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Articles tagged with: State Reforms

Treating Youth as Youth: New Jersey Reforms How Kids are Waived to the Adult System

Jose Andres “Shea” Rosario - New Jersey Parents Caucus, Inc. Monday, 17 August 2015 Posted in 2015, Campaigns

By Jose Andres “Shea” Rosario - New Jersey Parents Caucus, Inc.

By raising the minimum waiver age, narrowing the offenses that a young person can be charged for as an adult, creating a reverse waiver procedure, establishing the presumption that a waived and convicted youth will serve his sentence in a juvenile facility, and creating other safeguards for youth in the justice system, New Jersey has taken a small, but important step in protecting our young people from the trauma of the adult criminal justice system. The bill, S2003, was proposed by Senator Pou and signed into law by Governor Christie on August 10.

Originally, youth arrested and charged in New Jersey could be waived into adult court using different criteria, depending on their age and circumstances of the offense. While the waiver age has only increased by one year, from 14 to 15, prosecutors now only have a limited list of offenses to waive. Prosecutors must also clearly state, in writing, the facts that support the waiver application. Courts can deny those waiver motions if they are clearly convinced that the prosecutor abused their discretion in considering waiver factors such as special education status, involvement in child welfare, mental health disorders, and the nature and circumstances of the alleged offense(s).

The list of offenses that a youth can be waived for has also been narrowed. No longer will a non-violent offense such as a computer crime be used to waive a 16-year-old. Adding more protection for youth, if they’re acquitted on their waived charge but convicted for something else, they will be sentenced in a juvenile court where they will only be subject to the penalties under the juvenile code. In addition, there is now the presumption that, unless good cause is shown, detention is to be served in a juvenile facility, as well as any sentencing up to age 21.

While not a true reverse waiver, it is now possible to have the youth’s case sent back to family court, which is a mechanism that unfortunately has not existed in the state. Not only will S2003 decrease the flow from juvenile to adult court, but it will also allow us the ability to reverse that flow. If there is consent from the prosecutor and defense, the court may send the case back to juvenile court if the interests of the public and the best interests of the youth require access to programs or procedures uniquely available to family court, and the interests of the public are no longer served by waiver. Ideally, consent from both parties should not be required, but a form of reverse waiver is absolutely better than no reverse waiver at all. This is another way that the law has created new safeguards for youth to avoid being tried and convicted in adult criminal court.

S2003 is not without its faults. For example, the waiver age is still too low. It sets a higher age limit for those disposed/sentenced to juvenile facilities, but it’s still relatively low given what we know about adolescent brain development. Prosecutors still have too much discretion and do not have to face a high standard of proof in regards to waivers. While some additional burdens have been added on the prosecutor, it still remains the duty of the youth to provide information on things such as their mental health history.

These new, complicated safeguards could be avoided by following other states which have eliminated their waiver system all-together. We need to be reminded that we are still dealing with children who are still in their formative years, who don’t always act out rationally, and who rely on adults to guide them into adulthood. Guiding them into prisons does more harm than good, to the youth, their families, their communities, and society-at-large.

March is Juvenile Justice Month of Faith and Healing

Thursday, 13 March 2014 Posted in 2014, Across the Country, Campaigns, Take Action Now

Please consider joining our friends at the Healing Justice Coalition during Juvenile Justice Month of Faith and Healing. The Healing Justice Coalition's initiative is based in California but all are invited to implement these efforts nationwide. For more details, please read their message below: 

The Healing Justice Coalition invites faith communities, schools, and universities to unite in prayer, service and action to raise awareness of the realities of incarcerated youth, victims of crime, and families of both. This takes place at your place of worship or school.

Juvenile Justice Month of Faith and Healing (JJMFH) is an opportunity for deeper insight and reflection through cross-over experiences. The Healing Justice Coalition invites faith leaders to visit incarcerated youth. We also provide speaker panels of formerly incarcerated youth and victims of crimes to visit your places of worship and schools.

Together we can transform the paradigm of justice; moving from an over reliance on punishment, to focusing on healing the wounds caused by crime.

