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Articles tagged with: Youth Tried as Adults

#YJAM: Family Engagement During Youth Justice Awareness Month

Keela Hailes Thursday, 22 October 2015 Posted in 2015, Voices

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My name is Keela Hailes and I am a mother and juvenile justice advocate and I am sharing my story during Youth Justice Awareness Month in hopes that it will help other families.

A few years ago, while living in Washington, D.C., my son was incarcerated hundreds and hundreds of miles away from me and the rest of his loved ones. Every day in Washington, D.C., parents are being separated from their children because they are being sent to adult prisons in other states. All too often, these adult prisons are very far from home. Because Washington D.C. is not a state, and does not have a Federal facility, our children are sent to remote and often times inaccessible Federal adult prisons all across America. As a woman who has always prided herself for being a stickler for self-accountability, I'm not suggesting that my son should've gotten away with a slap on the wrists. However, research has shown that placing children in adult prison's, rather than juvenile facilities makes them highly susceptible to repeat criminal behavior, negative influence from adult prisoners, and physical and sexual abuse.
 
Typically, I don't go around discussing brain development, but it goes to the heart of an issue that's near and dear to me, as well as thousands of other parents, across the country. Brain science is crucial in understanding how teenagers make decisions and act upon them. The Myelin Sheath is essential to brain development; it covers nerve cells that allow impulses to travel fast and efficiently.  It’s not fully developed until the age of twenty-five with the frontal lobe being the last area of the brain to be myelinated.  The frontal lobe houses the area of the brain where we process higher brain functioning like reasoning, problem solving, planning and executing behavior, and impulse control. 
 
Because we know this about the brain, society is very careful about the things that we allow kids to do before the age of 18. For example, youth cannot buy cigarettes or alcohol. They cannot get a driver’s license or even vote for the President of the United States. These decisions take a higher level of reasoning and analytical skills that have not been properly developed in the teenage brain. If we know this is true, then why does it seem rational to treat kids with adult sanctions when they engage in unlawful behavior?
 
I think about these things because one day I received a call that my sixteen-year-old son was arrested for armed robbery.  I sat stunned on the other end of the phone and wondered if the caller had the right number or right mom for that matter.  After the initial shock, thousands of questions flooded my mind, “Why in the world would he do something this stupid?”  “What was he thinking?” or “Was he thinking at all?”  I was an involved parent who monitored my son’s friendships and education, what was going on?
 
After the details of the robbery were laid out on the table, I was no longer in denial about my son’s involvement. I wanted him to not only be held accountable but soundly rehabilitated.  I knew nothing about the juvenile justice system and had assumptions about what a juvenile judge would offer as next steps, which in my mind would include programs, counseling and therapy.
 
My world was rocked again when I learned that my son would be charged as an adult and sent to the DC jail. Again, those same questions permeated my mind, “Why in the world would the government do something so stupid as to send a child to spend even one second in a jail?” “What in the world are they thinking?”, or “Are they thinking at all?” 
 
Unfortunately, my questions were never answered because my son was swiftly sent to the DC jail, even before having a hearing.  He sat unproductively on the juvenile unit of the DC Jail waiting where he was physically assaulted by a Correctional Officer, received zero services, and was finally shipped 1,500 miles away to Devils Lake, North Dakota to serve out his 3 year sentence.
 
The negative effects of this experience are still felt today. In my eyes, my son went from a sixteen-year-old-child to a thirty-year-old-man overnight, absent the completed brain development.  In his own eyes, he had no other choice but to go from a child to a man overnight to cope with his new surroundings.  He served out his sentence, came home and tried to be a productive member of society; however, two years later, he reoffended and was sent back to jail.
 
I believe kids should be held accountable and am advocating for common sense measures that hold youth accountable and give them an opportunity to rehabilitate. Studies have shown us that this can, and should happen in the juvenile justice system.
 
Keela Hailes is a Program Manager for Free Minds Book Club & Writing Workshop and a spokesperson for the Campaign for Youth Justice, and is committed to ending the practice of trying, sentencing, and incarcerating youth under the age of 18, in the adult criminal justice system.
 
