New York Considers Legislation to Raise Juvenile Justice Age
In New York and North Carolina, 16 and 17 year old teens are automatically sent to adult criminal court for criminal offenses, including nonviolent charges.
Lawmakers in North Carolina are already working to raise the juvenile age to 18 and now New York is following suit.
Writing at Child Welfare Watch, Alec Hamilton explains:
The effort to keep nonviolent 16- and 17-year-olds out of adult court has moved to the state legislature, which is considering two new juvenile justice bills. One, based on a proposal by the state’s chief judge, would establish permanent youth courts that prevent those tried for nonviolent offenses from picking up permanent criminal records—but would have little impact for thousands of 16- and 17-year-olds charged each year with violent felonies.
The second would raise the age of criminal responsibility to 18 for all but those accused of the most serious offenses, sending them automatically through the juvenile justice system...
Legislative observers say the bill that is most likely to move forward is a compromise that reflects the desire of youth advocates, legislators and Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman to raise the age of adult criminal prosecutions to 18 for nonviolent offenses, but will not overload the Family Court with thousands of new cases. In fact, the new youth courts would be located in and managed by the adult Criminal Court system.
May 9: Children's Mental Health Awareness Day
On May 9, 2012, the OJJDP and SAMHSA will observe National Children's Mental Health Awareness Day to promote recovery and resilience for young people in the juvenile justice and child welfare systems. The two agencies will support efforts to help the public recognize signs of chlid trauma, promote treatment for children's traumatic experiences and promote trauma-informed social services and supports.
Why is this important?
As we learned at this year's JMATE conference, childhood mental health problems increase the risk of substance use and addiction (because many teens are self-medicating) and substance use increases the risk of developing mental health problems. Trauma (especially when experienced at a young age) severely affects a child's ability to cope and affects brain size (NOT intelligence). And 92% of incarcerated kids have experienced one or more traumas during their childhood.
To learn more about National Children's Mental Health Awareness Day and to plan an activity, visit www.samhsa.gov/children.
In Texas, Parents are Partners in Juvenile Justice
In a recent survey of youth at a Texas Juvenile Justice Department (TJJD) facility, the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition heard from youth that staying connected to their families is more difficult at state facilities as compared to county detention centers, and that they would like more contact with their families. In my role as the TJJD family liaison coordinator, I have been working on several ways to establish and enhance family partnerships.
In 2007, parents, youth, advocacy groups and agency staff worked together to create the Parents’ Bill of Rights, which establishes that “parents are partners with correctional staff, educators, and treatment providers in their child’s rehabilitation and are encouraged and assisted to actively participate in the design and implementation of their child’s treatment, from intake to discharge.”
With the Bills of Rights as its guide, TJJD offers a number of opportunities for families to learn about the agency, participate in youth’s treatment, and spend time together:
- Parents are invited to participate in person or by phone in monthly meetings to discuss the youth’s progress in education, behavior, and treatment.
- Monthly Family Orientation sessions help families learn how to navigate the system.
- Family Seminars keep families informed about agency changes.
- Open houses allow families to meet staff and tour the school, dorms, and other buildings.
- Facilities have flexible visiting times and frequent phone calls.
- Quarterly family days encourage families to participate in activities including cook-outs, board games, photo sessions, and celebratory dinners.
Juvenile Justice in New Orleans: LGBT issues, School-to-Prison Pipeline and More
On March 22nd, 2012, The Lens welcomed five panelists and over 100 attendees to its third salon at the Ashe Cultural Arts Center, which focused on the status of the juvenile justice system in the New Orleans area.
Panelists were queried by the moderator on issues surrounding the new French Quarter youth curfew, LGBTQ youth issues in juvenile facilities, the rebuilding of the Youth Studies Center, the school to prison pipeline, and the new Orleans Parish Prison. Audience members were then invited to pose their own questions to the panel.
Ohio Supreme Court Strikes Down Law Requiring Youth Sex Offenders to Register for Life
Earlier today, the Ohio Supreme Court struck down part of a law mandating certain youth sex offenders to register for life, because the punishment is cruel and unusual.
Under Ohio's Adam Walsh Act, teens classified as the most dangerous sex offenders must register - for the rest of their lives - with law enformencement and have their photos, addresses and criminal histories distributed to neighbors and schools.
In a 5-2 opinion, Ohio's Supreme Court ruled the punishment violates both Ohio and US constitutions because it is cruel and unusual and because it violates a defendant's right to due process.
From the Associated Press:
Not only is the requirement unconstitutional, it also defeats the purpose of the juvenile court system, Justice Paul Pfeifer said, writing for the majority.
The mandatory registration "undercuts the rehabilitative purpose of Ohio's juvenile system and eliminates the important role of the juvenile court's discretion in the disposition of juvenile offenders and thus fails to meet the due process requirement of fundamental fairness," Pfeifer wrote.
He also said it defeats another goal of the juvenile court system: cloaking children in confidentiality and allowing them to avoid stigma once they have served their time in the juvenile system and become adults.
