Idaho's juvenile justice system is 105 years old. The original juvenile justice movement of the early 1900s began because reformists believed that the common practice of treating all offenders the same and housing them in the same correctional facilities, regardless of age, was inhumane. The 1903 Idaho legislature passed a bill that founded the Idaho Industrial Reform School for the Commitment of Wayward Youth. The juvenile court recognized that youth could benefit greatly from education, health and mental health treatment, vocational direction and other pro-social interventions. This approach was considered a "medical model" in which juvenile delinquency was viewed as an illness. At its most extreme, the medical model focused all efforts on treating the juvenile offender and ignored the impact of the crime on the victims and community. The premise of this approach is that community safety will be enhanced by correcting the problems that cause delinquent behavior, and thus eliminate future criminal behavior.
In 1987 House Concurrent Resolution No. 25 was unanimously passed in the House of Representatives and the Senate. This resolution stated in part,
"WHEREAS, the juvenile justice system in the State of Idaho is an important tool used in trying to keep today's juvenile offenders from turning into tomorrow's inmates in the state prison system; and WHEREAS, there are portions of Idaho's juvenile justice system which may need some adjustment or fine tuning to help it function more efficiently; and WHEREAS, any refinements in Idaho's juvenile justice system to help it run more efficiently would be in the public interest. NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED…that the Legislative Council is directed to appoint a committee of fourteen members,...to undertake and complete a study to evaluate the effectiveness of current disposition standards and related statutes..., to review guidelines relating the confinement of...juveniles from the court system, and to evaluate existing facilities..."
As a result of Resolution 25, an interim committee was formed to study juvenile justice in Idaho. Committee members included seven representatives and seven senators with Senator Denton Darrington and Representative Dean Sorenson as co-chairpersons. The first hearing was held June 18, 1987, in Boise; other similar hearings were held throughout the state. At each of these hearings, three questions were asked of the speakers:
- Question: In your professional capacity what has been or is your greatest frustration with the juvenile justice system?
- Question: If you had the power and authority what changes would you make in the juvenile justice system in this state?
- Question: In your opinion is the juvenile justice system working in the state of Idaho?
As a result of these hearings, eleven issues were identified:
· Lack of facilities and programs for the placement of juvenile offenders;
· Lack of facilities and programs available for the placement of juvenile offenders close to their
· Affordable substance and alcohol abuse programs;
· Access to aftercare services;
· Increased jurisdiction over juvenile offenders' parents or legal guardians;
· Increased detention time;
· Increase capacity of detention availability at the regional level;
· Revise the truancy laws;
· Protect governmental entities from liability for injuries incurred by community service workers;
· Provide more training to judges who handle juvenile cases;
· Penalize individuals who provide drugs or alcohol, and/or who shelter runaway children without
parental consent; and,
· Change intake criteria for entry of a juvenile offender into the Youth Services Center.
In November 1987, the committee traveled to Utah to learn about their juvenile justice system, which was considered a model system at the time. As a result of the visit and taking into consideration the eleven issues that were identified, the Juvenile Justice Reform Act of 1989 was enacted. The Juvenile Justice Reform Act of 1989 provided the seeds of change for the juvenile justice system, however, it became apparent over time that a more comprehensive reform was needed. Some public officials noted that the fault was with the law, not with Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. In January 1994, the Idaho House of Representatives passed House Concurrent Resolution No. 56. It stated in part,
"NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED...to appoint a committee to undertake and complete a study of the juvenile justice system in Idaho. The committee should consider issues related to prevention, protection, rehabilitation, treatment, punishment, and victim's compensation, and the way in which the schools, law enforcement agencies, health and welfare facilities and agencies, the court system and other public agencies and institutions are involved in a comprehensive and coordinated juvenile justice system."
An Interim Committee on Juvenile Justice (interim committee) was created and the first hearing was held in Boise January 1994. The week before the hearing was scheduled to be held, a tragic incident occurred in which a 14-year-old boy fatally shot New Plymouth law enforcement officer, Wade Feldner. The attendance at the hearing was overwhelming. Parents, policy makers, concerned citizens, and others attended the hearing. Additional hearings held throughout the state were also well attended with similar concerns expressed as those in the original hearing. From each of these hearings, the consistent messages lawmakers heard were lack of resources and funding, lack of aftercare, no tracking system, lack of coordination between agencies, too lenient, and working partners were in disagreement—echoing many of the same issues from 1987.
