‘It’s set up to fail’: Kansas youth justice leaders discuss state’s lack of progress (2023)

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Members of Progeny reform project express disappointment with legislative efforts

TOPEKA — The Kansas juvenile justice system is like a festering wound, said an activist saddened by lawmakers’ lack of action to help at-risk children and youths.

“We are not attending to the infection that exists in our country in general,” said Marquetta Atkins, a juvenile justice activist and community organizer. “But we want to put a Band-Aid on it by sending our kids to jail, and our wound is seeping when those kids come back out. Most of the time, they have more damage than when they went in.”


‘It’s set up to fail’: Kansas youth justice leaders discuss state’s lack of progress (1)

During an April 17 podcast recording, Kansas Reflector interviewedfour members of Progeny, an Wichita-based organization working to transform the state’s juvenile justice system.

Atkins, executive director of Progeny’s campaign team, along with Yusef Presley, Desmond Bryant-White and Tyler Williams are focused on closing the remaining state youth prison in Kansas and empowering youth in communities most affected by juvenile justice needs.

Akins talked aboutSenate Bill 367, a pivotal juvenile justice reform measure passed in 2016. It shifted Kansas away from holding youths in group homes or state custody, instead relying on community programs and treatments. SB 367 included limits on probation and case lengths, making it less common for youths to be detained or sent to correctional facilities.

“Every time I see people go up and try to demolish that bill or change that bill, it makes me sick to my stomach because our kids are not throwaways,” Atkins said. “We need to be doing better.”

Though juvenile incarceration rates and youth arrest rates have decreased in the six years since the legislation was implemented,officials have said young offenders aren’t receiving proper treatment and have high recidivism rates.

The state has millions set aside for juvenile crisis center funding and other reforms, which could potentially solve the current lack of resources for juvenile offenders, but it hasn’t used any of the funding.

Presley, who has spoken extensively about his own experiences within the foster care to juvenile prison pipeline, said the lack of action is telling.

“It’s set up to fail,” Presley said. “I feel like they’re doing this just to say, ‘Oh, look, we tried it, it didn’t work.’ But they’re not trying hard enough.”

(Video) Victim opens fire on would-be robbers in Melrose shootout

Juvenile delinquency cases have largely become the responsibility of foster care providers rather than community programs. Many foster care providers lack the time and resources to handle them.

At the beginning of this legislative session, several social workers and attorneysspoke against SB 367, telling lawmakers that the reform had made things worse, not better.

Atkins said none of the underlying issues with teenagers had been addressed during this session, with no one mentioning the significant issues that at-risk Kansas teenagers face, or the youths failed by a system that doesn’t offer adequate mental health resources or other support.

“I watched that session, when they were all testifying about Senate Bill 367,” Atkins said. “And it just made me sad. Too often we want to address the moon instead of tending to the infection and systemic issues that impact our young people, the school-to-prison pipeline, the trafficking that is heavy in Kansas, the foster care-to-prison pipelines that exist.”

‘It’s set up to fail’: Kansas youth justice leaders discuss state’s lack of progress (2)

Legislative response

Three juvenile justice bills have been debated in the Legislature, but little action has been taken so far.

One proposalthat would have eliminated the practice of youth fines and fees was killed early into the legislative session. Kansas exacts several different fines, fees, and costs from young people involved in juvenile court. The costs cover nearly all interactions with, and services ordered by, the juvenile court, and studies have shown the fees contribute to a cycle of recidivism. Teenagers with few resources struggle under a crushing financial burden.

Williams mentioned his own experience with prohibitive fines and fees at the age of 13 when testifying in support of the bill in January. A court ordered him to pay more than $1,000 in restitution to Geary County for transport from Oklahoma City to Junction City and court costs. For years, Williams struggled to get back on his feet and make his way as a young adult while paying back those fees.


‘It’s set up to fail’: Kansas youth justice leaders discuss state’s lack of progress (3)

Williams said he wanted to see more community efforts and problem solving.