 
Below is some sample language that you can use to help spread awareness of National Youth Justice Awareness Month. 
 

TWEETS


  • To help their children, families need information about juvenile rights and responsibilities. #YJAM

  • Children charged as adults, are still children who need the support of their families. #YJAM

  • Families lack basic information about the process of the courts, and their legal rights, and the role of various players in the system. #YJAM

  • Without family engagement, effectively addressing any treatment needs of the child is difficult. #YJAM

  • Many inmates say that their success upon re-entry to society can be attributed to their strong family connections. #YJAM

FACEBOOK


  • President Barack Obama has signed a proclamation declaring October 'National Youth Justice Awareness Month' and calls on Americans to "observe this month by getting involved in community efforts to support our youth, and by participating in appropriate ceremonies, activities, and programs." http://sparkaction.org/content/president-proclamation-yjam #YJAM #youthjustice #JJDPAmatters

  • Children don’t grow up in systems, they grow up in families. Help youth incarcerated as adults by finding resources and joining advocacy groups for youth. #YJAM
 
YJAM FB families 01 1

#YJAM: The Story of Jabriera Handy - Juvenile Justice Advocate

Tuesday, 20 October 2015 Posted in 2015, Voices

jabriera

 

This theme for this year's Youth Justice Awareness Month is, "The Power of Sharing Stories". All month long CFYJ will share stories of youth and family members that have been impacted by the adult criminal justice system. This week we share the story of juvenile justice advocate, Jabriera Handy 

Jabriera grew up in Baltimore, Maryland. When she was 16, she got into an argument with her grandmother. As Jabriera’s grandmother was disciplining her, Jabriera tried to get her off her. Jabriera left the house, and later that day her grandmother died of a heart attack because of the argument. She was tried as an adult for second degree murder, second degree assault and first degree assault. When she went to court for a hearing, she was two days away from turning 18, so she plead guilty to the charges for fear of the trial dragging out longer and her punishment being worse. She was taken to a juvenile facility initially where she received resources such as education, group time, and mental health help. This was short lived however. She later was taken to an adult facility where she had to shower with women twice her age and was shamelessly exposed to a squat and cough in front of everyone while menstruating. She was placed on lockdown three times, once for misconduct, once with no reason, and the last time was because of a fight. The last lockdown was supposed to last two weeks but ended up being 36 days. When in lockdown, there was no contact with prison staff, only being housed in the same area as other inmates. 
 
When she was released she was denied many opportunities. She asked for vouchers for food and services that other inmates receive upon release, but she was denied those too because felons don’t receive them. She wanted to attend University of Baltimore College, but was automatically rejected due to her felony charges. She had no place to stay. Then she met the Just Kids Maryland Campaign who assisted her and worked to get her record expunged. Now she works with Just Kids as an Assistant Youth Organizer where she has been working for four years. Now she works to share the stories of other youth such as herself because she knows too well that the issue of youth incarcerated as adults needs to be addressed. While also being a single mother of a 2-year old, she has been a mentor to youth and has been an advocate and a catalyst for change.

#YJAM: The little conversation about luck

Shawn Kelly, Intern with the Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana, a project of the Louisiana Center for Children’s Rights. Thursday, 15 October 2015 Posted in 2015, Voices

Shawn Kelly Intern4

So what can I write about from my perspective? I mean I am not a lawyer. I’m not a judge or politician. I am just an intern in the New Orleans juvenile public defender’s office. But I am young black male. I am 20 now but only three years ago, I could have been in the same place a lot of the kids in the system are in. See I came from a lower income area, I went to public school, and I also did my fair share of juvenile misbehaving. The only difference between my story and so many of the kids we see on these streets…I got lucky.

Now that’s not to take away from my own hard work but it’s the truth. I got lucky to have good parents who are still married and raised me the best they could even with financial struggles. I was lucky enough to go to a really good public high school (The real purple and gold, Warren Easton). I was lucky enough that I never got caught when I misbehave and when I did misbehave I had people behind me to check me whenever I stepped out of line. But for a lot of kids in this city, they don’t have that luck.

