Juvenile Justice

We are pleased to announce that the Annie E. Casey Foundation has released the 2021 Kids Count Data Book.
Access the book today at www.aecf.org/databook

Background

For 15 years it has been the priority of the Utah KIDS COUNT Project to ensure that policymakers, advocates, community service providers, the media, and concerned citizens have quality data on how children are doing in our state. These yearly publications provide county level data on a variety of child well-being indicators.Utah showed strong gains in key indicators of child well-being from 2010 to 2019, according to the 2021 KIDS COUNT® Data Book, a 50-state report on child well-being by the Annie E. Casey Foundation analyzing how children are doing in four domains encompassing 16 child well-being indicators.

Summary of the 2021 Utah Kids Count Data 

This year’s Data Book shows nearly a decade of progress in all but two of the indicators.

Troublesome indicators appear in the Health domain as low birth-weight babies and child and teen death rates both saw increases over the decade. The percentage of babies born at low birth weight rose from 7.0% in 2010 to 7.4% in 2019, a 6% increase; Utah fell in the national rankings from 12th to13th in this indicator. Similarly, the child and teen death rate rose from 24 deaths per 100,000 children in 2010 to 26 in 2019, an 8% increase. Utah fell in the rankings for this indicator from 14th to 24th.

While Utah showed improvement in most areas of child well-being over the last decade, when comparing 2020 data to 2021 data our rankings from last year fell in all but one category:

- Overall ranking fell from 4th to 5th

- Economic Well-Being fell from 2nd to 5th

- Health ranking fell from 13th to 18th

- Family and Community fell from 1st to 2nd

- Education remained the same at 10th

“The bad news is Utah is not keeping pace with the states that continue to improve,” said Terry Haven, deputy director of Voices for Utah Children, Utah’s member of the KIDS COUNT network.
“The good news is it wouldn’t take much to help our rankings start trending upward again. For example, if Utah wanted to rank number one in percentage of low birth-weight babies, it would only have to reduce the number by 532 babies.”

Impact of the Pandemic on Utah Kids

Sixteen indicators measuring four domains — economic well-being, education, health, and family and community context — are used by the Annie E. Casey Foundation in each year’s Data Book to assess child well-being. The annual KIDS COUNT data and rankings represent the most recent information available but do not capture the impact of the past year:

ECONOMIC WELL-BEING: In 2019, 91,000 children lived in households with an income below the poverty line. Nationally, Utah is praised for its economic success, but Utah families continue to face rapidly increasing housing costs. Utah ranked 10th in 2018 for children living in households that spend more than 30% of their income on housing, and the state dropped to 17th in 2019. With the current housing prices in Utah, it is quite possible this trend will get worse.

EDUCATION: In 2019, Utah education ranking held steady at 10th in the nation. However, Utah’s early education numbers still lag behind much of the country with close to 60% of 3- and 4-year olds not attending school. Utah ranks in the bottom third of states for this indicator.

AFFORDABLE HEALTH CARE: In 2019, 82,000 children in Utah did not have health insurance. The state made an effort to provide all children in Utah with health insurance through the passage of legislation. While the bill was enacted, not enough funding was appropriated to cover all kids. Utah continues to rank 41st in the nation for uninsured children.

FAMILY AND COMMUNITY CONTEXT: Utah has consistently ranked first in the category but fell a bit in 2019 to second. Utah did make improvements in the number of children in single-parent families. In 2018, Utah had 174,000 children in single-parent families but in 2019, the number dropped to 168,000 children.

Let's Continue to #InvestInUtahKids

Investing in children, families and communities is a priority to ensure an equitable and expansive recovery. Several of the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s suggestions have already been enacted in the American Rescue Plan, and additional recommendations include:

  1. Congress should make the expansion of the child tax credit permanent. The child tax credit has long had bipartisan support, so lawmakers should find common cause and ensure the largest one-year drop ever in child poverty is not followed by a surge.
  2. State and local governments should prioritize the recovery of hard-hit communities of color.
  3. States should expand income support that helps families care for their children. Permanently extending unemployment insurance eligibility to contract, gig and other workers and expanding state tax credits would benefit parents and children.
  4. States that have not done so should expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. The American Rescue Plan offers incentives to do so.
  5. States should strengthen public schools and pathways to postsecondary education and training.

