In an effort to acknowledge the State’s dedication to youth involved in the Juvenile Justice System, Utah agencies, legislators and youth gathered at the Youth Advocate of the Year Ceremony to highlight significant contributions made toward improving the State’s Juvenile Justice System.
Held at the Salt Lake Valley Detention Center, Sens. Aaron Osmond and Daniel Thatcher; and Reps. V. Lowry Snow and Eric Hutchings were recognized for their work in the 2015 legislative session that helped to identify and address needed improvements as groundwork for future change.
Their efforts resulted in passed legislation that included improvements such as legal representation for juveniles, prohibiting unnecessary shackling of juveniles in court, more flexibility for juvenile judges in retaining youth in the juvenile system rather than sending them to the adult system, and allowing juveniles convicted as adults to be housed in juvenile-secure facilities.
“This legislation has gained national attention,” said Pam Vickrey, Executive Director at the Utah Juvenile Defender Attorneys. “The state of Utah is a leader in regards to reform in the Juvenile Justice System.”
The event also acknowledged the leadership of Juvenile Court Judges C. Dane Nolan and James R. Michie, who helped to adopt the changes impacting youth and the judicial system.
“We recognize in our system today that youth are different than adults and our judges and legislators recognize it as well,” said Susan Burke, Director of the Division of Juvenile Justice Services. “We’re grateful for their tireless dedication in providing improved solutions for Utah’s youth.”
Members and leaders from the Utah Board of Juvenile Justice, the Utah Division of Juvenile Justice Services, the Utah Juvenile Court and the public were also in attendance.
More on the Youth Advocate of the Year Ceremony and Honored Guests:
- Sen. Osmond and Rep. Snow co-sponsored SB 167, Juvenile Offender Amendments, which was passed during the 2015 legislative session. This legislation provides legal representation for juveniles, prohibits shackling of juveniles in court unless there is a public safety need to do so, allows juveniles convicted as adults to be housed in juvenile secure facilities, and allows juvenile judges more flexibility in retaining juveniles in the juvenile system rather than sending them to the adult system.
- Sen. Thatcher and Rep. Hutchings supported appropriating funds to the Division of Juvenile Justice Services (JJS) for youth services and receiving centers. The appropriations was passed during the 2015 session and allowed JJS to open two new centers in Price and Vernal. JJS was also able to restore hours of operation at other centers that had previously cut back hours due to lost funding.
- Judges Michie and Nolan were instrumental in educating their judicial peers about the changes and promoting a youth development approach in their courtrooms.