Wednesday’s Children and the Law News Roundup

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National Juvenile Defender Center releases Trial Manual for Defense Attorneys in Juvenile Delinquency Cases 

Schaible Children to Get Court Ordered Medical Care, The Philadelphia Enquirer

Herbert and Catherine Schaible’s seven [remaining] children were placed in temporary foster care after the couple told police they did not bring their 8-month-old, Brandon, to a doctor when he showed serious signs of illness last month. The Schaibles – members of a church that shuns medical care – are on probation for the 2009 death of their 2-year-old son, Kent.

While authorities await the results of Brandon Schaible’s autopsy, child welfare workers are monitoring the medical needs of the seven other Schaible children, said Mythri Jayaraman, a lawyer for Catharine Schaible, after a probationary status hearing Monday at the Criminal Justice Center.

At a Family Court hearing last week, a judge ordered Department of Human Services workers to ensure the children’s “routine and special” medical needs were being met, Jayaraman said . . .  All of the children have received medical examinations and any needed immunizations, and appear to be healthy, Hoof said.

Mother’s Quest to Find Treatment for Son Highlights Mental Health System’s Limitations: Chicago Woman Says She Faced Many Barriers to Acquiring Long-Term Care for Child, Who Spiraled Downward into Drug Use, Incarceration, Chicago Tribune

Diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, Marciano bounced from emergency room to jail to the streets. When he believes he is Jesus Christ or Tupac Shakur or tells his mother she needs to “watch her back,” Gabel said, she double-checks the locks on her house in Chicago’s Mount Greenwood neighborhood and alerts her neighbors that her son might come home. She estimates he has been hospitalized 45 times.

Americans have longed for better ways to prevent and treat mental illness in children for years, and the desire is especially amplified after school shootings such as Columbine High School in Colorado in 1999 or Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in December. The haunting questions stubbornly remain the same: Are parents clueless? In denial? Why don’t they just do something about their troubled children?

Gabel has tried so hard for so long that she is emotionally and financially drained, she said. Her quest illuminates the challenges of navigating a mental health care system that many say is broken, leaving too many children and young adults with psychosis and nowhere to turn . . .

Of the 15 million U.S. youths with bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and other mental illnesses, less than half will get medical attention, according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.  There are treatments that work, “but frequently you cannot get them to the people in crisis,” said Susan Resko, executive director of the Balanced Mind Foundation, a national children’s mental health advocacy group based in Chicago.

The hurdles are especially high in Illinois, which slashed more than $100 million in mental health services from 2009 to 2011 and perennially dwells at the bottom of state rankings, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. During Gov. Pat Quinn’s budget address in March, he emphasized mental illness should be a “top priority” and proposed an additional $25 million investment to improve care.

Gabel, an administrative assistant and mother of three, fears her 24-year-old middle child is now too ill to respond to medical intervention, not unlike a cancer patient who ignored early symptoms and is left with a body riddled with tumors.  “He’s just so far gone now,” she said . . .

“My mom has fought long and hard for that boy,” Stephanie Marciano said. “She’s talked to anybody and everybody that she possibly could, and he’s just fallen through the cracks every time.”

Specific events in Marciano’s life — such as the state’s decision to not provide him with an Individual Care Grant and his incarcerations — stand out as turning points in what his 26-year-old brother calls “a slow, gradual spiral downward.”

“He should have been one of the ones accepted, and he got shunned,” said Tim Marciano, who works in banking. “In the meantime, he was just rotting in prison, when he should have been getting help in a mental health facility somewhere. Look at where it’s gotten him.”

Ex-Browerville Athlete Admits to Sexual Assaults on Teammates, Minneapolis StarTribune

A former Browerville High School student has admitted that he was among athletes who sexually assaulted teammates in incidents that stretched from the small western Minnesota community to a downtown Minneapolis hotel.

