Governor Signs Bill Creating Wyoming Juvenile Justice Reporting System
Activists say data collection could help guide reform
- Published In: Criminal Justice
- Last Updated: Mar 10, 2022
Pictured is the Wyoming Girls' School in Sheridan, which houses court-ordered delinquent females from 12- to 21-years-old. Activists say the new data-collection law could shed light on what happens to youth within the system. (Courtesy of the Wyoming Department of Family Services)
By Shen Wu Tan
Special to the Wyoming Truth
Wyoming Gov. Gordon has signed a bill into law that will set up and standardize the state’s first comprehensive juvenile justice reporting system, which advocates say could help tackle the state’s high youth incarceration rate.
The law gives the Wyoming Department of Family Services the responsibility to oversee juvenile justice data collection and gather certain information from various state and local government agencies.
“The governor recognizes the work of the Joint Judiciary Committee that sponsored this bill,” Michael Pearlman, Gordon’s spokesperson, told the Wyoming Truth. “He is supportive of their efforts to standardize data collection. This bill will allow the state to have a better understanding of what is occurring within the juvenile justice system.”
For cases involving a juvenile who is convicted of an offense or adjudicated for a delinquent act, the Wyoming Department of Family Services will have to collect the juvenile offender’s name, social security number, date of birth, physical description and address of last known residence. The department will also have to gather data on the juvenile’s criminal offense, the juvenile court where the youth was adjudicated delinquent or convicted and information on the final disposition ordered by the court, including if the juvenile was committed to detention or treatment, ordered to serve probation or participate in an intensive supervision program, or held in pretrial detention.
Wyoming owned the fourth highest juvenile incarceration rate in the nation in 2019, the most recent available data shows. The state incarcerated 239 out of every 100,000 juveniles that year, outranked only by Washington, D.C.
, (262 per 100,000), West Virginia (291 per 100,000 juveniles) and Alaska (330 per 100,000 juveniles), the latest Easy Access to the Census of Juveniles in Residential Placement report shows.
“When implemented, the availability of a more comprehensive data set will provide policymakers with the information necessary to develop and propose effective, data-driven and informed reform strategies more likely to result in the desired outcome,” said Lindsey Schilling, senior social services administrator for the Wyoming Department of Family Services.
The Wyoming Department of Family Services will become the central authority and hub for juvenile justice data, effective July 1, 2024.
As outlined by the law, the Department of Family Services will have to report to the Joint Judiciary Interim Committee, comprised of members of the House and Senate, by no later than Oct. 15 to give an update about the “status of the transfer of responsibilities” under the act, such as progress on saving data for analysis. The department also will have to annually report to the committee by March 1 to provide an update on data collection and compliance.
The law also allocates $251,848 from the general fund for the Department of Family Services to fund a full-time position for data collection and related costs from July 1 through June 30, 2024. The department will also receive $450,000 from the general fund to establish a computer program for data entry and collection for the same period.
Schilling said the first step for the department will be hiring a data analyst who will work on the project full time. Once a project leader has been hired, then the department will create a team to develop a comprehensive plan with timelines for data collection, she added.