The Interim Committee on Juvenile Justice hired Jeff Noland to perform the duties of special counsel. At the time, Mr. Noland had been working as a juvenile prosecutor for Ada County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office. He and others within the juvenile justice system introduced committee members to a nationally recognized model called the Balanced Approach, which emphasizes competency development, accountability, and community protection through graduated sanctions.
After a review of the issues, the interim committee considered various options for Idaho’s juvenile justice system, including keeping the existing services with the Idaho Department of Health & Welfare, moving services to the Idaho Department of Correction, or creating a new agency to perform those services. It became evident to the Interim Committee on Juvenile Justice by the end of 1994 that a new agency was needed.
Once the decision had been made to create a new agency, funding sources had to be identified, existing partnerships strengthened, and new partnerships developed. During the 1995 legislative session, legislators appropriated $20.2 million for the Idaho Department of Juvenile Corrections. Funding for this new agency included general fund appropriations in the form of block grants to counties as well as $0.05 from a $0.10 tobacco tax.
Title 20, Chapter 5 was passed in 1995 and became known as the Juvenile Corrections Act. Section 20-501 states that the Idaho Department of Juvenile Corrections would be responsible for administration, overseeing secure facilities, coordinating resources, providing technical assistance to counties, and developing a statewide tracking system. It also mandates the juvenile justice system address the eleven deficiencies that were identified in 1987 and 1994.
The resulting Juvenile Corrections Act of 1995 has significantly changed Idaho’s approach to juvenile justice and corrections. The Act is based on the Balanced Approach Model and creates a new set of purposes for the system—to improve balanced attention to the protection of the community, the imposition of accountability for offenses committed, and the development of competencies to enable juvenile offenders to become responsible and productive members of the community. Communities are more active in the juvenile justice system as the model has evolved into Community Justice. Community Justice requires that juvenile offenders work to restore the harm caused to their victims and community to the greatest extent possible. In addition, the community justice approach involves communities in developing the solutions to address juvenile crime. Implementing the Juvenile Corrections Act is an on-going process that involves not only members of the justice system, but all Idahoans as members of their communities. Evidence suggests that certain Community Justice programs, such as victim-offender mediation and family group conferencing, are more effective in reducing recidivism than traditional juvenile justice system processing.
When the Department was initially created, it was organized into four sections: Administration, Field Services, Institutions, and Juvenile Justice Commission. That same year Michael Johnson was appointed as the first director of Idaho Department of Juvenile Corrections. Mr. Johnson is credited for starting up a new agency and establishing partnerships with counties and courts. Brent D. Reinke was appointed Director of the Idaho Department of Juvenile Corrections in May 1997. During Director Reinke's leadership, a 10-year needs assessment and master plan was developed, funding and assistance was provided to counties to establish a full continuum of care, probation and detention training academies were developed, and services were regionalized to meet the needs of juveniles closer to their homes. Larry W. Callicutt was appointed Director in January 2006. During his leadership, he has focused on victims, families, reintegration and professionalism of Department staff. A parent brochure and two DVDs—preventative for school age youth, and for parents of newly committed juveniles—have been developed and distributed, the first Peace Officers Standard and Training (POST) academy for direct care staff of the Department was developed and held, greater utilization and enhancement of the Department’s database—IJOS, and lastly, implementation of the new Interstate Compact for Juveniles which has led to development of protocols for juvenile probation.
Under the current leadership of the courts, and state and county governments, the juvenile justice system exists today in an effort to provide community protection, hold juveniles accountable for their delinquent actions, and to enhance competency development.
Does the juvenile justice system work in Idaho? Of the approximately 5500 juveniles on probation a year in Idaho, 95% remain in their home communities, in county programs and under county supervision. The vast majority of these youth go on to become productive Idaho citizens.
Today, the state of Idaho has reason to be proud of its juvenile justice system; however, much work remains to be done because Idaho cannot afford to lose a portion of the next generation to delinquent behavior. Idaho's youth are the leaders of tomorrow, and the legacy belongs to everyone.