This post was originally published on the Youth Transition Funders Group blog.
In 2014, a group of leaders in Douglas County, Nebraska recognized the urgency and opportunity to transform its juvenile justice system. The County’s juvenile arrest rate was ~50% greater than the national rate and too many arrests disproportionately represented black youth and a handful of neighborhoods. At the same time, there were many assets to build on, including the 200 service providers and community organizations that served youth, the successful development of alternatives to detention, the strong track record of the diversion program and most importantly, agreement among system professionals, community organizations, and community members that collectively they could do better for the County’s youth.
In this context, Operation Youth Success was born. It brought together stakeholders to determine what aspects of juvenile justice in Douglas County needed to change and how that change will happen. Conversations with over 200 community stakeholders led to the following shared vision and goal:
Across Douglas County, our vision is a comprehensive, coordinated, and community-wide approach to juvenile services that eliminates the need for youth involvement with our justice system while maintaining public safety.
For all youth who do enter our justice system, our goals are to provide effective, compassionate and individualized support that empowers youth and their families to succeed and to build an environment of mutual trust and accountability.
A year into Operation Youth Success, Douglas County has not solved all the challenges it faces with respect to juvenile justice. But the stakeholders share a sense of hopeful optimism and are beginning to work together differently. How did Douglas County take these steps on the journey to success?