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Articles tagged with: Youth Tried as Adults

Nevada Bill Protects Youth in the Adult System

Carmen Daugherty Monday, 15 July 2013 Posted in 2013, Uncategorised

On June 11th, Nevada Governor, Brian Sandoval, approved Assembly Bill 202 which protects youth from entering the adult criminal justice system in the state. AB 202 does several things to encourage the safety and rehabilitation of youth in both the juvenile and adult systems. The bill raises the age at which a child will be automatically transferred to 16 for murder or attempted murder. AB 202 also protects youth entering the adult jails by allowing those kids tried as adult to petition the court to be placed in juvenile detention facilities pending their court proceedings. Previously, youth could automatically be housed in adult jails while awaiting trial and research shows us that youth in adult jails are 19 times more likely to commit suicide than youth in the general population and 36 times more likely to commit suicide than youth in juvenile detention facilities.

Finally, the bill will take a retrospective and prospective look at the practice of prosecuting kids as adults by creating a task force to study certain issues relating to juvenile transfer, including blended sentencing as an option, capacity of juvenile  facilities to house youth charged as adults, and costs analysis of housing those kids. The taskforce-- comprised of youth serving agencies, mental health professionals and child advocates--will work on gathering information and providing analysis through the interim session with recommendations for legislation provided to the 78th Session of the Nevada Legislature.

While this is a vast improvement to the Nevada justice system, there is much work to be done to ensure that youth are appropriately charged and rehabilitation is truly an option for all children.

North Carolina Kids Still in Danger: HB 217 Moves to Appropriations

Angella Bellota Thursday, 25 April 2013 Posted in 2013, Across the Country, Take Action Now

On April 17, committee members of Judiciary Subcommittee B convened and passed an amended version of HB 217 which is now scheduled to go to the Appropriations Committee. The language for the updated bill can be found, here.

 
HB 217 now includes two sections on juvenile transfer. Although there have been changes to the language about juvenile transfer, it is not enough.  North Carolina youth are still in danger of being sent to the adult criminal justice system. Specifically, the updated bill now states:
  
  •  B1 and B2 felonies committed by 15 year olds would be subject to prosecutorial discretion; and
  • All other felonies (C – E classifications) committed by 15 year olds will be sent to a study committee of Judiciary B Subcommittee to determine how often a prosecutor’s request for transfer is denied by the judiciary. 
 
“We are trying to solve a problem that does not exist…”
 
During the discussions before a vote on HB 217, many of the committee members questioned the need for the juvenile transfer section of the bill since judges currently have the discretion to decide whether or not a case can be transferred. Sponsors of the bill believed that prosecutors’ requests for transfers were being denied by judges at a high rate, but did not provide any evidence for this belief. 
 
In a state that is currently trying to evaluate how to most effectively use its limited resources, the North Carolina juvenile transfer section of HB 217 clearly reads as a misinformed and counterproductive policy recommendation.  
 
This is why a variety of expert practitioners - judges, university professors, attorneys, and legislators – have taken a stand to oppose the juvenile transfer section of HB 217. Although adjustments have been made to the language of the bill, the changes are not enough. Advocates from across the state are standing their ground and refuse to see the removal of judicial discretion and refuse to let ineffective policies like HB 217 throw more kids into the adult criminal justice system. One message still rings clear:


We must remove the juvenile transfer sections of HB 217!
 
The Campaign for Youth Justice and other organizations have vowed to continue providing support to North Carolina advocates and youth leaders who are doing all they can to protect NC kids. Here is how you can join them in their efforts:
 
#1 GET THE FACTS: North Carolina advocates have developed a new fact sheet that can inform all youth justice allies about HB 217 and the consequences it would have on youth and families if it were to pass. You can find the fact sheet, here.
 
#2 CONNECT: A new committee means connecting with NC legislators that now have the power to stop this bill. Use the script below to send a message to the Appropriations leadership. 
 