Release Information

The 2021 KIDS COUNT® Data Book is available at https://www.aecf.org/resources/2021-kids-count-data-book. Journalists interested in creating maps, graphs and rankings in stories about the Data Book can use the KIDS COUNT Data Center at datacenter.kidscount.org.                                                                             

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Salt Lake City - Voices for Utah Children released publicly today (January 6, 2021)  "#InvestInUtahKids: An Agenda for Utah's New Governor and Legislature," the first major publication of our new #InvestInUtahKids initiative. 

Utah begins a new era in this first week of January, with the swearing in of a new Governor and Lt. Governor and a new Legislature. The arrival of 2021 marks the first time in over a decade that the state has seen this kind of leadership transition. Last month Voices for Utah Children began sharing with the Governor-elect and his transition teams the new publication, and on Wednesday morning Voices will share it with the public as well.

The new publication raises concerns about the growing gaps among Utah's different racial, ethnic, and economic groups and lays out the most urgent and effective policies to close those gaps and help all Utah children achieve their full potential in the years to come in five policy areas: 

  • Early education 
  • K-12 education 
  • Healthcare
  • Juvenile justice
  • Immigrant family justice

The report, which was initially created in December and distributed to the incoming Governor and his transition teams, closes with a discussion of how to pay for the proposed #InvestInUtahKids policy agenda. The pdf of the report can be downloaded here

Published in News & Blog
July 30, 2020

Juvenile Justice

Dedicated to creating a more fair and equitable juvenile justice system 

Utah’s juvenile justice system has a lot to be proud of.  Thanks to legislative and community efforts over the last several years, our system has become smaller, less punitive, and more youth-centered. Youth and their families now have greater access to early interventions that prevent court-involvement, rather than only having access to support and help once misconduct occurs. State and local stakeholders utilize more evidence-based programming, and make decisions driven by data and collaboration. 

Equity, however, remains an elusive goal for Utah’s reform efforts. Despite many strong policy reforms, children of color still are overrepresented in our juvenile justice system. This is true from the first point of contact with law enforcement and other authority figures, all the way to secure care adjudications for youth who are deep in the system. Children who identify as LGBTQ+, have disabilities and come from low-income families also struggle to have their needs met within our system. 

We want to ensure that all youth have access to interventions and supports that work for them and for their families. These resources should be available early and often, before youth misbehavior becomes dangerous for the youth themselves, as well as for the broader community. Voices for Utah Children is dedicated to promoting policies and recommendations that contribute to a more fair and equitable juvenile justice system for all Utah youth.

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While racial and ethnic disparities in the system have always been part of the reform conversation, equitable treatment and representation of all children (regardless of race and/or ethnicity) was not an explicit goal. So, four years later, how has our juvenile justice system improved with regard to equity?

The more pointed question is, has our system improved at all when it comes to the equitable treatment of children of color?

Voices for Utah Children is proud to announce the release of our new report, “Striving for Equity in Utah’s Juvenile Justice System,” an update to a collaborative 2017 report on racial and ethnic disparities in Utah’s juvenile justice system. 

Co-authored by policy analysts Ciriac Alvarez Valle and Anna Thomas, “Striving for Equity” shows that while enormous strides have been made in the past four years toward improving Utah’s juvenile justice system, equitable treatment of youth of color remains elusive. While the system overall has shrunk in size - youth arrests, referrals and petitions to court and admissions to locked to detention are all on the decline - youth who identify as Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) comprise a growing portion of the court-involved population. 

In our writing of this report, we were unsurprised to learn the following: when efforts to achieve equity are not intentional and direct, equitable outcomes remain elusive. 

