Nebraska announces new approach to juvenile offenders

By  | 

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP)-- Nebraska is changing the way it handles juvenile offenders following an incident in which teenage girls damaged a state-run housing unit in Geneva.

Photo of living conditions inside the Geneva Juvenile facility.

The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services on Monday unveiled a new Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Center System, with campuses in Kearney, Geneva and Lincoln.

Nebraska already has a boys' facility in Kearney and a girls' facility in Geneva. The new approach would turn Kearney's campus into an intake and classification facility, while Geneva's facility would be used for girls who are preparing to return to society.

The Lincoln facility would provide more intensive programming for male and female youths who aren't responding to treatment in Kearney.

State officials moved girls out of the Geneva facility in August after residents caused extensive damage.

Voices for Children in Nebraska offered 6 News a statement regarding the plan for the Youth Rehabilitation Centers. They believe the effort to be a poor investment and disagree with the plan. In their statement they provided the following bullet points as to why they are concerned.

    • Creates an additional youth prison, in an even more confined setting, at a time when states across the country are moving away from the failed model of youth incarceration.

    • Fails to use current best practices in assessment tools and treatments for behavioral health, and relies on a made-up model of behavior intervention (the “phase model”) that has not been tested for efficacy.

    • Adds additional instability for kids in our juvenile system who may be moved more frequently between facilities, discounting the importance of consistent, positive relationships with mentors and staff that are key to providing treatment focused services.

    • Invests additional resources in an outdated model of youth incarceration without making significant improvements to facilities, treatment modalities, or community-based services.

    • Invests significant resources in re-opening the YRTC-Geneva for a minimal number of girls (4-6) as a “transitional” facility that is geographically isolated from the home communities of the girls committed there.

“States across the country are recognizing youth incarceration as a failed model for dealing with misbehavior by young people. Opening another youth prison cannot solve the problems with our current youth prisons,” said Juliet Summers, Policy Coordinator for Voices of Children in Nebraska. “It’s past time to take a broader look at the system as whole and start investing in programs that work – like community-based services that keep kids connected to their families and communities while they work to address issues.”