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Across the Country

Request NJPC's new data brief, entitled "The Incarceration of Children & Youth in New Jersey's Adult Prison System

Tuesday, 26 May 2015 Posted in Across the Country

Youth Suffer Long Term Solitary Confinement, Gross Racial & Ethnic Disparities, Justice by Geography, and Lack of Due Process

A local study by the New Jersey Parents's Caucus (NJPC) of 472 children and youth, ages 14 to 17, who were waived, sentenced and incarcerated in New Jersey's adult prison system between 2007 - 2015, showed:

  • Justice by geography: Rates of incarceration in the adult prison system vary significantly across counties in New Jersey, suggesting that justice depends on where one lives, not on the facts of a given case.
  • Youth are regularly deprived of due process: Approximately 30% of the 472 youth waived to adult court during the study period spent more than 2 years incarcerated, between their arrest date and their sentencing date, violating their right to a speedy trial.
  • Youth are regularly put in solitary confinement - especially youth with mental health disorders: Although solitary confinement is known to be psychologically damaging, especially to children, 53% of these youth spent a total of approximately 15,359 days (42 years) in solitary confinement between 2010 and 2015; 5 percent spend over a year there, and about 4 percent spent 2 years or more in solitary.  Nearly 70 percent of those placed in solitary had a mental health disorder, with nearly 37% having two or more diagnoses.
  • Youth suffer abuse while in adult prison: once incarcerated in an adult prison, one in four youth surveyed reported physical abuse; 5% reported sexual abuse.

These disturbing statistics appear in NJPC's new data brief, entitled "The Incarceration of Children & Youth in New Jersey's Adult Prison System: New Jersey Youth Justice Initiative ." The brief is comprised of comprehensive state data which NJPC gathered from the New Jersey Department of Corrections (NJ DOC) on 472 children incarcerated in the adult prison system. The data largely covers the period 2007 - 2015, though some information gathered dates back to 2003. In addition to the data retrieved from the NJ Department of Corrections, NJPC has compiled additional data from a subset of the same population (120 youth) by means of a survey provided to incarcerated youth and their parents, caregivers and family members

"These data show how broken our system is," said Kathy Wright, executive director of the NJPC, a parent of a justice-involved youth, and a fellow in the National Juvenile Justice Network's Youth Justice Leadership Institute. "We should not be sending youth to the adult system, where their rights are violated, they are unsafe, and their mental health needs go unmet. New Jersey's juvenile justice system was created because as a society, we realized our children, due to their age, can be rehabilitated, and they should be given the opportunity to do so.

Results from the data brief highlight a myriad of injustices that continue to plague New Jersey's justice system. Most blatant are the gross racial and ethnic disparities that exist in justice system. Youth of color are disproportionately represented among those waived to the adult prison system in New Jersey, making up approximately 90% of youth included in NJPC's data set; 72% are African American males, exceeding all other ethnic groups and genders. Furthermore, rates of youth incarceration in the adult prison system vary significantly across counties in New Jersey, suggesting that justice depends on where one lives, not on the facts of a given case. For example, in Camden County, 14 to 17 year olds make up 5.8% of the population of children between the ages of 0-17, but make up 15.3% of our data set between 2007 and 2015. In comparison, in Hunterdon County, where youth 14 to 17 make up 6.3% of the population of children between the ages of 0-17, exactly 0% were incarcerated in the adult system between 2007 and 2015.

Once incarcerated, children and youth are frequently subject to long-term solitary confinement, even though solitary confinement is known to be psychologically damaging, especially to children. Worse, one in four youth surveyed reported physical abuse, and 5% reported sexual abuse. Finally, and most disturbingly, the needs of New Jersey youth are not being met in their communities. Almost three out of four (71%) of youth waived to the adult system were known to at least two child-serving agencies prior to their involvement in adult court, with the majority having been involved in the mental health system. Of those youth, more than two out of three children have two or more mental health diagnoses.