Seth Kellen, 19, pleaded guilty Monday in Todd County District Court to felony fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct for using force or coercion during sexual contact. Specifically, Kellen admitted to digitally penetrating a 17-year-old teammate in March 2012 while the basketball team was in Minneapolis for the state tournament.

Kellen also was accused of pulling down his pants while in a Minneapolis parking-ramp elevator with his teammates and two student managers, ages 11 and 12. He then jumped on teammates’ backs and hit them with his penis, the charges say. He had also been accused of sexually assaulting football and basketball teammates numerous times . . .

When sentenced, Kellen is expected to be given a 30-day jail term and placed on probation for 10 years. Terms of probation include being assessed for anger management and counseled about sexual boundaries. If he complies and doesn’t violate probation, the felony case will be dismissed, said County Attorney Chuck Rasmussen.

In November, co-defendant Connor S. Burns, 19, pleaded to an agreement that will dismiss charges against him if he has no similar offenses during his five years of probation. Burns will not have to serve any time. Another player, Seth Christiansen, was tried as a juvenile and also came to a plea agreement.

Attorneys for Kellen and Burns had argued that the alleged assaults were part of a common culture of horseplay and hazing that’s gone on for years at the school in Browerville, which has about 790 residents. They insisted that the acts weren’t sexual.

Monday’s Children and the Law News Roundup

Another Chance for Mone’t: Program Keeps Troubled New York Youth Close to Home, The New York Times

. . . the premise behind Close to Home . . . Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed into law a year ago. Adolescents from New York City committing acts of delinquency — turnstile jumping, obstructing justice, fighting — no longer are sent upstate to institutions, places so isolated that families or lawyers found it difficult to visit. Instead, the young people have local options now, ranging from community probation programs to residential houses.

In the first eight months, with 400 youths in residential placement, there have been setbacks: 40 arrests . . . 15 young people were placed in secure detention centers to await trials, . . . There have been injuries to staff members and damage to property.

There have also been successes: 90 youths completed their sentences (an average of seven months), and nearly every resident is earning credits with the city’s Education Department, something that is impossible upstate.

Utah Soccer Referee Punched by Player Dies, Los Angeles Times

Portillo, 46, succumbed to injuries late Saturday that had put him in a coma for a week after police said a 17-year-old goalie punched him.  Authorities say the teen struck Portillo after the youth was called for a foul and issued a yellow card.

“The suspect was close to Portillo and punched him once in the face as a result of the call,” police spokesman Justin Hoyal said in a statement.  The suspect had been booked into juvenile detention on suspicion of aggravated assault. Hoyal said authorities would consider additional charges since Portillo’s death.

Activists Try to Get Rid of Juvenile Records Fee, East Bay Express

They contend that the [Alameda] county’s $150 fee prevents young peoiple from sealing court records involving minor crimes – and thus harms their ability to find jobs and housing later in life . . .

In most counties in California . . .  youths do not have to worry about their past problems haunting them later in life. In those counties, young people adjudicated of minor crimes can pay a $50 application fee to get their juvenile court records sealed permanently, and if they cannot afford the charge, the fee is waived entirely. Counties like San Francisco, Sacramento, and Los Angeles provide the service free to everyone.

But not Alameda County. It is one of six counties in California that charges the maximum fee — $150 — under state law. It is also one of just three counties that do not offer a waiver to people who cannot afford to pay . . .

Alameda County instituted the $150 fee three years ago in an attempt to increase revenues for the Probation Department, which has historically been underfunded . . .  In 2010, the year the fee went into effect, the number of people applying to seal their youth records in Alameda County dropped by half, and the number of applicants has remained equally low for the past three years, according to data obtained from probation.

The High Cost of Putting Teens in Prison, MetroWest Daily News

 Most states don’t treat 17 year olds as adult criminals. Massachusetts does, and faces federal sanctions because of it. T.J. Parsell’s crime was like lots of things teen-agers do: stupid, impulsive and dangerous . . . at 17, Parsell was, in terms of his psychological development, still mostly a child.  He sentenced Parsell to 4 to 15 years in an adult penitentiary.

