31 March 2022
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – In just the last two weeks, the Minnesota Legislature created a new State Office of Juvenile Justice.
Its goal will be to help parents and children find resources and solutions to the growing number of kids committing crimes.
It’s an effort to honor the promise and potential of youth as well as the need to protect community safety. The new office is designed to identify, promote and sustain the most effective solutions to youth crime.
Callie Hargett will lead this effort as the director of the Youth Justice Office.
“We haven’t had any one state-level centralized place that stakeholders, families, young people, law enforcement, educators, community-based providers can go to for answers they are looking for on a state level,” said Hargett. “The goal of this office is to identify programs and strategies that the community says are useful for them and are effective for them and then lift up those strategies with funding and support.”
She says her primary job is to be a listener and to help ensure the government works better for young people and their families.
“Really everything just keeps coming back to community,” she said. “Because no one office, no one person, no one policy maker, no one leader can take this on alone. It has to be an all-hands approach.”
The governor’s Juvenile Justice Advisory Committee is housed within the Youth Justice Office. The group of 21 includes five young people who have been through the juvenile justice system. They meet monthly to produce recommendations to the governor and legislature around how juvenile justice should be shaped in Minnesota.
Minnesota is the first state in the nation whose State Advisory Committee is led by a member of an Indigenous Nation. JJAC’s Chair is Gary Charwood, a respected child welfare advocate with the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe.
“This office really represents a brand new and unprecedented investment that state legislature is making in juvenile justice in Minnesota,” said Hargett.
She says youth accountability, with re-direction, recovery and support is what the new Office of Juvenile Justice will strive to accomplish.
Some parents say they need help now with their kids, but Hargett is asking for patience as the new office gets off the ground and running. She also hopes to get input from those parents. She says she wants to focus on being proactive to keep kids out of the juvenile justice system.