Nate Balis on Supporting Young People in the Juvenile Justice System

Posted July 1, 2020
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Nate Balis talks juvenile justice reform

Nate Balis, direc­tor of the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Juve­nile Jus­tice Strat­e­gy Group, talked about juve­nile jus­tice reform dur­ing a pod­cast pro­duced by the Nation­al Con­fer­ence of State Leg­is­la­tures (NCSL).

Until we [invest in oppor­tu­ni­ties] for all young peo­ple — espe­cial­ly Black and brown youth whose well-being has all too often been seen as a sec­ondary or option­al con­cern — we will not have the jus­tice sys­tem that our young peo­ple and our cit­i­zens deserve,” Balis tells Ed Smith, who hosts Our Amer­i­can States. Dur­ing the con­ver­sa­tion, Balis also dis­cuss­es how the coro­n­avirus is affect­ing sys­tem-involved youth and what the field may look like post-pan­dem­ic. He notes that pro­tect­ing pub­lic safe­ty and advanc­ing youth well-being go hand-in-hand.

NCSL’s Anne Teigen opens the episode by high­light­ing research, U.S. Supreme Court deci­sions and actions by state gov­ern­ments that have influ­enced the juve­nile jus­tice field. NCSL receives fund­ing from the Foundation.

In this episode on juve­nile jus­tice, you’ll learn

  • The most effec­tive ways that state and local gov­ern­ments can respond when young peo­ple vio­late the law.
  • How states use finan­cial incen­tives to increase the deliv­ery of com­mu­ni­ty-based ser­vices and treat­ment in lieu of send­ing youth to state facilities.
  • The urgency of advanc­ing racial and eth­nic equity.
  • The sig­nif­i­cance of trans­form­ing juve­nile probation.
  • The role for juve­nile jus­tice agen­cies in con­nect­ing young peo­ple with oppor­tu­ni­ties that con­tribute to their per­son­al growth and long-term success.
  • How juve­nile jus­tice juris­dic­tions have respond­ed to COVID-19, includ­ing with a rapid drop in youth detention.

Con­ver­sa­tion clips

In Nate Balis’ own words…

We are at our safest when we invest in our young peo­ple — when we believe that pro­mot­ing their well-being is at the core of what it means to keep them and their com­mu­ni­ties safe.”

We know from study after study after study that lock­ing kids up is more like­ly to do harm than good. It dis­con­nects young peo­ple from their school, from their fam­i­ly, and increas­es the like­li­hood that they’ll end up in the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem as an adult.”

We’ve seen leg­is­la­tures pri­or­i­tiz­ing keep­ing kids in the com­mu­ni­ty, and that’s a real­ly, real­ly good thing — invest­ing in ser­vices that sup­port young peo­ple rather than just sim­ply sur­veilling them or incar­cer­at­ing them.”

All too often the grav­i­ty of incar­cer­at­ing a child is not giv­en the weight that it deserves.”

Pro­ba­tion is real­ly the cen­ter of juve­nile jus­tice around the country.”

Instead of being an alter­na­tive to con­fine­ment, pro­ba­tion ends up being the path­way to confinement.”

Incen­tives for young peo­ple work way bet­ter than sanctions…We need to actu­al­ly show young peo­ple path­ways to be suc­cess­ful in life.”

Relat­ed juve­nile jus­tice resources

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