House Bill 2021would extend case length limits for certain juvenile offenders, require the creation of juvenile justice data systems, encourage increased use of money for intervention programs and allow detention for probation violations. The bill has been debated in both chambers, but lawmakers haven’t decided on an amended version of the legislation yet.

House Bill 2033would change the criteria for admitting young offenders to juvenile crisis intervention centers and better define standards for behavioral health crises. HB 2033 passed the House 123-0, and was amended in a Senate committee, with final action yet to be taken.

‘It’s set up to fail’: Kansas youth justice leaders discuss state’s lack of progress (4)

The Progeny team members said they were disappointed with the lawmakers’ priorities. Bryant-White remembers bringing several youth leaders to Topeka to campaign for youth fine removal and seeing lawmakers spend time debating a new state fossil.

“This was important to y’all,” Bryant-White said. “But eliminating fines and fees for youth and putting them in a better position wasn’t priority enough?”

Atkins said lawmakers expected better behavior from Kansas youth than they practiced themselves, referencing several of the culture war debates, such as education and transgender politics.

“It’s crazy to me, outlandish,” Atkins said. “We’re in a place now where our systems are really frail, and our leaders are really weak, and it’s scary.”

(Video) House Committee on Corrections and Juvenile Justice 01/26/2023

Kansas Reflectoris part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Kansas Reflector maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sherman Smith for questions:info@kansasreflector.com. Follow Kansas Reflector onFacebookandTwitter.

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‘It’s set up to fail’: Kansas youth justice leaders discuss state’s lack of progress (9)

(Video) How States Treat Kids in the Juvenile Justice System


What are some problems with the juvenile justice system? ›

Data and research show that registries don't improve public safety.
  • Solitary Confinement & Harsh Conditions. Kids nationwide are facing solitary confinement, strip searches, and physical and sexual abuse. ...
  • Youth Interrogations & Access to Counsel. ...
  • Youth Tried as Adults.

What is considered the most important goal of the juvenile justice system? ›

The primary goals of the juvenile justice system, in addition to maintaining public safety, are skill development, habilitation, rehabilitation, addressing treatment needs, and successful reintegration of youth into the community.

What is the point of the juvenile justice system? ›

To hold youth who commit crimes accountable for their actions. To provide individualized assessments to rehabilitate and prevent further delinquent behavior through the development of educational, vocational, social, emotional and basic life skills which enable youth to grow and mature.

What is the juvenile law in Kansas? ›

Individuals as young as ten years of age and as old as 17 years of age may be adjudicated as juvenile offenders in Kansas. State law allows the KDOC to retain custody of a juvenile offender until the age of 22 ½ in a juvenile correctional facility and the age of 23 in the community.

What are two of the most common offenses committed by juveniles? ›

Some of the more common juvenile offenses include: theft, larceny, alcohol offenses, disturbing the peace, drug offenses, vandalism, assault, robbery, criminal trespass, harassment, fraud, burglary, loitering, possession of stolen property, possession of weapons and crimes committed on behalf of gangs.

What are 3 problems in the juvenile system? ›

Crimes like murder, arson, weapons crimes, and drug crimes. Offenses related to a child's own abuse and neglect, like aggravated assault, animal cruelty, neglect, and sex crimes (These criminal matters are often considered separately for juveniles because abused children may not understand their actions.)

What are the two main responsibilities of the juvenile justice system? ›

The juvenile justice system has two main responsibilities: to oversee cases involving (1) juvenile delinquency (criminal law violations and status offenses) and (2) dependency, neglect, and child abuse.

What are the 4 D's of juvenile justice? ›

In general, the four Ds—diversion, decriminalization, deinstitutionalization, and due process—have been advantageous to corrections' overall goals. These shifts in policy have lowered the number of minors entering the criminal justice system and shifted the emphasis from punishment to rehabilitation.

What are the 4 goals of juvenile corrections? ›

Goals of the Juvenile Justice System.

These include treatment programs, detention, incarceration, and community supervision. Generally, the system provides for escalating responses to offenses of increasing severity, such as informal probation, formal probation, detention, and incarceration.