According to Wright, "Given the large number of New Jersey youth involved in multiple child-serving systems prior to their incarceration in the adult system, this data brief serves as a call to action for state officials, child-serving systems, community-based organizations, legislators, and other interested stakeholders throughout the state of New Jersey to revisit the way in which we view and provide services to all children and youth, regardless of their race, ethnicity or geographical location, and the way in which services are provided to them and their families.Somehow, we have lost our way. The institution of racism has reared its ugly head and we are funneling kids of color who need our help into the juvenile justice system where, unlike the schoolhouse, there is no eject button, and they cannot say no."

NJPC's The Incarceration of Children & Youth in New Jersey's Adult Prison System: New Jersey Youth Justice Initiative  was recently posted on the National Center for Mental Health and Juvenile Justice (NCMHJJ) on their homepage and the National Black Disability Coalition.  The data brief is also available for download on the New Jersey Parents' Caucus website at at http://www.newjerseyparentscaucus.org.  

A Call to Action: Dear Governors, Protect Our Children from Rape in Adult Jails and Prison Today. There's No Excuse.

Carmen Daugherty Friday, 15 May 2015 Posted in Across the Country

CFYJ PREAEMAIL

Last year, Gov. Rick Perry, refused to complete a process to bring Texas into full compliance with the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA), saying it would result in unfunded mandates for local sheriffs and a reduction in prison guards. The actual gap between where Texas is and where it needs to be is relatively small, but the problems that remaining noncompliant will create for the state- including increased possibility for litigation and a loss of federal grant money - could be substantial.

Gov. Perry is just one example, in one state that magnifies a larger problem.

Over a decade ago, the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously approved PREA, a bill designed to end sexual violence behind bars. The passage of PREA was a bipartisan effort, signed into law by President George W. Bush, also a former governor of Texas.  U.S. Department of Justice officials worked tirelessly to write and issue regulations in 2012 to implement PREA through several comment periods.  

Now is the time to ensure that all states are in compliance and the U.S. Attorney General and the nation's governors need to devote their attention to enforcing this law. Today, Governors from across the country will once again provide information to the Department of Justice as to whether the state will be in compliance, or continue working towards full compliance.

What's at stake if PREA is not enforced? 

For starters, the safety and well-being of the approximate 100,000 children placed in adult jails and prisons every year.  

These children include Ameen, incarcerated in adult prison as a teen, who wrote CFYJ a letter stating that he witnessed a 14 year old being sexually assaulted by three other inmates, and Antonio, sent to adult prison at age 17, who wrote to us about his experiences stating that, "I came to prison so young; sexual advances were made toward me. I had to defend myself the best way I knew how, which was to fight."  And these children include Rodney Hulin, sent to adult prison at 16, repeatedly raped and died by suicide. Unfortunately these stories are more common than we recognize and youth are 36 more times more likely to commit suicide in an adult jail than in a juvenile detention facility.

To protect children, the PREA regulations include the Youthful Inmate Standard that bans the housing of youth with adults, prohibits contact between youth and adults in common areas, and ensures youth are constantly supervised by staff.  At the same time, the regulations limit the use of solitary confinement in complying with this standard. Enforcement of the Youthful Inmate Standard is just the baseline for safety, and we need to encourage our jurisdictions to go further to ensure that no child is victimized in a detention facility.

Governors and local officials should implement the best practices to fully protect youth in the justice system.  Best practices include removing youth from adult jails and prisons, and instead placing them in juvenile detention and correctional facilities where they are more likely to receive developmentally appropriate services, educational programming and support by trained staff. 

States that need assistance should consult other states that have already adopted policies to keep children out of adult jails or prisons, such as Colorado, Indiana, and Virginia.  States can also seek federal technical assistance through the U.S. Department of Justice sponsored centers such as the National PREA Resource Center and the National Center for Youth in Custody and apply for federal grants from the federal Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA).

