Wyoming Liberty Group
Wyoming’s “Single Point of Entry” for Juveniles
Six years ago a piece of legislation was enacted known as the “Single Point of Entry”,(SPOE) It is part of Wyoming Statute 14-6-203 which is under Title 14 in the Wyoming Statutes. The idea is that the District Attorney will be the single point of entry for any minor into the legal system. Visualize the District Attorney as the Air Traffic Controller channeling juvenile offenders into various court systems or diversion programs. Here in Wyoming we usually refer to the District Attorney as the County Attorney, he or she is the highest office holder in the county’s legal department. As an elected official, the County Attorney has the “buck stops here” position in a county’s juvenile justice system.
There is no formal template for the SPOE proceedings; County Attorneys have prosecutorial and procedural discretion. With 23 counties in the state we have 23 different approaches. This is important in terms of implementing policy in juvenile justice proceedings. With each County Attorney serving their own communities, it is possible to have a community based and approved procedure for dealing with juvenile offenders. To quote Byron Oedekoven of WASCOP, “What works in Cheyenne isn’t necessarily going to work in Dubois, the system needs to be community based”
The population of our State is low numerically; this system leverages one of our assets. It is imperative to take advantage of our small town with a long main street environment. We can have a dynamic juvenile justice system that responds quickly to the latest studies, practices and innovations. With a strong community-based system we can also rapidly hold juveniles responsible for their actions, rather than experience the huge wait times and backlogs of large court systems. Through the SPOE we can easily tailor consequences individually to offenders in ways that large urban populations are struggling to implement.
I have been present at one SPOE meeting; no names were used for confidentiality. Each juvenile under discussion was personally known to at least one member of the SPOE committee, most times multiple members knew the child, this is not possible in more populated areas. With intimate knowledge of the offender’s personality, family and social life, consequences for misbehavior can be individually tailored to the offender. This contributes greatly to a lack of recidivism and as Senator Schiffer used to say “getting them kids back on the straight and narrow”. After all, the point is to help these kids become Wyoming citizens, not monetize them for a life in the justice system.