It will be easier to get court records of juvenile offenders under a law the governor signed today.
The bill, sponsored by Juneau Republican Cathy Munoz, was requested by the Department of Health and Social Services to simplify intergovernmental relations concerning what is usually treated as very sensitive information. The files are usually shared between the office of children’s services and the office of juvenile justice, but there’s also a need to let the public have more access. Munoz says there are limits on what information can be made public, however.
The bill identifies certain serous crimes when information can be shared with the public if that individual is an adjudicated delinquent.
Tony Newman, with the Office of Juvenile Justice, says key to the disclosure is the actual offense for which a juvenile has been found guilty. He says the law has recognized the public’s right to the information since 1997, but getting it has been a lengthy, complicated task.
There’s a juvenile justice system to help kids who make stupid mistakes understand the consequences of what they’ve done, make reparations for what they’ve done, and then move on with their lives, and not have it haunt them the rest of their lives.
There are limits, however. The bill does not effect any victims’ rights to information. And it includes — in statute — a very specific list of seven crimes that can be revealed about someone. That includes crimes that are called “Offenses Against the Person” such as Murder, Manslaughter and Sexual Assault. Arson. Burglary, Pornography, Prostitution, Drugs and Weapons. It also keeps closed any records about juveniles under thirteen years old,.
Munoz says providing information to schools, other governmental agencies and the public also includes providing it to a person who was at one time in the system.
The legislation clarifies that individuals with a legitimate interest can have access to their personal information. And as we’ve pointed out there are many reasons that’s important. Whether it’s perhaps applied for a student loan or going into the military or any number of other situations, having access to their personal information is very important.
Newman says that since the bill passed, his office has already had calls from three people asking to get their own juvenile records.
The bill passed with no opposition in either the House or the Senate.