Thousands of individuals and organizations in nearly every state have called on the U.S. Attorney General and the nation's governors to ensure that children are protected from the dangers of adult jails and prisons through the PREA. 

Since PREA was passed, an estimated one million children have cycled through adult jails and prisons.  Unfortunately, the PREA came too late to impact these childrens' safety and well-being. Now is the time for the U.S. Attorney General and the nation's governors to fully implement this law and protect our children.

Raise the Age Leads to PREA Compliance in Texas

Elizabeth Henneke Thursday, 14 May 2015 Posted in Across the Country

TX

This Friday, May 15, governors across the country will once again certify that their states are following the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) and protecting people in prison from sexual abuse.

In Texas, this issue has sharply divided the corrections community.  On March 28, 2014, then Governor Rick Perry announced that Texas would not comply with the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA).  Since that time, Texas sheriffs — custodians over the thousands of Texans housed in local county jails — have made clear that Governor Perry’s statements did not reflect their own views on PREA.  The vast majority of Texas Sheriffs have made clear that they intend to comply fully with PREA standards because these standards reflect best practices for keeping those in their care safe.  These Sheriffs have asked the Texas Legislature to help them comply by raising the age of juvenile jurisdiction from 17 to 18. 

Among other things, PREA requires all offenders under 18 to be housed separately from adults in correctional facilities.[1]   Research has shown that adult correctional facilities are a breeding ground for violence and abuse.  Youth are over eight times as likely to have a substantiated incident of sexual violence while in state prisons than adults in these same facilities.[2]  Moreover, 17-year-olds who are held in adult correctional facilities are subject to isolation, which poses a severe danger to their mental and physical health.[3]  Because PREA defines a “youthful inmate” as anyone under the age 18, 17-year-olds MUST be kept “sight and sound” separated from the rest of the adult population.  Unfortunately, county jails (where the majority of youth are held) are not equipped to segregate 17-year-olds without isolating them.[4]

This Youthful Inmate Standard (examined more fully below) has greatly impacted adult county jails, forcing them to expend extra costs to comply, and leaving many counties unable to comply due to architectural constraints.  For example, Dallas County spends approximately $79,850 per week to separate 17-year-olds from adults.[5]  Harris County has had to evacuate entire floors to move one or two 17-year-olds to the shower.[6]  Smaller counties are logistically unable to provide “sight and sound” separation and/or avoid placing youth in insolation without retrofitting facilities at tremendous expense.[7]  Simply put, Texas county jails cannot continue housing 17-year-olds with adult inmates or in isolation cells without financial cost and/or liability risk. 

Yet another county concern is lawsuits: PREA exposes counties to increased civil liability,[8] with the potential for substantial litigation costs.  While the Department of Justice maintains that “[t]he standards are not intended to define the contours of constitutionally required conditions of confinement,”[9] it is highly likely that the PREA standards will inform future civil litigation surrounding prison conditions.  In Farmer v. Brennan, the United State Supreme Court set forth the standard for determining if prison conditions violated the Eighth Amendment.[10]  The two-part test adopted by the Supreme Court required the plaintiff to prove (1) that the conditions were cruel and (2) that the government was deliberately indifferent to the conditions facing the inmate.  Prior to PREA, this second prong—deliberate indifference—narrowed the class of claims that litigants were able to bring, because it is extremely difficult to prove that a government entity was deliberately indifferent to the conditions facing inmates. 

PREA has the potential, however, to change the way this litigation proceeds in the future by providing national standards—supported by extensive evidence-based research, correctional administrator input, public commentary, and other documentation—that suggest what governments must do to provide safe environments for inmates.  Thus, failure to follow these PREA standards could be seen as prima facie evidence of deliberate indifference and may result in plaintiffs succeeding past the initial stages of litigation, substantially increasing litigation costs to facilities that fail to comply with PREA.  One ex-inmate of Travis County has sued, alleging that county and sheriffs’ officials displayed deliberate indifference to his safety by failing to comply with PREA; he is seeking $2 million in damages as compensation for the rape he sustained while in the Travis County jail.[11]

Because protecting and serving 17-year-olds in adult custody is a challenge for local jails, a risk to long-term public safety, and a burden on taxpayers, many Sheriffs have chosen to support “raising the age” of juvenile jurisdiction.

