Wyoming Liberty Group
As I mentioned in a previous blog, I believe that Wyoming should decriminalize status offenses. According to the most recent data available through both the FBI and the OJJDP, Wyoming ranks second-to-highest in the nation for both juvenile arrests and juvenile incarcerations.
Wyoming is also the only state that has not decriminalized status offenses. Decriminalization does not necessarily mean that no juveniles would ever be arrested for behaviors that are classified as status offenses. Let’s face it; the behavior of the juvenile when he or she interacts with law enforcement and other authority figures plays a large part in whether he or she is arrested.
This week I attended two days of the Judiciary Interim Committee. There were several juvenile justice related topics on the agenda. During my attendance at these long and sometimes heated meetings a junior legislator asked out loud (in frustration) if anyone knew whether juvenile crime in Wyoming was actually decreasing.
WyLiberty attorney Benjamin Barr comments on the 1040 campaign checkbox in this NPR story. April 14, 2015
In the 2015 Wyoming Legislative Session, Senate File 14, or Senate Enrolled Act 1 (SEA 1), would have overhauled Wyoming’s drug forfeiture laws to require a felony conviction before alleged drug property (cash, cars, firearms and the like) could be permanently taken by the state. The bill passed the Wyoming Legislature with an initial total vote of 80-9 between both houses before it was vetoed by Governor Mead, then failed to muster the requisite votes to override the veto.
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).