Las Vegas Sun

November 21, 2014

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Justices urge lawmakers to embrace changes in Nevada’s juvenile justice system

CARSON CITY – A Nevada Supreme Court justice says there aren’t enough mental-health treatment programs in the state for juvenile delinquents who now must be sent out of state for counseling.

Justice James Hardesty said he hoped the 2015 Legislature would make it a priority to establish these treatment programs in Nevada as a less-expensive alternative to transferring the juveniles out of state.

Hardesty and Justice Nancy Saitta briefed the Legislative Committee on Child Welfare and Juvenile Justice on the accomplishments and priorities of a court commission study on juvenile problems.

Saitta said one goal of the judicial commission was to find a location in Northern Nevada for juvenile offenders from the northern part of the state so they could be closer to their homes.

Saitta noted the last Legislature accepted a recommendation to reopen Summit View in Clark County for juvenile offenders. It is now called Red Rock Academy and now houses 21 juveniles with 50 total beds available.

The state has decided to phase out the Nevada Youth Training Center in Elko in favor of placing the juveniles closer to their families. This system shows better results in turning around the offenders.

The National Conference of State Legislatures presented figures to the legislative committee that 65-70 percent of the two million juveniles arrested each year have a mental health disorder.

The conference said a new trend has developed that shows a steady decrease in juvenile crime beginning in 1994 when states started to adopt new policies, such as giving more discretion to juvenile courts in deciding the punishment and need for treatment.

Assemblyman Jason Frierson, D-Las Vegas, chairman of the legislative committee, named a task force to study specific areas such as the ability of adult prisons to provide appropriate housing and programming for youthful offenders who are certified as adults.

Frierson said the legislative committee would meet four times and must have its recommendations ready by the end of April.

The legislative committee, its task force and the judicial commission pledged to work together in improving the system.

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