Which are ways that cases are removed from the juvenile justice system? ›

Judicial waiver, statutory exclusion, and direct file are three mechanisms used to transfer juvenile offenders to adult court. Judicial waiver is the most popular method; 47 States and the District of Columbia provide judicial discretion to waive certain juveniles to criminal court.

What are the two types of cases handled by the juvenile courts? ›

The main types of cases heard and decided by Juvenile Court are as follows:
  • Delinquency Cases. Involve juveniles alleged to have committed an act that is a violation of a criminal law.
  • Traffic Cases. ...
  • Unruly Cases. ...
  • Neglect Cases. ...
  • Abuse Cases. ...
  • Dependent Cases. ...
  • Custody Cases. ...
  • Paternity Cases.

What is the most common formal sentence for juveniles? ›

Probation is perhaps the most common penalty in the juvenile justice system. Judges have considerable discretion to set the terms of probation. These may be specific to the circumstances of the case.

Are juvenile records sealed in Kansas? ›

Juvenile records are strictly protected in Kansas. The only means to obtain your own juvenile history is to positively identify yourself by fingerprint submission to the Central Repository at the KBI.

What are the Miranda rights for juveniles in Kansas? ›

Your Miranda Rights:

say or do can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to speak to an attorney, and to have an attorney present during any questioning. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you at government expense.”

What behavior is illegal for juveniles? ›

A status offense is a noncriminal act that is considered a law violation only because of a youth's status as a minor. 1 Typical status offenses include truancy, running away from home, violating curfew, underage use of alcohol, and general ungovernability.

What is the most common juvenile court outcome? ›

Probation has been called the "workhorse" of the juvenile justice system -- according to the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, probation is the most common disposition in juvenile cases that receive a juvenile court sanction.

What are the top three offenses committed by juveniles? ›

They may face charges for incorrigibility if they refuse to obey their parents. Approximately half of all juvenile arrests are due to disorderly conduct, drug abuse, simple assault, theft or curfew violations.

What is the most commonly committed juvenile crimes? ›

Most Common Juvenile Crimes

Roughly half of all youth arrests are made on account of theft, simple assault, drug abuse, disorderly conduct, and curfew violations.

What offenses would cause a youth to be brought before a juvenile court? ›

Most juvenile courts have jurisdiction over criminal delinquency, abuse and neglect, and status offense delinquency cases. Criminal delinquency cases are those in which a child has committed an act that would be a crime if committed by an adult.

What is the most common diagnosis in the juvenile legal system? ›

Of youth involved with the juvenile justice system, estimates suggest that approximately 15% to 30% have diagnoses of depression or dysthymia (pervasive depressive disorder) [35], 13% to 30% have diagnoses of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, 3%–7% have diagnoses of bipolar disorder [16,36], and 11% to 32% have ...

What state has the lowest juvenile crime rate? ›

Juvenile delinquency statistics by state

Connecticut, Hawaii, Vermont, New Hampshire, and North Carolina have the lowest rates. State-level juvenile arrest rates (also defined by number per 100,000) vary significantly depending on the type of violation.

What is the final stage in a juvenile case? ›

If the judge determines that the minor committed the crime, the last step in the juvenile court process is the disposition hearing, where the minor's punishment is determined.

What are the constitutional rights for defendants in the juvenile justice system? ›

The United States Supreme Court has held that in juvenile commitment proceedings, juvenile courts must afford to juveniles basic constitutional protections, such as advance notice of the charges, the right to counsel, the right to confront and cross-examine adverse witnesses, and the right to remain silent.

What are the five basic principles of the juvenile court system? ›

The key philosophical principles of the juvenile court movement: • The state is the “higher or ultimate parent.” • Children are worth saving. Children should be nurtured. Justice needs to be individualized. The needs of the child mandate use of noncriminal procedures.

What are the 5 stages of criminal justice? ›

The chart summarizes the most common events in the criminal and juvenile justice systems including entry into the criminal justice system, prosecution and pretrial services, adjudication, sentencing and sanctions, and corrections.

