Outside the Box Punishments

On Tuesday, October 22, 2013, an Oklahoma District Court Judge sentenced a seventeen year old to 10 years of church, as punishment for manslaughter.  The stipulation was part of a 10-year deferred sentence based on the guilty plea. This particular judge is well known for requiring church attendance as part of probation agreements.  Besides the alarming First Amendment issues with this particular sentence, this is just one example of the growing trend of judges looking to alternative means of punishment.

Do “outside the box” punishments have a place in the legal system?  Proponents of rehabilitation find alternative forms of punishment helpful to an offender they view as troubled, and in need of help, not incarceration.  On the other hand, those who seek retribution and deterrence might find these types of punishments as too lenient.  It is becoming more common for judges to seek alternative punishments for habitual offenders, as well as for certain crimes: yoga for anger management in family violence cases, public shaming for shoplifting, and even dietary restrictions in a case of animal cruelty.

The creativity of judges is endless, but does this alternative method serve the correct purpose?  Are some of these even constitutional?  This issue is particularly interesting for juveniles since it is well established that juveniles are different from adults.  In a system that claims rehabilitation as its top priority, should juvenile justices make alternative punishments a priority?  The Juvenile Justice system could benefit from using more community programs, as well as identifying and addressing specific issues, like education.

Featured image courtesy of http://easyquestion.net/thinkagain/2011/02/18/think-outside-the-box/.

Defending with Education

This past summer I was fortunate enough to intern for the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office Juvenile Division.  There are so many wonderful things they do for their clients, but one of the most impressive things they offer is their Legal Education Advocacy Program.  Lauren Brady Blalock is the Education Lawyer for the program, and has provided the following program description:

The San Francisco Public Defender’s Office Juvenile Division is the recipient of a federal Block II Grant, which was awarded to fund the establishment of the Legal Educational Advocacy Program (LEAP). The Program is staffed by an education attorney and a youth advocate, who work as a team to address the myriad of education issues facing youth involved in the juvenile justice system. The program serves over 100 individual clients each year, all of whom are clients of the Public Defender’s Office. The attorney and youth advocate address issues such as special education, truancy, school discipline, academic achievement, and school safety. By assisting students to receive much needed services in a safe and appropriate school setting, the LEAP team is able to address issues that would ordinarily lead to these students being remanded into custody, sent out a placement outside of their communities or sent to juvenile hall for violations of probation. Program evaluation also indicates that the clients themselves have a more positive experience both in school and in court after participation in LEAP.

Education is an often overlooked tool for juvenile defense attorneys.  By implementing programs like San Francisco’s LEAP, attorneys are able to identify and address a child’s specific needs, and have alternative venues for resolving cases.  Even outside of the Public Defender’s Office, defense attorneys should become familiar with available area schools and education programs that could better serve their clients.  Making sure that a client’s education needs are properly met can often alleviate behavioral concerns.  Also, once a child’s needs are identified and a proper plan is in place, children are able to achieve more and can develop a positive outlook towards school.  Defending children requires knowledge of several areas of law.  I encourage child advocates to make education a priority when representing their young clients.

Featured image courtesy of http://drlindagalloway.files.wordpress.com/2012/08/chalk_304851_7.jpg.