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Juvenile Justice News

Arkansas: Advocates Urge Lawmakers For Juvenile Justice Reform

UALR Public Radio California

Legislators heard from advocates and officials hoping to reform the state's judicial justice system on Wednesday. Panelists told lawmakers Arkansas is institutionalizing too many young people for minor offenses and the costs are high. Madelyn Keith is with the Arkansas Youth Services Association. She wants more intervention to happen at the community level. "It's been proven over the years that when the state provides resources for services identified as needed by community stakeholders and these are implemented, then the commitments to the Division of Youth Services do decrease," she said.

Attorney says Michigan isn't doing enough to protect teens in prison (Michigan Radio)

If you are a 17-year-old and you break a law here in Michigan, you’re going to be tried as an adult. Michigan is one of nine states that tries 17-year-olds as adults. And virtually every state allows prosecutors or judges to pursue sentencing of a 17-year-old as an adult in specific cases.Once these teens are in the adult prison population, they face the distinct prospect of being raped. The horrible stories of teens being sexually assaulted led Congress to pass a law called the Prison Rape Elimination Act.

Bill to 'Raise the Age' of juvenile crime to 18 nears final step on legislative trail

Seventeen-year-olds arrested for nonviolent crimes would be tried and imprisoned under the juvenile justice system under a measure that moved one step closer to becoming law Wednesday. Senate Bill 324 would reduce crime and save the state money by raising the legal definition of a delinquent from 17 to 18, supporters told the House Committee on the Administration of Criminal Justice, which approved the measure without objection. SB324, which already has won Senate passage, now goes to the full House. It is one of the legislative priorities of Gov. John Bel Edwards.

CALIFORNIA: A question of basic morality (or lack of it) on legal defense for juveniles

There is something deceptively arcane in the details of a report released last week on the criminal defense of juveniles in Los Angeles County, and in a follow-up motion the Board of Supervisors is to take up on Tuesday. Panel lawyers, flat fees, hourly rates, caseloads — that kind of thing.

CALIFORNIA: California debates banning long-term solitary confinement for minors

California could lead the way in banning long-term solitary confinement for juveniles in jail, ending a practice that experts say severely harms mental health and increases the risk of suicide.
A newly introduced bill, which has support from both criminal justice reform advocates and state probation officials, would bar youth detention centers from placing juveniles in isolation for more than four hours and says facilities could only use “room confinement” as a last resort after exhausting all less-restrictive options.

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CALIFORNIA: End solitary confinement in juvenile halls (LADN)

California legislators should know the name and story of Kalief Browder. Earlier this month the 22-year-old hanged himself with a cord from an air-conditioner at his family’s Bronx apartment. The once normal teen had endured two years of solitary confinement and beatings during his three years on Rikers Island. Never convicted of a crime, he was the subject of a New Yorker profile that offered a compelling case study on why the practice of isolating youth should stop. It achieves no reasonable goal of rehabilitation. And it is too often used as a primary means of control in juvenile halls.

California: New Law to Protect Jailed Youth

Human Rights Watch

California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law a bill that could prevent hundreds of young offenders from enduring rape, assault, and gang life in prison, Human Rights Watch said today. On September 27, 2014, Brown signed Assembly Bill 1276, which requires the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to conduct committee-based, specialized review of each person under age 22 entering prison to consider placing them at a lower security level facility with increased access to educational and self-help programs. Human Rights Watch has advocated for passage of the bill. 

COLORADO: Bill to Limit Juvenile Solitary Confinement Advances in Colorado House

The state Legislature is considering a bill to limit the use of solitary confinement as a punishment for Colorado's youths. Despite a 1999 law banning seclusion, independent investigations have shown the Colorado Department of Youth Corrections has repeatedly put juveniles in isolation for days and weeks at a time. Elise Logemann, executive director of the Colorado Juvenile Defender Center, said two separate investigations found the state's Department of Youth Corrections had repeatedly held kids in small rooms with only a metal bed frame, toilet and sink. 

CONNECTICUT: A second chance for CT youths who break the law? (CTM)

After running away from home again, Adam was arrested and jailed for stealing food and magazines from a Hartford bodega. Thirty days later, he was still incarcerated as lawyers and a juvenile court judge tried to figure out what to do with the 17-year-old, who also was struggling with drugs and a mother who wasn’t showing up for his court dates. “Do we want him in custody?” Beth Crawford, an attorney for the state’s child welfare agency, asked the adolescent’s social worker minutes before a juvenile court judge would consider committing him to the Department of Children and Families. The answer to this question, while specific to each case, is one that judges, attorneys and lawmakers in Connecticut generally seem to have reached a consensus on.

FLORIDA: Direct-file system doesn't help children - or improve public safety

Article in The Florida Times Union

The strange mechanism that allows Florida’s prosecutors sole authority over whether to charge those under 18 as adults is a cold abuse of power by the state. Known as “direct-file,” this quirk in Florida law stipulates that prosecutors can send juveniles directly to adult court with little oversight or outside input. Many other states require a hearing of the facts in front of a judge before a child can be transferred as an adult. Part of the hearing focuses squarely on experts testifying whether a child can be rehabilitated. 

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FLORIDA: Sending juvenile cases to adult court draws disagreement at Jacksonville juvenile justice forum

It’s a perennial juvenile justice issue in Jacksonville, and Tuesday night disagreements over sending kids to adult court was the highlight of a forum at Jacksonville University.
“904-Data: Delinquent Acts, Community Answers,” presented by the Jacksonville Center for Children’s Rights and the JU Public Policy Institute, brought together representatives of the Department of Juvenile Justice, Teen Court, the Public Defender’s Office and the State Attorney’s Office to talk through local justice trends.

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IDAHO: Idaho prison officials look for place to put teen killer

An Idaho teen has been sentenced to spend the next 20 years in an adult prison, forcing correction officials to look across the country to find a safe place for the 16-year-old to do his time. Eldon Samuel III was just 14 when he shot to death his drug-addicted father and then shot, stabbed and hacked to death his autistic younger brother in their northern Idaho home.

ILLINOIS: Legislature OKs bill to keep more juvenile offenders out of adult court (Chicago Tribune)

Illinois' latest effort toward criminal justice reform has been heralded as a return to the state's roots as a pioneer in the treatment of juvenile offenders. State lawmakers on Sunday passed a bill that would reduce the number of juveniles automatically transferred to adult court. At issue was not whether juveniles can be tried as adults. Rather, it's whether a juvenile defendant should be allowed a hearing in front of a juvenile court judge who would consider factors such as background, mental capacity and culpability before deciding whether to send the youth to adult court.

Introducing Fight for Our Girls

Article by the Center for the Study of Social Policy

Through this series, Fight for Our Girls, the Center for the Study of Social Policy’s Alliance for Racial Equity in Child Welfare seeks to radically shift the narrative surrounding girls of color and status offenses from a focus on delinquency and misbehavior to structural discrimination, trauma and youth well-being. Released over the next year, the series of briefs will promote programs, policies and initiatives aimed at developing a trauma-informed approach to addressing status offenses and supporting the ability of girls of color to thrive. 

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Jailing Vulnerable Youth for Status Offenses Helps No One

In February, Senator Grassley (R-Iowa) and Senator Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island) called upon the Senate to pass important juvenile justice reform by reauthorizing the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA). The JJDPA is the only piece of federal legislation that governs juvenile justice across the country, and provides critical funding and guidance for states.

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