See, their reality is going to schools that don’t teach them. Their reality is growing up in single parent homes where their mother has to struggle to provide. Their reality is much different than mines but it’s close enough where I can feel it and understand that could have been me. But for many of the people in this juvenile system, they don’t know that reality. They just see black bodies committing crime. That’s all they see and they stand on their high horse. We have judges that chastise young men for sagging their pants. But do they ask if that young man even had enough money to buy a belt? People chastise young women for selling their bodies in these streets. But do they ask if that young woman has been sexually abused like so many others?

So when I think of my story of how lucky and blessed I am, I get upset a little bit. I think of my accomplishments like graduating high school and going to college and I think why can’t others achieve this? I don’t think it’s because they didn’t pull themselves up by the boot straps and work hard. I don’t think it’s because they have terrible parents and terrible schools. No, it’s none of that. It’s so much bigger and terrible than that. It’s so many combinations of things that these young people will never understand. We can’t teach them all about inequalities that are so deep in this country. I still don’t understand it and I am a sociology and African American studies student. We can’t tell them to stop selling drugs when getting a job at McDonald’s is only paying $7.25 an hour and you need a high school diploma to work there in some places.

As a wise man once said, “the streets are always hiring”. We can ask for many things from youth but I think we need to start asking the question that I ask myself.  I ask myself, what can I do? What can I do so more people make it in this world? People need to ask that question. Especially those in our juvenile system that didn’t need the luck and were privileged and now send those unprivileged to jail. What can you do to help more make it and less fail? Once you ask that question and have a honest discussion in your mind, then maybe just maybe, we all can have a discussion about this system and see how we can help people.

Join LCCR, the Joan Mitchell Center, and community co-sponsors as they bring the Juvenile-in-Justice exhibition to New Orleans as part of National Youth Justice Awareness Month.

Created by acclaimed photographer and advocate for juvenile justice reform Richard Ross, Juvenile-in-Justicedocuments the experiences of children in prisons around the nation through powerful photographs and personal narratives. The traveling exhibit brings viewers into spaces normally hidden from view to tell the stories of the most vulnerable members of our society. Exhibit Runs Oct. 23- Nov. 20.

Written by Shawn Kelly, Intern with the Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana, a project of theLouisiana Center for Children’s Rights. Shawn is 20 years old and currently attends Loyola University in New Orleans, where he is the President of the Black Student Association. He is one of our paid interns, funded through the W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF), through its Young Men’s Voices have Power in New Orleans (YMVP-NOLA) program.

 

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#YJAM: Dear Mr. President, It's time to stop the torture of solitary.

Rev. Laura Markle Downton, Director of U.S. Prisons Policy & Program National Religious Campaign Against Torture Thursday, 15 October 2015 Posted in 2015, Across the Country

solitaryWritten by Rev. Laura Markle Downton, Director of U.S. Prisons Policy & Program National Religious Campaign Against Torture Breaking Down the Box from NRCAT 

The Pope, legislators on both sides of the aisle, President Obama, and even prison officials all agree: the use of solitary confinement in U.S. prisons is a human rights crisis that must be addressed.

The United States is a global outlier in its use of mass incarceration and systemic use of solitary confinement, a practice long considered a form of torture. On any given day in the U.S., it is estimated that between 80,000 to 100,000 adults and youth –disproportionately people of color– are held in solitary. That number does not include people in local jails, juvenile facilities, or in military and immigration detention. That number does not tell you their names nor their stories, but it tells the story of a moral crisis.

In solitary, people spend 23 hours a day in a cell the size of an average parking space. The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture has stated that solitary in excess of 15 days should "be subject to an absolute prohibition” based on scientific evidence of its psychological damage. He has called for a ban on its use for children, persons with mental illness, and pregnant women.

