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Articles tagged with: Across the Country

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

Najja Quail, CFYJ Legal Intern Tuesday, 24 March 2015 Posted in 2015, 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.   

A Closer Look at Prison-Based Education

Kay Xiao Monday, 23 March 2015 Posted in 2015, Research & Policy

By Kay Xiao 

Last Tuesday, I attended Justice in Focus: the Path Forward – a talk hosted by the Vera Institute at George Washington University School of Media and Public Affairs. At the event, a series of speakers with diverse experiences and perspectives on the criminal justice system covered a comprehensive range of issues including the economic and social benefits of reducing harsh punishments, the need for positive relationships between law enforcement and the community, and the overall status quo of the criminal justice system in the United States today.

I was particularly enlightened by the segment on firsthand experiences where Craig DeRoche, President of the Justice Fellowship, and Stanley Richards, Senior Vice President of the Fortune Society, shared insights based on their own personal experiences within the criminal justice system. Richards brought forth an issue that is often overlooked in the discourse on criminal justice reform – education. A formerly incarcerated beneficiary of prison-based education, Richard’s experience reflects the significance and efficacy of providing opportunities for former inmates to reintegrate into society.

Research demonstrates that prison-based education helps shape the social and economic outcomes of former inmates. Participants have a 43 percent lower chance of returning to prison in comparison to non-participants. Additionally, prisoners who participated in academic or vocational education programs have been shown to have better employment outcomes post-release.

Moreover, prison-based education is cost effective by virtue of its effect on recidivism reduction. According to a meta-analysis conducted by the RAND Corporation, reincarceration costs are $0.87 million to $0.97 million less for those who receive correctional education, which outweigh the costs of prison-based education.

As the research suggests, the logic is simple. Give people the skills to be productive members of society and the positive effects will transcend the individual to the community.

OP-ED: UN Calls Out US on Police Violence, Criminalization of Youth of Color

Tawakalitu Amusa Wednesday, 28 January 2015 Posted in 2015, Voices

The death of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teen fatally shot by police in Ferguson, Mo., has brought national attention to the serious and sometimes deadly interactions that youth of color often have with the police.

However, racial discrimination against youth isn’t limited to encounters with the police. These policing practices often result in youth being funneled into the criminal justice system. In the United States approximately 200,000 youth under 18 are tried as adults each year, and on any given day more than 6,000 youth are detained in adult jails and prisons. Due to the racial disparities at every stage in the process — from decisions about whom to stop through whom to prosecute as adults — the majority of the youth in the adult system are minorities.

These young people spend their formative years in adult jails and prisons that frequently place them at risk for sexual and physical violence. Locking youth away in adult facilities that do not address their developmental needs or capacity for change destroys their future.

A United Nations human rights body recently criticized the U.S. for the severity of police use of force against youth of color and its treatment of youth in the criminal justice system. The U.N. Committee Against Torture expressed concern in “Concluding Observations” over the “conditions of detention for juveniles, including their placement in adult jails and prisons” and recommended that the U.S. “resort more to alternatives to incarceration” for juveniles. The committee also emphasized the need to end practices that are particularly harmful to youth. It stated that the U.S. should abolish solitary confinement for juveniles, “ensure that juvenile detainees and prisoners under 18 are held separately from adults” and prohibit the use of stun guns on children.

The committee also expressed concern about “numerous reports of police brutality and excessive use of force by law enforcement officials, in particular against persons belonging to certain racial and ethnic groups.” It articulated “deep concern at the frequent and recurrent police shootings or fatal pursuits of unarmed black individuals.” It noted in particular reports of racial profiling and excessive use of force by the Chicago Police against African-American and Latino young people.

Other U.N. bodies have criticized the U.S. for racial profiling, discrimination in the justice system and laws and policies that allow or require youth under the age of 18 to be treated as adults in the criminal system. In August, the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) issued “Concluding Observations” expressing concern about racial disparities at all levels of the criminal and juvenile justice systems. CERD criticized the “disproportionate rate at which youth from racial and ethnic minorities are ... referred to the criminal justice system, prosecuted as adults, and incarcerated in adult prisons.”

It recommended that the U.S. address the racial disparities and “ensure that juveniles are not transferred to adult courts and are separated from adults during pretrial detention and after sentencing.” CERD also expressed concern about the “practice of profiling racial and ethnic minorities by law enforcement officials.” It emphasized concern over the high levels of brutality and excessive force used by law enforcement officers toward mostly “members of racial and ethnic minorities, including unarmed individuals.”

The Committee Against Torture and CERD criticism of the U.S. reflect important concerns about how racism affects the policing of communities and the treatment of youth of color within the criminal justice system. They also reflect the consensus of the international community that children in conflict with the law have the right to special protection because of their youth and their capacity for change. Subjecting youth to adult criminal punishments rather than providing age-appropriate rehabilitative programs during a crucial time in their development will have a lifelong detrimental impact.

The comments from these two U.N. committees recognize that we must do more to address racial discrimination and to protect youth of color. It is time the U.S. is held accountable for the actions of law enforcement officials and pushed to develop alternatives to the criminalization of youth. Hopefully, the recent international scrutiny can support advocates currently taking to the streets in solidarity to show that the lives and future of minority youth do matter.

