4/25/2017 1:30:00 PM Juvenile justice program focus of Cass Board presentation
MONICA LUNDQUIST Cass County Correspondent
BACKUS-Cass County Probation Director Jim Schneider described for the county board Tuesday Minnesota's effort to minimize the number of juveniles ending up in the state's correctional system.
Schneider serves as the Minnesota Probation Officers Association representative to a statewide committee the Legislature charged with overseeing juvenile justice programs.
Congress passed in 1974 the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act.
That act stipulates that juveniles charged with lesser offenses such as truancy, curfew violation, running away or alcohol and tobacco possession or consumption should not be placed in secure detention or correctional facilities.
It stipulates juveniles who are incarcerated must be held in an area out of sight or sound from adult offenders. It stipulates juveniles cannot be held in an adult lockup facility more than six hours in a metropolitan county or 24 hours in a rural county.
It also calls for an effort to reduce disproportionate juvenile justice contacts with minorities-higher numbers of arrests and convictions of minority juveniles compared with their overall population in their geographic area.
Schneider believes the federal government has a responsibility to fund the 1974 law, but he said he has seen a decline in federal juvenile justice financial support in recent years.
Minnesota's highest federal allocation year for juvenile justice was 2002 when Minnesota received $6,152,300. Federal funding has decreased 90 percent since then.
The Minnesota committee meets nine times a year to review the state's progress toward meeting the federal goals and to identify successful county programs to help more children involved in minor problems from developing into major issues that lead them to ultimately end up in a correctional facility, he said.
The state committee annually updates a three-year juvenile justice plan, reports to the governor on the state's progress toward meeting the federal guidelines, advises on what the governor and legislators can do to meet goals and awards federal funds to programs designed to improve outcomes.
Local human services and judicial system personnel try to work with parents to support juveniles who are having problems-or with foster parents when natural parents are not supportive enough, he said.
One helpful service Minnesota lost with the closing of its Regional Treatment Centers was an inpatient mental health service for juveniles, Schneider said.
"It was a place to keep juveniles safe from themselves until they mature enough to have better success with managing their problems," he said. The state currently offers no specialized mental health inpatient facilities for juveniles, he added.
The 2016 Minnesota Juvenile Justice Advisory Committee Annual Report shows the number of juvenile citations issued in Minnesota for major and minor crimes against people and property dropped from 79,000 a year in 1997 to 23,000 in 2015.
However, citations issued to ethnic minority juveniles increased from 23 percent of the overall under age 18 population in 1997 to 40 percent in 2015.
State district courts found juveniles delinquent in 3,837 cases in 2015. Of those, 32 percent were Caucasian, 32 percent were African American, 9 percent were Hispanic, 8 percent were American Indian, 7 percent were mixed race and 1 percent were Asian. Race was unknown in 9 percent of the convictions.
In 2015, there were 17,460 juveniles under probation supervision, a number that has declined since 2002.
Cass County only holds one to three juveniles a year for the allowed 24 hours in its jail at Walker, Schneider said. Most juveniles are released to their parents or an out of home placement at a group or foster home.
Those youth who commit more serious crimes generally are taken to Northwest Juvenile Center at Bemidji where there are secure and non-secure facilities serving only youth, Schneider said. Since the juvenile center at Brainerd closed, it means a long transport to Bemidji now if a youth is picked up in southern Cass, he said.
Second publication rights after Brainerd Dispatch.