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Juvenile Justice News

To stop sexual assault in the juvenile system, close youth prisons

This week's U.S. Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Statistics new report on sexual victimization of youth locked up in the juvenile justice system confirms what we already know about youth prisons: They aren't safe. According to the BJS report, rates of sexual victimization of incarcerated youth in the juvenile justice system have increased over the last decade. 

Treat Kids Like Kids Until 18

The state Senate should be ashamed of itself. For the second time in as many years, it has refused (so far) to give serious consideration to widely supported efforts to make sure 16- and 17-year-olds don't get sent to the adult criminal justice system when they get into trouble with the law. The right policy solution — doing what all neighboring states do and treating kids like kids until their 18th birthday — is simple. Now New York just needs the political will to do the right thing. 

U.S. Senate: Time to stand for youth

With just days left in the 114th Congress, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has the opportunity to lead the U.S. Senate in passing an important bill for our nation’s youth.  The Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) reauthorization is bipartisan legislation that was overwhelmingly approved by the House of Representatives this fall, and has received the support of 99 U.S. Senators.

U.S. states should ban solitary confinement for kids, doctors say

Too many incarcerated U.S. children serve time in solitary confinement even though the United Nations and many physician groups believe this form of punishment amounts to torture and should be banned, some doctors argue. U.S. President Barack Obama recently banned solitary confinement for juvenile offenders in the federal prison system, but most incarcerated kids are housed in state and local facilities that aren’t covered by this ban, Dr. Mikah Owen and Dr. Jeffrey Goldhagen of the University of Florida note in an article in the journal Pediatrics. 

UTAH: In our opinion: Reform the juvenile justice system — an inspiring though not unique case in point

Article in the Deseret News

Society has long struggled over what to do with violent juvenile criminals — those who commit crimes so heinous they are cast as unredeemable. Juvenile detention centers were created as a way to recognize that people make mistakes as youths that they wouldn’t repeat once they matured into adulthood, but the public tends to view murder as a sign of incorrigibility.

Now a movement is afoot, including at the Utah Legislature, to take a softer approach, one that doesn’t lock doors and throw away keys on young people who, though guilty of terrible crimes, deserve an eventual second chance.

This is a good thing. Advocates of a bill they hope would eliminate life sentences for juveniles in Utah brought a powerful spokesman to Salt Lake City this month. We hope people were listening.

UTAH: John Florez: Courts Should Protect Children's Interests, Too (Deseret News)

"The idea that a child is put in adult prison with adult criminals - in my mind - is unconscionable," said state Sen. Aaron Osmond when he learned that a 16-year-old, charged as an adult, had been sentenced to Utah's adult prison. Osmond said he would sponsor a bill to change part of the current Utah Serious Youth Offender Law that allows judges to send minors to adult prison if they commit serious offenses. That law was passed when there was a national movement to be tough on crime.

Vital Juvenile Justice Initiatives at Risk in First 100 Days

From banning conversion therapy for gay and trans youth to eliminating solitary confinement for juveniles in federal prisons, President Obama issued a slew of executive orders designed to protect at-risk youth over the past eight years. Now, advocates are worried that new executive orders will undo all that’s been done.

Ways to Let Detained Youth Know They’re Not Forgotten This Holiday Season

As the holidays approach, we often forget there are so many youth who are detained, in placement or simply away from their families. There were 50,821 youth in some type of facility in 2014, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency and Prevention reported.

What About Convicts of Violent Crimes?

Marcus Bullock is an incarceration-reform advocate who launched a painting company after his 2004 release from prison. As well, he is the founder and CEO of an app, Flikshop, that enables the imprisoned to receive email. Asked what proposition ought to be subject to more debate, he focused on the fate of criminals.

What I really want for Father’s Day: Stop Solitary for Kids

As Father’s Day approached, and I watched my kids excitedly make plans to celebrate, I couldn’t help but reflect on my juvenile justice reform work. As a former youth corrections administrator, I noticed their excitement is so different than the isolation we know is too often experienced by kids in facilities. 

When a Sibling Goes to Prison

On any given day, 54,000 juvenile offenders are not living with their families because they are instead in one of the 696 youth-detention facilities across the United States. In an average year, 17,800 of them “are just awaiting their turn in court,” according to the Campaign for Youth Justice. But those are just the youth in the juvenile-justice system. 

When Parole Boards Trump the Supreme Court

Almost everyone serving life in prison for crimes they committed as juveniles deserves a shot at going home. That’s the thrust of a series of Supreme Court rulings, the fourth and most recent of which was decided this year. Taken together, the high court’s message in these cases is that children are different than adults when it comes to crime and punishment — less culpable for their actions and more amenable to change. As such, court rulings have determined all but the rarest of juvenile lifers are entitled to “some meaningful opportunity to obtain release based on demonstrated maturity and rehabilitation.”

Why the U.S. juvenile justice system needs serious reform

In A&E's infamous show, Beyond Scared Straight, "at-risk" kids with major behavioral problems are thrust into adult prisons for a day to literally scare them into never wanting to see the inside of a jail cell again. Once at the prisons, they are spat on, temporarily enclosed in holding cells and given the rundown of prison life. And these one-day interventions are just the beginning.

Will Presidential Candidates Oppose Prosecuting Children As Adults?

As physicians, we are often on the front lines of tragedies such as those in Louisiana, Minnesota and Texas recently and in Florida in June. During these troubling times and two contentious national conventions, we are beginning to wonder what changes are in store for our profession and our patients.

Women pedal across state on Journey for Justice

Tracy McClard and her mother, Vicky Moses, made it to Jefferson City on the Katy Trail by midday Wednesday. They were almost halfway through a 200-mile bike ride. Their family was waiting for them at the trailhead, but an important member was absent: McClard’s youngest son. He’s the reason the two women are riding. Tracy and her 72-year-old mother are cycling from Sedalia to St. Charles in four days on their Journey for Justice across Missouri. The women aim to raise awareness about minors placed in the adult criminal justice system. McClard, creator of the Missouri group Families and Friends Organizing for Reform of Juvenile Justice (FORJ-MO), began to champion this cause after she lost her teenage son. More here

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