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.
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