What are the three basic components of the juvenile justice system? ›

The major components of the juvenile justice system are also featured, including law enforcement, prosecution and the courts, and corrections.

What are the three models of the juvenile justice system? ›


Do juveniles have due process rights? ›

The U.S. Supreme Court found that juveniles are entitled to many of the same due process protections as adults, including the right to counsel, in In re Gault.

What are the 4 stages the juvenile justice system moves through? ›

What are the steps or stages in the juvenile justice system? The juvenile justice system is a multistage process: (1) delinquent behavior, (2) referral, (3) intake/​diversion, (4) transfer/​waiver, (5) detention, (6) adjudication, (7) disposition, (8) juvenile corrections and (9) aftercare.

What are the 5 sentencing goals of corrections? ›

Punishment has five recognized purposes: deterrence, incapacitation, rehabilitation, retribution, and restitution.

What do the most successful juvenile delinquency programs do? ›

The most successful community programs emphasize family interactions and provide skills to the adults who supervise and train the child.

What sanction is the most common result of juvenile court adjudications? ›

Meaning that most juveniles who are processed end up being on probation.

What is an example of juvenile justice? ›

In the context of juvenile justice, examples of supervision include probation, youth supervision orders, youth training centers, and parole orders.

What is the single most important juvenile case? ›

Identify and briefly describe the single most important U.S. Supreme Court case with respect to juvenile justice. The case was In re Gault, decided by the Supreme Court in 1967. In this case, a minor was arrested for allegedly making an obscene phone call.

What are the 4 types of cases? ›

Redefined “Four Types of Cases;”
Definition and scope
  • They are major, difficult, complex, or sensitive;
  • They involve mass disputes or cause widespread societal concern, which might affect social stability;
  • They might conflict with the judgments and rulings of the court or a higher level people's court in similar cases;
Feb 21, 2022

Which juvenile disposition is the least punitive? ›

The least punitive is an “Adjourned Disposition” where the juvenile can “earn” the dismissal of his/her charge by fulfilling certain conditions such as restitution, community service, counseling, or school attendance for a specified period.

What is the longest sentence in juvenile court? ›

Because everything was new to me – just about everything". Upon his release, Ligon became America's longest serving juvenile lifer, having served 68 years behind bars. The Vera Institute of Justice estimated it cost the state of Pennsylvania nearly three million dollars ($44,000/year) to incarcerate him.

What is a sentence for juvenile delinquent? ›

The most common penalties for minors convicted of a juvenile crime include informal probation, court ordered treatment or counseling, placement in foster care, enrollment in a juvenile offender school, or commitment to a state juvenile detention center.

Who usually decides what charges to bring against the juvenile? ›

The decision as to which charges should be brought against the juvenile is the responsibility of the prosecution. Additionally, the prosecution is responsible for deciding whether the case should be redirected, adjudicated, or dismissed.

What felonies Cannot be expunged in Kansas? ›

Convictions for murder, manslaughter, child abuse, rape, and most other sexual offenses can never be expunged.

Do juvenile records get sealed when you turn 18 in Kansas? ›

Your Juvenile Record Does Not Disappear When You Turn 18! “ Most juvenile records in Kansas are available to the public unless they are expunged.”

What rights do juveniles have in the 14th Amendment? ›

Youth have the right to:

emergency mental health services. a professional evaluation and development of a treatment plan. periodic follow-up evaluations. regular mental health services, including treatment.

Can police question a minor without parents in Kansas? ›

In a nutshell, yes. The police, including officers on the street and school police officers, generally aren't required to contact parents or get their permission before questioning a child.

Which due process rights are denied to juveniles? ›

Juveniles don't have all of the same constitutional rights in juvenile proceedings as adults do. For example, juveniles' adjudication hearings are heard by judges because youthful offenders don't have the right to a trial by jury of their peers. They also don't have the right to bail or to a public trial.

What is an act that violates the law in juvenile court called? ›

Delinquency: Acts or conduct in violation of criminal law. (See “reason for referral.”) Delinquent act: An act committed by a juvenile which, if committed by an adult, would be a criminal act. The juvenile court has jurisdiction over delinquent acts.

