Over lunch, Mayor Annise Parker told the audience touching personal stories of her own children adopted out of foster care.
We are now enjoying 7 amazing breakout sessions over 3 hours. Only 2 more hours until the conference concludes!
Over lunch, Mayor Annise Parker told the audience touching personal stories of her own children adopted out of foster care.
We are now enjoying 7 amazing breakout sessions over 3 hours. Only 2 more hours until the conference concludes!
Frankie Guzman, a Soros Fellow at the National Center for Youth Law, starts off this morning’s session with his life story of overcoming years in juvenile prison in California and later attending Berkeley and UCLA Law. Most striking to me was the disparity in armed robbery sentences that he received as a Hispanic man (15 years) and two white women he knew (2 weeks). Even as experienced juvenile defenders it is good to have a reminder of the potential of our young clients. How many other young offenders could grow up to become lawyers or doctors or social workers or whatever they desire, if only given a second (or third) chance?
At lunch Mayor Annise Parker, the mayor of Houston, will be addressing conference attendees. So many exciting sessions this afternoon!
The Bully Effect, Anderson Cooper 360
An extraordinary documentary called “Bully” captured a behavior adults hear about, but rarely see: the way some kids pressure and relentlessly harass their peers. Filmmaker Lee Hirsch was embedded in several schools for an entire year. What he filmed was so raw and eye-opening that the project catapulted a movement, sounding the alarm about the critical and dangerous issue of bullying.
Something profound has also happened as a result. In the time since “Bully” was released, a number of kids and parents profiled in the documentary, and the filmmaker himself, have been on life-changing journeys, and in some instances have experienced remarkable transformations.
AC360° has dedicated the past year to tracing the course of their journeys and personal missions. In partnership with Cartoon Network, AC360° wants to share their stories with you in a powerful documentary called “The Bully Effect,” premiering on CNN on February 28 at 10 p.m. ET.
Adoption, Wales Online
Children in Wales are spending almost five years in care before being placed with adoptive parents, statistics released to WalesOnline show.
In Ceredigion children on average spent four years and nine months in care, which is more than twice as long as the Welsh average stay of two years and three months.
In 2011 researchers at the University of Bristol concluded instability in care “often leads to a downward spiral” of “poor educational results, unemployment and a lifetime of poverty”.
Georgia Lawmakers Take Up Ethics, Juvenile Justice, The Augusta Chronicle
Two major pieces of legislation come to the House floor this week, ethics and juvenile-justice reforms…The juvenile law rewrite has been in the works for years, and agreement has finally been reached by advocates on all sides. It would change where most troubled children are held, from state custody to county supervision.
Timberlake: For a new judge, different outlook on juvenile court, Southtown Star, Illinois
Fortunately, that lack of options has changed. The counties in my circuit were one of the four pilot areas for a new state program, Redeploy Illinois, in exchange for our promise to send 25 percent fewer young people to the prison system.
Redeploy Illinois provided funds we needed to reach our youth before their behaviors worsened. The local stakeholders — judges, prosecutors, public defenders, law enforcement and other community leaders — work together on the program.
Redeploy Illinois has made it possible to assess and screen all youths referred by the court or probation officers. Once we know what services are appropriate to meet each youth’s needs, they attend therapy sessions, sometimes in their homes, or are sent to residential mental health or substance abuse treatment if necessary.
Statewide, the Redeploy Illinois counties have reduced youth prison commitments by 51 percent — more than doubling the target and allowing the state to avert more than $40 million in potential incarceration costs.
New Report: Minors in ‘Solitary’ Hallucinate, Harm Themselves, Juvenile Justice Exchange
A new report on solitary confinement of minors includes harrowing descriptions of the psychological and physical impact ‘solitary’ has on young people, as well as surprising revelations about why some authorities resort to isolating juveniles.