Our faith traditions teach us the importance of community, belonging, and connection. So it’s no surprise that isolation fundamentally alters the brain . It creates and exacerbates mental illness. Half of all prison suicides occur in conditions of solitary confinement. Such conditions are profoundly damaging for anyone, but for children, who are still developing, the experience is particularly devastating. In isolation, young people are denied access to treatment, programming and tools necessary for growth and development. Children in adult facilities across the country are subjected to solitary confinement for weeks or even months at a time.

Pope Francis has spoken out powerfully against the use of isolation, calling “confinement in high security prisons” a form of torture, and has said that torture is “a grave sin, but even more, it is a sin against humanity.” In September, the Association of State Correctional Administrators (ASCA) released a statement acknowledging that “prolonged isolation of individuals in jails and prisons is a grave problem in the United States.” This summer, President Obama announced that the Department of Justice will conduct a nationwide review of the use of solitary, saying, “Do we really think it makes sense to lock so many people alone in tiny cells for 23 hours a day for months, sometimes for years at a time?”

To address the moral crisis of solitary, we need these words to lead to decisive action. So earlier this month, the National Religious Campaign Against Torture joined 126 organizations, including 39 religious organizations, in delivering an open letter to the White House calling on President Obama to ensure the nationwide review outlines a clear path toward ending the torture of solitary confinement. This call included the support of more than twenty national religious organizations – including the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the Union for Reform Judaism, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada, and the Council of Bishops of the United Methodist Church.

To address the moral crisis of solitary, we must affirm that there are no throw away people, and no throw away children. Where cycles of trauma persist, we need interventions that lead to restoration and life. Children should never be placed in solitary confinement. And our young people should not be subjected to confinement in jails and prisons designed for adults. We owe their future, the future God dreams for each of them, an opportunity to flourish. To that end, a bipartisan coalition of United States Senators recently introduced the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015, which includes provisions that would largely prohibit the solitary confinement of youth in federal prisons. 

Despite widespread national momentum to confront the use of solitary, for children and adults, much work still remains to turn words into action. In California, despite calls from may including the faith community to act, legislators there have failed to pass critical legislation to prevent young people, disproportionately youth of color, from placement in solitary in the California juvenile justice system.

The time is now to face the moral crisis of solitary confinement and bring it to an end. The time is now to turn words into action, and work for a future of possibility for our communities, especially for our children.

This week, join the conversation on solitary confinement of youth by using the hashtag #YJAM. Below is sample language you can share on social media!

TWEETS

  • Youth in adult facilities face a “lose-lose”situation, in order to segregate them from adults, they are often placed in isolation. #YJAM
  • Solitary confinement is torture. Ask NRCAT https://vimeo.com/129764024  #YJAM
  • Girls often get placed in solitary confinement for insubordination and not violent behavior #YJAM
  • Many youth in solitary will do things they’d never do otherwise such as talk to themselves of self-harm. #YJAM
  • Solitary confinement can lead to severe depression and has shows to correlate with suicide rates. #YJAM

FACEBOOK

  • President Barack Obama has signed a proclamation declaring October 'National Youth Justice Awareness Month' and calls on Americans to "observe this month by getting involved in community efforts to support our youth, and by participating in appropriate ceremonies, activities, and programs." http://sparkaction.org/content/president-proclamation-yjam #YJAM #youthjustice #JJDPAmatters

#YJAM: Different Race, Different Treatment

Nils Franco, CFYJ Policy Intern, and Carmen Daugherty, CFYJ Policy Director Friday, 09 October 2015 Posted in 2015, Research & Policy

By Nils Franco, CFYJ Policy Intern and Carmen Daugherty CFYJ Policy Director

Mental Health Needs and Treatment While in the System

We start with a new report finding that the transfer of youths to the adult system is responsible for some of these inequalities. The report was published in a September bulletin by the Department of Justice, and uses data from 1,715 youth from Cook County, Illinois, who were processed in both the adult and juvenile systems. Once committed to adult facilities, minority youth are less likely to receive treatment for mental health issues, harming youths’ ability to rehabilitate.