What is an example of juvenile delinquent behavior? ›

Running away - Leaving the custody and home of parents or guardians without permission and failing to return within a reasonable length of time. Truancy - Violation of a compulsory school attendance law. Underage drinking - Possession, use, or consumption of alcohol by a minor.

What is the biggest problem in the justice system? ›

“The largest challenges the modern criminal justice system faces today includes violence against women, the addiction epidemic, and lack of trust between peace officers and citizens. Some of these challenges can be resolved a bit easier than others.”

What are the negatives of juvenile detention? ›

Incarcerating youth undermines public safety, damages young people's physical and mental health, impedes their educational and career success, and often exposes them to abuse.

What are three challenges and unique issues that the juvenile justice system faces in the 21st century? ›

According to Bartollas & Miller (2008) the challenges and unique issues the juvenile justice system face in the 21st century includes improving condition of confinement, fair treatment for children of color, health care, security, children with mental health issues, reducing overcrowding, securing resources for ...

How can the justice system be improved? ›

Criminal Justice Policy Solutions
  1. Promote Community Safety through Alternatives to Incarceration. ...
  2. Create Fair and Effective Policing Practices. ...
  3. Promote Justice in Pre-Trial Services & Practices. ...
  4. Enhance Prosecutorial Integrity. ...
  5. Ensure Fair Trials and Quality Indigent Defense. ...
  6. Encourage Equitable Sentencing.

Why is the criminal justice system unfair? ›

The evidence for racial disparities in the criminal justice system is well documented. The disproportionate racial impact of certain laws and policies, as well as biased decision making by justice system actors, leads to higher rates of arrest and incarceration in low-income communities of color.

What makes the justice system corrupt? ›

In a corrupt judicial system, money and influence may decide which cases are prioritised or dismissed. Perpetrators may get away unpunished while victims are left with no answer and no justice.

What are the effects of a failed justice system? ›

Consequences: When justice systems fail, “Rule of Law” does not exist and law as an autopoietic systems does not work. When justice systems fail, laws and lawyers become instruments of injustice and oppression rather than swords and shields fighting for justice and equality.

When the justice system fails? ›

If the criminal justice system has failed to meet your needs, remember that you have options to pursue civil remedies, including orders of protection and restitution. You also may have options seeking justice through tribal court, both civil and criminal.

Why juveniles shouldn't be tried as adults? ›

The lack of brain development makes children more susceptible to committing crimes. Impulsivity causes adolescent convicts to make irrational decisions which leads them to commit crimes. Reward sensitivity and sensation-seeking motivate youth to engage in risky acts causing them to engage in illegal activity.

How does juvenile detention affect mental health? ›

Minors who are housed in juvenile detention facilities have a rate of mental health disorders that is three times that of the general youth population. In fact, studies have shown that between 65 and 70 percent of minors in the juvenile justice system have a diagnosable mental health condition.

What has changed in the juvenile justice system? ›

During the past two decades, major reform efforts in juvenile justice have focused on reducing the use of detention and secure confinement; improving conditions of confinement; closing large institutions and reinvesting in community-based programs; providing high-quality, evidence-based services for youth in the ...

What are the two types of cases that the juvenile justice system handles? ›

Two types of cases are processed by a juvenile court: civil matters, usually concerning care of an abandoned child or one whose parents cannot support him; and criminal matters arising from antisocial behaviour by the child.


1. The September 13th 2022 Kansas State Board of Education Meeting
(KSDE Livemedia)
2. Kansas Criminal Justice Reform Commission 09/14/2020
(KS Legislature)
3. Joint Committee on Corrections and Juvenile Justice Oversight 10/26/2021
(KS Legislature)
4. Joint Committee on Child Welfare System Oversight 11/17/2022
(KS Legislature)
5. Examining Ways to Improve the Juvenile Justice System and Support America's Young People
(Committee on Education & the Workforce Democrats)
6. Joint Committee on Corrections, Juvenile Justice and Child Welfare and Foster Care
(KS Legislature)
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