Michigan appeals court rules that juveniles serving mandatory life for murder won’t be freed, Detroit Free Press, Michigan
The Michigan appeals court has ruled a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision that ends mandatory life without parole sentences for juveniles convicted of murder will not apply retroactively to teens already found guilty who have exhausted their direct appeals. That means 358 Michigan prisoners serving mandatory life sentences without parole for murders committed when they were under 18 will remain behind bars. Michigan ranks second in the country in terms of juvenile lifers…
Elementary Schoolers’ Arrests In Florida Alarm Justice Officials , The Huffington Post, The Orlando Sentinel, Florida
The spate of arrests, which includes at least nine felony charges, has alarmed Orange County’s juvenile-justice community and prompted a judge to meet with the school’s principal.
It is “ridiculous” to criminalize students for behavior that is tied to their disabilities, said Olga Telleria-Khoudmi, juvenile-division chief for the Orange/Osceola Public Defender’s Office.
Preventing the Tragedy of LGBT Youth Homelessness, Juvenile Justice Blog
One of the largest populations of homeless youth is composed of LGBT teens who have come out to their families and are then disowned and forced to leave. While 1.7 million adolescents experience at least one episode of homelessness a year, between 20-to-40 percent of that population identify as LGBT.
Children in Texas can be tried in adult criminal court under a waiver statute that permits the transfer of a juvenile to adult court after a hearing is conducted by a juvenile judge. Tex. Fam. Code § 54.02. On October 31, 2012 the First Court of Appeals in Houston heard a case challenging the transfer of a child, C.M. The decision of the Court is pending.
When C.M. was only 16 years old, he was alleged to have committed a murder. Normally the juvenile court hears cases for children under 17 years old. However, the prosecutor in this case asked the judge to transfer the case to adult criminal court. The hearing to determine if transfer is appropriate requires several factors about the child to be considered. The judge in C.M.’s case failedo follow the statute’s requirements for a transfer hearing, specifically the diagnostic study requirement. The judge ordered, but did not receive or examine a diagnostic study of C.M. Despite this, the judge still transferred C.M. to adult criminal court. C.M. was later found guilty in adult court. Today, C.M. is 20 years old and incarcerated.
The First Court of Appeals has a heavy burden in making this important decision. First, the justices have to decide if the original transfer hearing was properly conducted. The Center for Children, Law & Policy feels it is impossible for the transfer hearing to be found proper considering that the Texas waiver law requirements were not met. Next, the justices must determine what would be the appropriate remedy for this defect.
The Center for Children, Law & Policy firmly believes vacating C.M.’s conviction, as his attorneys are requesting, is the only appropriate outcome. The Court’s decision affectsmany other Texan children facing transfer to adult criminal court. For example, Harris County transfers an average of 78 children a year to adult criminal court. The Center for Children, Law & Policy believes all children should have their cases heard in juvenile court. We eagerly await the Court’s ruling.
C.M. is represented by:
Jack G. Carnegie of Strasburger & Price, LLP, John L. Hagan of Jackson, Gilmour & Dobbs, Christene Wood of Thompson Coe Cousins & Irons, and David Adler.
The Center for Children, Law & Policy has submitted to the First Court of Appeals a supplemental amicus brief in support of C.M. We offered this additional information to help guide future policy for similarly situated juveniles facing transfer to adult court, especially here in Harris County, which has extraordinarily high rates of transfer to adult court.
Upon entering the courtroom with his defense attorney, the child starts waving at the judge. When the defense attorney asks the child, “What are you doing?” The child replied, “I’m waving my rights.”
Across our country, children are being funneled through the juvenile justice system. The majority of these children have no real understanding of the court processes they are involved in or the legal consequences that may affect not only their juvenile record, but also their lives. Though juvenile courts are designed specifically for children, the language utilized by attorneys and judges is comparable to a foreign language to children that find themselves involved in the juvenile justice system.
