Wyoming Liberty Group
If you have been following juvenile justice issues at all you may have come across the fact that Wyoming is the only state in the nation which has not decriminalized status offenses. You may even believe that you have an understanding of what that means. The concept is fairly simple: a status crime is an action that would not be a crime if it was committed by an adult. Examples of status offenses for which juveniles are arrested and incarcerated in Wyoming include truancy and running away from home.
For the last few weeks I have been writing about child wellness in Wyoming. According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation Wyoming ranked 19th in the 2014 annual report which is a lower ranking than our performance of 15th according to the 2013 report. These rankings are determined according to sixteen measured wellness categories divided among four broader topics. Although an overall ranking of 19th is nothing to brag about, the area of most concern was Wyoming’s health category ranking of 45th.
Full health rankings are listed in the 2014 report. Nationally there were improvements across all four health categories with Iowa, Massachusetts, Maine, Utah, and New York ranked in the top five (in order) and Alaska, Nevada, Mississippi, New Mexico and Montana ranking 46th to 50th (in order).
We continue looking at our juvenile population starting with Wyoming’s child wellness as reported by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, (AECF), a private non-profit foundation dedicated to juvenile and family issues, and its subsidiary, Kids Count, which publishes an annual report ranking states according to measured child wellness indicators.
In this part of the Wyoming Wellness series we look a bit more closely at a few of the specific wellness indicators related to child and teen deaths and teens who are not in school and not employed. Our starting point for following these wellness metrics is the 2014 Child Wellnessreport published by the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Kids Count initiative.
According to the 2014 Child Wellness ranking, published by the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Kids Count initiative, Wyoming ranked 19th out of fifty states. Many of the tracked child wellness indicators are strongly linked to juvenile justice in that children with disadvantages in one area are more at risk for failure in others.
In this country we measure a multitude of statistics. On juvenile justice issues, hundreds of organizations publish statistics ranging from child health and wellness to juvenile arrest and incarceration and many more. Too frequently we citizens focus on the relatively small percentage of children in trouble and forget that the majority of children have needs and issues which, if left unaddressed, create the risk of these juveniles joining their peers in the juvenile justice system.
Over the last few months I have been researching juvenile justice issues with a particular focus on how to keep kids out of jail. While writing about my findings I have explored the disturbing national phenomenon of extremely young kids being arrested. This research has also uncovered the troubling connection between police officers (SROs) stationed in schools and elevated arrests and incarcerations of juveniles from these schools. Perhaps most horrifying has been the discovery that the fastest growing segment of police brutality and abuse is among School Resource Officers.