The Council of State Governments Justice Center, a nonprofit nonpartisan organization, will perform an analysis of Nevada’s juvenile justice system and report its findings to the task force, which will then make recommendations to be considered by the 2017 Legislature.
The state and most counties don’t track juvenile recidivism trends. Such information is key to developing effective programs, Kathleen Sandoval said.
“Having access to this data will help us make sure that no child falls through the cracks,” she said in a statement. “For the first time, we will see what is working and where we can do better.
“This will require a coordinated effort among the three branches of government and a commitment to work together.”
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