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Articles tagged with: Research and Policy

"FAMILY Comes First" - Transforming the Justice System by Partnering with Families Released

Monday, 06 May 2013 Posted in 2013, Research & Policy, Voices

Family Comes First

Today, May 6th, the Campaign for Youth Justice releases its most recent report, FAMILY Comes First: A Workbook to Transform the Justice System by Partnering with Families, which will be the first comprehensive analysis of current family engagement and family partnership practices in juvenile justice systems across the country and provides practical tools and resources for juvenile justice system practitioners invested in undertaking a family-driven approach to juvenile justice. We know that the ability of family members to meaningfully participate in their children’s lives makes a dramatic difference on youth outcomes. FAMILY Comes First provides a framework—The FAMILY Model—to guide efforts to create and sustain meaningful family-system partnerships.

Through literature review, family focus groups and system practitioner surveys, we learned that system stakeholders are working together with families to break down stereotypes and stigma, engage families in individual treatment decisions and larger policy reforms, and prepare youth for productive futures. In the past few years, the juvenile justice field has made major strides in elevating the importance of family involvement to overall system reform efforts. We have come a long way even though we have far to go. FAMILY Comes First fills that gap by providing a clear and intentional guide to transforming the justice system by taking a family-driven approach.

Recommendations in the report include:

Federal policymakers:

  • A National Technical Assistance Center on Family Engagement should be created to provide support to state and local justice and child-serving agencies interested in starting or expanding family engagement programs;
  • A National Family Resource Center should be established to serve families in the justice system; and;
  • The federal government should also fund state and regional Parental Information Resource Centers for families involved in the justice system, and these centers should be co-located and coordinated with existing parent centers already funded by other child-serving agencies.

State and local policymakers:

  • Each agency and program having contact with children and families involved in the justice system should hire or appoint a staff person, preferably a family member or former system-involved youth, to coordinate family engagement efforts and activities;
  • Every justice system agency and program with responsibility for children and youth should conduct a comprehensive assessment to develop specific strategies to implement a family-driven approach to juvenile justice; and
  • Existing federal and state funding sources should be identified to support family engagement programs and related services to families in the justice system.


This workbook is designed to:

  • Educate the reader about the need to support families involved in the justice system;
  • Provide ideas to Train families and practitioners to challenge existing stereotypes about families and spark conversations about improving the justice system;
  • Identify ways to expand upon the positive changes already underway in the community; and
  • Develop a policy agenda to pursue at the local, state, and federal levels to build family-system partnerships.
 
This workbook was funded in large part by a generous grant from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
 

For more information and a copy of the Executive Summary of the Family Comes First workbook, please visit here. To purchase a copy of Family Comes First, click here.

 

Kids, Cops, and Confessions Explores Mysterious World of the Interrogation Room

Friday, 01 March 2013 Posted in 2013, Research & Policy

 

By Leah Robertson

The growing research on adolescent development, mounting evidence against eye witness testimony, and the exposure of numerous cases of false confessions make Kids, Cops, and Confessions: Inside the Interrogation Room by University of Minnesota Professor Barry C.Feld an intriguing and incredibly useful body of research for anyone involved in the juvenile justice system. Feld uses data from Minnesota to delve into the factors surrounding the interrogations of youth to determine some of the factors that impact case outcomes. In particular, he focuses on how Interrogators utilize the same techniques they would adults despite the incredible developmental differences between the two and the strong likelihood that youth will confess to a delinquent act almost immediately.


Feld set about this task because “despite the crucial role of interrogation in criminal and juvenile justice, we know remarkably little about what happens when police question suspects, what the outcomes of interviews are, or how they affect justice administration” (Feld Page 2). This data could not have been collected nearly anywhere else because Minnesota is one of very few areas that record all interrogations. In an interview with the Campaign, Feld expressed his surprise that more states have not followed Minnesota’s lead, and he asserted that he believes all interrogations should be recorded everywhere to eliminate much of the mystery and potential manipulation around interrogation.

This book comes at a particularly momentous time when “Central Park 5,” a documentary about five kids who falsely confessed to a horrific crime after hours of interrogation in New York City, has brought popular attention to the issue. Feld addresses this point in his book, when he says that most kids confess to their crimes rather quickly, especially if a parent or authority figure is present. Interrogations that last hours should be a huge red flag to any judge or jury. Most kids, just like those in the Central Park Jogger case, just want to go home, and after hours of interrogation, they do not have the developmental capacity to understand the implications of their actions.
Additionally, Feld focuses on the differences between youth and adults, particularly when it comes to juvenile crime and interrogation. He notes that youths “risk perception actually declinesduring mid-adolescence and then increases gradually in the early twenties.”(Page 8) This can be seen in his extensive study of Miranda Rights, and the fact that the “vast majority (92.8%) of all the juveniles in this study waived their Mirandarights” (Page 206) despite the fact that “young and mid-adolescents do not possess the competence of adults to exercise Miranda” (Page 8).
I would recommend this book to anyone interested in ways to reform the juvenile justice system, particularly family members and juvenile justice system stakeholders. While reforming and “right-sizing” the juvenile justice system, it is important that we also make sure the contact youth do have with law enforcement is fair and developmentally-appropriate to help our youth and make our communities safer.
For those who wish to learn more, you can purchase this book here. For more publications by Feld, visit the University of Minnesota website

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Social Justice Advocates Meet With Child Rights International Network’s Veronica Yates

Thursday, 07 February 2013 Posted in 2013, Research & Policy

On the afternoon of January 29th, youth and social justice advocates were fortunate enough to meet with Child Rights International Network’s (CRIN) director Veronica Yates in an informative discussion about the issues of juvenile justice, campaigning, and advocacy around the world. CRIN is an international network that supports children’s rights and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Yates pointed out that children face human rights violations throughout the world, but because of their social and political status, the can rarely speak up against these injustices. CRIN advocates for a genuine system shift in how governments and societies view children. Interestingly, the United States and Somalia are the only member-countries that have not ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child - a fact that, Yates emphasized, is one of the most frequently asked about issues emailed to CRIN. While the reason for this is unknown, it would seem that the fact that the United States continues to try children in the adult criminal justice system and place children in solitary confinement (a practice the UN has categorized as torture) would be a contributing factor.