All eyes are now on the Texas Legislature, a bill authored by Chairman Harold Dutton of the House Juvenile Justice and Family Issues Committee winds its way through the Legislative process.  HB 1205 would raise the age of juvenile jurisdiction from 17 to 18. If the Legislature fails to act on this important bill, it will have left Texas youth in a vulnerable position, subjected local counties to threats of expensive litigation, and failed to recognize what every parent knows:  17 year olds are still children and should be treated as such. 

Elizabeth A. Henneke is the Policy Attorney at Texas Criminal Justice Coalition.

Citations
________________________________

[1] Ibid.

[2] National Standards to Prevent, Detect, and Respond to Prison Rape, 77 Fed. Reg. 37106-01, 37128 (Jun.20, 2012)

(amending 28 C.F.R. pt II5); see also, Lacey Levitt, “The Comparative Risk of Mistreatment for Juveniles in Detention Facilities and State Prisons,” International Journal of Forensic Mental Health 9 (2010): 44-54, http://www.prearesourcecenter.org/sites/default/files/library/riskofjuvenilemistreatment.pdf (Youth in adult prisons are “five times more likely to report being sexually assaulted by other inmates than in a juvenile commitment facility.”).

[3]  Deitch, et al., "Conditions for Certified Juveniles,” 25-26.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Sheriffs Adrian Garcia, Christopher Kirk, and Lupe Valdez, “Sending 17-Year-Olds to Adult Jails Costly to Teens and Taxpayers, “Dallas Morning News, May 19, 2014, http://www.dallasnews.com/opinion/latest-columns/20140519-sending-17-year-olds-to-adult-jails-costly-to-teens-and-taxpayers.ece.

[6] Deitch, et al., "Conditions for Certified Juveniles,” 25.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Deitch, et al., "Conditions for Certified Juveniles,” 25-26.

[9] Ibid, 2.

[10] 511 U.S. 825 (1994).

[11] Farzad Mashhood, “Ex-Inmate Sues Over Travis County Jail Rape Claim,” Austin American-Statesman, March 14, 2014.

Florida Must Protect Youth Behind Bars, Comply with PREA

By Tania Galloni Wednesday, 13 May 2015 Posted in Across the Country

florida 43781 640

This week, governors across the country are facing an important deadline. They must let the Department of Justice know by Friday if their state is complying with the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA).

All eyes need to be on Florida Gov. Rick Scott.

His response will affect the group most vulnerable to sexual violence in prison – young people. More than 2,000 of the state’s prisoners are under 21. As of today, there are more than 400 youths age 18 and under in Florida’s adult jails and prisons.

Floridians are already familiar with media reports of violence and abuse of our adult prisoners. But youths in prison don’t always report sexual assault. When they do, they often report multiple incidents.

Unfortunately, the governor hasn’t shown federal officials whether the state is keeping youths safe in its prisons. He could even remain silent on Friday. Under PREA, governors can choose to not provide information to federal officials, but their state will face a financial penalty.

If Scott chooses this route, Floridians need to let him know that this is unacceptable. There is federal money available to help states comply with PREA, but Florida must assure officials the state will reach compliance. Reaching compliance may not be an easy task, but it must be done. There is no excuse for Florida not to take every step to protect youths from sexual assault in prison. 

Tania Galloni is the managing attorney for the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Florida office.

For more information and to join Florida reform efforts, please visit: http://noplaceforachild.com/

Please visit our blog this week for updates on PREA from around the country.