Season 1, Episode 6 of the HBO series, The Wire, illustrates the type of legalese utilized in juvenile courts. At a juvenile court hearing, Bodie, a 16-year-old boy, attempts to follow the rapid-fire dialogue that is occurring between his attorneys, the prosecutor, and the judge. The judge and attorneys use terms such as “respondent,” “juvenile,” “delinquent petition,” “commitment hearing,” “assault,” “narcotics,” “transaction,” “remuneration,” “manipulated by traffickers,” and “home monitoring.” He seems to get lost in the flurry of legalese and technical terms. Bodie seems to have no concept of what this dialogue entails, what any of these terms mean in relation to him, or the potential consequences. He appears to leave the juvenile court hearing with no real comprehension or appreciation for the juvenile justice system. In fact, later in the episode, he remarks to Officer Carver and Officer Herc that “the juvenile system in this city is f*#$%@ up.” These are common scenes in most juvenile courts around the country. Though the juvenile courts are supposed to be designed specifically for children, they do not utilize language that is designed for children to understand the legal expectation placed upon them.
Scientific research and literature indicate that children do not easily comprehend abstract legal vocabulary and concepts. Even the concept of a “right” requires that the child “conceptualize a right as a legal entitlement, providing protection that authorities in the justice system cannot arbitrarily set aside.” A recent Massachusetts’ study illustrates this point. Researchers surveyed children who pled guilty in juvenile court. Overall, the study revealed that the children were “confused and mistaken… even after the words and concepts had been explained, and even among those who had previous juvenile court experience.”
Juvenile courts often confuse “being told” information for actual comprehension of the information. This discrepancy overshadows the crucial constitutional question, “Did the [child] actually understand?” When the time is taken to discover what children actually understand, then it becomes evident that there are significant discrepancies between what is told to the child and what they actually comprehend. For example, in that same Massachusetts’ study, children defined “disposition” as to be “positioned in a wrong place” or to be in a “bad position.”
Furthermore, scientific research has also revealed that an overrepresentation of individuals with language disorders and impairments exists within the criminal and juvenile justice systems. Within the juvenile justice system, the overrepresentation rate appears even greater than in the adult criminal system. Though this paper focuses solely on juvenile offenders and juvenile courts, adult criminal systems should also consider moving away from legalese and technical terms and towards a more plain language approach in order to communicate more effectively with adult defendants.
Communication disorders are defined as “an impairment in the ability to express, understand, and/or process thoughts and information.” These types of disorders affect a child’s ability to use language effectively and “to understand longer sentences and more complex concepts.” Moreover, juvenile offenders as a group tend to be academically deficient and have lower verbal IQs than non-offending juveniles. They tend to have problems receiving and expressing verbal information. In addition, children with language deficiencies often struggle with a lack of ability to deliver effective narratives.
In a recent study, juvenile offenders at the Mendota Juvenile Treatment Center in Wisconsin participated in a complex battery of tests. The tests were designed to assess the juvenile’s “ability to process, understand, and utilize spoken language.” The average age of the children tested was 16 years old. The results revealed that the juvenile offenders’ “spoken language competency” consistently fell below “the bottom one percent of the population at large.” Impaired language skills affect a child’s ability to understand the court processes, communicate with their attorney, understand and comply with the conditions of their release or probation, and to successfully complete any court ordered programs.
Juvenile court judges need to recognize that the language used in their courts is not suited for children. In addition, juvenile courts also need to realize the prevalence of language disorders and impairments among the children entering their doors. In the juvenile court hearings that I have observed, when a child expresses confusion, juvenile court judges often attempt to clarify by repeating the question slower or louder. If the child still expresses confusion, then the juvenile court judge will often direct the defense attorney to take the child outside of the courtroom and to provide explanation to their client. These tactics are not effective or efficient.
Due to the high volume of cases on juvenile court dockets, efficiency is important. Written forms can be efficient and effective if they are drafted in light of the intended reader’s actual ability to read and comprehend the language. Researchers suggest that juvenile court forms should be drafted at “the reading grade level to that of the average user of the document.” One researcher asserts that juvenile court forms “should not exceed an 8th grade difficulty level.”
Specifically, I assert that juvenile court forms should be drafted at a 3rd grade reading level. In most states, the juvenile courts have jurisdiction over children that range from 10 to 17 years old. Even older children who enter the juvenile justice system are not likely to be performing academically on grade level. In 3rd grade, students are usually 8 to 9 years old. Therefore, forms at a 3rd grade reading level are appropriate for a substantial amount of the children entering the juvenile justice system. Judges and attorneys should also utilize dialogue that is approximately at a 3rd grade reading level. Instead of asking children if they understand, judges should ask the child to paraphrase the relevant information in the child’s own words. Developing and utilizing courtroom colloquies in light of the intended audience’s actual ability to comprehend would promote efficiency and effectiveness. In addition, it might reduce recidivism among young offenders if they actually understood the expectations required of them.
