County Attorney's Office receives youth diversion award

Thursday, May 10, 2018

The Hennepin County Attorney’s Office is the winner of a national award for the efforts of its Juvenile Prosecution Division in working with youth who violate curfew, rather than putting them into the juvenile justice system.

The National Association of Counties notified the county attorney’s office that they will receive the Achievement Award at the annual conference in Nashville in July. The award honors innovative, effective county government programs that strengthen services for county residents.

“We are pleased to be recognized for this innovative program that helps those 17 and under in two ways,” Hennepin county Attorney Mike Freeman said. “First, if a young person violates the curfew ordinance, most of them will not end up in the juvenile system and the attendant problems that result. Second, the parents and the child are offered assistance to prevent a repeat violation.”

The program began as a pilot project in June 2016. At the end of that year, the results were so promising that the program was expanded to all of Hennepin County in 2017. In those first 18 months, 740 of 884 curfew cases, or 84 percent, were diverted from the system.

Previously, a police officer could stop a juvenile out too late and either take the child home and speak to the parents or issue a citation, which would require a court appearance. If the child was just taken home, there was no way for probation to check if the young person had previous contact with juvenile court.

Under the new program, a police officer issues the citation. That is transmitted electronically to the county attorney’s office, where an employee checks to see if the youth has any pending delinquency charges in juvenile court, is on probation, has already been in a diversion program or is involved in an open case in the Child Protection Division.

If the answer is no, the child is diverted, usually to The Link, the non-profit organization which also runs the Juvenile Supervision Center. Staffers from that organization talk to the parents about the importance of curfew in keeping children safe. They also make referrals if the parents desire services that might help them or their child.

“Counties seize opportunities to deliver services more efficiently and build stronger communities every day,” National Association of Counties President Roy Charles Brooks said. “Achievement Award-winning programs are examples for counties that are determined to enhance services for our residents.”