Tawakalitu Amusa is a third-year law student in the International Women’s Human Rights Clinic at the City University of New York Law School. IWHR submitted a report to the U.N. Committee Against Torture with the Campaign For Youth Justice and other groups.

New FRONTLINE Digital Exclusive Film, Stickup Kid

Aprill O. Turner Friday, 19 December 2014 Posted in 2014, Across the Country

Stickup Kid, a 30-minute FRONTLINE digital exclusive film, tells the story of Alonza Thomas — who, at age 16, was sent to adult prison after being charged with armed robbery shortly after California enacted a new tough-on-juvenile-crime law.

One of the first minors tried under Prop. 21 in California — and how spending over a decade behind bars in adult prison impacted him. It's a provocative look at a major social issue for which there are no easy answers  — and it gives new insight into the ongoing debate over juvenile sentencing Alonza went on to spend more than a decade behind bars.

The documentary is a provocative look at a major social issue for which there are no easy answers — and it gives new insight into the ongoing debate over prison reform in America.

It was produced in association with the Investigative Reporting Program at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism.


You can watch Stickup Kid, here.

You can also watch on PBS's Youtube channel, here.

Join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter using #StickupKid.

Actions Matter: How We Can Show our Girls We Care

Maheen Kaleem Monday, 20 October 2014 Posted in 2014, Take Action Now

I met Lee-Lee six years ago, while she was in juvenile hall. She was 14. Her first child was six months old. Her charge? Prostitution. Two days before Lee-Lee’sarrest, she was sexually assaulted by the man who bought her from her pimp. The next night, she was back on the streets. When I asked her if she reported her sexual assault to the police, she said, “of course not—they were arresting me.”

Federal law defines any commercial sex act involving someone under the age of 18 as a “severe form of trafficking.” And yet every year in the United States, hundreds of girls and gender-nonconforming children are arrested for prostitution, solicitation, and other-related crimes.

YJAM 2014: Advocates Making Waves in Youth Justice Reforms

Sunday, 19 October 2014 Posted in 2014, Across the Country, Campaigns, Voices

As we reflect on this year and in commemoration of Youth Justice Awareness Month (YJAM), we have seen the pursuit of many youth justice reforms across the country. Efforts to improve the lives of our youth come in many forms - whether it's pursuits to improve laws, efforts to change the hearts and minds of the public, or working to empower youth and their families - the Campaign for Youth Justice applauds the daily efforts of advocates who take a stand for youth. Today, we highlight what many say can't be done: change for the better. Our youth, our communities, and our nation have all felt the positive impact of your efforts. Thank you for all that you do.

Youth Justice Awareness Month Kicks Off in 1 Week!

Wednesday, 24 September 2014 Posted in 2014, Across the Country, Take Action Now, Voices

The time is almost here - Youth Justice Awareness Month (YJAM) kicks off in just one week! We are very excited about the growing list of organizations joining us this year - Over 20 organizations in nearly 20 states are helping to make YJAM a reality. Events planned range from poetry slams, film screenings, community forums, and more. We estimate that over 3,000 people will attend YJAM events all over the country this year.

Youth Justice Awareness Month Support Tools - Plan Your Event Today!

Thursday, 28 August 2014 Posted in 2014, Across the Country, Take Action Now, Voices

As Youth Justice Awareness Month (YJAM) quickly approaches, the Campaign for Youth Justice wants to assist you in putting on your event - starting now! Along with the toolkits and templates available on our YJAM page, the CFYJ team has developed a set of tutorials on what it takes to host a successful YJAM event. Tips ranging from hosting any size event, FUNdraising, and even how to plan a 5K Race!

"Raise the Age" Victory in New Hampshire: More Kids Treated as Kids

John DeJoie Thursday, 21 August 2014 Posted in 2014, Across the Country, Campaigns

 By Guest Blogger, John DeJoie
NH Kids Count
NH CAN Coordinator/Policy Consultant 

Are 17 year olds really old enough to be sent to adult prisons? In NH, since 1995, the answer has been YES. Over the past decade, as states across the US have recognized that 17 year olds are still children, NH was unwilling to change. Since 2000, Representative David Bickford (R ) attempted to “Raise the Age” without much support, that is until this year. Following on the heels of a successful restoration of the CHINS (Children in Need of Service) statute and funding, the same group of advocates set their sights on modernizing the juvenile justice system in NH, including Raising the Age.

Rev. Laura Downton and CFYJ Fellows Discuss the Dangers of Solitary Confinement

Friday, 15 August 2014 Posted in 2014, Across the Country, Voices

On Wednesday, July 30, the fellows of Campaign for Youth Justice (CFYJ) held their second Summer Institute session featuring guest speaker Reverend Laura Downton, of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT). Rev. Downton is the current Director of U.S. Prisons Policy & Programs at NRCAT, and she also serves on the Board of Directors for Grassroots Leadership and is a Provisional Elder in the Baltimore-Washington Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church. The CFYJ fellows were joined by interns from the Justice Policy Institute, Washington Peace Center, and students from American University, Georgetown University, and University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, who are current interns in Washington, DC.

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