I urge you to oppose the juvenile transfer sections of HB 217. Deciding which court a youth should be processed through is a life-altering decision. Removing judicial oversight would lead to the unchecked prosecution of children in adult court. Prosecutors should NOT be given complete discretion over our children’s future. Oppose the juvenile transfer sections of HB 217 in order to maintain the appropriate checks and balances in NC’s court system. 
 
HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE
Legislator
Phone
Email
County/District
Rep. Nelson Dollar (Senior Chairman)
                919-715-0795
 
 
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
 
Wake
Rep. Justin Burr (Chairman)
                919-733-5908
 
                This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
 
Montgomery, Stanly
Rep. Bryan Holloway (Chairman)
 
919-733-5609
 
 
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
 
Rockingham, Stokes
Rep.  Linda Johnson (Chairman)
                919-733-5861
 
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
 
Cabarrus
 
#3 ACTIVATE: There are no easy wins when it comes to fighting for youth justice, so it is critical that you activate your networks on this detrimental bill. Please share this update and stay tuned for more action steps. To get connected with the youth leaders and organizations spearheading this effort in North Carolina, contact Angella Bellota, CFYJ Field Organizer: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 
 

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.

State of Maryland Abandons the Construction of New Baltimore City Jail For Youth Charged as Adults!!

Jessica Sandoval Wednesday, 23 January 2013 Posted in 2013, Uncategorised

Baltimore Rally 6.17.10196Congratulations to the Maryland Advocates on this tremendous VICTORY!! It was announced on Thursday, January, 17th that the state, according to Gov. Martin O'Malley's proposed budget, will not put any money toward the construction of a Baltimore jail for juveniles charged as adults. Instead, the Maryland Department of Juvenile announced an alternative plan, which includes renovating a smaller existing facility that meets national standards for youth in confinement.

Advocates have been opposing the construction of a new youth jail for youth charged as adults for nearly three years. Congratulations to the wonderful organizers Kara Aanenson and Rashad Hawkins from the Just Kids Partnership, CLIA and Advocates for Children and Youth!

Guidance, Not Guns; Counselors, Not Cops

Liz Ryan Tuesday, 15 January 2013 Posted in 2013, Research & Policy, Take Action Now

This piece was originally published in The Crime Report. To learn more, read the National Juvenile Justice & Delinquency Prevention Coalition's Recommendations for President Obama, Vice President Biden, and the 113th Congress. 

As the country grieves and looks for ways to begin to heal in the wake of the Newtown tragedy, we have a unique opportunity to honor the lives lost with a comprehensive, effective public policy response.

Our sincerest sympathies go to the children, youth and families impacted.


The Administration and Congress must now move quickly, but thoughtfully, to put forward policies and practices that recognize and address the violence experienced every day in communities around the country.

As our national leaders consider their response, they should focus on five principles: Safe Schools; Mental Health; Prevention; Intervention; and Healing.

To increase safety in schools, some have suggested more guns in schools as a response to the incident in Sandy Hook.

But the nation's educational leaders, including the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, have stated emphatically that, "Guns have no place in our schools."

Others have suggested more police presence.

But research has shown that increased police presence has not made schools safer. In fact, it has resulted in the criminalization of young people in the justice system.

University of Delaware Professor Aaron Kupchik, author of "Homeroom Security" says that while armed guards are already in many schools, "their presence has effects that help transform the school from an environment of academia to a site of criminal law enforcement.


Instead of more guns and more police presence, education experts such as Barbara Raymond of The California Endowment point to the importance of counselors, social workers, psychologists and evidence-based programs.  One example is  the school-wide positive behavior support program to improve learning environments in schools and help children resolve conflict.

An interdisciplinary group of more than 200 violence prevention researchers, practitioners and professional associations recommends that, "these efforts should promote wellness, as well as address mental health needs of all community members while simultaneously responding to potential threats to community safety. This initiative should include a large scale public education and awareness campaign, along with newly created channels of communication to help get services to those in need."


Additionally, a comprehensive approach must address the root causes of violence, and focus resources on proven violence prevention and juvenile delinquency prevention programs such as the University of Colorado's Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence's "Blueprints for Violence Prevention" programs.