Opportunities for Faith Communities:During JJMFH, The Healing Justice Coalition invites faith leaders to visit youth inside juvenile halls in Los Angeles County to manifest God's love for all children. This is typically a mutually transforming experience; moving and profoundly spiritual for the youth as well as the visiting faith leaders.

Opportunities for Schools and Universities:Through the Healing Justice Coalition, formally incarcerated youth and victims of crime share their journeys  with students. JJMFH is a rich opportunity for students to explore and reflect on the complexities of crime and punishment while moving towards a deeper understanding of restorative justice. 

Participating in Juvenile Justice Month of Faith and Healing is EASY and PROFOUND. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Host a "Voices of Challenge" panel: A formerly incarcerated youth, parent of an incarcerated youth and a survivor/victim of crime share their stories.
  • Invite a formerly incarcerated youth to share insight into the realities of incarceration and the strength of the human spirit.
  • Lead a discussion or seminar in your congregation and/or school about the needs and situations of incarcerated youth and victims of crime.
  • Faith Leaders can sign up for a group pastoral visit to juvenile hall.
  • Offer prayers for everyone who has been impacted by crime; including victims, offenders, and families of both.
  • Mobilize your congregation and/or school in support of legislation that promotes restorative justice principles.      


Contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more information about participating in Juvenile Justice Month of Faith and Healing and visit the Healing Justice Coalition website for useful resources/templates for your event. 




Change Agents for Youth Justice Reform

Angella Bellota Thursday, 31 October 2013 Posted in 2013, Across the Country, Voices

 

When pursuing change in your state, youth/adult partnerships are critical for campaign reform efforts. Youth are more than just their story and have a source of knowledge and leadership that should not be ignored. When young people are supported and treated as partners – their leadership shines through and their ability to meet the challenges of advocacy work, and  their ability to message the issue in unique ways, have led to some impressive moments. Check out some of the young leaders we’ve had the pleasure of working with in recent years. All are national spokespeople with Campaign for Youth Justice.

Jabriera Handy

image courtesy of Just Kids Partnership

We first met Jabriera when she was working on stopping a youth prison from being built in Maryland. She recently received the Spirit of Youth Award from the Coalition for Juvenile Justice and she is currently a youth organizer for the Just Kids Partnership in her home state of Maryland.  In this excerpt, Jabriera testified before the U.S. Attorney General’s Task Force on Children Exposed to Violence, sharing her experience as a way to educate and influence the task force on the critical need for reform.  The task force ultimately recommended what she had testified on: keep kids out the of the adult criminal justice system.

Good afternoon. My name is Jabreira Handy and I was exposed to violence as a youth incarcerated as an adult. At the age of 16, I was charged as an adult in the adult criminal justice system. It is because of my exposure to the adult system that I’m here to urge this task force not to expose any more young people to violence in the justice system, particularly in adult jails or prisons. It’s also fitting because this hearing comes as here, in the city of Baltimore, we are debating whether to build another adult jail for youth charged as adults, which disturbs me.

Words can't explain what I went through in the adult system. Tears hardly express the pain and discomfort of being judged as a criminal. At the age of sixteen, I got into an argument with my grandma. As she was disciplining me, I attempted to get her off me. I left the house and later on that day she died of a heart attack because of the argument. I was charged with her death. I was charged as an adult and spent eleven months in Baltimore City Detention Center. I was forced to shower with a woman twice my age and shamelessly exposed to a squat and cough in front of everyone while menstruating. I was neglected and did not receive the psychological and healthcare help I needed throughout my stay. I was treated as if I had been judged guilty of committing the crime or as they would say “as an adult.”