While Utah’s juvenile justice system has decreased in size, overall, disparities between different racial/ethnic groups mostly have gotten worse. For example: 

  • In 2015, white children made up about 75% of the school-aged youth population in Utah, and only 58% of petitions to juvenile court. In 2019, white children were 74.2% of the general population, and only 51.8% of petitions to juvenile court. 
  • In 2015, Black children made up slightly more than 1% of the school-aged youth population in Utah - but 5% of all petitions to juvenile court. In 2019, Black children were still close to just 1% of the general population...but made up 6.9% of all petitions to juvenile court. 
  • In 2019, children of color made up the majority of youth in both locked detention and secure care facilities in Utah. In four years, non-white children grew from 43% of locked detention admissions to nearly 51%, and from a disappointing 54% of the secure care population to a staggering 61.2%. 

The report - which uses 2019 data from the Administrative Office of the Courts, the Division of Juvenile Justice Services, the Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice and the Bureau of Crime Statistics - also explore state progress on recommendations made in the 2017 report, and makes new recommendations for policymakers and community members to pursue in 2020. 

Utah deserves plenty of accolades for juvenile justice system improvements so far; making equity a more explicit goal in the state’s system reform efforts could position Utah’s juvenile justice system as the best in the nation. 

Special thanks to the Utah Division of Multicultural Affairs for its support in the development of this report (including layout and design by Ephraim Kum, community engagement intern for the MCA), and also to the Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice for its support (specifically from UBJJ/JJOC Co-Directors Kayley Richards and Van Nguyen) in obtaining and clarifying specific data points. 

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The Justice & Equality for Kids (JE4K) Rountable developed the pdfCommunity Compact on Restorative Justice to bring integrity and focus to ongoing efforts to make our schools safer, our juvenile justice system more effective and compassionate, and our communities healthier. 

Utahns have heard more and more about Restorative Justice over the past decade, sometimes in legislative proposals - such as this excellent offering by Rep. Sandra Hollins (R-Salt Lake) - and sometimes as part of discussions of about school-based discipline - such as this less instructive definition within the Utah State Board of Education's administative rules (R277-613-2.10). The term has been mentioned frequently in discussions about the appropriate role of School Resource Officers (SROs) practicing in Utah, as well as during the extensive juvenile justice reform process initiated by state leaders back in 2016. 

Unfortunately, once a complex and deep-rooted philosophy becomes a buzzword, things can get a little hazy with regards to principles and definitions! But Restorative Justice does have a specific definition, grounded in historical pratice by indigenous cultures and built upon several key interrelated principles. The Community Compact on Restorative Justice is our iteration of that definition, developed in partnership with local Restorative Justice practitioners. It is an honest effort, by multiple community stakeholders, to assert that you can't just slap a "Restorative Justice" label on a random diversion program, and expect it to produce the positive results that are associated with the practice of this philosophy. 

If you prefer to add an audiovisual element to your review of the Community Compact on Restorative Justice, JE4K Roundtable members unveiled the Compact for the first time at the Fourth Annual Breaking the Pipeline Symposium in March, hosted by fellow JE4K Roundatble member organization, Racially Just Utah. Here is a link to the livestreamed event, with discussion of the Community Compact on Restorative Justice beginning around the 39:09 minute mark. 

It is hard to define Restorative Justice in a linear fashion, in a way that fits neatly into a slogan or list of bullet points. That is because the philosophy was not conceived in a linear way, and not developed by cultures that communicate in slogans or bullet points. That is why our Community Compact on Restorative Justice works together with a few simplified graphics, that stress the multi-dimensional nature of the approach. Below is the first and most foundational of the three graphics. The pdfsecond graphic and pdfthird graphic demonstrate the practical application of these principles in an education and a juvenile justice setting, respectively. 

JE4K RJ Compact Graphic 3

So far, several organizations have signed on to the Community Compact on Restorative Justice - including the following members of our JE4K Roundtable: 

We would like your organization to join us on this list, and commit to holding restorative justice programs in our state to this standard. Your participation will also signal your organization's intention and commitment to practicing restorative justice in a manner that is based on this understanding of Restorative Justice. Our intent is to share this definition of Restorative Justice with governmental and community partners, toward the end of pushing policy in the direction of a more restorative framework.