Additionally, here are some sample posts for social media, please share:

Twitter:

“There’s No Excuse” national week of action to end prison rape #ImplementPREA

Prison Rape Elimination Act was passed to end sexual abuse behind bars. Act now to #ImplementPREA

PROBLEM: Jails & prisons are not equipped to protect youth from dangers of adult facilities. SOLUTION: #ImplementPREA

PREA would help the more than 2 million people behind bars including the 100K youth in jails & prisons every day  #ImplementPREA

There's No Excuse! Protect Children from Rape in Adult Jails & Prisons. Take Action TODAY#ImplementPREA

Implementing PREA will save lives. Join our efforts to protect youth behind bars #ImplementPREA

Facebook:

On any given day, over 8,000 youth are confined in adult jails and prisons. Research shows that youth are not safe in adult facilities and are at the greatest risk of sexual victimization. Youth are 36X more likely to commit suicide in an adult jail than in a juvenile detention facility. Take Action during the “There’s No Excuse” #ImplementPREA.


Prison rape is no laughing matter: More than 2million people behind bars including the 100K youth in jails & prisons are at risk of sexual abuse every day. The Prison Rape Elimination Act was passed to end sexual abuse behind bars. Its time for Governors to ensure that PREA is implemented in every state. Learn more and take action #ImplementPREA

Protecting the Most Vulnerable Prisoners in New York: PREA Matters

By Mishi Faruqee and Erin Beth Harrist Tuesday, 12 May 2015 Posted in Across the Country

juvenile safe 6x6

This Friday, May 15, governors across the country will once again certify that their states are following the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) and protecting people in prison from sexual abuse.

In New York, the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision has already taken some steps to follow the law, even producing orientation videos to educate people in prison on how to avoid sexual predators inside the walls.  However, despite these important efforts, New York must still take steps to protect the most vulnerable populations from sexual victimization –transgender people and young people housed in adult jails and prisons.

Transgender people are victimized at rates nearly ten times of other incarcerated people. The Bureau of Justice Statistics recently reported that nearly 40 percent of all transgender prisoners reported sexual assault or abuse. Transgender women housed in male prisons are often at greatest risk.  New York prisons often place trans prisoners in solitary confinement for their own protection, despite the fact that PREA specifically prohibits the use of segregated housing to protect people who are considered to be at high risk for sexual assault and abuse. Placement of trans prisoners in solitary confinement is not only traumatic and harmful to mental health, it also increases the risk of assault and abuse by prison staff. New York DOCCS must do more to ensure compliance with PREA by committing to house trans people consistent with their gender identity, establishing one or more voluntary housing units for transgender people, and prohibiting the use of involuntary solitary confinement for trans people.   

New York is also leaving hundreds of young people vulnerable to sexual victimization in adult facilities.  Because New York is one of only two states (along with North Carolina) that automatically prosecutes all youth as adults when they turn 16, New York has one of the highest number of youth incarcerated in adult jails and prisons in the country.  On any given day in New York State, there are approximately 800 16- and 17-year-olds in adult jails and prisons. 

Young people in adult jails and prisons are particularly vulnerable to sexual abuse. The Bureau of Justice Statistic report found  that among young people victimized by other prisoners in 2011-12, more than three-quarters experienced force or threat of force, and a quarter were injured.  At a recent legislative hearing, one mother provided powerful testimony of her 17-year-old son’s harrowing experience in an adult prison in New York:

“[My son] entered the correctional system as a mentally ill, naïve and very vulnerable 17-year-old incapable of handling prison life. He was placed in the general population even though the forensic evaluation strongly advised against this.   Within a few months, he became a target of sexual victimization. An older inmate pretended to be his friend and then threatened him unless he provided sexual favors. In response to this victimization, he was given solitary confinement, until his family intervened on his behalf. He was then transferred to another facility and placed in a unit for mentally ill inmates. He developed symptoms of PTSD, suffering from nightmares, insomnia and short-term memory loss and yet he did not receive any treatment for this.”