To read Jabriera’s complete testimony, click HERE

Michael Kemp

We met Michael after his release from prison and sadly 66 days after his release he was sent back.  We kept in touch through mail and after his release in 2010; he interned with us and ultimately became a spokesperson. Michael is a regular here at our office, he has been on several radio shows, was featured in The Washington Post and speaks regularly in classrooms, conferences and other events. He is a poet ambassador with Free Minds Book Club & Writing Workshop in Washington, DC. In the clip below he talks about his visit with the U.S. Attorney General on reform efforts. He advocated for the appointment of an OJJDP Administrator and the critical need for the Department of Justice (DOJ) to issue final PREA regulations especially to protect youth in the justice system. Regulations were issued six weeks after the meeting with the Attorney General.

Click HERE to watch a clip of Michael during the “BarackTalk” event sponsored by the National League of Young Voters

Nicole Miera

image courtesy of NY Times

We met Nicole when we worked together with her and other allies on the Direct File Campaign in Colorado.  She is very passionate and committed to sharing the atrocities of her brother’s suicide in the Denver County Jail.  She has testified in hearings and on Capitol Hill.  She recently spoke with The New York Times and shared her family’s story and the tragedy that happened to her teenage brother Jimmy Stewart. Nicole has been a strong advocate in her state and through the involvement of her and other youth justice allies - legislative reform in her state was achieved.

Click HERE to read Nicole’s interview with The New York Times 

Dwayne Betts


We met Dwayne soon after his release from prison.  Over the years he has been an advocate for removing youth from the adult court. He is a talented author and poet and is currently attending law school at Yale.   Dwayne was appointed by President Obama to serve on the Federal Coordinating Council on Juvenile Justice, the first young person who was directly impacted by the justice system to serve on this council. In August, he was asked to speak to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) and here is a recap of his remarks:


Click HERE to watch Dwayne speak to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL)


In seeing how much Jabriera, Michael, Nicole, and Dwayne have been able to accomplish as young leaders, we think the message is clear: Youth are critical change agents in any social justice movement. Many of us know from experience the difficult task of being an advocate, so it never ceases to inspire us when young people stand up and speak out for youth justice reform and other issues impacting their peers and communities. We believe that youth and their families are integral to making real change happen and hope that you will join all of us in continuing to expose the dangers of youth in the adult system.

Continue to follow the youth voices conversation this week, using:
#YouthVoices  #YJAM  #youthjustice
 
Remember to share your message on why #youthvoices matter!
 
 
To learn more about the Campaign for Youth Justice Spokesperson Bureau, contact:
 Aprill Turner, Communications & Media Director: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

The Voices of Youth Justice Reform

Angella Bellota Sunday, 27 October 2013 Posted in 2013, Across the Country, Voices

In the last ten years, we have seen growing momentum in youth justice reform. Foundations, policymakers, child advocacy organizations, the legal community, and researchers have worked to educate the public and improve the juvenile justice system, but also the adult criminal justice system, where too many of our youth end up because of draconian state laws.

As critical as all of these allies are to the movement, the heart of the fight lives in our communities. There are too many examples of families who lose their children to the adult system who go it alone, to demand fairness and accountability from local and state leadership. And too many formerly incarcerated young people who return to their communities with adult records and find an antagonistic environment that is set up for them to fail instead of being directed to opportunities for a new start. Yet in the face of opposition, it is those most affected who take on the fight for justice, refuse to treat children as throwaways, and are courageous enough to put a face to the issue and to be messengers for reform.

A Spotlight on Colorado’s Reform Efforts: A sneak peek into our upcoming State Trends Report

Jessica Sandoval Tuesday, 08 October 2013 Posted in 2013, Across the Country

During the second week of Youth Justice Awareness Month (YJAM) CFYJ will take a look back at the reform efforts that improve the lives of youth by decreasing the chances that they would come into contact with the adult criminal court.  Here at CFYJ our mission is just that, and we partner with state organizations, advocates, youth and families to launch and win state legislative campaigns for youth justice.

