Juvenile Justice Reforms Win Praise

By Racioppi, Dustin | The Record (Bergen County, NJ), August 19, 2015 | Go to article overview

Juvenile Justice Reforms Win Praise


Racioppi, Dustin, The Record (Bergen County, NJ)


State lawmakers and local officials on Tuesday celebrated a series of juvenile justice reforms that took more than a year to craft and were signed into law last week.

The reforms come amid national focus on the criminal justice system after abuses on youths uncovered at Rikers Island in New York and the death of a Texas woman in a jail cell in June. And overhauls are one of the few issues on which most, if not all, candidates in the 2016 race for president can find consensus.

The changes signed by Governor Christie last week are considered progressive in their approach to handling juvenile offenders, focusing on rehabilitation instead of severe punishment.

The new law limits the amount of time a youth offender may spend in solitary confinement - now called "room restriction" - to no more than five consecutive days and no more than 10 total days in a month. It also raises the minimum age at which an offender can be waived into adult court, from 14 to 15. The 30-day period to evaluate cases is also raised to 60 days. But the new law will permit those older than 15 charged with serious crimes, like murder and robbery, to be waived into adult court.

The law also raises the age, from 16 to 18, at which juveniles may be transferred to adult facilities, and those who are transferred must be notified of the reasons in writing.

"The new law strikes an appropriate balance in supporting juvenile offenders and their families as they rehabilitate their lives while ensuring those juveniles who commit adult-type crimes like murder can still receive adult sentences," said Sean Dalton, chief of the County Prosecutors Association, who worked with lawmakers on the bill.

Dalton and those legislators - including several from North Jersey - met at the Passaic County Administration Building in Paterson on Tuesday morning to tout the reforms. They were joined by state and local officials, including Paterson Mayor Joey Torres. …

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