An amended version of the North Dakota Uniform Juvenile Court Act was approved by lawmakers today.
It was first passed into law in 1969, and although a few amendments have been made since then, the Director of Juvenile Services says it was time for an overhaul.
The Director, Lisa Bjergaard oversees youth corrections for the state. Directly following the bill’s approval, KX News got a one-on-one with her about what was discovered over the summer.
A team made up of indigent defense, prosecutors, child welfare, the juvenile court, and legislators all discussed what was outdated and what needed adding, based on data and evidence.
The biggest change to the Act is replacing the section about handling what was previously called unruly juveniles, with new language. The point is to give families direct access to help, rather than resorting to arresting kids or involving law enforcement in unnecessary situations.
“In North Dakota, the Uniform Juvenile Court Act applies to all children. The entire waterfront of how we handle our children in the court. And so, it’s really important, it’s very far-reaching. It has an impact on thousands of kids and families every year,” Bjergaard shared.
The bill still has to officially be passed during the 2021 legislative session.
Also approved today was a bill allowing the study of North Dakota’s juvenile justice system to continue in the next interim.