Juvenile Justice

Goal: To ensure all youth forge a productive path to adulthood.

Juvenile justice has been one of ACNJ’s key issues since its founding in 1978. Through various avenues, ACNJ has advocated for safe alternatives to incarceration for troubled youth and improved conditions for youth who must be confined. We work to expand understanding of policies and practices that can put these youth on a path to productive adulthood — a result that is good for both youth and the state.

ACNJ is a steering committee member of the Youth Justice New Jersey Coalition, which is working to reduce the number of incarcerated youth; promote rehabilitative community-based alternatives to incarceration; ensure incarcerated youth are free from abusive practices and that they receive quality services and education; end school policies and practices that push youth out of classrooms and into the criminal justice system; and eliminate disparate treatment of youth of color in the juvenile justice system. To learn more about the coalition, contact Mary Coogan at mcoogan@acnj.org.

ACNJ is working with members of the New Jersey Council for Juvenile Justice System Improvement’s Education Subcommittee and the Youth Justice New Jersey Coalition to address discipline and behavioral issues in schools.

New Jersey is a national leader in a rapidly advancing juvenile justice reform movement. The state is locking up thousands fewer young offenders, while safely addressing their needs in their communities. Leaders from other states have been visiting New Jersey to learn these methods.  Read ACNJ’s Special Kids Count Report: Juvenile Justice for details. This success was achieved through county-based teams working in the statewide Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI).

New law makes smart reforms to juvenile justice

In 2015, Governor Christie signed into law significant and much-needed reforms to New Jersey’s juvenile justice system.  Although youth should be held accountable for their actions, the goal of the juvenile justice system is to return these youth to their communities equipped with the skills they need to stay out of trouble and mature into productive adults. These legislative reforms are a solid step in achieving this outcome. Learn more.

View presentation on adolescent brain development and rethinking juvenile justice.