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Home / Special Sections / Attorneys of the Year / 2019 Attorneys of the Year: Ramsey County juvenile detention alternatives initiative and juvenile justice reform leaders
County Attorney John Choi, Chief Deputy County Attorney Ann Ploetz, Assistant Public Defender Amanda Weitekamp, Chief Public Defender Jim Fleming, Assistant Public Defender
Sharon Thompson-Carter. Not pictured: Kate Richtman
County Attorney John Choi, Chief Deputy County Attorney Ann Ploetz, Assistant Public Defender Amanda Weitekamp, Chief Public Defender Jim Fleming, Assistant Public Defender Sharon Thompson-Carter. Not pictured: Kate Richtman

2019 Attorneys of the Year: Ramsey County juvenile detention alternatives initiative and juvenile justice reform leaders

The juvenile justice system is a delicate mechanism. In Ramsey County, that system has been benefiting from some tinkering meant to find alternatives to juvenile detention.

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.”

Read more about Minnesota Lawyer’s superb class of Attorneys of the Year for 2019 here.

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