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Juvenile Justice News

Break, Don’t Remake, the Youth Prison Mold

Once is an incident, twice is a coincidence, three times is a pattern. The old saying doesn’t give a new label to a fourth or fourteenth occurrence. A pattern is a pattern, and it will repeat itself until it is extinguished. In juvenile justice, the pattern is reprehensible. 

Bronx Freedom Fund Wants to Bail Out Young People Before School Starts

 For many teenagers, going back to school means sharp pencils, fresh sneakers, and a stylish new backpack, but for the ones imprisoned on Rikers Island, it represents something they don't currently have: freedom. 

Bryan Stevenson’s Message to Youth Workers: Change Narrative for Kids

At the end of April, Bryan Stevenson’s Equal Justice Institute opened a striking museum and a memorial to 4,400 victims of lynching in the United States. 

Barely a week later, the death row lawyer and MacArthur grant recipient flew to California to kick off an after-school conference.

What do the two events have in common?

Being "proximate" to marginalized children "is how we begin to change the world," he told hundreds of people who work in after-school programs.

Budget Deal to End Adult Prosecution of North Carolina Teens

North Carolina appears ready to give up being one of the only states that automatically prosecutes 16- and 17-year-olds as adults for crimes.

California lawmakers want to roll back some criminal sentencing laws, keep young offenders out of adult court

In a legislative hearing packed with criminal justice experts and former youth offenders, California lawmakers pushed forward a bill this week to keep minors who commit crimes out of adult courts.

The proposal, one of several in a package of bills introduced by Sens. Holly J. Mitchell (D-Los Angeles) and Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens), is part of an ongoing effort to divert young people from a path to prison and create parity in state punishment laws. Other bills would roll back mandatory sentencing rules that research shows disproportionally affect black and Latino defendants.

California Should Lead Nation by Setting Minimum Age Standard

In most U.S. states, children of any age can be processed through the juvenile justice system. This year, proposed legislation in California — a state with no established age minimum — seeks to bring needed protections to children ages 11 and younger by prohibiting their prosecution in juvenile court. If successful, Senate Bill 439 will lessen the harm of unnecessary justice system involvement by allowing young children to receive age-appropriate supports through alternative systems, including schools, community-based health providers and child welfare agencies.

Juvenile justice systems were designed for older adolescents, not children. Subjecting the very young to formal processing undermines the effectiveness of treatment and increases the likelihood that they will return to the justice system. Research shows that justice system contact, particularly at an early age, can have harmful, lifelong impacts. Formal processing, regardless of outcome, can cement a negative self-image and hinder healthy development, increasing a child's likelihood of continued contact with the justice system.

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: As LA County ends solitary confinement for minors, artists step in to reimagine the SHU

At Camp Joseph Scott, a juvenile detention center in Santa Clarita, five girls worked on the wall – some standing, some crouching – their arms occasionally crisscrossing as they painted the nature scene. "I find it like a meditating type of therapy," said Anaceli, 17, who was five months into a seven-month sentence. (We're not using last names to protect the identities of the minors). 

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. 

Celebrating Youth Justice Action Month: How W&M Alumni and Students Can Help Youth in the Adult Criminal Justice System

October is National Youth Justice Action Month. In 2015, Barack Obama signed the first presidential proclamation in recognition of the month, which was initiated in 2008 by a Missouri mother, Tracy McClard, after her 17-year-old son committed suicide while in an adult jail. 

Children as young as 14 can be - but rarely are - charged with crimes as adults

A child as young as 14 can be certified in Minnesota to face charges as an adult, but the reality is that it is unusual for even older teenagers to face the adult court system and adult consequences. That is because, when it comes to young offenders, the justice system is focused on rehabilitation, not retribution, according to assistant Stearns County Attorney Dana Erickson, who works in the juvenile division. 

Children Being Housed In Adult Prisons Is an Ongoing Tragedy In America

On the eve of Oct. 17, 2016, 15-year-old Jaquin Thomas was found hanging in his cell at the Orleans Justice Center, an adult prison facility in New Orleans. The teen’s reported suicide came three months after entering the prison on suspicion of murder and a month after being beaten in his cell.

Children in solitary confinement: we must stop treating kids in the system like adults

The images on Four Corners on Monday have shocked the country. They revealed extreme abuse being inflicted on detainees, in a systematic way. This was not a case of one corrections officer doing the wrong thing. This was a case of practices that were clearly accepted by a number of officers, known about by more, and tolerated, if not sanctioned, by the corrections system itself.

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