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Juvenile Justice News

The Justice System Continues to Fail Black Boys

As we begin another Black History Month, it is time to celebrate the contributions and history of African Americans in this country. Along with the celebration of progress, it’s also a time to reflect on areas for improvement. How young black boys are treated in the criminal justice system is one of those areas. 

The Reckoning Over Young Prisoners Serving Life

It’s been more than seven years since the U.S. Supreme Court began to chip away at life-without-parole sentences for juvenile offenders, and lower courts are still wrestling with how to apply the justices’ logic to the American criminal-justice system.

The Sentencing Project Highlights Criminal Justice Reforms

A recent report from the Washington-based The Sentencing Project highlights a variety of reforms made by state Departments of Corrections in an effort to reduce prison population and advance inmate rehabilitation. The report indicates that 17 states adopted such reforms in 2016, and that the “issue of mass incarceration has gained broader attention among diverse constituencies,” including lawmakers and civil rights advocates, contributing to a more receptive political environment for criminal justice reform.

The Unfinished Business of Juvenile Justice

Lawmakers in New York, North Carolina, Missouri, and Texas are currently debating proposals that would move 16-or-17-year-olds (or both) out of the adult criminal justice system and into the juvenile court. 

These kids needed help, not a prison sentence

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my five years working with incarcerated youth and their families, it’s that there is always more to a case than what’s on paper. As a lead facilitator with the Albert Cobarrubias Justice Project, I help families in my hometown of San Jose, Calif. participate in the legal defense of their loved ones. We do this in court by presenting a more complete picture of the person on trial—one that includes their relationship to community, their family background, their hopes and dreams.

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. 

Tom Cotton Lone Holdout on Juvenile Justice Reform Bill

Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., has not been one to shy away from a hardline stance on criminal justice issues. In a speech last year, Cotton claimed the United States, home to more than 20 percent of the world’s prison population, has “an under-incarceration problem.” But such views may be out of touch even with his own constituents in Arkansas.

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. 

Untrained Police Officers in Schools Focus on Girls of Color, Report Says

Black girls are nearly four times more likely to be arrested at school than their white counterparts and Latina girls are almost three times more likely to be arrested in elementary school than white girls, a new report says.

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.

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