Over-represented

As with other stages of the justice system, the trial of youth as adults discriminately affected youth of color in the sample: 94% of youth in the adult system were youth of color, and more than two-thirds (68%) of the youth were African-American, according to the data. For comparison, African-Americans comprise just 26% of the general population of Cook County, Illinois. These unequal outcomes persist even when the authors controlled for the type of crime. 

The overall sample of delinquent youth, which included 1,440 in the juvenile system, was less disparate than the transferred youth:  83% were youth of color and 54% were African-American. This suggests the stage of transferring youth to the adult system contributes significantly to the already significant racial inequality in rates of youth incarcerated as adults. In other words, race seems to influence which youth are transferred to the adult system.

Under-treated

Past research found that minority youth are less likely to receive needed mental health treatment in juvenile facilities, but the DOJ report is the first to consider such treatment for youth in the adult system. The new research finds that factors like race that dispose youth to adult transfer are the same factors that dispose youth to missing out on much-needed mental health problems while incarcerated. The authors express concern that this failure to treat incarcerated youth, who have a “substantial need” for mental health services, may ignore underlying causes of disruptive and anti-social behavior. 

Moving forward, the authors propose several recommendations.

The report’s findings prompt three concerns that may be productive focal areas for future reforms and research. First, psychiatric and behavioral treatment is unavailable to many youth who need it, and best practices must be developed for youths in the adult system. Though treatment guidelines have been developed for both youth and adults in age-appropriate facilities, little is known about what works best for youth in adult facilities. Second, the report found staggeringly high rates of mental health issues in all system involved youth, and higher rates among youth than among adult offenders. Imprisonment as an adult brings life-long consequences, and this burden should not be borne by youth who are already struggling with treatable disorders; rather, the authors suggest that mental health be considered during sentencing, and clinicians be allowed to suggest alternative interventions to the court. 

Finally, racial discrimination in the criminal justice system, especially for youth transferred to the adult system, causes the punishment to reflect the race of the youth instead of the nature of their crime. More research on racial inequality in juvenile justice, including youth transferred to the adult system, will be available in December with the publication of “Race and Ethnicity in the Juvenile Justice System,” a book from the Carolina Academic Press.

Scrutiny of racially disparate outcomes in every stage of the criminal justice system has grown in the past year, as pressure from protesters and the press mounted in response to publicized police violence. This week, YJAM focuses on racial and ethnic disparities that exist in every aspect of the criminal justice system. From the courtroom to the cell block, we will learn how racial biases and disparate treatment play out in the system.

Michigan Lawmakers Introduce Bipartisan Juvenile Justice Reform Legislation

Michigan Council on Crime and Delinquency Tuesday, 06 October 2015 Posted in 2015, Across the Country

Today, 14 state lawmakers introduced a 21-bill package with bipartisan, bicameral support to reform Michigan’s juvenile justice system.  Currently, Michigan is one of only nine states remaining in the nation that automatically prosecutes 17-year-olds as adults.  The main focus of the legislative package would be to raise the age of juvenile jurisdiction from 17 to 18, allowing for Michigan’s youths to have greater access to age-appropriate rehabilitative services.

“It is time for Michigan to abandon this draconian practice,” lead bill sponsor Representative Harvey Santana (D-Detroit) said.  “There have been numerous studies which indicate that incarcerating youth actually increases the rate of violent crimes.  We need to ensure we are rehabilitating our youthful offenders and not simply putting them in prison, potentially throwing away their future.”

According to the Michigan Council on Crime and Delinquency, research has found that youth exiting the adult system are 34% more likely to reoffend, reoffend sooner, and escalate to more violent offenses than their counterparts in the juvenile justice system.    “This is a subject that touches many lives and knows no partisan bounds,” Representative Santana said.  “That is how I was able to bring together 14 different legislators from diverse backgrounds to sponsor and support this package of bills.”

