Why Is Utah’s Juvenile Justice System Failing?

Why Is Utah’s Juvenile Justice System Failing?

The juvenile justice system in Utah is broken and it needs to be fixed. Recent statistics provided by the state show far too many young people throughout Utah are sent to group homes or placed into detention centers. Many of these kids are first time offenders and considered low-risk. To make matters worse, most of these adolescents would be better off placed in their home.  It is costing the state far too much money and more young people end up getting worse.  According to Utah Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice executive director Ron Gordon, too many low-risk youth offenders who are placed out of their home end up leaving the system as high risk. It is a disturbing trend that is finally getting recognition.

New Solutions Coming Soon?

The purpose of juvenile detention centers and placing young people in group homes is to rehabilitate troubled teens and to help them develop into productive citizens. The aftermath of the disturbing statistics has Utah lawmakers scrambling the come up with new solutions. Even some youth advocacy groups are now starting to get involved. The Utah Juvenile Justice Group is expected to introduce new legislation designed to bring greater consistency when it comes to fines, sentencing and other forms of punishment. But most importantly, the objective of the new bill is to provide juveniles with the proper resources needed to ensure a bright future. The organization is also calling for the State Legislature to invest more funds into early intervention services throughout Utah.

The Need for Greater Consistency

Among the biggest problems in the state’s juvenile justice system is the lack of consistency in cases involving juvenile crime. Governor Gary Herbert ordered the Utah Juvenile Justice Working Group to look deeper into the problem. The organization is made up of law enforcement officials, youth and family service groups, judges, state lawmakers and lawyers. The group completed a comprehensive report which cited examples where the same cases were handled differently in each court. The report also revealed that a disproportionate amount of juvenile offenders, who never committed any felonies, were placed in detention centers and group home facilities. The study also showed that 80 percent of young people entering the court system for the first time were considered low risk.

Racial Inequality

The report from the state also indicates racial disparity in both the amount of minorities that enter the juvenile justice system and the severity of their punishments. In 2015, more than 400 young people were sent to detention centers after their first offense. Latinos made up 43 percent of those placed outside of their home. However, they only made up 23 percent of new cases entering the state’s juvenile justice system. African Americans made up only 5 percent of new misdemeanor cases. Yet, they made up nearly three times that amount (14%) of youth placed into state custody.

Why You Need a Salt Lake City Juvenile Crimes Attorney

Countless young people throughout Utah find themselves on the wrong side of the law. In far too many cases, it can ruin their futures. Many are charged with crimes they either did not commit or they are given far too harsh sentences. If your child has been charged with a crime, it is important to seek representation from an experienced Salt Lake City criminal defense lawyer that can help. For more than 20 years, Joseph Jardine has represented many boys and girls charged with juvenile crimes. He is committed to protecting the rights of young people to ensure they are placed in the best position to succeed. To learn more on how a Salt Lake City juvenile crimes attorney can help, contact the Jardine Law Offices P.C. and schedule a consultation today.