"Confidentiality promotes rehabilitation by allowing the juvenile to move into adulthood without the baggage of youthful mistakes," Pfeifer said. "Public exposure of those mistakes brands the juvenile as an undesirable wherever he goes."
Changing Young Lives in Massachusetts
The Reclaiming Futures model is used in 29 communities (in 17 states) across the country. As National Executive Director Susan Richardson often says, "if you've seen one court, you've seen one court," meaning that while every Reclaiming Futures court implements the same six step model, there are often differences in the program based on what works in each community. In Snohomish County, Washington, troubled teens work with local artists to learn glass blowing and creative writing. In Oklahoma's Cherokee Nation, youth learn about their heritage and partake in cultural events. And in Bristol County, Massachusetts, the focus is on building teens' self-esteem and self-worth. One model with many different approaches -- and all with great results.
The South Coast Today recently wrote about the success of Reclaiming Futures in Bristol County. From the article:
Q&A: Lawanda Ravoira of the National Girls Institute on Helping Girls Steer Clear of the Juvenile Justice System
Each year thousands of young women run away from home. To survive, some girls steal. Some sell their bodies for money or a place to stay. Many use drugs and alcohol to cope with life on the streets. Eventually, many girls end up in the juvenile justice system.
The National Clearinghouse on Families and Youth recently spoke with Lawanda Ravoira, director of the National Girls Institute, about how to keep homeless young women out of trouble, out of jail and engaged with programs that provide support.
NCFY: Which girls are most at risk for becoming involved in the juvenile justice system?
Ravoira: Girls become involved in the system from all over, but one of the first predictors is school failure (uneven grades, suspensions and expulsions). The other big thing is trauma. We know that 92 percent of girls entering juvenile justice have been victims of physical, sexual or emotional abuse. Girls coming into the system have much higher rates of trauma and victimization than boys.
NCFY: How do girls respond to trauma differently from boys?
From a Violent Childhood to the MLB: Joe Torre on Need to Reduce Children's Exposure to Violence
Baseball fans know Joe Torre as a former MLB catcher and MLB manager. But they may know not that he was exposed to violence as a child, an experience that played a major role in shaping his life. He recently wrote an op-ed in the Miami Herald, explaining why preventing children's exposure to violence is so important to him.
I was the youngest of five kids who grew up in an abusive home. My father, a New York City police officer, physically abused my mother and emotionally abused us all. My older siblings protected me from the violence, but they couldn’t shield me from the fear. Baseball became my shelter — the place to which I escaped to feel safe.
I didn’t know until decades later how much the way I felt about myself had been shaped by that fear. More than just fear, though, I felt shame, as well. As a kid, I was embarrassed by the belief that my house was the only one where things like this were happening. I worried that I had done something to cause the problem, and felt ashamed that I couldn’t stop it. As an adult, it took counseling for me to see myself as the innocent child I really had been, and to understand how deeply the violence I had witnessed affected me.
Because of these traumatic experiences, Joe and his wife founded the Joe Torre Safe At Home Foundation, which provides education and safe rooms in middle schools for kids caught in an abusive environment. Joe also serves as co-chair of Attorney General Eric Holder's National Task Force on Children Exposed to Violence, which is part of the DOJ's Defending Childhood Initiative.
Applications Available for Youth Justice Leadership Institute
Know any professionals of color who want to lead efforts to help youth in trouble with the law?
Then you should encourage them to apply to the Youth Justice Leadership Institute. The Institute, offered by the National Juvenile Justice Network, is a robust, year-long, distance-learning program that includes leadership development, training in juvenile justice system policies and practices, theories of change, and advocacy skills development. Now in its second year, its goal is to expand the base of advocates and organizers in the field who reflect the communities who are most affected by the way the juvenile justice system operates.
Past fellows have described the Institute variously as a great opportunity, a place that helped them see the national context for their work, connected them to colleagues and peers across the country and which helped them bring back useful information to their communities. But see for yourself what they have to say -- check out the video above.
Join us for a Juvenile Justice Discussion with Shay Bilchik in Portland
For those in the Portland, Oregon area: We're joining PSU's School of Social Work in hosting Shay Bilchik for a lecture and discussion on the juvenile justice system. He'll address ways to improve systemic coordination and outcomes for youth involved in the juvenile justice system. A local panel of experts will react to Shay's remarks and Dr. David Springer (incoming Dean of the School of Social Work) will moderate.
Wednesday, March 21, 2012
4:30 - 6:00 pm (doors open at 4)
Smith Memorial Student Union, Room 327/328
Portland State University
Shay is the founder and Director of the Center for Juvenile Justice Reform at Georgetown University's Public Policy Institute. Prior to joining the Institute in 2007, he was the President and CEO of the Child Welfare League of America. Previously, he headed up the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) in the U.S. Department of Justice, where he advocated for and supported a balanced and multi-systems approach to attacking juvenile crime and addressing child victimization. Before coming to the nation's capital, Shay was an Assistant State Attorney in Miami, Florida from 1977-1993, where he served as a trial lawyer, juvenile division chief and Chief Assistant State Attorney. Shay earned his B.S. and J.D. degrees from the University of Florida.
RSVP here and let me know if you're going. I hope to see you there!