BISMARCK — The North Dakota Legislature's interim Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, Sept. 25, approved the formation of a task force for a study of North Dakota's juvenile justice system.
Rep. Larry Klemin, R-Bismarck, who chairs the committee, will organize the task force comprising lawmakers as well as judges, attorneys and state agency members who work in the juvenile justice process.
Klemin, who also is House speaker, proposed the study to the 2019 Legislature, seeing "more to do" for the juvenile justice system after similar study in the 2017-18 interim produced only one bill, which raised the age of criminal responsibility from 7 to 10. It took effect Aug. 1.
The Legislature also approved the creation of the six-year Commission on Juvenile Justice, comprising lawmakers, and state and local officials who will gather information on child welfare, services, education, abuse and neglect.
Klemin will report on the study's progress to that commission.
The task force will receive "technical assistance" from a consultant to be retained by North Dakota's Juvenile Justice State Advisory Group, which monitors compliance with federal juvenile justice legislation.
From Dec. 1 to July 31, the task force will review statutes related to the juvenile justice process and report to the Judiciary Committee on its progress for recommendations for proposed legislation.
"I would expect, at this point, that the final result will be a bill draft making some amendments to the Juvenile Court Act, but that's to be seen," Klemin said.
The committee also heard presentations of information related to youth arrests and crime rates, other states' study processes and the work of North Dakota's Dual Status Youth Initiative, which delivered recommendations in 2018 for better serving families in the juvenile justice and child welfare systems.
"I think that every time a youth hurts someone or someone hurts a youth or the community is harmed, we've got to get it right," said Lisa Bjergaard, director of the state Division of Juvenile Services.