A new white paper from the Vera Institute of Justice Status Offense Reform Center discusses how juveniles can be diverted from the juvenile court system, thereby preventing criminalization at an early age due to a status offense. While an adult would not be charged for truancy, running away, or purchasing cigarettes or liquor, a young person could, simply because of his or her age. The Vera white paper From Courts to Communities: The Right Response to Truancy, Running Away and Other Status Offenses recommends a community response rather than a court response for status offenses:
1. Diversion from court. Keeping kids out of court requires having mechanisms in place that actively steer families away from the juvenile justice system and toward community-based services.
2. An immediate response. Families trying to cope with behaviors that are considered status offenses may need assistance right away from trained professionals who can work with them, often in their home, to de-escalate the situation. In some cases, families also benefit from a cool-down period in which the young person spends a few nights outside of the home in a respite center.
3. A triage process. Through careful screening and assessment, effective systems identify needs and tailor services accordingly. Some families require only brief and minimal intervention—a caring adult to listen and help the family navigate the issues at hand. At the other end of the spectrum are families that need intensive and ongoing support and services to resolve problems.
4. Services that are accessible and effective. Easy access is key. If services are far away, alienating, costly, or otherwise difficult to use, families may opt out before they can meaningfully address their needs. Equally important, local services must engage the entire family, not just the youth, and be proven to work based on objective evidence.
5. Internal assessment. Regardless of how well new practices are designed and implemented, there are bound to be some that run more smoothly than others, at least at first. Monitoring outcomes and adjusting practices as needed are essential to be effective and also to sustain support for new practices.
To read From Courts to Communities: The Right Response to Truancy, Running Away and Other Status Offenses Click here to go to website.
Source: Reclaiming Futures