A team of justice reform leaders in the county has teamed up to transform the juvenile justice system in the 2nd Judicial District. Over three years, these leaders have secured large funding increases for alternatives to juvenile detention.
Ramsey County Attorney John Choi and Jim Fleming, 2nd Judicial District chief public defender, were part of a team meant to alter institutional responses to juvenile offenses.
“John wanted to do something radically different,” said Fleming. “Looking at the types of cases that get charged in his office, we learned that there’s a high percentage of cases where kids are in the system for a very limited time.”
The team worked with community members to reform practices and procedures for truancy and runaway youth, overhauling the system that had been in use for more than 20 years. It also revised the criminal justice and educational response to offenses occurring in a school setting and reformed methods of juvenile charging and detention decisions in Ramsey County.
The bottom line was significant drops in admissions into the Ramsey County juvenile detention facility, the average daily population of the detention facility, the average length of stay at the detention facility, and the number of children placed outside the home as a result of a delinquency issue.
“It was premised in the belief that an adversarial system doesn’t always produce the outcomes we need,” said Choi. “We knew we could do a lot better if we thought really differently.”
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