Seven Things to Know About Juvenile System Changes


Learn about changes taking place in the juvenile system as a result of SB 1008

SALEM – Last year, the Oregon Legislature passed and Gov. Kate Brown signed a juvenile justice reform bill called Senate Bill 1008. The law took effect Jan. 1, 2020. It is intended to reduce victimization, increase positive outcomes for youth, make the judicial process fairer, and make communities safer.

But exactly what changes are taking place in the juvenile system as a result of SB 1008? Here are seven things to know about the new law:

1. All youth accused of criminal conduct start in juvenile court, even for Measure 11 crimes.

Oregon’s Measure 11 ballot initiative, implemented in 1995, set a mandatory minimum sentence for anyone who commits certain serious crimes. Before 2020, anyone age 15 and older charged with a Measure 11 crime was automatically tried in adult court.

Now, all youth, regardless of their crimes, start in the juvenile court system. If a prosecutor wants to move a case to adult court, they must request a waiver hearing with a juvenile court judge.

During that hearing, the judge will hear both sides, then decide whether to move the case to adult court.

For youth who commit Measure 11 crimes but stay in the juvenile system, Oregon Youth Authority (OYA), the state’s juvenile justice agency, is implementing a higher level of review before paroling them to the community.

OYA is also revamping its parole criteria and case planning process to create a clearer and more objective list of developmental milestones incarcerated youth will need to meet before they are deemed ready for release.

2. Most youth convicted in adult court are eligible for a “Second Look” hearing halfway through their sentence.

During this hearing, the youth has a chance to show they have been rehabilitated. Their victim also has a right to be heard. A judge then determines whether the youth has taken responsibility for their crime.

If the judge approves, the youth would serve the rest of their sentence under community-based supervision, instead of being incarcerated.

To be eligible, a youth must have been convicted in adult court with a sentence longer than two years.

3. Some youth will get a transfer hearing before moving to adult prison.

Before SB 1008, when youth convicted in adult court reached their 25th birthday and still had time remaining in their sentence, they automatically transferred from OYA’s youth facilities to the adult prison system.

However, research shows that youth are twice as likely to commit new crimes when they serve time in adult prisons. SB 1008 addresses this by allowing a transfer hearing for youth who, upon reaching 25, have less than two years left in their sentence.

At this hearing, the youth has a chance to show they have been rehabilitated, and a judge decides whether they should finish their sentence in adult prison or on community-based supervision.

The transfer hearings only apply to youth convicted after Jan. 1, 2020.

4. Youth can no longer be sentenced to life without parole.

Anyone receiving a life sentence for a crime they committed when they were under 18 must have an opportunity for parole after 15 years of incarceration.

5. Victims will have the opportunity to receive more culturally-specific and trauma-informed services.

The law requires the Oregon Department of Justice to develop additional supports for victims. This includes working with district attorney victim assistance programs to develop policies on notifying victims of their rights related to and in advance of waiver hearings. SB 1008 states that victims must be given these notifications in a trauma-informed and culturally-specific manner.

Additionally, although the law doesn’t require it, OYA is re-examining its process for engaging victims and informing them when youth are making progress while incarcerated.

6. SB 1008 is not retroactive.

The law applies to youth convicted or adjudicated after Jan. 1, 2020, even if the crime was committed before that date. All the changes described below do not apply to youth convicted or adjudicated before that date.

7. The changes in Senate Bill 1008 are based on brain research.

SB 1008 was introduced because of research showing that a person’s brain develops significantly  through their mid-20s. This means that youth have tremendous capacity for growth and change — thus, we should take a different approach with youth who commit crimes than we do with adults.

The law allows more youth to remain in the juvenile system with environments suitable to their developmental needs. Plus, with more opportunities to earn release to community supervision, youth will have more motivation to change, reducing their likelihood of committing more crimes.

The changes in this bill and its implications for supporting future youth and preventing more victims are historic for Oregon. SB 1008 represents the most significant reform to Oregon’s juvenile justice system since 1995, when OYA was created. Now, more than ever, OYA is equipped to work toward its vision of protecting the public and preparing its youth to go on to lead productive, crime-free lives.

About Author

Lindsay Keefer is the Communications Officer for the Oregon Youth Authority, Oregon’s state juvenile justice agency.

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