“On the first day, I was gang-raped,” Parsell said this week at a conference in Newton. “After that, they flipped a coin to see whose property I was going to be.” He survived his time behind bars by being the sexual slave of a stronger inmate. “I deserved to be punished for what I did,” he said. “I didn’t deserve that.” . . .

Juveniles housed in adult prisons are six times more likely to be sexually assaulted, said Parsell, now an author, filmmaker and activist, and 36 times more likely to commit suicide.

Massachusetts, progressive in so many areas, is anything but when it comes to putting kids in prison. It’s one of just 12 states that treat 17-year-olds as adults in the criminal justice system, no matter how minor their crimes. Massachusetts puts an estimated 500 17-year-olds into adult jails and prisons every year . . .

Want to turn a troubled kid into a hardened adult criminal? Lock him up with adult thugs, in a facility where he’ll get none of those things. Teens prosecuted as adults are 34 percent more likely to be arrested again than those tried as juveniles . . .

The “Justice for Kids” bill now before the Legislature would do just that, raising the state’s centuries-old age for adult criminal jurisdiction from 17 to 18. Pushed by state Rep. Kay Khan, D-Newton, and Sen. Karen Spilka, D-Ashland, the bill has failed to make it out of the Ways & Means Committee in past sessions, though its price tag – $20 million – is modest compared to the nearly $1 billion the state spends now on corrections.

This time, the bill may get a push from the feds.  In 2003, a diverse coalition of evangelical and civil liberties groups convinced Congress to enact the Prison Rape Elimination Act, which was signed into law by President George W. Bush . . .

Massachusetts must comply with that rule by August 2013 or face the loss of federal grant funding. Compliance through building segregated wings could be expensive, and advocates worry prisons and jails may comply by putting more 17-year-olds in solitary confinement – a brutal experience that causes psychological trauma. The simplest, and best, way to meet the federal standards is to raise the age of juvenile jurisdiction . . .

Under state law, anyone 14 or older charged with murder must go into the adult system. That wouldn’t change.  What would change is that every year 500 Massachusetts kids would stand a better chance of surviving their brush with the law and growing into law-abiding adults. That’s not just humane for the kids, it’s smart policy.

Georgia to Lock up Fewer Young Offenders, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Deal signed House Bill 242, adding Georgia to the list of states making sweeping changes aimed at slowing the ballooning costs of incarceration while also steering petty offenders away from a life of crime . . .

The Legislature passed a similar bill dealing with adult offenders. Both measures enjoyed broad support, with fiscal conservatives worried about soaring costs allied with criminal justice reformers who think stringent sentencing hasn’t worked. And both had Deal’s backing . . .

Once the youth law takes effect Jan. 1, so-called “status offenders” arrested for minor offenses won’t go into the criminal justice system at all. Instead they will be sent to social services programs equipped to address the underlying reasons for their trouble, often found in their home lives. Teenagers accused of misdemeanors and low-level crimes like drug possession will not be sentenced to a juvenile prison. Instead they will be diverted to community-based programs.

Those who commit designated felonies will be separated into two categories. Crimes in which no one is hurt will mean no more than 18 months locked up plus another 1 1/2 years of intensive probation. Designated felons who harm someone could be locked up for as many as five years . . .

Georgia taxpayers will save $85 million over five years and avoid building two more juvenile facilities, Deal said.  Advocates also expect a drop in the state’s 65 percent recidivism rate for juvenile offenders . . .

Ohio, the first state to take such an approach with RECLAIM, has cut its juvenile inmate population from 2,600 to 550; consequently four facilities were closed.

New York City’s Close to Home program launched last September and officials expect to see a 62 percent decline in the number of kids the courts order locked up.