Easy access to guns that kill 7 young people  a day and injure 43 more is a challenge addressed by the bipartisan national coalition of 750 mayors led by Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City and Mayor Thomas Menino of Boston. The coalition has created comprehensive recommendations to severely reduce the easy access to guns and assault weapons in the U.S.


Finally, there must be a focus on healing.

The U.S. Attorney General's Task Force on Children Exposed to Violence undertook an exhaustive examination over the past year on best practices and approaches to reducing children’s exposure to violence. The task force report included recommendations on reducing exposure of children to violence in the justice system, to counter current approaches that are counterproductive, wasteful and increase risk of re-offending.

The Task Force also made recommendations to ensure that trauma-informed services and care are provided when children are exposed to violence.

To help realize its recommendations, the Task Force highlighted the need for new federal leadership and a new federal initiative on the issue to guide the federal government's work in this area.

Task force co-chair Robert Listenbee, Jr., chief of the Juvenile Unit of the Defender Association of Philadelphia summed it up in his statement when the report was released:  “We have the power to end the damage to children from violence and abuse."

We know the need.  We also know what works.

What’s required now is action.

It is time for Congress and the Administration to step up and provide the leadership and resolve to end violence against children.

Liz Ryan is President and CEO of the Campaign for Youth Justice and co-chairs the Act 4 Juvenile Justice campaign of the National Juvenile Justice & Delinquency Prevention Coalition (NJJDPC). She welcomes comments from readers. Please click here to see a detailed set of legislative, funding and administrative recommendations from the NJJDP Coalition. 


Central Park Five: Setting the Record Straight

Tuesday, 08 January 2013 Posted in 2013, Research & Policy, Take Action Now

By Liz Ryan

"Central Park Five" is a "must see" for any youth justice advocate. The documentary tells the story of five youth ages 14 -16  Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana, and Korey Wise  who were arrested in New York City in 1989, and after being interrogated for hours by law enforcement, falsely confessed to the rape and physical assault of a woman jogging in the park. They were convicted and sentenced to 6 to 13 years each in the justice system.

 

Produced by renowned documentarian Ken Burns, his daughter Sarah Burns, and her husband David McMahon, the film features moving interviews with McCray, Richardson, Salaam, Santana and Wise and their families, as well as others involved in their cases, and shows press reports, film clips of their interrogations, and footage of the case throughout the process.
 
Gut-wrenching and profoundly sad, this documentary highlights many of the the problems with the justice system that led to their wrongful conviction and are still prevalent in our justice system: police interrogating youth for hours without lawyers and coercing youth to confess to crimes they did not commit; prosecutors overlooking DNA evidence and other information crucial to the case; and a press corps sensationalizing the case with shocking language, virtually convicting the youth before the trial, and then hardly covering the fact that the convictions were vacated and the youths exonerated a dozen years later.

To add insult to injury, the young men, after having served a collective total of 41 years in prison for a crime they did not commit and being exonerated in 2002, have not received compensation from the city of New York. Their attorneys filed a lawsuit in 2003, but the film indicates that the legal case is "unresolved" almost a decade later.
 
Unaddressed - but underlining the facts and issues covered throughout the film - is the fact that state law allowed these youth to be prosecuted in adult criminal court and placed in adult prison to serve their sentences. If this case can teach us anything, it is that youth are different from adults and need to be treated differently in police and state custody. Additionally, despite what should have been a tough lesson for New York, the state remains one of two states in the country that continues to charge all 16- and 17-year-olds as adults. 

The film also fails to mention the immense impact of this case on juvenile justice policies around the country. In the decade following the case, almost every state in the country changed their laws to make it easier to try youth as adults in adult criminal court. We now know just how misguided this was. 
 
 
While difficult to watch at times and profoundly moving, this film can be used to engage community members on youth justice issues and spark dialogue about justice system policies and practices. Here are some ways you and your community can get involved. 
 
Click here for the film trailer and showtimes.
 
Click here to follow the Central Park Five on Facebook.
 
Click here to take action in support of compensation for the Central Park Five.
 
For more background and to help educate others, here's a terrific article on the documentary
 
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