Under PREA’s Youthful Inmate Standard, young people under age 18 may not be housed with adults and may not be kept in solitary confinement as a way to separate them from adults.  New York has sought to comply with this requirement by housing 16- and 17-year-olds in separate units where they do not have contact with older prisoners. However, as the federal inquiry into the adolescent jail at Rikers Island found, because young people are still housed in adult facilities and subject to their punitive and violent culture, they are suffering widespread abuse behind bars. 

The only way to keep incarcerated youth safe in New York is to pass legislation to raise the age of criminal responsibility from 16 to 18 and remove all youth people from adult jails and prisons. The State Legislature packs up and goes home for the year in June – our elected officials must not leave Albany without raising the age of criminal responsibility and standing up for New York’s most vulnerable youth.

Erin Beth Harrist is a staff attorney at the New York Civil Liberties Union, where she focuses on statewide civil rights and civil liberties impact litigation.

Mishi Faruqee is the Juvenile Justice Policy Strategist for the American Civil Liberties Union focusing on national and state juvenile justice policy reforms.

Please visit our blog this week for updates on PREA from around the country.

Additionally, here are some sample posts for social media, please share:


Twitter:

“There’s No Excuse” national week of action to end prison rape #ImplementPREA

Prison Rape Elimination Act was passed to end sexual abuse behind bars. Act now to #ImplementPREA

PROBLEM: Jails & prisons are not equipped to protect youth from dangers of ault facilities. SOLUTION: #ImplementPREA

PREA would help the more than 2 million people behind bars including the 100K youth in jails & prisons every day  #ImplementPREA

There's No Excuse! Protect Children from Rape in Adult Jails & Prisons. Take Action TODAY#ImplementPREA

Implementing PREA will save lives. Join our efforts to protect youth behind bars #ImplementPREA

Facebook:

On any given day, over 8,000 youth are confined in adult jails and prisons. Research shows that youth are not safe in adult facilities and are at the greatest risk of sexual victimization. Youth are 36X more likely to commit suicide in an adult jail than in a juvenile detention facility. Take Action during the “There’s No Excuse” #ImplementPREA.

Prison rape is no laughing matter: More than 2million people behind bars including the 100K youth in jails & prisons are at risk of sexual abuse every day. The Prison Rape Elimination Act was passed to end sexual abuse behind bars. Its time for Governors to ensure that PREA is implemented in every state. Learn more and take action #ImplementPREA

PREA: Why it Matters in the States

Carmen Daugherty Monday, 11 May 2015 Posted in Across the Country

juvenile blank 6x6web

On any given day, over 8,000 youth are detained or confined in adult jails and prisons.  The research shows that youth are not safe in adult jails and prisons and are at the greatest risk of sexual victimization.  According to research by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, youth under the age of 18 represented 21 percent of all substantiated victims of inmate-on-inmate sexual violence in jails in 2005, and 13 percent in 2006 - surprisingly high since only one percent of jail inmates are youth.  The National Prison Rape Elimination Commission found that, "more than any other group of incarcerated persons, youth incarcerated with adults are probably at the highest risk for sexual abuse."  Research also shows that youth are 36 times more likely to commit suicide in an adult jail than in a juvenile detention facility.   

Over ten years ago, the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) unanimously passed Congress.  The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) issued final regulations in August 2012 to implement PREA in order to end sexual violence behind bars. YOUR VOICE was instrumental in getting these regulations published and the Youthful Inmate Standard is a powerful tool in removing youth from adult jails and prisons. 

This week, CFYJ will highlight states that are working towards justice reform utilizing the tools that PREA provides. We will continue to be watching as Governors provide certifications to the Department of Justice in hopes that states move closer to full PREA compliance.

By May 15th, Governors will have to certify whether their state is in compliance with PREA, or make assurances that federal dollars will be used to come into compliance. Help us monitor state responses and continue to advocate for full PREA implementation:There's No Excuse! Protect Children from Rape in Adult Jails and Prisons. Use #ImplementPREA to show your support.

