Six Cities Join NLC Policy Academy on Young Adults and the Justice System

May 25, 2018 - (3 min read)

When policies fail to align across city, county and state governments, impediments to the efficient protection of public safety are often the result.

For example, state laws governing use of criminal records and background checks for support services can undercut and create barriers with local efforts to build service capacity for the young adult population. Similarly, different definitions, systems and regulations at the state and local level can lead to difficulties with information sharing.

NLC and the National Association of Counties (NACo), together with the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), are bringing together six small teams of city, county and state leaders to attend the first Intergovernmental Policy Academy: Young Adults and the Justice System. Each team will work to align local and state policies toward reducing the use of jails for young adults.

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The six city-county teams selected by the NLC Institute for Youth, Education, and Families (YEF Institute) and NACo to participate in the Intergovernmental Policy Academy include:

  • Albuquerque and Bernalillo County, New Mexico
  • Bellingham and Whatcom County, Washington
  • Indianapolis and Marion County, Indiana
  • Kalamazoo and Kalamazoo County, Michigan
  • Oakland and Alameda County, California
  • Overland Park and Johnson County, Kansas

“The overuse of local jails in situations where young adults would see better results with comprehensive mental health or substance abuse services is a major contributor to America’s mass incarceration crisis,” said YEF Institute Executive Director Clifford M. Johnson. “Inconsistencies between local and state policy, especially when those policies fail to recognize the developmental stages of late adolescence, only make the problem worse. This meeting will foster collaboration between state and local leaders, which is essential in aligning policies to support our nation’s young adults.”

The teams will meet with state legislators in San Francisco over two days in June to develop plans for twelve months of intensive efforts to align policies at the city, county and state level to reduce the number of young adults in jails.

This project is made possible with the support of the John. D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s Safety and Justice Challenge as part of a national movement to change the way America thinks about and uses jails.

Among the nearly 11 million jail admissions annually nationwide, young adults aged 18 to 24 bear a disproportionate burden: Young adults make up 28 percent of people arrested and jailed but constitute less than 10 percent of the general population. Among particularly vulnerable young people, the overrepresentation is even starker.

About half of the nation’s 400,000 youth in foster care (up to age 21) and 62 percent of the nearly 400,000 youth experiencing homelessness (aged 16-24) each year have been arrested. NLC and its partners welcome the dedication expressed by the selected teams to address this issue.

For more information on the Intergovernmental Policy Academy, contact Tara Dhanraj, Senior Associate for Justice Reform at

TaraD_EDITEDAbout the author: Tara Dhanraj is a Senior Associate for Justice Reform at the NLC Institute for Youth, Education, and Families.