2A:4A-21  Purposes.
   2.   Purposes.  This act shall be construed so as to effectuate the following purposes:

   a.   To preserve the unity of the family whenever possible and to provide for the care, protection, and wholesome mental and physical development of juveniles coming within the provisions of this act;

   b.   Consistent with the protection of the public interest, to remove from children committing delinquent acts certain statutory consequences of criminal behavior, and to substitute therefor an adequate program of supervision, care and rehabilitation, and a range of sanctions designed to promote accountability and protect the public;

   c.   To separate juveniles from the family environment only when necessary for their health, safety, or welfare or in the interests of public safety;

   d.   To secure for each child coming under the jurisdiction of the court the care, guidance, and control, preferably in his own home, as will conduce to the child's welfare and the best interests of the State; and when the child is removed from his own family, to secure for him custody, care, and discipline as nearly as possible equivalent to that which should have been given by his parents;

   e.   To insure that children under the jurisdiction of the court are wards of the State, subject to the discipline and entitled to the protection of the State, which may intervene to safeguard them from neglect or injury and to enforce the legal obligations due to them and from them;

   f.   Consistent with the protection of the public interest, to insure that any services and sanctions for juveniles provide balanced attention to the protection of the community, the imposition of accountability for offenses committed, fostering interaction and dialogue between the offender, victim, and community, and the development of competencies to enable children to become responsible and productive members of the community;

   g.   To insure protection and a safe environment for those sexually exploited juveniles who are charged with prostitution or who are alleged to be victims of human trafficking; and to provide these juveniles with the appropriate shelter, care, counseling, and crisis intervention services from the time they are taken into custody and for the duration of any legal proceedings;

   h.   To insure that in any action undertaken within the provisions of this act, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration; and

   i.   To ensure a fairer and more efficient and effective juvenile justice system by incorporating the following principles and strategies into every stage of the delinquency action:

   (1)   promoting collaboration between juvenile court officials, probation agencies, prosecutors, defense attorneys, schools, community organizations, and advocates;

   (2)   using rigorous data collection and analysis to guide decision making;

   (3)   utilizing objective criteria, processes, and tools, such as risk-assessment instruments, to replace subjective decision-making processes to determine:

   (a)   whether a juvenile should be incarcerated; and

   (b)   the length of time a juvenile should remain in custody;

   (4)   implementing new or expanded community-based alternatives that can be used in lieu of incarceration;

   (5)   reducing delays in processing and corresponding length of stay in all stages of a delinquency action, including parole and revocation proceedings, to ensure that juveniles do not remain in out-of-home placements longer than necessary or are unnecessarily returned to custody;

   (6)   reserving the use of incarceration for only those cases in which it is necessary to eliminate a substantial threat to public safety or as required by the Interstate Compact for Juveniles;

   (7)   combatting racial and ethnic disparities by collecting and examining data to identify policies and practices that may disadvantage minority juveniles at various stages of the process and pursuing strategies to eliminate those disparities; and

   (8)   monitoring and improving conditions of confinement in secure facilities.

   L.1982, c.77, s.2; amended 1995, c.280, s.1; 2001, c.408, s.1; 2011, c.195, s.1; 2015, c.255, s.1; 2019, c.363, s.1.