In the years at CFYJ, I have had the pleasure of working with many states to organize campaigns for juvenile justice reform to remove youth from adult court.  The work has been tedious, exciting, rewarding and challenging.  It is all worth it because we know from the research that youth in adult court are 34% more likely to recidivate at higher rates than those retained in the juvenile court.  At the Campaign for Youth Justice we have worked diligently to create our campaign model to be successful in states where there is interest in building grassroots campaigns.  We provide a myriad of technical assistance options to our partners such as, campaign planning, policy assistance, coalition building support, media assistance and training, hearing preparation, policy and political analysis.  We know that the research supports our mission and we believe after 8 years of state based campaign work that the trends emerging are not by accident. On October 10th, we will be releasing our latest State Trends report which examines the states who have in the past several years changed state policies to remove youth from the adult court.

Colorado is no stranger to these successes.  In 1993, I was living in Colorado when the state expanded their laws to prosecute youth more harshly.  It happened during a special legislative session to address a crime wave.  This effort was led by then District Attorney Bill Ritter.  Fifteen years later, in 2008 when the legislature passed a significant direct file reform bill, it was vetoed by Governor Ritter. It was tragic, but we were hopeful that with a new Governor coming into office we could do it again. 

In 2011, with families and youth, good data, media, an engaged coalition, and a skilled organizer we were ready to engage in a major campaign to end direct file.  Building community support, strong spokespeople and legislative champions were all priorities.  Our role in the campaign was to provide policy and media support as well as support the organizer of the Colorado campaign housed at the Colorado Juvenile Defender Coalition.  There were two major pieces of legislation introduced, House Bill 1139, a jail removal bill and House Bill 1271, the direct file reform bill.  HB 1139 was passed and signed into law in March 2012 helping to drive the energy needed to pass HB 1271.  The bill was hotly contested and debated.  On April 20, 2012 Governor Hickenlooper signed HB 1271 into law.  Victory!

Having been involved with this effort since 2009, I believe that the strong organizing effort with communities, youth and families, in addition to good data, incredible legislative champions and influential coalition members made this Colorado campaign a success. I was happy to have Colorado lead these efforts and I encourage other states to consider doing the same.  If you are a state that is considering doing a reform campaign I urge you to contact us.  We are happy to help!

To continue following other state reforms during the month of October, continue to visit CFYJ's blog and to engage in our social media campaign check us out on Facebook and Twitter using #statetrends #youthjustice #YJAM

In solidarity,

Jessica

Submit your #Playground2Prison Snapshot and Win YJAM Swag! Winners Selected Every Friday in October!

Angella Bellota Thursday, 03 October 2013 Posted in 2013, Take Action Now


Youth Justice Awareness Month (YJAM) is in full swing! Throughout October, local partners will be hosting YJAM events raising awareness and taking action to end the incarceration of kids in the adult criminal justice system. 

To continue awareness efforts, CFYJ wants to give you a chance to walk away with some YJAM swag! Whether you’re attending a YJAM event in your state or if you’re following the YJAM actions online, we want everyone to have a chance to take action during Youth Justice Awareness Month! 


Check out the details on how to participate:    

  1. Using the hashtag, #Playground2Prison with your snapshot – share your thoughts on why its time to end #Playground2Prison:
    • Tell us why you believe its time for youth justice reform
    • Tell us how you or your community have taken action to improve the lives of youth
    • Highlight a statistic/reason youth should not be placed in the adult system 
    •  Tell us why you decided to take action during YJAM this year

     2.   Submit your snapshot:  

 
    • As an email, to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Need messages for your #Playground2Prison snapshot? Let us know and we can send you templates! 

Remember to get creative! Each week Campaign for Youth Justice will select a winning photo and send that person their very own YJAM goody bag! Show your support for youth justice reform and join us in ending the #Playground2Prison. 

 

For more information about Youth Justice Awareness Month, click HERE

Snapshot of State Reforms to Remove Youth from Adult Criminal Court

Wednesday, 24 April 2013 Posted in 2013, Federal Update

By Liz Ryan

At a recent event in New York, “In Search of Meaningful Systemic Justice for Adolescents in New York” hosted by the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University, I gave an update on the trends in juvenile justice reforms as they relate to youth in adult criminal court and youth in adult jails and prisons.