California credits its community-based programs for reducing the number of juveniles locked up from more than 10,000 in 1996 to 1,000. Last year, the state spent $93.4 million to defray the cost to counties for the program.

Even as Texas closed or consolidated seven facilities because the number of juveniles in custody had dropped by 62 percent, state officials also recorded a 27 percent decline in in juvenile crimes over four years, according to the Texas Public Policy Institute . . .

[Gov.] Deal Signs Bill to Improve Child Safety, Clayton News Daily

Gov. Nathan Deal signed into law House Bill 350, requiring Georgia’s 6,000 child care facilities to undergo national fingerprint-based background checks for employees.

Coupé Works to Protect City’s Most Vulnerable, Memphis Daily News

As supervising attorney over both the Judge’s Action Center and the Office of Advocate for Noncustodial Parents at Memphis-Shelby County Juvenile Court, Tom Coupé works to ensure that the most vulnerable members of society are being fairly and equally represented.

“The Judge’s Action Center started as an outreach to the public to assist them with any questions or concerns they have about the court,” Coupé said . . . Coupé and his team of two attorneys help people prepare petitions and pleadings for Juvenile Court to help the judge or magistrate to better understand what the concern is and what is trying to be accomplished.  “We don’t represent them in court, but we’ll assist them with the creation of the pleading and advise them on what that pleading will contain and what it means,” he said . . .

Juvenile law is extremely specific and there is not a lot of crossover between what’s happening in the adult world of the Shelby County Justice Center . . . and Juvenile Court. There are other attorneys he’s spoken with who tend to have a secondary opinion of juvenile law, calling it “kiddie court.”

In Honor of Law Day, Organization Wants to Spread Word About “Youth Court” Diversion Programs,

To celebrate Law Day — an annual event, celebrated May 1, that is sponsored by the American Bar Association (ABA) — the ABA teamed up with Global Youth Justice (GYJ) in an effort to help youth courts across more than 40 states launch 250 websites.

According to the Global Youth Justice website, more than 1,400 juvenile justice programs utilizing youth or student courts have been set up worldwide. By 2020, GYJ aspires to have more than 1,800 youth and student courts established in all 50 states, with more than 200,000 young offenders annually referred to such juvenile diversion programs.

LGUs Urged to Fully Implement Juvenile Justice Law, Philippine Information Agency

An official of the National Youth Commission cited the need for local governments to fully implement the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act or Republic Act 9344Undersecretary Leon Flores, III, chair of the National Youth Commission said that often it is not the fault of the child to commit a crime.

“We have to look at his environment, the family situation and the juvenile justice system is one of the intervention programs to keep them away from criminal activities. The child must be provided opportunities to be productive,” he said. Flores said children in conflict with the law must be given a chance instead of sending them to jail.

Flores claimed there are also parents who push their children to commit crimes. “So we should go before the parents or the criminal syndicates behind them,” he said.

Flores said local governments must be resolved to implement the law and its programs . . . Flores disclosed that one of the interventions set this May is to register all out-of-school youth so that they will be included in the integration program of the Department of Education . . .

House Bill (HB) 6052 had been passed by the lower chamber on third and final reading. It seeks to amend Republic Act (RA) 9344 or the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Law by declaring that a child charged with murder, parricide, homicide, kidnapping, rape, robbery, drug trafficking or other offenses punishable by more than 12 years in jail shall be presumed to have acted with discernment.

Flores also cited the need for the youth to be involved in sports. He said that through sports, children will learn the values of teamwork and discipline and most of all respect for others and oneself.

Wednesday’s Children and the Law News Roundup

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More Harm Than Good: Exempt Youth Sex Offenders from Registration Laws, Human Rights Watch

Harsh public registration laws often punish youth sex offenders for life and do little to protect public safety, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. A web of federal and state laws apply to people under 18 who have committed any of a wide range of sex offenses, from the very serious, like rape, to the relatively innocuous, such as public nudity.