For example, as we take part in policy conversations about "school safety" in the era of Parkland, Newtown and Santa Fe, we will continually point our stakeholder/partners to the underlying principles in this definition. That means a successful approach to school safety - if it truly aspires to be restorative - must be primarily preventative, relationship-based and encompassing of the whole school community. "Solutions" that focus only on emergency drills, mobilizing law enforcement, high-tech gadgetry and threat assessments cannot claim to be restorative, and will not lead to the positive outcomes associated with Restorative Justice practices (one of those positive outcomes being safe schools!). These approaches, when utilized, can and should be grounded in Restorative Justice principles, in order to ensure prevention of future problems rather than simply mitigation of current ones.  

Restorative Justice

NOT Restorative Justice

A values-based approach to building trust, strengthening relationships and resolving conflict. A discretely-packaged program with a defined curriculum that will work in any setting, from school to prison. 
A philosophy with deep roots in many indigenous cultures, with broad practical application.  A cool new idea, created by modern professionals and espoused only by bleeding heart liberals. 
Practices are primarily preventative and can be easily integrated into other activities.  Practices are only employed after harm has been caused and all "traditional" solutions exhausted.  
Example: Law enforcement officers and administrators meet regularly with community members to discuss neighborhood needs and issues.  Example: City officials hold an annual Town Hall where frustrated and angry community members sit in a circle and vent their frustrations at members of the local police department, who are forced to attend and listen. 
Example: Bringing a group of students together to check in about their day before beginning the lesson.   Example: Forcing a student who has bullied a peer to apologize, then sit with the bullied student at lunch for a month to "get to know her." 

 

Restorative Justice is harder to explain than an active shooter drill or counseling program. It requires more than the hiring of a few new staff people, or the implementation of a new curriculum. It is not a quick fix, but it is a research-supported and fruitful investment in our community's health, prosperity and safety. This approach is worth the investment of time and intention, and we will continue to champion its principles in Utah's education, justice, and community landscapes in order to achieve the best possible outcomes for Utah kids. 

To add your organization's name to this Compact, please contact the JE4K Roundtable via

Published in News & Blog

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: January 31, 2019 
CONTACT: Anna Thomas, Senior Policy Analyst, , (720) 275-1557

Report: Utah children face barriers to accessing defense attorneys in juvenile court system

“And Justice For All Kids: A Children’s Right to ‘The Guiding Hand of Counsel’ and the State of Defense Representation for Children In Utah’s Juvenile Courts,” gives recommendations to improve outcomes for children appearing in court.

Jan. 31, 2019 — A new report by Voices for Utah Children and the University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law released today outlines startling concerns about youth access to defense attorneys in Utah’s juvenile courts system.

And Justice For All Kidsnotes several barriers youth face in access to full legal representation when appearing in juvenile court a number of negative outcomes associated with insufficient legal defense counsel in juvenile courts. 

The report shares several key findings, including: 

  • Young people who appear in juvenile court in rural counties don’t have the same access to full legal representation as youth in urban counties;
  • Young people face practical and procedural barriers to exercising their right to be represented by a defense attorney at court hearings, even at detention hearings when their liberty is at stake; and 
  • Utah juvenile court judges overwhelmingly support a system that provides an attorney for every youth appearing in their courtrooms, from initial proceedings until termination of jurisdiction.

There are also several recommendations made in the report, with the intent of strengthening Utah’s juvenile defense system. One key recommendation is to pass legislation currently proposed by Sen. Todd Weiler (R-Woods Cross), “SB32, Indigent Defense Act Amendments,” during the 2019 session.

S.J. Quinney College of Law students, supported by staff from Voices for Utah Children, observed nearly 200 court proceedings in almost all Utah counties, and conducted interviews with twenty of Utah’s 30 sitting juvenile court judges, to inform And Justice For All Kids.   

pdfThe full report is available for download here

For a free print copy, contact Voices for Utah Children at (801) 364-1182. 

