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Research & Policy

Racial Disparities in Jail and Prison Sentences for Youth Tried as Adults in Florida

Friday, 28 April 2017 Posted in Research & Policy

By Jeree Thomas, Policy Director

This month, the Journal of Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice featured a new paper by Peter Lehmann, Ted Chiricos, and William Bales called, Sentencing Transferred Juveniles in the Adult Criminal Court: The Direct and Interactive Effects of Race and Ethnicity.   The research analyzes data from over 30,000 youth defendants tried as adults in Florida for felony offenses from 1995 to 2006.  There are three guiding questions of the research.  First, is there a statistically significant difference between the likelihood of a Black or Hispanic youth receiving a jail or prison sentence instead of community supervision than that of their White peers?  Second, do Black and Hispanic youth receive lengthier prison and jail sentences than their White peers?  Finally, what impact does age and sex in addition to race have on the likelihood of receiving a prison sentence, and on the length of that sentence?

Raising the Age: A policy to cut costs and crime while keeping youth and communities safe

Tuesday, 07 March 2017 Posted in Research & Policy

By Arthur Rizer and Marc Schindler

A new report shows that over the past decade, half of the states that had previously excluded all 16- and/or 17-year-olds from juvenile court based solely on their age absorbed these young people into the youth justice system without significantly increasing taxpayer costs, and the number of youth in the adult system nationwide was nearly cut in half.

New York Case Example: Why Fully Implementing the Youthful Inmate Standard of PREA Means Removing Youth from Adult Jails and Prisons

Maya Williams, Juvenile Justice Fellow Thursday, 13 October 2016 Posted in Research & Policy

Wednesday, September 21, 2016, the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) and Legal Services of Central New York (LSNY) filed a class action lawsuit against the Onondaga County Sheriff’s Office and Syracuse City School District on behalf of six named plaintiffs—Black and Latino youth ages 16 and 17 jailed at the Justice Center—and a class of similarly situated youth.

The suit’s charges are over the use of solitary confinement for youth in the adult jail citing, “the use of solitary confinement violates the children’s rights and that the sheriff and school district are denying them an appropriate education in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment, the Eighth Amendment, and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.”

2016 Tribal Juvenile Code: Youth Don’t Belong in Adult System

Tuesday, 16 August 2016 Posted in Research & Policy

By Nils Franco, Juvenile Justice Fellow

The U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) expressly denounces the trial of youth under age 18 as adults in a draft model juvenile justice code published earlier this year as a template for tribal law. Tribal governments face unique challenges in juvenile justice, with systems of overlapping jurisdictions spurning confusion and threatening tribal rights as well as children’s rights. The juvenile code helps American Indian and Alaskan Native tribes develop codes of their own for operating tribal judicial systems.

The BIA’s draft of the Model Indian Juvenile Code does not provide for an adult-system transfer under any circumstances. A sidebar explaining the decision succinctly explains:

“Trying children as adults has not been shown to reduce crime, facilitate rehabilitation, or make communities safer.”

Citing research compiled by the Department of Justice (as well as by the Centers for Disease Control), the explanation details how transfer has “little deterrent effect on would-be juvenile offenders” while in fact having “the unintended consequence of increasing recidivism … and thereby promoting life-course criminality.”

BIA’s statements to that effect are noncontroversial in the criminological community, but rarely does an authority – a state legislature, for instance – have an opportunity to rewrite the juvenile code from top to toe to reflect evidence-based practices. This model code presents just such an opportunity for BIA.

Congress mandated the code with legislation in 1986, and the first version published in 1988; however, BIA has not issued an update since. The update, co-developed with American Indian groups and tribal law scholars, brings together evidence-based and developmentally appropriate practices, approaching juvenile delinquency from more of a public health perspective. BIA oversees U.S.-tribal relations with more than 500 federally recognized American Indian tribes.

The update to the 1988 model code assists “federally recognized tribes in creating individual codes focused on juvenile matters,” according to a BIA press release. The code, along with other advancements from the BIA and Department of the Interior (which oversees BIA), represents bolstered support for tribal sovereignty through the oft-criticized Bureaus of Indian Affairs and Indian Education.

Administrators from the Department of Justice and Department of the Interior as well as advocates in tribal sovereignty and juvenile justice herald the new code. DOJ Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) Administrator Robert Listenbee called the update “an important step forward in ensuring tribal courts have the resources they need to respond effectively to at-risk and delinquent youth in Indian Country,” noting that the revision attends to the OJJDP mission of “safeguarding the fair and equitable treatment of all youth in the juvenile justice system.”

The head of BIA, Lawrence Roberts, says the 2016 model code “improves decades-old guidance to aid tribes in developing their own codes that will serve and protect” justice-involved youth. The National Council of American Indians and the Center of Indigenous Research and Justice both provided technical and community input to support the drafting of the code.

Raising the age of criminal jurisdiction beyond 18

Thursday, 11 August 2016 Posted in Research & Policy

By Anne-Lise Vray & Jessica Sandoval

Over the past few years, voices asking to raise the age of criminal responsibility beyond age 18 have emerged. As a leader in the youth justice field, the Campaign for Youth Justice plays an important role in ending the prosecution, sentencing, and incarceration of youth in the adult criminal justice system. CFYJ accomplishes this in three ways, through (1) state and federal advocacy, by providing technical assistance and training support, (2) strategic communications, by lifting the voices of those most impacted, and (3) research, by serving as a clearinghouse of information and effective alternatives. As the only national organization dedicated to this issue, we were interested in finding out what raising the age to 21 practically and logistically imply, especially in order to address the concerns of many stakeholders in the field – particularly those who fear that it is dangerous to house youth over 18 with younger children.

To determine current practice on the ways states with extended juvenile court jurisdiction beyond age 18, we interviewed juvenile justice department administrators in the states who have extended age of juvenile court jurisdiction 21 and up to 25.  From these interviews, the following themes emerged:

  • Programming looks the same across populations;
  • Housing youth up to age 25 in juvenile facilities does not add any extra challenges to behavior and safety;
  • The average length of stay in committed facilities ranges from 7.5 months to 37 months for 18-25 year-olds;
  • Risk assessment is always used, regardless of age; Re-entry programs are not different for older youth; Housing separation based on age is not necessary; and
  • The juvenile justice system is where this older population of youth belongs.

Overall, our interviewees agreed upon the fact that these older youth were better served in the juvenile justice system, where they can – unlike in the adult system - receive educational programs, appropriate treatments, and actually be rehabilitated. They also addressed the concerns about these young adults having a bad influence on younger children, and asserted that putting them together could actually have a positive effect, while no particular additional behavioral challenges could be observed. “There are 15 year olds housed with 24 year olds. The kids go where their needs are best met, regardless of their age. Instances of victimization are very rare because of the big brother mentality that develops between older youth and younger kids,” one of the interviewees told CFYJ.

According to adolescent brain science, a young person’s brain is not fully developed until they reached their mid-20s. The interviewees were aware of the research, and many of them used it as a base to defend the system in place in their state. “Brain development science shows that the juvenile justice system is still the appropriate setting for this older population, regardless of crime, based on culpability, etc…,” a juvenile justice department leader told us. The evidence presented by brain development science is indeed what one the main reasons to raise the question of extending juvenile jurisdiction to this older population in the first place.

This piece of research conducted by CFYJ modestly contributes to informing the field about the pros and cons of raising the age of juvenile jurisdiction beyond 18, what factors may be present, and if it’s the appropriate time to consider this option.

Governors Submit Assurances for PREA Compliance

Monday, 11 July 2016 Posted in Research & Policy

Texas, Alaska, and Idaho have made assurances for the first time; Arkansas and Utah Continue to opt out of PREA

By Marcy Mistrett

Last week, the US Department of Justice released the re-certification and re-assurance submissions for Year Two of the audit for compliance with the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA).

PREA, a bipartisan supported act passed more than a decade ago, was designed to end sexual violence behind bars. For youth (under age 18) who are charged and/or sentenced as adults, PREA’s Youthful Inmate Standard (115.14) offers unique protections—requiring separate housing (including common rooms and showers) from adult inmates in jails and prisons. PREA requires sight and sound separation between youth and adults outside of housing, unless the facility provides direct staff supervision when the two populations interact; that facilities must make their “best efforts” not to rely on isolation as way to meet these requirements; and finally, that facilities must offer youth large muscle exercise, comply with legally required special education services, and provide access to other programming as much as possible.

New Alarming Report on PREA Data

By Anne-Lise Vray Friday, 01 July 2016 Posted in Research & Policy

The Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003 is a crucial law on many fronts, including for the safety of youth involved in the justice system. One of its provisions is a yearly data collection requirement, carried out by the Bureau of Justice Statistics. This year’s comprehensive statistical review and analysis of the incidence and effects of prison rape was just released, and it contains some pretty alarming numbers.

According to the report, “The number of youth held in state juvenile systems declined sharply, from 38,580 at year end 2006 to 19,095 at year end 2012. As a result, the rate of sexual victimization allegations per 1,000 youth held in state juvenile systems more than doubled, from 19 per 1,000 youth in 2005 to 47 per 1,000 in 2012.” Despite a significant decrease in the number of youth in the juvenile justice system and the tireless efforts made to widely and properly implement PREA, sexual victimizations have dramatically increased. Additionally, the report cites that 45% of the 9,500 allegations of sexual victimization reported between 2007 and 2012 involved staff-on-youth sexual victimization.

The report also highlights that LGB youth are much more vulnerable to be sexually assaulted while in custody.  LGB youth (10.4%) were more than seven times as likely as heterosexual youth (1.4%) to be assaulted by another youth.

Overall, this document shows that there is still a long way to go in the fight to end prison rape, and that one of the best tools with have to do so is the Prison Rape Elimination Act, which has surfaced the increasing prevalence of the rape and sexual assault of children in custody.  While PREA was passed in 2003, it is unfortunately not fully implemented, though it has become the new standard of care for children in custody. 

The Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) is a federal statute focused on sexual assault and victimization in juvenile facilities, prisons, jail, lockups, and other detention facilities. The goal of PREA is to prevent, detect, and respond to sexual abuse in detention and correctional facilities.  BJS will issue a second report on PREA in November/December 2016 that will report on the safety of youth in adult facilities.

California Moves Closer to Eradicating Direct File

Wednesday, 08 June 2016 Posted in Research & Policy

By Francesca Sands, Juvenile Justice Fellow

In California, ongoing efforts backed by Gov. Jerry Brown have inched the state that much closer to eradicating the direct filing of youth into the adult justice system. Direct filing, a practice that allows prosecutors to determine whether to charge a youth in adult criminal court, has resulted in the incarceration of thousands of youth serving lengthy sentences.

A new report by the W. Haywood Burns Institute suggests that direct filing is a worsening problem in the state. Despite decreased youth crime rates, California prosecutors are increasingly using direct file. The inconsistency is apparent: there has been a 55 percent drop in felony arrests from 2003 to 2014, but 23 percent more direct files during the same timeframe. Currently, direct filing is responsible for 80 percent of youth prosecuted in the adult system. Juvenile court judges can also waive youth into the adult system, and there are certain crimes that are statutorily excluded from juvenile court jurisdiction that, by law, originate in criminal court.

The Burns Institute’s report also points out growing racial disparities with direct file. Direct files for white youth are actually declining, while direct files for youth of color are rising. In 2003, youth of color were 4.3 times as likely as white youth to be directly filed, but by 2014, that likelihood had risen to 11.3 times as likely.

The report also includes the evidence of psycho-emotional trauma experienced by youth who are subjected to the adult system. This trauma, caused primarily by intense stress associated with higher stakes prosecution, is found to increase recidivism rates among these youth.

This report comes in the wake of a California Supreme Court decision in favor of a ballot measure that would let voters decide whether a judge can determine if youth are processed through the juvenile or adult court, rather than a prosecutor. The ballot initiative is just part of a series of measures proposed by Brown.

Advocates and paid signature gatherers have collected more than a million signatures in support of the ballot initiative—tens of thousands more than needed. The signatures should be certified by the end of the month, which is the final step to getting the direct file reform discussion on the ballot in California this November.

New OJJDP Report Shows New Trends in Residential Placement of Juveniles

Wednesday, 01 June 2016 Posted in Research & Policy

 By Anne-Lise Vray, Juvenile Justice Fellow

A new report of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention analyzes the juvenile residential placement data for the year 2013, and finds that overall, more than 60,000 youth were in residential placement across the United States on October 23, 2013, a drop of over 12% compare to 2011 and of more than 44% since 2003. 

While this report shows some encouraging trends, some others are worrisome. On the same date, 2,524 youth were locked up for status offenses, i.e. for misbehavior such as running away from home, skipping school, or speaking back to an adult – actions that are not considered crimes when committed by adults. Although the number of kids incarcerated for status offenses has decreased, it still represents almost 5% of all juveniles in residential placement, which is proportionally about the same as in 1997.

The report cautions that state variations in upper age of juvenile court jurisdiction influence placement rates. It points out that if all other factors were equal, one would expect higher juvenile placement rates in states where older youth are under juvenile court jurisdiction. Juvenile placement rates are also influenced by extended jurisdiction laws and transfer laws. States with laws allowing for youth to stay in juvenile facilities beyond the upper age of juvenile jurisdiction have higher placement rates than states with stricter laws, while states with broad transfer provisions would be expected to have lower juvenile placement rates than other states.

With those caveats in mind, the report highlights the geographic disparities in juvenile placement rates on the state level. The District of Columbia, South Dakota, and Wyoming have the highest juvenile placement rate per 100,000, while Vermont, Massachusetts and Hawaii have the lowest. Nationwide in 2013, 173 juvenile offenders were in placement for every 100,000 juveniles in the U.S. population.

Collateral Consequences: CFYJ's new report highlighting the long-term ramifications of incarcerating children as adults

Monday, 23 May 2016 Posted in Research & Policy

Today the Campaign for Youth Justice released Collateral Consequences, a new online report seeking to raise awareness on the long-lasting damages caused by the practice of trying, sentencing and incarcerating kids as adults. These consequences range from having a hard time finding a job to never being able to vote or to get education loans. 

The report also includes policy recommendations directed to the different levels of government, from local to federal representatives. 

Check out a video from Rev. Rubén Austria, the founding Executive Director of Community Connections for Youth on the damaging effects that collateral consequences can have on youth that have gone through the adult criminal justice system.

Click here to read the report and learn more about the collateral consequences of incarcerating youth in adult criminal justice system.

Please help us by spreading the word on social media:

Facebook

Check out the new online report by the Campaign For Youth Justice, “Collateral Consequences”, and learn more about the long-lasting damages caused by the practice of trying, sentencing and incarcerating kids as adults. http://www.campaignforyouthjustice.org/collateralconsequences/ 

CFYJ’S NEW REPORT: “Collateral Consequences” highlights the long-term ramifications of incarcerating children as adults, even far after they were released. http://www.campaignforyouthjustice.org/collateralconsequences/

Each year, approximately 95,000 youth are held in adult jails and prisons.  While locked up as adults, children often face inhumane conditions including physical and sexual abuse, prolonged solitary confinement, and insufficient health and educational resources. CFYJ’S NEW REPORT: “Collateral Consequences” on the damaging impact http://www.campaignforyouthjustice.org/collateralconsequences/

VIDEO: Check out a video from Rev. Rubén Austria, the founding Executive Director of Community Connections for Youth on the damaging effects that "Collateral Consequences can have on youth that have gone through the adult criminal justice system. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iLCGAf-Uevk#YouthJustice

Twitter

.@justiceforyouth has new report about the long-term damages done to kids incarcerated as adults http://www.campaignforyouthjustice.org/collateralconsequences/

Incarcerating kids as adults is harmful & will hurt them their whole life. Check out a new report http://www.campaignforyouthjustice.org/collateralconsequences/

VIDEO: @rubenaustria of @CC4Y on collateral consequences of having youth in the adult criminal justice system https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iLCGAf-Uevk

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