On the Right TrackWritten by Jacqueline Skarda
Nebraska Chief Justice Michael Heavican gave the State of the Judiciary this morning in Lincoln Thursday.
He said a pilot program to keep juveniles from being wards of the state is going well.
600 juveniles in 6 months.
“80% of these young people were able to remain in their family home rather than be institutionalized. In the first six months of this project, there has been an 80 percent successful probation completion rate - which is higher than the state average,” says Michael Heavican, Chief Justice, Nebraska.
The Nebraska Juvenile Service Delivery Project started several years ago in Omaha, and recently expanded to North Platte and Scottsbluff for one year.
“That has supplemented or replaced during the failed effort of privatization so this has been a very good thing,” says Kent Turnbull, Lincoln County Judge.
The pilot program, advocated by Senator Tom Hansen of North Platte, removes the duel supervision between probation and Health and Human Services.
“It doesn't make sense for you and I as taxpayers to have HHS involved with the kid and probation involved with the kid and we can do evaluations cheaper,” says Lonnie Folchert, Chief Probation Officer, District 11.
It also means juveniles aren't becoming wards of the state and placed in foster homes and it allows for more resources for probation to provide.
“The state ward, the state of Nebraska was being the parent and making the decisions and this program is trying to keep the kids in the community, keep them in the family, get the kids involved in substance abuse treatment, counseling, mental health, whatever the kid’s needs,” says Folchert.
Both probation officers and judges feel the program is on the right track.
But only time will tell.
“We'll be able to track their success or nonsuccess so we will, that's why I want the program to be extended more than one year is because I think we need more time to see if it can be successful because we want to see the recidivism,” says Turnbull.
Until then, those in the judicial system will do their best to make sure juveniles get on the right track.
Senator Tom Hansen from North Platte, Senator Brad Ashford from Omaha and Senator John Harms from Scottsbluff were involved in the work to get the bill established.
People involved in the judicial system hope to eventually make it statewide.