Currently, they have a campaign on children and violent sentencing to address injustices against children in the justice system. It focuses on issues from the UN Human Rights Standards, including juvenile life in prison sentences, the use of corporal punishment on children, and monitoring government responses to children's rights issues.

 
As part of its advocacy effort, CRIN created a Wiki of Children’s Rights, which monitors children’s rights country-by-country while also identifying persistent violations. Their resources are translated into different languages, including English, Spanish, French, Russian, and Chinese, to reach critical decision-makers and advocates throughout the world. 
 
In addition, CRIN advocates for more transparency within the UN’s appointment process of positions related to children’s rights, specifically the appointment process for the Executive Director of UNICEF
 
To read more about CRIN's work, visit the CRIN website
 
 
 

Congress Convenes Experts to Respond to Newtown

Monday, 28 January 2013 Posted in 2013, Federal Update

By Leah Robertson

In the wake of the tragedy at Newtown, Congress has held a series of convenings to hear from experts on gun violence prevention, mental health, and youth violence prevention. Despite the array of topics discussed, one common theme has emerged: in order to decrease violence, we need to invest real resources in youth engagement and community development, and we must get rid of harmful zero tolerance policies funneling kids down harmful paths.


On Tuesday, January 22, Representative Bobby Scott hosted the Youth Violence Prevention Summit. Panelists Dr. Dewey Cornell, Dr. Peter Scharf, Chief Judge Chandlee Kuhn, Dr. Aaron Kupchik, Sheriff Gabe Morgan, Rashad Burns, and Brian Bumbarger spoke about the importance of focusing on communities to provide places where youth can feel safe, comfortable, and connected to adults who can help them stay on a positive track.  Of note, they focused on the need to pass the Youth Promise Act, a cost-effective, prevention-based, and most importantly, effective program.


 

Video of Representative Scott's Introduction 
to the Youth Violence Prevention Summit


Panelists detailed programs and pathways to reducing violence in communities and strongly reinforced the importance of diminishing school pathways to the juvenile and criminal justice system. Recognizing that school safety must be our highest priority, it is essential that every possible effort is made to ensure our kids are safe. However, as stated directly by Dr. Kupchik, we must think critically about the effects of policies we implement and do what works, not what feels right. We are too quick to listen to our gut, saying “More cops in schools can’t hurt.” But the data shows that it can, and it has. There is substantial evidence that cops and school resource officers (SRO) in schools increase delinquent behavior and decreases educational achievement by changing the school atmosphere from one that inspires pathways to success to one that expects, and unknowingly encourages, violence and failure from the kids.

Furthermore, we have an alternative. We know that prevention-based programs work. Mr. Bumbarger detailed a strong community-based initiative in Pennsylvania - based on the "Blueprints for Violence Prevention" initiatives in Colorado - that effectively decreased juvenile crime, increased educational achievement and consequently resulted in the closure of a 100-bed juvenile correctional facility.

Immediately following the Youth Violence Prevention Summit, Representatives Mike Thompson and Napolitano co- hosted a briefing on Mental Health in America. Panelists emphasized that, despite the widespread effect of mental disorders and the numerous warning signs, society too often stigmatizes mental health issues, leaving people suffering and, on rare occasions, at risk of violent behavior. They emphasized that if society focused on a preventative model, teaching parents and teachers to notice patterns of behavior that indicate mental disease (which usually appear between the ages of 14 and 24 but usually go untreated for almost a decade) without stigmatizing kids, we could save countless people – both those directly affected and those affected by their actions while unmedicated - from the pain associated with untreated mental disease.

Panelists (from left): Gaspar Perricone, James Cummings, 
Dr. Robert Ross, Jeannie Campbell, 
Marc LeForestier, and David Chipman 

Finally, on Wednesday, January 24, Congressman Thompson held a Gun Violence Prevention Summit with 20 Members of the House. Witnesses included: Gaspar Perricone, president of the Bull Moose Sportsmen's Alliance; David Chipman, former special agent at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF); Jeannie Campbell, executive vice president of the National Council for Behavioral Health; Marc LeForestier, deputy attorney general at the California Department of Justice; Dr. Robert Ross, president and CEO of The California Endowment; and James Cummings, hunter, sportsman, gun owner and NRA member.

Dr. Robert Ross with Chief Counsel Bobby Vassar

Despite their diversity of backgrounds and beliefs, each panelist agreed: more guns and more law enforcement in schools is NOT the answer. Mr. Cummings, a sportsman, gun owner and NRA member, stated outright, “The worst thing I can see is my 2nd or 3rd grade teacher carrying a gun.” Instead of arming schools, Dr. Ross emphasized the need for community investment, showing a video of 33 kids demanding, “Don’t lock down our schools” and asking for a plan that involves comprehensive health services and gets rid of zero tolerance policies that only make our schools more dangerous. The conclusion is obvious. Law enforcement, especially SROs, in schools are not part of the solution. They are part of the problem. Community-based programs save money, protect communities, and lead to a safe and productive society. The universal heartbreak after Newtown is just another example that every community is our community, and every child is our child. We need to do what is right for them, not what feels right. There is no other solution

For more information on keeping our communities safe, visit: http://www.promotesafecommunities.org