Along with raising the age of juvenile jurisdiction from 17 to 18 years of age, other bills in the bill package include not allowing youth under the age of 18 to be housed in any adult correctional facility, ensuring age-appropriate rehabilitation services are accessible for all youth in the juvenile justice system, eliminating certain offenses that do not require adult sentencing from the list of specified juvenile offenses, requiring public monitoring and oversight of any youth who has entered the jurisdiction of the Michigan Department of Corrections prior to turning 18 years old, requiring equal consideration of all mitigating factors prior to waiving jurisdiction in traditional juvenile waiver cases, establishing a family advisory board within the Michigan Department of Corrections to ensure effective partnerships with families and victims, and requiring that the Department establish policies in line with Michigan’s Mental Health Code for youth out-of-cell time, including youth who are in punitive or administrative segregation.

“In Michigan you need to wait until 18 to serve our country or buy tobacco, and wait until 21 to legally buy alcohol, yet at 17 we stand ready to throw you in jail as if you were an adult,” said Representative Peter J. Lucido (R-Shelby Township). “Science has shown us the brain does not fully develop its cognitive and reasoning skills until the mid-twenties. Therefore, it makes no sense not to join the forty-one other states which treat 17-year-olds as juveniles and 18-year-olds as adults in our correctional system. Instead of just tossing a 17-year-old in jail and give up on them, we should put in the effort to help set them on a better path towards a brighter future.”

Other notable points were made when Representative Kosowski (D-Westland) said “The corrections system cost Michigan taxpayers more than 2 billion dollars per year. In fact, Michigan annually spends more on its corrections system than it does on higher education.  As legislators it is our duty to cut costs while ensuring public safety." Kosowski continued, "My bill in this package creates a monitoring system within the Department of Corrections that will allow us to ensure that best practices and greatest cost efficiency are implemented while reducing recidivism rates of youthful offenders.”

Representative Kesto (R-Commerce Township) also noted “As a former prosecutor and current representative, I work every day to improve public safety and making Michigan more efficient with our tax dollars. This bill package accomplishes two important goals - improved public safety while costing the taxpayers less money.”

“This package of bills has not been arrived at lightly,” said Representative Howrylak (R-Troy). “Rather, our Judges, Prosecutors, Counties, the Department and groups including the Michigan Council on Crime and Delinquency and the Mental Health Association have contributed extensively. These combined perspectives have resulted in legislation which rightly acknowledges our purposes for incarceration, the humanity of our youth, and their potential to contribute successfully in society if treated appropriately and compassionately.”

#YJAM: What Science and Common Sense Tell Us About Kids and the Law

Abigail Baird - Juvenile Justice Advocate Monday, 05 October 2015 Posted in 2015, Research & Policy

YJAM FB brain 01 28129A few years ago, my best friend’s husband was laid off. We were upset. In fact, we were very upset and we were not sure how to best cope with the news. One of us had the amazing idea of relying on an old high school technique of payback known as “egging someone’s house”. We talked about the pros and cons of driving to the boss’s house and just pelting it with a couple dozen eggs. “It would feel so good” one of us said, “…and serve him right” we said; but someone brought up the possibility of being caught and possibly arrested. I remember thinking that it would be hard, and beyond embarrassing, to explain to my friends and colleagues that at 42 years old I had been arrested for vandalism because I egged someone’s house. We then successfully used our mature and experienced brains to talk ourselves out of taking any action and moved on to more reasonable ways to cope with the situation.

This story frequently comes to mind when thinking about the numerous reasons why trying children as adults in a court of law makes absolutely no sense. My story demonstrates a compelling, and quite striking, contradiction in the law: No matter how “juvenile” our crime might have been, the idea of transferring the case to juvenile court would be unheard of because we, at 42 years of age, are simply too old to be considered juveniles. This makes sense. We have more life experience and more developed brains, and it is simply not just to try 42 year olds in juvenile court no matter how ridiculous their behavior. Yet, it is common practice to try children as adults in a court of law. In most states, children who are charged with violent crimes are transferred to adult court. If we follow the very simple logic above, this is simply not just. There are no twelve year olds who have fully mature brains, or have the experiences that adults have.  It simply does not make sense.

