Juvenile Justice Under Fire

A proposal is on the table in the Nebraska legislature that would send more teenage offenders to juvenile court. All misdemeanors and a number of felonies would start there. It’s currently up to the county attorney to decide.

The quadruple murder case against Nikko Jenkins has spurred a lot of debate about the Nebraska Corrections system:

Why was Jenkins let out of prison last July following rants of a potential killing spree? Why the lack of programs available for rehabilitation? Could anything have been done along the way in the name of public safety, considering this is someone who brought a loaded gun to school when he was eight-years-old?

Omaha State Senator Bob Krist said, "There are bad kids doing bad things and they need to be treated accordingly. But I'm taking a different approach on those kids who need to be in the juvenile justice system but are not."

Senator Krist is sponsoring one reform bill that would automatically send more arrested teenagers straight to juvenile court.

John Wells, with the Omaha Police Officers Association, says, “This is a law seeking a solution to a problem that doesn't exist."

The Officers Association has been hammering the senator in social media, insisting the proposed changes would give teenagers more and more chances to really hurt someone.

Wells said, “There's a reason gang members give 15-year-olds the guns to carry: because they know in juvenile court there will be no punishment."

But Senator Krist says change is needed because Nebraska locks up far too many young people and often turns them to a life of crime that ends up at the state penitentiary rather than leading to productive citizens.

The Police Officer's Association says the bill would also limit the ability of county attorneys to move a case into adult court but Senator Krist says, "That's not at all what we want to do. Obviously there are good kids that get themselves in a bad situation and bad kids that get themselves into a really bad situation and we have to differentiate between the two."

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