The 111-page report, “Raised on the Registry: The Irreparable Harm of Placing Children on Sex Offender Registries in the US,” details the harm public registration laws cause for youth sex offenders. The laws, which can apply for decades or even a lifetime and are layered on top of time in prison or juvenile detention, require placing offenders’ personal information on online registries, often making them targets for harassment, humiliation, and even violence. The laws also severely restrict where, and with whom, youth sex offenders may live, work, attend school, or even spend time . . .

Available research indicates that youth sex offenders are among the least likely to reoffend.

For more information, see the YouTube video.

Kentucky Boy, 5, Accidentally Shoots to Death 2 Year old Sister, LA Times

A 2-year-old Kentucky girl was accidentally killed by her 5-year-old brother who fired a rifle he had been given as a gift, officials said Wednesday.

Cumberland County Coroner Gary L. White said an autopsy of Caroline Starks showed the toddler had died from a single shot from the .22-caliber rifle. The death has been ruled accidental and no charges will be filed . . .

The rifle used in the accident is a Crickett designed for children and sold under the slogan “My First Rifle,” according to the company’s website. It is a smaller weapon designed for children and comes with a shoulder stock in child-like colors including pink and swirls . . .

It is legal in Kentucky to give a child a rifle as a gift, White said. Nor is it unusual for children to have rifles, often passed down from their parents, he said.

Earlier this month, Brandon Holt, 6, was accidentally shot to death by a 4-year-old playmate in New Jersey.

Compton Jurors Hear Widely Disparate Views of Accused Killer, 16, LA Times

Compton jury heard conflicting portraits Tuesday of a 16-year-old girl charged with murdering her mother and stepfather, whose bodies were found more than a year ago buried in separate shallow graves.

Cynthia Alvarez sat quietly wearing a pale-blue cardigan, her hair tied back in a ponytail, as a prosecutor told jurors that the teen had confessed to the October 2011 killings and carried them out with her boyfriend, Giovanni Gallardo.  Los Angeles County Deputy Dist. Atty. Kristin Trutanich said . . . “They planned and executed the murders,” . . . Both Alvarez and Gallardo are charged as adults.

Deputy Public Defender Carole Telfer described the teen as a longtime victim of sexual, physical and emotional abuse at the hands of those she is accused of killing.  As a little girl, she was molested by her stepfather, Jose Lara, who moved in with her and her mother about a year after her father was deported to Honduras, Telfer said. . . .

Her mother, Gloria Villalta, forced Alvarez to maintain the house, cook and give her insulin, Telfer told jurors . . . “Mrs. Villalta essentially kept Cynthia as a slave for her personal use,” Telfer told jurors. Child welfare authorities investigated a report that Villalta lit a piece of paper and held it to her daughter’s nose, but no action was taken, the lawyer said.

In 2008, the lawyer said, Lara sodomized his stepdaughter in their kitchen while the rest of the family was away . . . Alvarez tried unsuccessfully to get help and at times attempted suicide using pills and cutting herself, the attorney said. She also tried to run away and on one occasion was tied up with electrical cords by her mother and stepfather, Telfer said.

About a year before the killings, Alvarez met her boyfriend at Dominguez High School. Gallardo was domineering and ultimately abusive to Alvarez, who suffered from a language processing disorder, Telfer said.  Gallardo, then 16, suggested that they kill her parents, but Alvarez, then 15, would not agree, her lawyer told the jury. On the day of the killings, Gallardo showed up at her home after she had an argument with her mother, Telfer said.

During the violence, Alvarez stayed in the home’s living room and was “basically paralyzed,” her attorney told the jury. Gallardo told her to use a baseball bat on her stepfather and she did so out of fear of her boyfriend, Telfer said . . .

Alvarez and Gallardo, who is now 17, face sentences of life in prison if convicted of murder. Gallardo is expected to face trial in the next few weeks.