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School disciplinary actions are decreasing in Utah’s public school system, but disparities in the amount of discipline administered along racial lines continues to exist and in some cases has worsened, according to a new joint report released today by the University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law and Voices for Utah Children, a non-profit in Salt Lake City focused on children’s issues.

The report, Misbehavior or Misdemeanor? A Report on the Utah’s School to Prison Pipeline, builds on two earlier reports produced by the S.J. Quinney College of Law Public Policy Clinic focused on the current state of Utah’s school-to-prison pipeline. In October 2014, the clinic released From Fingerpaint to Fingerprints: The School to Prison Pipeline in Utah” and in May 2015, the clinic released “Disparities in Discipline: A Look at School Disciplinary Actions for Utah’s American Indian Students”.

In the newest report, researcher Vanessa Walsh, a 2016 S.J. Quinney College of Law graduate now employed with Salt Lake County’s Criminal Justice Advisory Council, teamed up with Lincoln Nehring, director of the S.J. Quinney College of Law’s Public Policy Clinic and CEO of Voices for Utah Children, to explore how trends have shifted in school discipline since the publication of the earlier reports.

The duo found that while Utah saw nearly a 30 percent reduction in school disciplinary actions from the 2011-12 school year to the 2013-14 school year (the most recent data available), discipline rates of students who are racial minorities are still elevated in comparison to white peers.  “The worsening disparity among racial lines remains troubling,” said Nehring.

The newest report also found:

● In the 2013-2014 school year, almost 9 percent of black students, 8.5 percent of American Indian students, and approximately 5 percent of Pacific Islander and Hispanic students received a suspension. In comparison, only slightly more than 2 percent of white students were suspended.
● In the 2011–12 school year, Hispanic students were 1.3 times more likely than white students to be expelled. This increased to 2.3 times more likely in 2013–14. Asian students were less likely than white students to be expelled in 2011, but they were 3.3 times more likely to be expelled in the 2013-14.
● During the 2013–14 school year, 1.5 percent of American Indian students and almost 1.2 percent of black students were referred to law enforcement. In comparison, less than one half of one percent (0.4 percent) of white students received this action
● American Indian students were 6.2 times more likely than white classmates to be arrested at school in the 2011–12 school year. That disparity increased to 8.8 times more likely in the 2013–14 school year. Similarly, students who identified as Pacific Islander were 1.7 times more likely to be arrested at school in 2011–12 and 3.3 times more likely in 2013–14.
● American Indian student feel the brunt of school disciplinary actions in every category except in-school suspensions, researchers found. Overall,10.3 percent of all American Indian students received some sort of school disciplinary action in the 2013–14 school year. In comparison, 5.6 percent of all other students of color received an action, and 2.6 percent of the white student population received an action.

“Fewer students are being exposed to the juvenile justice system as a result of referrals to law enforcement while at school and school related arrests but as was the case in 2011-12, our American Indian students continue to disproportionately receive these actions,” said Walsh. “These actions directly expose students to the justice system and can leave these students with a juvenile record.”

The researchers will continue to track school discipline rates as part of their ongoing efforts to study the school-to-prison pipeline.

View full report: pdfMisbehavior or Misdemeanor? A Report on the Utah’s School to Prison Pipeline

 


For 30 years now, Voices for Utah Children has called on our state, federal and local leaders to put children’s needs first. But the work is not done. The children of 30 years ago now have children of their own. Too many of these children are growing up in poverty, without access to healthcare or quality educational opportunities.

How can you be involved?

Make a tax-deductible donation to Voices for Utah Children—or join our Network with a monthly donation of $20 or more.  Network membership includes complimentary admission to Network events with food, socializing, and opportunity to meet child advocacy experts. And don't forget to join our listserv to stay informed!

We look forward to the future of Voices for Utah Children and we hope you will be a part of our next 30 years.

Special thanks to American Express, our "Making a Difference All Year Long" sponsor. Amex

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