I appreciate that as a neuroscientist I should probably try to bolster my argument by detailing the many well-established facts about the development of the human brain that have consistently shown clear and reliable differences between the structure and function of adolescent brains relative to adult brains. These facts have been heard, and endorsed by, the Supreme Court of this country in two separate recent rulings that prohibit the execution of juvenile offenders (Roper v. Simmons) and prevent juveniles from receiving mandatory life sentences without the possibility of parole (Miller v. Alabama).

As breathtaking as I find neuroscience, it pales in comparison to common sense. On par with the ridiculousness of trying adults as juveniles would be the notion of having a jury made up of 12-16 year olds. I think we would be hard pressed to find someone who would endorse this as a reasonable idea. Why? Because we know that 12-16 year olds are not fully mature and as a result we legally prohibit them from serving on juries.

Pathways to Desistance Study: Longer Sentences for High-Risk Youth Do Not Increase Deterrence

By: Nicholas Bookout, CFYJ Fellow Monday, 24 August 2015 Posted in 2015, Research & Policy

By: Nicholas Bookout, CFYJ Fellow

In 2003, a longitudinal study, Pathways to Desistance, saw data collected for 7 jailpicyears on 1300 serious adolescent offenders from Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania and Maricopa County, Arizona. From this data, numerous criminology experts recently analyzed the data in an effort to learn more about deterrence – punishment as a threat to deter individuals from offending –   in high-risk adolescents.

This study contained multiple findings that have important juvenile justice implications. Most prominently, this study found that more severe punishments, such as correctional placement or longer lengths of placement, do not reduce arrests or offending in high-risk youth. In other words, severity of punishment has, as this study finds, no influence on deterring high-risk youth from later committing more crimes. Additionally, in a matched-pairs comparison of offenders (which controls for a variety of factors), this study found that when comparing those in placement to those given probation, there was not a deterrent effect.

Furthermore, the study found that many of the influences of punishment on risk-involved decision making are very individualized processes. Essentially, there is no formula or one set of policies that can prove to be most effective in deterring crime for large groups of individuals. As the writers of the study state, “This process does not operate in the same way for all offenders—policies that assume a ‘one size fits all’ approach will fail for some offenders.”

In a country where children are often given unnecessarily severe forms of punishment, including being tried and incarcerated as adults, this study makes it clear that increasingly punitive measures do not lead to increasingly decreased crime and recidivism. Accordingly, the authors of this study, “Advocate for shifting resources from prisons to areas that are related to offenders’ perceptions of risk.”

From this study it is clear that, more often than not, increasingly severe punishment for adolescents does not reduce crime. Therefore, it is no better for society – especially considering the astronomical costs of incarceration – to unnecessarily lock up our nation’s youth to, “Teach them a lesson.” Instead, we need to reform our juvenile justice system to take a more a rehabilitative approach to our nation’s youth. In doing so, we will not only save countless resources, but also countless lives.

SUMMARY: Hearing on “Improving Accountability and Oversight of Juvenile Justice Grants" United States Senate Judiciary Committee – April 21, 2015

Marcy Mistrett Wednesday, 22 April 2015 Posted in 2015, Federal Update

act4jjSenator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) led a hearing of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday on the oversight and accountability of juvenile justice programs authorized by the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA). The Act, first passed forty years ago and last reauthorized in 2002, provides guidance and funding to states around building effective juvenile and criminal justice systems that protect kids and promote public safety.

The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), housed under the Department of Justice, was created by the Act to ensure states comply with the four core requirements of JJDPA: (1) the de-institutionalization of status offenders, (2) the removal of youth from adult jails, (3) the sight and sound separation of youth from adults while confined, and (4) addressing the disproportionate minority contact of youth involved in the juvenile justice system. As Mr. Grassley highlighted, “Congress designed [juvenile justice] grants to be earned each year—not to be handed out as entitlements.” The hearing explored whether the Justice Department was providing adequate oversight to the administration of this Act.