No Guidelines to Prevent Child Abuse in Delhi, The Times of India
Despite a spate of child abuse cases, the capital doesn’t have any guidelines to prevent sexual abuse of children in schools and educational institutions, claimed a Public Interest Legislation in the Delhi high court earlier this week.
The legislation was filed by HAQ Centre for Child Rights through its lawyer Ananth Asthana, who pointed out that despite Juvenile Justice Act Rules Section 31 making it clear that guidelines are needed, there has been no movement on the same, and the authorities have woken up only once an incident of sexual harassment took place.
While the guidelines will go a long way in preventing sexual abuse of kids in schools and other educational institutions, making it easier for children to lodge a complaint, the entire focus at present is towards taking action against the accused after the incident.
When Ibrahem Pasha got caught stealing from a sporting goods store two years ago, he thought his future would be ruined. But instead of going through a traditional courtroom, Pasha’s case was referred to the Nassau County Youth Court — a forum that allows teens accused of minor crimes to be judged and punished by their peers.
“We must get to these kids before the influences of the street become too much to overcome and provide them with the resources they need to succeed,” said Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice. ”By positively influencing their development at a crucial stage in their lives, we can help shape the next generation of civic-minded, responsible citizens.”
To be referred to the youth court from other county courts, defendants must be 17 or younger, acknowledge what they did wrong, and take responsibility for it. Student volunteers from across the county play the roles of prosecutor, defense attorney, bailiff, clerk, and jurors during the hearings. A prosecutor stands in as the judge. After weighing the case, the jury decides on appropriate punishment — such as community service, oral and written apologies, essays, youth court jury duty, restitution, curfew or mediation.
The young man whose claims of abuse began the criminal investigation that put Jerry Sandusky in prison said he contemplated suicide because authorities took so long to prosecute the former Penn State assistant football coach.
Speaking out publicly by name for the first time, Aaron Fisher said that the Pennsylvania attorney general’s office had told him it needed more victims before Sandusky would be charged. Fisher first reported the abuse in 2008. Sandusky was arrested last November. Fisher said the delay made him increasingly desperate.
Fisher was 15 when and his mother eventually reported the abuse to the school principal, who responded that “Jerry has a heart of gold and that he wouldn’t do those type of things.”
Juvenile Killers and Life Terms, The New York Times
To this day, Maurice Bailey goes to sleep trying to understand what happened when as a 15-year-old high school student he killed his 15-year-old girlfriend, Kristina Grill, a classmate who was pregnant with his child. ”I go over it pretty much every night,” said Mr. Bailey, now 34, sitting in the Fayette State Correctional Institution in western Pennsylvania, where he is serving a sentence of life without parole for first-degree murder. ”I don’t want to make excuses. It’s a horrible act I committed. But as you get older, your conscience and insight develop. I’m not the same person.”
When the Supreme Court in June banned mandatory life sentences without parole for those under age 18 convicted of murder, it offered rare hope to more than 2,000 juvenile offenders like Mr. Bailey. But it threw Grill’s sister, Ms. Jamriska, and thousands like her into anguished turmoil at the prospect that the killers of their loved ones might walk the streets again.
The United States Supreme Court decision said that sentences of life without parole for juveniles failed to take account of the role of the offender in the crime (killer or accomplice), the family background (stable or abusive) and the incomplete brain development of the young. Recent research has found that youths are prone to miscalculate risks and consequences, and that their moral compasses are not fully developed. They can change as they get older.
