The significance of Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal’s directive to further reform the juvenile justice system is worth highlighting. Advocates for Children of New Jersey (ACNJ) views this directive, which takes effect January 11, 2021, as another step towards building a juvenile justice system that gives youth the support they need as well as addresses racial equity.
A key function of the juvenile justice system is to rehabilitate youth, rather than act punitively, and help them enter adulthood less likely to break the law by holding them accountable while equipping them with the skills necessary to stay out of trouble. For the vast majority of youth offenders, the system works best when youth are diverted away from formal court proceedings for minor offenses and towards social or familial supports.
The directive outlines five approaches available to police officers and prosecutors to divert youth from the juvenile justice system and limit the likelihood of unnecessary detention. It clearly states that “[w]hen considering when and how to use each of these five mechanisms, officers and prosecutors should start with the presumption that juveniles should be diverted out of the juvenile justice system whenever possible, so long as the diversion will promote accountability, advance the juvenile’s rehabilitation, and not present safety risks to the community.”
Read the five directive approaches.
ACNJ applauds Attorney General Grewal and his staff, the New Jersey Judiciary, as well as the prosecutors and law enforcement involved in developing the directive, and the efforts of colleagues on the New Jersey Council on Juvenile Justice System Improvement, who continue to seek better ways to improve outcomes for our youth. ACNJ also recognizes Jennifer LeBaron, Ph.D., Acting Executive Director of the New Jersey Juvenile Justice Commission (JJC) for her leadership in the development of the Attorney General’s directive as well as her leadership in New Jersey’s ongoing implementation of the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI).