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Articles tagged with: Across the Country

Momentum for Youth Justice in 2016

Thursday, 11 February 2016 Posted in 2016, Across the Country, Campaigns, Take Action Now

By Anne-Lise Vray, Juvenile Justice Fellow

The year 2016 has started off very well for youth justice issues, as actions and movements throughout the country have raised hopes of a positive evolution towards reforming and ending the adultification of youth. On the national level, the most important step at the beginning of this year was taken by President Obama, who used his executive authority to end the use of solitary confinement for youth in the federal prison system. Almost at the same time, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that its Miller v. Alabama decision, which found that a mandatory sentence of life without parole for juveniles is unconstitutional under the 8th Amendment, was retroactive.

At the state level too, great movement is underway, from California where Governor Brown officially showed his support for a sentencing reform referendum that would include ending direct file, to Wisconsin where a report recommending raising the age of juvenile jurisdiction has just been released. Legislation in Wisconsin to do just that is pending. Earlier this month, another report, authorized by the Louisiana legislature, analyzed the benefits of raising the age in Louisiana and advocated strongly in favor of doing so. Louisiana’s legislative session starts in mid-March.

Additionally, a lot of legislative action is already happening across the country, with the potential of improving the lives of thousands of kids. This week should be crucial for the future of key bills dealing with juvenile justice issues, starting on Wednesday in Missouri with a Senate Committee hearing on SB 618 and SB 684, two bills that would keep more kids out of adult facilities.

In Florida, a second hearing on SB 314 was held today, February 11th. This bill would modify the direct file statutes to decrease the number of offenses in which a child can be direct filed in criminal court and create a reverse waiver mechanism. The bill was approved unanimously by the Committee today, after passing unanimously out of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee late last year. Today also, the conservative James Madison Institute released a report analyzing the long-term costs of the bill, and recommending that it be supported.

Additionally today, another hearing took place in Maryland on SB 243, a bill which would repeal laws that allow the automatic transfer of kids into the adult system. Finally, Michigan’s House Committee on Criminal Justice is expected to vote on a raise the age reform any day now.

Show your support, take action and be part of this movement of change. Together, we can create a better future for our children and a safer, fairer society.

Injustice Anywhere is a Threat to Justice Everywhere

Marcy Mistrett Sunday, 17 January 2016 Posted in 2016, Across the Country

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By Marcy Mistrett, CFYJ CEO

The anniversary of Rev Martin Luther King Junior’s birthday presents us with a call of action to get involved in local, state and federal campaigns to end the prosecution, sentencing and incarceration of youth in the adult criminal justice system.

The injustices presented by youth being treated as adults in the criminal justice system are plentiful and continually positions the United States as an outlier in preserving the human rights of children. Several of the most egregious injustices include:
 
  • Treating children as though they are mini adults:  Research has proven that childrens’ brains handle decision-making, impulsivity, and causal relationships differently from adults.  Furthermore, they show great capacity to change. Not taking these differences into account is a gross injustice to our children.
  • Failing to provide children with appropriate protections at their arrest and during trial.  Children who are charged as adults are not afforded the protections of having their parents or guardians present during police interrogation.  Research has demonstrated that youth are much more likely to sign confessions, admit guilt, and feed law enforcement the answers that “they want” in order to go home. Despite having the greatest influence and support for their children, parents are often times left out of the equation which rehabilitation is considered.    
  • Treating children differently based on their race and ethnicity.  Children of color are much more likely to be prosecuted, sentenced and incarcerated as adults than their white counterparts.   These disparities are gross and unacceptable (African American youth are 9 times more likely to be sentenced to adult prison than white children for the same crimes; latino youth are 4 times more likely; and Tribal youth are nearly twice as likely).
  • Incarcerating children in adult facilities.  Children charged and sentenced as adults are housed in adult facilities.  They have very little access to developmentally appropriate education, mental health, substance abuse, or vocational services.  Rather, children are often held in solitary confinement to “protect” them from the adult population, isolating them 20-22 hours/day.
  • Punishing children the rest of their lives for poor decisions made in their childhood.  We know that a critical aspect of adolescence is learning to make good decisions; and having the opportunity to right the wrongs we make.  Children who are sentenced as adults carry their conviction the rest of their lives. 

For the past decade, the Campaign for Youth Justice has partnered with states, advocates, and impacted youth and families to challenge these practices.  We have seen the impact that unified voices can have in challenging injustices.  In fact, in the past ten years, 30 states have changed nearly 50 laws making it more difficult to prosecute, sentence and incarcerate children in the adult criminal justice system.

As we enter the 2016 legislative session, we encourage you to get involved in the local, state or federal campaigns that challenge this practice.  Legislation has already been introduced in Florida, Michigan, Missouri, New York, and South Carolina.  We expect several other states to introduce legislation in upcoming weeks to decrease the number of youth entering the adult criminal justice system.  We can only change these laws if communities are willing to stand for justice, and we need your help.

There are many ways to take a stand against injustice:

  • Sign on to your local campaign’s listserve to stay abreast of progress;
  • Call or tweet policymakers to show your support for reform;
  • Leverage your networks to learn more about this issue—host a discussion in your home, or community center, or house of faith to share with others the injustices being harbored against our youth;
  • Raise your voice in support—offer to write op eds or letters to the editor to call on policymakers to do what is right for children.

Justice is a fight well worth fighting for.  In the great words of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.”  We hope to gain your support during this legislative session. For more information contact: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

New York Governor Includes “Raise the Age” Proposal in his “State of the State” Budget Announcement

Friday, 15 January 2016 Posted in 2016, Across the Country, Campaigns

By Anne-Lise Vray, Juvenile Justice Intern

On January 13th, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo addressed the crucial question of raising the age in his “State of the State” speech, in which he outlined the New York State executive budget for 2016-17. New York is one of the last two states, along with North Carolina, where 16 year-olds are automatically charged as adults, which can have devastating, sometimes deadly, consequences. Trying, sentencing and incarcerating teenagers as adults has indeed been shown to substantially increase recidivism, as well as exposing the children to grave threats such as sexual assault and suicide.

A large coalition of advocates, law enforcement experts, unions and clergy has been working very hard to get New York to side with the vast majority of states and raise the age of criminal responsibility. The group has already won many victories and gained a lot of support, including from the state’s Governor Andrew Cuomo, which was reiterated in his Wednesday’s budget announcement.

The 2016-17 budget includes funds for the application of a bill which, if it passes, would (among other things) raise the age of criminal responsibility from age 16 to age 17 on January 1, 2018 and to age 18 on January 1, 2019; raise the lower age of juvenile jurisdiction from age 7 to age 12 on January 1, 2018 for all offenses except homicide; and expand Family Court jurisdiction to include youth ages 16 and 17 charged with non-violent felonies, misdemeanors, or harassment or disorderly conduct violations. New York is the state with the second highest number of kids housed in adult state prisons (after Florida), with 144 youth under 18 locked up with adults on any given day.

There are now high hopes that the state of New York will finally come around and stop this detrimental practice, and will instead give thousands of children a second chance and the opportunity to turn their lives around. “We cannot lose one more child to a system that contradicts what we know about adolescent brain development, increases recidivism, and makes our community less safe,” said Paige Pierce, CEO of Families Together in New York State. “Including ‘Raise the Age’ in the budget recognizes that enough is enough, it is time for New York State to live up to its progressive reputation and be smart on crime.”

For more information on NY’s raise the age efforts: http://raisetheageny.com/

Governor Malloy of Connecticut prepared remarks today on criminal justice reform

Friday, 06 November 2015 Posted in 2015, Across the Country

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Today, the Governor of Connecticut issued a press release on criminal justice reform in which he urged the legislature to consider raising the age of being tried as adult to 21. Raisng the age of juvenile justice jursdiction through to the age of 20 instead of 17 is a poineering effort, however, it does have credible roots in research based evicence on youth development. 

Marcy Mistrett, CEO of The Campaign for Youth Justice touches upon the importance of age appropriate sentencing.

"Making decisions informed by brain research, evidence- based practice, local data and what is in the best interest of kids and the community is smart public policy. We applaud the Governor for treating kids like kids, " said Mistrett. "Governor Malloy’s statement today on criminal justice reform continues to build momentum on the great progress already underway in Connecticut. 

The following is direct from the press release:

Governor Dannel P. Malloy presented some first-in-the-nation ideas regarding criminal justice today at a Connecticut Law Review symposium held at the UConn School of Law in Hartford.  While Connecticut has become a national leader in its criminal justice efforts, the Governor introduced several ideas to deliver further progress, including raising the age of the juvenile justice system's jurisdiction through age 20 instead of age 17, as well as allowing low-risk young adults aged 21 through 25 to have their cases heard confidentially, their records sealed, and the opportunity to have those records expunged.  He also discussed exploring bail bond reform.

Find the complete press release transcipt here

#Girls Justice Day: Focus on Girls & Juvenile Justice

Thursday, 29 October 2015 Posted in 2015, Across the Country

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Written by Jeannette Pai-Espinosa, courtesy of JJDPA Matters Blog 

Today, October 29, we join together to recognize Girls Justice Day because sadly, despite decades of attention, the proportion of girls in the juvenile justice system has increased. At the same time,their challenges have remained remarkably consistent, resulting in deeply rooted, systemic gender injustice.

Every day in this country, girls who are survivors of violence, sexual abuse, neglect, and family dysfunction are driven into the justice system. Too often, it’s because we criminalize the actions they take to protect themselves and to deal with their trauma. Girls are rarely detained for offenses that cause a risk to public safety—they are significantly more likely to face arrest for “status offenses,” which are actions that would not be considered a crime if they were adults, such as running away.

New data recently released by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention shows that despite declines in overall youth incarceration, the number of system-involved girls is increasing and those girls are disproportionately girls of color. In fact, data that show 61 percent of incarcerated girls are girls of color, and that black girls are twice as likely as white girls to be incarcerated.

For juvenile justice reform to be truly effective, it must consider the context of girls’ lives, address their needs, and attack the disproportionate detention of girls of color. The good news is that momentum for change is building, even at the highest levels of our government.

On October 28, The White House Council on Women and Girls and the Domestic Policy Council’s Urban Affairs, Justice and Opportunity team hosted an all-day forum called “Girls of Color and Intervening Public Systems: How Can Communities Interrupt the Sexual Abuse-to-Prison Pipeline?”

This convening focused attention on the social impact of trauma and the connection between adverse childhood experiences—such as sexual abuse, young motherhood, commercial sex trafficking—and juvenile justice system engagement. As President Obama noted in his September 19th speech to the Congressional Black Caucus, we must change the ways our nation supports women and girls who are most at-risk, including many women and girls of color.

During the meeting, Vanita Gupta, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General, stated, “Protecting young women and girls from sexual assault and abuse is a fundamental right.  Federal law requires that our schools protect our students from sexual abuse. Schools are too often responding with suspension expulsion and arrest.”

She also told the young women who attended: “You are not alone.”

Fran Sherman, speaker and author of the recent report, Gender Injustice, noted that, “Everyday girls with trauma enter the juvenile justice system for behavior related to their trauma and that school failure disproportionately drives girls of color into the justice system.”

During a panel of Federal officials OJJDP Administrator Robert Listenbee announced the release of the OJJDP Policy Guidance on Girls in Juvenile Justice. The policy statement includes recommendations that include a ban on status offenders being placed in the juvenile justice system and a phase out of the use of valid court orders. OJJDP believes that the needs of girls must be addressed in a developmentally appropriate manner.

We couldn’t agree more.

Which is why we are excited that yesterday also brought the announcement of the first recipients of the National Girls Initiative’s Innovation Awards, a program designed to spotlight and support creative efforts to advance systems-level juvenile justice reforms for girls. Support for the seven recipients comes from a mix of government and philanthropic funds and will drive new resources to state, local and tribal efforts to address girls’ needs, and to share information on evidence-based practices that are trauma-informed and gender and culturally responsive. The National Girls Initiative is a collaborative effort of both American Institutes for Research (AIR) and The National Crittenton Foundation (TNCF); it works to elevate the voices of girls and their families as partners in reforming the juvenile justice system.

For me the highlight of the day at the White House was the panel of youth advocates from Girls for Gender Equity in New York City. Nowhere is the call to action for reform more clear, passionate and commanding than through the voices of young women survivors. Possessed with the courage born of commitment, and compassion for the girls yet to come, they share the reality of their lives as evidence of the need for change. As leaders, they teach us that we must invest of ourselves to achieve true change.

So today, on Girls Justice Day, while it appears that movement and transformation is near, we must stand with these young women leaders to continue to press forward for reform that addresses the needs and potential of girls in or at risk of entering the juvenile justice system. This includes the long overdue passage of reauthorization of the JJDPA.

Jeannette Pai-Espinosa is the President of The National Crittenton Foundation and the Co-Director of the National Girls Initiative of OJJDP. Additionally, she is chair of the National Foster Care Coalition and a member of the Women’s Services Advisory Committee for SAMSHA.

New Report: Gender Injustice: System-Level Juvenile Justice Reforms for Girls

Anne-Lise Vray Wednesday, 30 September 2015 Posted in 2015, Research & Policy

A young girl at Maryvale, an all-girls level-12 institution in Rosemead, California. Photo by Richard Ross.

 Anne-Lise Vray, Juvenile Justice Intern

The National Crittenton Foundation, in partnership with the National Women’s Law Center, just released a report entitled “Gender Injustice: System-Level Juvenile Justice Reforms for Girls”, which reveals how and why the girls’ experience of the American juvenile justice system is very different from the boys’. The issue has come under the spotlight as girls are increasingly entering this system but continue to lack appropriate care and support. Indeed, despite an overall decline in the arrests of youth, girls’ share of arrests has increased by 45% over the last two decades. Meanwhile, girls’ share of detentions increased by 40%. These alarming numbers are products of the incomprehensive and inadequate policies girls who get pulled into the juvenile justice system have been subjected to. Indeed, a large majority of these kids have a background of deprivation, abuse and violence, traumatic experiences that are directly related to their behaviors, which in most cases don’t pose any threat to public safety. Thus, among the girls arrested nationwide, there is a disproportionate number of them whose offenses are connected to poverty, abusive homes or poor relationships, such as “prostitution” (which is increasingly recognized as being sexual exploitation of minors), liquor law violation or curfew violation. Furthermore, the report highlights that these very young women are still consistently sent behind bars for status offenses, misdemeanors or other minor offenses that don’t represent any danger for the public.

Among these vulnerable girls, some groups are even more exposed. Young ladies of color and girls from the LBQ/GNCT (Lesbian, Bisexual, Questioning/Gender Non-Conforming or Transgender) community are indeed at a greater risk than their white/straight or gender-conforming peers to enter the juvenile justice system and to be discriminated against throughout the whole judicial process. 

The report reminds us of “Jane Doe”’s case, an “example of the way juvenile justice systems too often prioritizes control over treatment, disregarding the clear need for a developmental approach.” In 2014, a 16 year-old transgender girl of color who had been sexually abused/trafficked her whole life was sent to an adult women prison at the request of the Connecticut’s Department of Children and Families, before eventually ending up in isolation in a secure facility for boys. This story illustrates the way the needs of youth, especially of girls, are too often ignored by the juvenile justice system, from the police to the facilities’ staff. Yet, the report underlines the benefits a more comprehensive, developmental approach would have, and gives the 9 following recommendations for a reform of the system:

-        -  Stop criminalizing behavior caused by damaging environments that are out of girls’ control

-        -  Engage girls’ families throughout the juvenile justice process

-        -  Use pre-petition diversion to provide “off-ramps” from the formal justice system for girls living in traumatic social contexts

-        -  Don’t securely detain girls for offenses and technical violation that pose no public safety threat and are environmentally-driven

-         - Attorneys, judges and probation officers should use trauma-informed approaches to improve court culture for girls

-         - Adopt a strengths-based, objective approach to girls probation services

-         - Use health dollars to fund evidence-based practices and programs for girls, and address health needs related to their trauma

-         - Limit secure confinement of girls, which is costly, leads to poor outcomes, and re-traumatizes vulnerable girls

-         - Support emerging adulthood for young women with justice system histories

SAFE Justice Act: A Briefing Recap

Tomás Perez - Juvenile Justice Fellow Friday, 11 September 2015 Posted in 2015, Federal Update

Written by Tomás Perez - Juvenile Justice Fellow

Bernie KerikThis week, a briefing took place inside the Library of Congress to discuss the appropriately named house bill H.R. 2944, The Safe, Accountable, Fair, and Effective (SAFE) Justice Act. An audience of media representatives, congress members, interest group lobbyists, and other individuals invested and concerned with the criminal justice system packed the Members Room, awaiting the briefing from the panel of speakers. The panel consisted of a variety of point people on the issue ranging from former U.S. Attorney, Tim Heaphy, to a former federal prison inmate, to a victim’s rights advocate, to even the general counsel for Koch Industries, Inc. The primary congressional speakers were Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) and Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA), which added to the diverse and bipartisan representation of supporters at the briefing.

Van Jones, a CNN political contributor, started the briefing with a general overview of the SAFE Justice Act. If enacted into law, the bill, according to FAMM (Families Against Mandatory Minimums), would “reduce prison costs and populations, save money, reinvest savings into law enforcement needs (e.g., training, body cameras, blue alerts), and protect the public by using state-tested, evidence-based practices that are reducing crime”. The SAFE Justice Act seeks to end over-criminalization, and break the cycle of recidivism, or relapse of criminal behavior. It uses strategies that were implemented in 32 states (such as New York, Texas, Rhode Island, Wisconsin, Georgia, and South Carolina) where there was state-level reform that reduced both their crime and imprisonment rates over the past five years.

A Federal Prosecutor's Perspective

Former U.S. Attorney, Tim Heaphy spoke about his experience being a federal prosecutor for several years and his perspective on reform for the criminal justice system. He stated that he prosecuted people hard, and for the highest charges. The vast amount of cases he heard were drug related and non-violent he said. However, while he was a U.S. Attorney, he would prosecute on charges of conspiracy, which basically meant that although the defendant was not a direct perpetrator of whatever crime was committed, the fact that they were slightly affiliated with the direct perpetrator(s) and/or had a knowledge to the slightest degree of what possible crimes were being committed, it made them not only an accessory to the crime, but a conspirator by allowing it to happen. Heaphy would use this method to his fullest extent, until he later realized that the window of resources for prosecutors was diminishing because the spending on incarceration and prisons was increasing. This was to the point that prosecutors were left with minimal resources not only for themselves, but also for the prisoners. It was at this moment that he realized that there must be reform to balance out the budget for the justice department. The past 20 years has shown a dangerous trade off in which more money was being put into imprisoning people and less money going to federal assistance to state and local law enforcement, including resources for those convicted.

Federal Prison: Not Just for the "Worst of the Worst"

A notable panel speaker was Bernie Kerik, who had a unique set of perspectives on the issue by not only being a former NYPD officer, detective, and eventually commissioner, but also an ex-inmate of federal prison. Kerik was a leader in criminal justice as well as national security and crime and terrorist prevention. He was nominated by former president Bush to be head of Homeland Security, but withdrew his nomination after being investigated by the Bronx District Attorney’s Office. He pleaded guilty to two ethics violations, misdemeanors, in 2006, and then was indicted by a grand jury on charges of conspiracy, tax fraud, and making false statements in 2007 and served 4 years in federal prison. Kerik stated, “like many Americans, thought that federal prison was reserved for ‘the worst of the worst’ but I was wrong”. He stated that while he was there, he met many young adults who were first time offenders, and were charged with nonviolent crimes. There were many who were charged at the state level then turned over to federal prosecutors. It is not hard to imagine that some of these were juveniles charged as adults, and then somewhere along the line, were handed off to federal prosecutors or transferred to federal adult facilities due to overcrowding or lack of accountability.

We Cannot Incarcerate Our Way Out Of These Problems

Dionne Wilson, a victim’s rights advocate and survivor outreach coordinator for Californians for Safety and Justice, spoke on behalf of communities most impacted by the crime in America today. Wilson was married to a police officer and said that she, like many Americans, had an idea for what “justice” meant. Her husband was shot and killed in 2005, and like any person, she wanted the shooter to receive the fullest extent of punishment. Who could blame her? The courts agreed with her and sentenced a death penalty to the defendant. Yet, the verdict would not suffice, or give her any closure or peace of mind. After contemplating the issue for many years, she became an advocate for sentence reduction and prison reform to stop the cycle of crime in America not by being “hard on crime”, but by being smart on crime. “We cannot incarcerate our way out of these problems” she said, and with that she would be one of the most unlikely faces for incarceration-reduction and prison reform. She noted that she was very privileged to be in her position, as the wife of a police officer, many people would listen to her. But when she would speak to other victims of crime, such as the families and communities, she noticed not everyone was as well received. Now, she acts as a voice for the voiceless and advocates for prison reform that ends the cycle of violence, to really solve the root of the problem.

The Cycle of Incarcerations

Many other people from all backgrounds and expertise spoke to defend this bill, either from a moral standpoint, a fiscal standpoint, and a constitutional standpoint. The overarching support from the briefing was clear to be bipartisan, and diverse. The issue of mass incarceration is a pressing issue that has now demanded the attention and priority of the federal government on a scale of magnitude that the country has not seen before. PEW charitable trusts--who were also represented at the briefing--shared their research which has shown that prison spending grew twice as fast as all other justice department spending from 1980 to 2013. With the bill aiming to end the cycle of crime and incarceration, this could have a big impact on the youth of America as well. At the moment, youth tried and convicted as adults will often serve out their sentences into adulthood and in some cases, until death. This leaves them stuck if they are to assimilate back into society at the end of their sentence. Without proper resources for them, this leads to recidivism, and they will likely offend again. This is the cycle of incarceration and crime that the SAFE Justice Act is aiming to end. It is time for America to stop the cycle of incarceration not by being “hard on crime” but by being smart on crime.

Written by Tomás Perez, intern with the Campaign for Youth Justice. Tomás is a senior, political science major at the University of California, Merced. 

Back To School

Marcy Mistrett Friday, 04 September 2015 Posted in 2015, Across the Country

It’s back to school time in the nation’s capitol and a buzz is in the air—traffic is picking up, parents are excited to get back to the routine of school days, and kids can’t wait to meet their new teachers and reconnect with old friends.  It’s a time for fresh starts and new beginnings—of opportunity to overcome academic challenges of the past and embrace the possibilities of the future.

However, children that we have charged as adults in the criminal justice system, don’t get to be part of this routine. While detained in adult jails—they receive little—if any-- formal education.   In adult prisons, these youth have been barred from receiving PELL grants since 1994, unlike youth in the juvenile justice system. We tell this to 100,000 children a year who spend months, years, and even decades, in adult jails and prisons.

Our country doesn’t educate children that we have prosecuted as adults because we have already told them their lives don’t matter. That they have lost the opportunity for a second chance.  That punishment for what they have done (or been accused of doing) is valued more than the opportunity to get services and turn their lives around. We tell them this despite polling that shows that 78% of the American public believes in second chances for youth, and favor rehabilitation over incarceration.  In the past year, we have sent this message to 10 year olds in Pennsylvania,  12 year olds in Wisconsin,  14 year olds in Mississippi,  and 15 year olds in Florida that are sitting idle in adult jails and prisons, “doing time”—but not mastering their times-tables.

We don’t educate them because we likely locked them out of their schools before we locked them up in adult facilities.  An estimated 65% of incarcerated children meet the criteria for a disability, three times higher than the general population according to the National Disability Rights Network.  Children with learning and emotional disabilities are more than twice as likely to receive an out of school suspension than those without disabilities. For disabled children of color, these numbers are even more disparate—1:4 boys and 1:5 girls of color with disabilities are suspended from school.

We also don’t educate them despite knowing that education while incarcerated is one of the most affordable ways to ensure that when they go home, they stay home. Yet, most youth are denied educational and rehabilitative services that are necessary for their stage in development when in adult facilities. A survey of adult facilities found that 40% of jails provided no educational services at all, only 11% provided special education services, and a mere 7% provided vocational training. This lack of education increases the difficulty that youth will have once they return to their communities.

On Capitol Hill and in the White House, policymakers are just starting to question these tactics with the (re) authorization of new laws and pilot programs that benefit incarcerated youth. Unfortunately, most have limited application to youth in adult facilities. For example: 

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) is up for reauthorization.  Title 1 Part D of ESEA addresses prevention and intervention programs for neglected, delinquent, or at-risk youth, requiring that schools facilitate the re-enrollment, re-entry and proper education for youth returning from juvenile justice system placements; that educational records and credits earned during placement in the juvenile justice system are transferred back to the youth’s community-based school; and that some of the  funds are allocated toward youth re-entry and re-enrollment into high quality educational settings.  These supports do not apply to youth returning from adult facilities.

The Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) is also up for reauthorization.  It has four core protections for incarcerated children including the removal of youth from adult jails, so they can receive developmentally appropriate services (including education).  Both the Senate Bill (S1169) and House Bill (HB2728) increase opportunities for incarcerated youth to transfer educational credits received while incarcerated back to their home high school.

Finally, the PELL grant program, which helps low income students pay for college does extend to youth incarcerated in juvenile facilities and adult jails. However, those in adult prisons have been barred from using PELL grants to pay for college credits since 1994.  Just this past July, the Obama Administration launched a pilot program, Second Chance Pell Pilot, in which incarcerated individuals who are eligible for release in the next five years can apply for PELL grants.

Education remains the great equalizer in our country in terms of long-term positive outcomes for children and families. Access to education should be a requirement for children who have come in contact with the law, to help them prepare for a successful future.  All children deserve the right to a quality education, even those we consider adults before their age determines them to be.

Kids Count: Washington, D.C.’s Rate of Juvenile Incarceration the Highest in the Country

Thursday, 30 July 2015 Posted in 2015, Research & Policy

On Wednesday, July 29th, the Washington Post published an article “The states where children are most likely to be locked up, poor and hungry” discussing the well-being of children across the nation. This article utilized the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Kids Count report, a collection of statistics tracking the welfare of children on a state-by-state basis. 
 
Unfortunately, this article and report highlight a very sad figure: the District of Colombia has the highest rate of juvenile incarceration in the entire nation. With 618 out of every 100,000 children in D.C. incarcerated, this rate is more than twice that of every state in the nation, save three (Wyoming, South Dakota, Nebraska). 
 
While the JJDPA reauthorization, in the form of Senate Bill 1169, is seeing movement in the Senate with a voice vote out of the Judiciary Committee, the federal government alone cannot act to protect the youth in our nation’s capital. With about 1 out of every 150 children in DC incarcerated, the DC city council, with the help of the DC JOY Campaign, needs to act NOW to protect the children of DC and their futures. 

“Girls and Juvenile Justice” at the Coalition for Juvenile Justice Annual Conference

Samantha Goodman Wednesday, 17 June 2015 Posted in 2015, Federal Update

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By: Samantha Goodman, CFYJ Fellow
 
Last week, Congressmember Karen Bass (D-CA) led a briefing in the U.S. House of Representatives with a focus on improving the juvenile justice system for incarcerated girls. Panelists from across the country included: Members of Congress, Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) and Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Hon. Patricia Martin (Ill.), Hon. Donna Groman (CA), Hon. Joan Byer (KY), Sonya Brown (Boys Town’s Care Coordination Program, Esché Jackson (Anti-Recidivism Coalition), and Haley Caesar (Pace Center for Girls). The advocates on the briefing called for better strategies regarding representation as well as more holistic ways to view girls victimized by trauma.
 
Rep. Scott , the ranking member of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, began the hearing by articulating the need to take a proactive approach to crime and stop waiting for,  “people to get off track.”
 
Esché Jackson, who now serves as the co-chair for the Anti-Recidivism Coalition Member Board, grew up in south Los Angeles traumatized by domestic issues and involved with gang violence and illegal substances. At 15, she was facing murder charges.
 
“At the time of my incarceration, I had a lot of deep-rooted issues. I was crying out for help and no one seemed curious about my story,” Jackson explained.
 
Another panelist, Haley Marie Caesar, described how physical abuse from her mother sent her over the edge. At age 12, when she fought back and defended herself, Caesar was charged with Domestic Aggravated Battery. Caesar expressed the need for judges and lawyers to ask questions and try to understand where the anger and violence stems from.
 
“I was just a case number, and no one asked about who I was,” she said.
 
Judge Byer, Circuit Court Judge in the Family Division of Jefferson County, Kentucky, stressed tha,t “If I had only known,” is not an adequate excuse. Unless judges stop and ask why an action occurred, “they are letting down the community.”
 
Judge Martin, the Presiding Judge in the Child Protection Division of the Circuit Court of Cook County, urged all of the people dealing with a particular child to communicate and collaborate. Martin reaffirmed Byer’s belief that judges need to have a baseline knowledge of all the disciplines affecting children in order to make the best decisions for their futures. This includes everything from trauma, adolescent health, neglect, substance abuse, etc.
 
“Let’s make certain that their lives are what they want. It is my responsibility to let them shine their stars” , said Martin.
 
Rep. Lee, the ranking member for the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security and Investigations, emphasized her hope, “to breathe life into the criminal justice system”, and called our current efforts, “unfair and unjust as they particularly relate to our young people.”
 
She spoke of recent events in McKinney, TX, where a police officer threw a 15-year-old bikini-clad girl to the ground and drew his gun on other teenagers. She believes the 114th Congress is the session when juvenile justice reform will take place.
 
Rep. Bass closed the hearing with words of hope, explaining the bipartisan nature of this issue, “the best policy is done when the people involved are a part of the decision-making.”
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