Mr. Bailey was a good student with no criminal record. He is black and Ms. Grill was white. Maurice’s legal defense was built around the pressures he had faced. His father testified in court that he had told Maurice that if Kristina got pregnant, he would kill him. Maurice’s grades were declining as he spent more time with Kristina; he was trying unsuccessfully to break up with her, losing control, growing afraid. His petition for a new hearing will argue that the pressures he felt as a 15-year-old — a violent father, a pregnant girlfriend — are unique to youth and therefore covered by the Supreme Court ruling. An adult, his lawyers will argue, would have reacted differently.
But Kristina’s sister, Ms. Jamriska, said there was no escaping the brutality of the crime and its premeditation. As she put it: ”There are many ways of dealing with pressure. You can run away. I don’t care if you’re 5 or 50, you know that killing is wrong. If you murder your girlfriend and unborn baby, I don’t know if you can come back from that.” She added that she felt that much discussion of juvenile crime shied away from the horrors of the acts. ”They often show pictures of the killers looking like kids who could be trick-or-treating,” she said.
Ms. Jamriska pointed out that such offenders received almost no rehabilitation in prison and that letting them out was not only unfair to victims’ families but also posed a risk. Like others serving life sentences, Mr. Bailey has not been allowed to take classes or vocational training because it is viewed as a waste of resources. He has taken an interest in cooking and prepares inmates’ meals. He has a good record of behavior in prison. Ms. Jamriska and others in opposition to the Supreme Court’s ruling say that there is simply no way of knowing if an offender will reoffend.
In ‘Juvenile In Justice,’ Children Caught in America’s Prison System, The Daily Beast
More than 70,000 children are held in U.S. juvenile jails. Despite some changes in harsh sentencing laws, photographer Richard Ross found despair among kids stuck in the prison system.
Reconsidering Life Sentences for Juveniles Who Kill , The Huffington Post
In the wake of the Miller decision, we must be sensitive to victims’ families and try to understand their desire for retribution — but at the same time we must emphasize that imprisoning juveniles for life is not the answer.
The words of Mary Johnson, who befriended O’Shea Israel, continue to resonate:
“The young people that have been given life without parole – we need to think about them as though they are our children. Give them the opportunity — if they’ve been worked on in the prison and have worked on themselves — give them the opportunity to come out and prove themselves, as O’Shea has done.”
Think of Children as an Investment, Not an Expense, The National CASA Blog
Let’s ask all candidates for public office to stop thinking of children as an expense and start thinking of them as an investment. Perhaps the most important one we could make.
UN Aims to End Child Marriage by 2030, Associated Press
Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu said Thursday he is as committed to abolishing child marriage around the globe as he was to fighting apartheid in South Africa.
The U.N. Population Fund says about 37,000 girls under age 18 are being married off daily, at a pace rising toward 14.2 million a year by 2020, and 15.1 million a year by 2030, if the trend is not curbed.
Tutu made his remarks at the launch of U.N. campaign to end child marriage by 2030, in a bid to free girls from poverty, ignorance and oppression at the hands of their husbands.
No other nation in the developed world routinely tortures its children in this manner. And torture is indeed the word brought to mind by a shocking report released today by Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union. Growing Up Locked Down documents, for the first time, the widespread use of solitary confinement on youth under the age of 18 in prisons and jails across the country, and the deep and permanent harm it causes to kids caught up in the adult criminal justice system.
Last fall the Gage Gallery exhibited Taryn Simon’s portraits of people wrongfully imprisoned for crimes they did not commit, followed in winter by Lloyd DeGrane’s black-and-white photographs of life inside Illinois jails and Lori Waselchuk’s images of inmates dying in a Louisiana penitentiary’s hospice ward, shown in the spring. Now, the gallery is presenting “Juvenile-in-Justice,” a traveling exhibition of color photographs by Richard Ross that looks at incarceration from the perspective of kids locked up in group homes and correctional facilities across the country.
As you might expect, those pictures aren’t pretty.
A text panel thumbtacked to the gallery wall details the grim statistics. On any given day in the U.S. there are approximately 70,000 minors who are either being detained or serving time in juvenile facilities, a number close to five times that of the next highest country, South Africa. At this moment, 73 youths are serving life without parole for crimes they committed when they were 14 or younger. And in 22 states and the District of Columbia, kids as young as 7 can be tried and sentenced as adults.
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