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Committee backs juvenile-justice bill

February 7, 2019 at 4:30 a.m.

Legislation aimed at restructuring Arkansas' juvenile courts and justice system sailed through the Senate Judiciary Committee on a voice vote Wednesday, sending the bill to the full Senate.

In the committee Wednesday to speak for the "Restore Arkansas Families" Act -- officially Senate Bill 152 -- was Supreme Court Justice Rhonda Wood, chairman of the judiciary's Commission on Children, Youth and Families.

SB152 would direct juvenile courts to implement a standard validated risk assessment tool as part of an attempt to divert kids away from youth lockups.

[RELATED: Complete Democrat-Gazette coverage of the Arkansas Legislature]

Wood said the tool, selected by a committee of juvenile judges, is called the Structured Assessment of Violent Risk in Youth. It was first implemented in 2014 on a pilot basis and is now used by 18 counties.

"This is a better way," Wood said.

The legislation is also a part of Gov. Asa Hutchinson's effort to revamp the juvenile-justice system by using fewer lockups and more community supervision. Last fall, the governor announced the closing of two of the state's seven youth jails.

-- John Moritz

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