Please visit our blog this week for updates on PREA from around the country.

Additionally, here are some sample posts for social media, please share:

Twitter:

“There’s No Excuse” national week of action to end prison rape #ImplementPREA

Prison Rape Elimination Act was passed to end sexual abuse behind bars. Act now to #ImplementPREA

PROBLEM: Jails & prisons are not equipped to protect youth from dangers of adult facilities. SOLUTION: #ImplementPREA

PREA would help the more than 2 million people behind bars including the 100K youth in jails & prisons every day  #ImplementPREA

There's No Excuse! Protect Children from Rape in Adult Jails & Prisons. Take Action TODAY#ImplementPREA

Implementing PREA will save lives. Join our efforts to protect youth behind bars #ImplementPREA

Facebook:

On any given day, over 8,000 youth are confined in adult jails and prisons. Research shows that youth are not safe in adult facilities and are at the greatest risk of sexual victimization. Youth are 36X more likely to commit suicide in an adult jail than in a juvenile detention facility. Take Action during the “There’s No Excuse” #ImplementPREA.

Prison rape is no laughing matter: More than 2million people behind bars including the 100K youth in jails & prisons are at risk of sexual abuse every day. The Prison Rape Elimination Act was passed to end sexual abuse behind bars. Its time for Governors to ensure that PREA is implemented in every state. Learn more and take action #ImplementPREA

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month

Kay Xiao Wednesday, 01 April 2015 Posted in Across the Country

Today marks the beginning of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, geared towards raising awareness of sexual violence and prevention to public health, human rights, and social justice that exists across demographic groups: sexual violence happens to people of all ages, races, genders, sexual orientations, religions, abilities, professions, incomes, and ethnicities. From college campuses to jails and prisons, sexual violence impacts individuals and communities alike.  
 
Prisons and jails across the United States house youth under 18 with adults every single day. The most recent data from the Department of Justice, Bureau of Statistics  reports that nearly 4500 youth are held in jails and nearly 2000 in prisons on any given day. According to the new data, Florida houses over 200 youth each day in adult prison, Louisiana and New York, 178 and 182 respectively, Connecticut 143, North Carolina 115, and Michigan and Texas, 106 and 104. Georgia houses nearly 100.
 
The Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA), Youthful Inmate Standard (YIS), was created to protect these youth from the dangers of living in prisons and jails. It is our belief that these young people should be completely removed from these facilities and given access to developmentally appropriate rehabilitative services in the juvenile justice system. While we suspect many states will not certify full compliance, our goal is to keep shining a light on the prevalence of sexual abuse of youth in adult jails and prisons, and to continue to call on the full removal of youth in adult facilities.
 
In 2011, correctional administrators correctional administrators reported 8,763 allegations of sexual victimization in prisons, jails, and other adult correctional facilities, and according to the 2012 National Survey of Youth in Custody, An estimated 9.5% of adjudicated youth in state juvenile facilities and state contract facilities (representing 1,720 youth nationwide) reported experiencing one or more incidents of sexual victimization by another youth or staff in the past 12 months or since admission, if less than 12 months.
 
During the month of April, please take the time help us raise awareness about sexual victimization of youth in adult jails and prisons. 
 

State of the States: Here's What's Moving in 2015

Najja Quail, CFYJ Legal Intern Tuesday, 24 March 2015 Posted in Across the Country

By Najja Quail, CFYJ Legal Intern

As the rates of juvenile arrests continue to decline, state policymakers are taking advantage of the opportunity to rethink the way we deal with youth involved with the adult criminal justice system. This legislative session, several bills have been introduced in various states to: 1) raise the age of juvenile court jurisdiction; 2) examine the ways in which youth are transferred to the adult system; and 3) remove youth from pretrial detention.

