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Juvenile Justice News

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 Troubled Teens of Netflix’s “Girls Incarcerated”

recently watched, in a single sitting, the entire first season of “Girls Incarcerated: Young and Locked Up,” which premièred on Netflix, last month. It follows, in eight episodes, about fifteen inmates, referred to as “students,” at Madison Juvenile Correctional Facility, in Madison, Indiana, along with the teachers, correctional officers, and counsellors whose job it is to supervise and surveil the girls. The series largely forgoes the macabre violence that one finds on MSNBC’s long-running prison reality series, “Lockup,” and it lacks the judgmental tone of, say, MTV’s “Teen Mom,” in which young mothers are presented as the saboteurs of the American family unit. “Girls Incarcerated” is instead civil, empathetic; in some ways, this view of America, the prison nation, might even seem uplifting.

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. 

The “superpredator” myth was discredited, but it continues to ruin young black lives

incent Thompson was first arrested when he was 14. It was a Friday night and Thompson and some friends in his neighborhood in Hempstead, Long Island, had just come home from a party. They were clustered outside their buildings not yet ready to call it a night, when the police "rushed" the group, he said, and searched them. Thompson had just started selling crack, and the police found it. He was handcuffed and stuffed into the back of a police car. "It was my first time ever being in that position," Thompson recalls. "I was young."

Theater artists connect with at-risk teens through restorative justice program

We often think of theater purely in terms of entertainment. But thanks to a unique partnership between the Metro Nashville Arts Commission, the Juvenile Justice Center (JJC) and the Oasis Center, a group of local artists are making positive changes in the lives of young people.

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.

This former inmate built an Instagram for prison. Now he's closing in on a multimillion-dollar raise.

FlikShop founder and CEO Marcus Bullock is raising an angel round led by former NBA All-Star Baron Davis, to be followed by a $4 million Series A next year.

Thousands of Youth Are Incarcerated for Low-Level Status Offenses and Technical Violations. This Needs to Stop.

Recently, the Prison Policy Initiative issued a report finding that status offenses and technical violations lead to the incarceration of more than 5,000 young people nationwide.

A status offense is a noncriminal act that is only considered a violation of the law because of the youthful age of the perpetrator. For example, a minor would face sanctions for drinking a beer or smoking a cigarette, even though an adult can freely engage in these activities. Technical violations arise when a youth, who has already been placed on juvenile probation, does not complete conditions of probation, like regular school attendance.

For those young people already touched by the juvenile justice system, the number of potential technical violations only increases due to the use of valid court orders (VCOs) – mandated conditions of probation ordered by a juvenile court judge. 

To reform juvenile justice, Alabama must dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline

The school-to-prison pipeline is shorthand for a misguided and counterproductive system that pushes children out of public schools and seriously increases the likelihood that they will end up in the juvenile and adult justice systems.

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. 

Tuesday Editorial: Children shouldn’t be in Florida’s adult prisons

Children behind bars exist in a Neverland where their views and emotions regarding the outside world remain stuck in the adolescent perspective that got them incarcerated, making it almost impossible to adjust to life once released.

U.S. Rep. Jason Lewis joins bipartisan push for criminal justice reform

U.S. Rep. Jason Lewis has joined a group of unlikely allies in trying to reshape the criminal justice system.

The Minnesota Republican has teamed up with U.S. Rep. Bobby Scott, a Democrat from Virginia, to advocate changes to federal law that would favor rehabilitation over imprisonment for first-time, nonviolent offenders — particularly juveniles — and reduce exploding incarceration budgets. Groups as ideologically diverse as the NAACP, FreedomWorks, Families Against Mandatory Minimums and the American Conservative Union all back their proposals.

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