During the past eight years, approximately twenty states have enacted more than thirty pieces of legislation to reduce the prosecution of youth in adult criminal court and end the placement of youth in adult jails and prisons.  These reforms have been undertaken in all regions of the country and have been led by republican and democratic policymakers.  CFYJ issued a report in 2011, “State Trends: Legislative Victories from 2005 to 2012 Removing Youth from the Adult Criminal Justice System” authored by Neelum Arya documenting many of these reforms and the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) released "Juvenile Justice Trends in State Legislation, 2001 - 2011",  in August, 2012 highlighting reforms over the previous decade.

Overall, the states have moved away from prosecuting youth in the adult criminal court and placement in adult jails and prisons, and towards providing access for children to improved rehabilitation and treatment services in the juvenile justice system.  In the past eight years, we’ve seen four major trends.

Several states have raised the age of juvenile court jurisdiction to age 18.  Connecticut was recently featured in a report, “Juvenile Justice Reform in Connecticut: How Collaboration and Commitment Have Improved Public Safety and Outcomes for Youth”, highlighting how it achieved this success.  Illinois removed 17 year olds charged with misdemeanors.  The Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission recently reported on the success of this effort and recommended that Illinois update its law in 2013 to remove 17 year olds charged with felony offenses, which can be viewed here. Mississippi also removed most 17 year olds from automatic prosecution in adult court, and Massachusetts and North Carolina’s lawmakers are considering ‘raise the age’ proposals in their 2013 legislative sessions.

More than a dozen states have changed their transfer/waiver laws to keep more youth in juvenile court.  These efforts have focused on providing judges more discretion to consider whether a youth’s case should be considered in adult criminal court and have dealt with felony cases as well as younger offenders.  States enacting these reforms include, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Nevada, Ohio, Utah, Virginia and Washington.  In 2013 legislative sessions, efforts are underway in Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada and Oregon, and Maryland has enacted a task force to examine this issue.

And, ten states have changed their laws to remove youth from pretrial placement in adult jails and/or placement in adult prisons under the age of eighteen.  These states include, Colorado, Idaho, Maine, Minnesota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas and Virginia.  Indiana just passed legislation in its 2013 session to remove youth from adult prisons.

Finally, a handful of states have changed their sentencing laws as they apply to youth.  These include Colorado, Georgia, Texas and Washington.  Oregon is considering legislation in its 2013 session.

As we’ve had the opportunity to work with so many allies in these states, there are many lessons learned from these successful efforts.  Here are just a few:

First, in these state reform efforts, state research and analysis has played a significant role in informing policymakers.  In a number of these states, state experts researched and wrote reports that looked at the state law and available data, and interviewed directly affected youth and their families.  These reports provided insights on the issue, identified problems and created a platform for reform.  We’ve highlighted many of these reports on our website here.

Second, the recidivism research showing that youth are more likely to re-offend when prosecuted in adult criminal court has proved invaluable.  Policymakers are most interested in the impact of public safety when they consider policy reforms on juvenile justice.

Third, the public strongly supports these kinds of reforms, seeing the issue as one of fairness and humane treatment of children.  Public opinion polling conducted by GBA strategies in 2011 shows that the public strongly supports rehabilitation and treatment over incarceration and automatic prosecution in adult criminal court, favors judicial decision-making and supports reducing racial and ethnic disparities in the justice system.  In this and other polling, the public absolutely rejects placing youth in adult jails and prisons, the polling can be found here.

Fourth, a number of these states created study commissions with all the key stakeholders, dedicated resources and staff, and a research and analysis capacity to examine the issue.  These study commissions obtain buy-in from key stakeholders, are a vehicle to create and advance policy recommendations as well as work out differences and monitor implementation of reforms.

Finally, involving directly affected youth and their families in these efforts is essential. Youth and families' voices and perspectives are the most crucial in informing policymakers and educating them on the negative impacts of prosecuting youth in adult criminal court.

As New York and other states consider policies to reduce the prosecution of youth in adult court, developments in these states and the lessons learned offer much to consider.  Thanks to the dedication and hard work of so many organizations and individuals around the country, we anticipate additional reforms in 2013 and beyond.