Missouri, New York, and Texas, all have bills currently being reviewed by the legislature to raise the statutory age for which youth in these states can be automatically prosecuted in the adult criminal justice system. Connecticut is trying to raise the minimum age of transfer from 14 to 15 years of age while Vermont proposes that all cases involving youth under 18 originate in the juvenile court, giving Family Court judges the ability to waive those cases to the criminal court. There is also push to make changes with regard to who decides whether a youth will be transferred to the criminal court, and where that youth is housed pending transfer decisions.  Utah’s SB 167 does several things to reduce the number of youth entering the adult system. Utah’s proposed bill limits the number of offenses in which a child can be “direct filed” in the adult system among other significant shifts in burden and changes in certification language.

Florida, a state notorious for its high number of youth involved in the adult system due to unfettered prosecutorial discretion, has several bills (HB 195, HB 783, SB 444, SB 498, and SB 1082) currently in the Legislature that would limit the number of youth automatically transferred to the adult system. The State of Maryland has bills in both the House and Senate (HB 618 and SB 172) that would require youth to be held in juvenile rather than adult facilities while they await a transfer determination.

In addition to the abovementioned bills, there are many states looking at other aspects of juvenile justice reform, thus making it more likely that youth in the adult system will have a place to go and receive appropriate rehabilitative services if these bills are successful. State legislative sessions end anywhere from late April to early June so there is plenty of time to get involved. To receive information on what’s happening in your state, please join our email list to receive timely updates. You can sign up here.   

March Raises Awareness for Girls in the Juvenile Justice System

Kay Xiao Thursday, 12 March 2015 Posted in Across the Country

Girls in JJ.png

The discourse on youth within the criminal justice system often overlooks the special circumstances and unique challenges that girls in the system face. Before ever coming into contact with the criminal justice system, many girls experience trauma – physical and/or sexual abuse, neglect, poverty and family instability – just to name a few.

According to Detention Reform and Girls, a 2005 report from the Annie E. Casey foundation, an increasing number of girls are being arrested for minor offenses and spending more time —sometimes nearly twice as long — in detention relative to their male counterparts. For girls, these experiences can reignite trauma. Instead of addressing these problems, the process and experience of detention ignores the causal factors for these minor offenses and further exacerbate pre-existing trauma.

Moreover, girls are likelier than boys to be arrested for status offenses and often receive more severe punishment than boys. This highlights the subliminal gender inequality that differentiates the experiences of boys and girls in the criminal justice system to the detriment of girls.

March is a month to raise awareness for girls in the juvenile justice system. Take the time to learn more about girls in the system and reflect on some of the challenges that girls in the system face in your own communities.

March is Juvenile Justice Month of Faith and Healing

Kay Xiao Monday, 09 March 2015 Posted in Across the Country

March marks the annual Juvenile Justice Month of Faith and Healing. This month brings together congregations of all faiths, schools and universities in prayer, service and action. The goal is to offer young offenders hope and alternatives to a lifetime as a hardened criminal by raising awareness and creating engagement with issues pertaining to juvenile justice.

How to Get Involved:

  • Place a bulletin in your faith organization’s newsletter.
  • Throughout the month of March discuss juvenile justice in your weekly faith service.
  • Post a flyer in your place of worship.
  • Host a candle light vigil in your faith community in remembrance of youth in the justice system.
  • Host a discussion after a faith service in your community about juvenile justice issues. Such topics could be sentencing laws, sending children into the adult court system, willful defiance or the classification process in the prison system that sends youthful offenders to higher level prisons than adults for the same crime.
  • Support neighborhood groups that work to create cooperative relationships between neighbors, faith communities, and law enforcement to create a safe and secure community.
  • Support or volunteer with programs that promote victim ministry in your place of worship.
  • Support or volunteer with the ministry at your local detention center.
  • Provide spiritual, material, or emotional assistance to those reentering society, both youth and adult. Schools and places of worship are encouraged to invite formerly incarcerated youth to share their experiences and insights about the juvenile justice system.

For more information or to schedule a speaker please contact Javier Stauring at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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