A WELCOME FROM LANCASTER COUNTY ATTORNEY PAT CONDON
As Lancaster County Attorney, it is my duty to ensure the enforcement of the Constitution of the United States, the Constitution of the State of Nebraska, and the laws of the State of Nebraska for the health, safety, security and welfare of our children and families. My office’s Juvenile Division, comprised of six full-time attorneys and two support staff, is tasked with accomplishing this mission by reviewing, evaluating, coordinating, diverting, or ultimately filing, when appropriate, cases in the Separate Juvenile Court of Lancaster County.
In over 32 years of experience as a prosecutor in Nebraska, I have seen firsthand the leaps forward we have made in responding to juveniles who violate the law. I am proud of what we are accomplishing in Lancaster County and I look forward to the future as we continue to implement our nationally recognized juvenile interventions.
One area of particular strength is our juvenile diversion programs. These programs have been developed and expanded to offer our prosecutors the best range of interventions possible to meet the needs of juveniles who have violated the law. While it is my office that has the duty to develop and implement these diversion options for juveniles, we by no means consider these “our” programs. While hundreds of juveniles in our community are being diverted out of the formal juvenile justice system each year as a result of the discretion we utilize, these life changing programs are a direct result of our system and community-based partners. Without this partnership between the Lancaster County Attorney’s Office, the Lincoln/Lancaster County Human Services Office, and our community partners we could never have realized the level of success we have experienced over the past few years.
We leverage these partnerships at the earliest possible point of intervention, having dedicated staff with Master level Psychology degrees within the Human Services Office complete a juvenile risk assessment. This assessment is provided to youth who have committed a first-time law violation to determine the need, if any, for a County Attorney led intervention. After prosecutorial review of these assessments and the offense itself, a large percentage of these cases are informally diverted out of the system completely. We have made it a priority to educate our attorneys (and others) on adolescent brain development, trauma and implicit bias. Because of this understating, youth in our jurisdiction have multiple opportunities to participate in a diversion program that can keep them out of the formal juvenile justice system. This begins with a now nationally recognized program (RESTORE) designed in collaboration with Georgetown University to divert offenses committed in our schools.
Our prosecutors continually work in collaboration with Lincoln Public Schools and Lancaster County school principals, administrators, and counselors on issues impacting students’ success whether it be due to neglect occurring in the home, a juvenile’s uncontrollable behavior, or excessive absenteeism. If there are suspicions of abuse or neglect our prosecutors work to ensure reports are made to law enforcement and/or the Department of Health and Human Services for investigation. If a youth is leaving home without permission, exhibiting behaviors to suggest mental health or behavioral health intervention may be appropriate, our prosecutors work to refer them to appropriate evaluations and services. If a student has on-going excessive absenteeism, our prosecutors work alongside school staff as part of a community-based truancy diversion program. The premise of each of these interventions is to connect our youth with community partners based on the individualized need of the child and their family.
Our work in developing cutting edge responses to meet the needs of juveniles in our community continues to expand. We currently are in the midst of designing a diversion program for youth who have identified behavioral health needs that contributed to their offense. We have also partnered with other local juvenile justice agencies to share data with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in a combined effort to assist us in analyzing outcomes. This collaboration is also taking a serious look at issues of disproportionality that may be present in the system and examining thoroughly the potential causes. To that point, just this year we brought to Nebraska national speaker Adam Foss to educate prosecutors across the state about Racial Justice and its impact within the juvenile justice system.
The attorneys and staff in the Lancaster County Attorney’s Office have families and children embedded and invested in the childcare, schools, community programs and available services in our community. I believe there is no greater responsibility than to meet the needs of the children and families in Lancaster County. While the programs listed above may be located in our office, they are truly community-based programs. As Lancaster County Attorney I am thankful for these on-going partnerships and I look forward to building new ones in the years to come.
-Pat Condon, Lancaster County Attorney
LANCASTER COUNTY JUVENILE JUSTICE NEWSLETTER
- January 2021 – Juvenile Justice Newsletter
- Are there other options for juvenile offenders other than going to Juvenile Court?
- I'm a victim of a crime being prosecuted in Juvenile Court. How do I get restitution?
- I'm a victim of a crime and had some of my property seized by the police during their investigation. How do I get my property back?
- My child ran away or is frequently out of control. What can I do?