Witnesses at the hearing articulated the need for more transparency between the federal government and states, attention to updating regulations and guidance for the Act, and delays and inconsistencies in compliance auditing. Furthermore, witnesses testified to the importance of the JJDPA in protecting our youth, with some notable excerpts below:

“The power of this law is that it really helps kids,” noted Elissa Rumsey, Compliance Monitoring Coordinator at OJJDP and DOJ Whistleblower, DC.

“ We need a strong federal presence with adequate funding. Congress should proceed with a fortified reintroduction of JJDPA,” Professor Dean Hill Rivkin, Distinguished Professor, University of Tennessee College of Law, TN

“The time is ripe to re-authorize the JJDPA and in so doing make the changes necessary to improve the accountability and oversight of juvenile justice grants. I do not view this hearing as an obstacle to re-authorization, but an opportunity to improve upon a historic and strategic Act of Congress that has assisted states like mine to do the right thing for youth.” Judge Steven Teske, Chief Judge, Clayton County Juvenile Court, GA.

At the hearing, Senator Charles Grassley and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) both reaffirmed their commitment to reintroducing and passing a strengthened Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA). The Senators co-sponsored S. 2999 to reauthorize JJDPA in December, 2014. The bill strengthened the core protections and accountability since the last reauthorization more than 13 years ago. 

To watch the hearing or read the testimony, go to the U.S, Senate Judiciary Committee website.

New York: It's Time to Raise the Age

Carmen Daugherty Thursday, 22 January 2015 Posted in 2015, Research & Policy

"Our juvenile justice laws are outdated. Under New York State law, 16-and 17-year-olds can be tried and charged as adults...It's not right; it's not fair. We must raise the age."

Governor Cuomo, State of the State Address, Jan. 8, 2014

In April 2014, Gov. Cuomo established the Commission on Youth, Public Safety, and Justice to develop a plan to raise the age of juvenile jurisdiction. The question was never "if" New York would raise the age, but "how". It was clear New York did not want to be the last state that automatically prosecutes 16 and 17 year olds in the adult system.

Finally, last Monday, on MLK Day, Governor Cuomo and the Commission on Youth, Public Safety and Justice released their recommendations on how to accomplish this feat. The Commission agreed that this was the right time to "raise the age" for several reasons including extensive research on adolescent brain development and the significant impact on adolescents when incarcerated in jails and prisons. Additionally, data showing higher suicide rates and higher recidivism, and the disproportionality of young men of color charged as adults strongly influenced the Commission to make the following recommendations:

1. Raising the age of adult criminal responsibility to 18: Juvenile jurisdiction should be expanded to include 16-year-olds in 2017 and 17-year-olds in 2018. This phase approach will allow for an initial infusion of the smaller population of 16-year-olds followed by full implementation. Youth charged with violent felonies will still originate in the criminal court.

2. Keeping youth out of adult jails and prisons: Prohibit confinement of any minor in an adult jail or prison and allow youth to remain in youth settings until age 21.

3. Diverting more cases before they reach the courts: Mandate diversion attempts for low-risk (per risk assessment) misdemeanor cases.

4. Establish family engagement specialists to facilitate diversion options: Support for family engagement specialists would strengthen capacity to engage youth and their families in targeted services and maximize the benefits.

5. Develop a continuum of effective community-based services at the local level to be used by probation: Community-based supervision provided to 16- and 17-year-olds should use evidence-based interventions individually tailored to reduce the risks and address the needs presented by the youth.

6. Create the capacity to seal one conviction from crimes committed under age 21: Allow for sealing after two years without a conviction for a misdemeanor conviction and five years for a felony conviction (excluding violent felonies, Class A felonies, homicides, and sex offenses).

In total, the Commission recommended 38 improvements to how youth are treated by New York's criminal justice system. The full report can be found here. These thoughtful recommendations should be uplifted, celebrated, and passed by the New York Assembly, quickly, and without debate. As the Commission and Governor have stated, the time is now, New York.

 

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