Adverse Childhood Experiences

Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) impact an individual long-term. Dr. Vince Felitti from Kaiser Permanente and Dr. Bob Anda from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) conducted a research to study how childhood trauma impacts health outcomes. In their investigation, they tracked the number of ACEs of over seventeen thousand individuals and then compared these to the participants’ health outcomes. The study has shown a correlation between adverse childhood experiences and the health and social problems an individual encounters over his or her lifetime.

The potential ill effects of childhood trauma are troubling. ACEs can dramatically increase the risk for seven out of ten of the leading causes of death in the United States. Childhood trauma can impact the development of the brain and the immune system. There are also findings that individuals who experienced childhood trauma are at a triple risk for heart disease and lung cancer. Other areas where risks are increased include hepatitis, ischemic heart disease, depression, and suicide. The impact of childhood trauma is not confined to an individual’s health prospects, however, and also spills over into other areas.

In her TED talk, Dr. Nadine Burke Harris breaks down how the stresses associated with abuse, neglect, and parental difficulties—which can range from mental health or substance abuse struggles to separation or domestic violence—affect a child in the short and long term. Yet, she points out that in spite of these high stakes, doctors are not yet trained in routing screening or treatment of this ailment. She then recounts her personal journey to discovering the impact of childhood trauma and explains how she implements this knowledge to screen and address the ramifications of ACEs. Ultimately, Dr. Burke advocates for increased awareness regarding this threat, as well as a proactive approach to addressing it in order to minimize its potential detrimental effects.

However, we cannot leave it to the medical field to address and work towards eradicating the ill effects of childhood trauma. Rather, it will take a concerted effort from all actors that are able to help secure safe environments and provide appropriate interventions when necessary. For this reason, the Center for Children, Law & Policy’s Zealous Advocacy Conference later this summer will be focusing on adverse childhood experiences. Please be on the lookout over the next few weeks for more information regarding specific conference details.

 

ACEs

Image from http://news.rutgers.edu/news/study-links-early-childhood-trauma-kindergarten-behavior-problems-poor-performance/20160118#.VxOvMGMoFSU.

Children and the Law News Roundup

JuvenileJustice Fryarlegal

 

 

 

 

 

 

A good week for juvenile justice!

  • In Miller v. Alabama; the Supreme Court held that sentencing life without parole to juveniles was a cruel and unusual punishment. The issue was whether this 2012 decision should apply only to future cases or did it also include  past cases. In Montgomery v. Louisiana, the Supreme court held that the Miller v. Alabama decision was in fact retroactive, allowing about 2,1000 to have a life sentence with a possibility of parole. Justice Kennedy concluded:“Henry Montgomery has spent each day of the past 46 years knowing he was condemned to die in prison. Per­haps it can be established that, due to exceptional circumstances, this fate was a just and proportionate punishment for the crime he committed as a 17-year-old boy. In light of what this Court has said in Roper, Graham,and Miller about how children are constitutionally different from adults in their level of culpability, however, prisoners like Montgomery must be given the opportunity to show their crime did not reflect irreparable corruption; and, if it did not, their hope for some years of life outside prison walls must be restored.”

 

  • President Obama wrote the following opinion banning the practice of juvenile solitary confinement in federal prisons.

“In 2010, a 16-year-old named Kalief Browder from the Bronx was accused of stealing a backpack. He was sent to Rikers Island to await trial, where he reportedly endured unspeakable violence at the hands of inmates and guards — and spent nearly two years in solitary confinement.

In 2013, Kalief was released, having never stood trial. He completed a successful semester at Bronx Community College. But life was a constant struggle to recover from the trauma of being locked up alone for 23 hours a day. One Saturday, he committed suicide at home. He was just 22 years old.

Solitary confinement gained popularity in the United States in the early 1800s, and the rationale for its use has varied over time. Today, it’s increasingly overused on people such as Kalief, with heartbreaking results — which is why my administration is taking steps to address this problem.

There are as many as 100,000 people held in solitary confinement in U.S. prisons — including juveniles and people with mental illnesses. As many as 25,000 inmates are serving months, even years of their sentences alone in a tiny cell, with almost no human contact.

Research suggests that solitary confinement has the potential to lead to devastating, lasting psychological consequences. It has been linked to depression, alienation, withdrawal, a reduced ability to interact with others and the potential for violent behavior. Some studies indicate that it can worsen existing mental illnesses and even trigger new ones. Prisoners in solitary are more likely to commit suicide, especially juveniles and people with mental illnesses.

The United States is a nation of second chances, but the experience of solitary confinement too often undercuts that second chance. Those who do make it out often have trouble holding down jobs, reuniting with family and becoming productive members of society. Imagine having served your time and then being unable to hand change over to a customer or look your wife in the eye or hug your children.

As president, my most important job is to keep the American people safe. And since I took office, overall crime rates have decreased by more than 15 percent. In our criminal justice system, the punishment should fit the crime — and those who have served their time should leave prison ready to become productive members of society. How can we subject prisoners to unnecessary solitary confinement, knowing its effects, and then expect them to return to our communities as whole people? It doesn’t make us safer. It’s an affront to our common humanity.

That’s why last summer, I directed Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch and the Justice Department to review the overuse of solitary confinement across U.S. prisons. They found that there are circumstances when solitary is a necessary tool, such as when certain prisoners must be isolated for their own protection or in order to protect staff and other inmates. In those cases, the practice should be limited, applied with constraints and used only as a measure of last resort. They have identified common-sense principles that should guide the use of solitary confinement in our criminal justice system.

The Justice Department has completed its review, and I am adopting its recommendations to reform the federal prison system. These include banning solitary confinement for juveniles and as a response to low-level infractions, expanding treatment for the mentally ill and increasing the amount of time inmates in solitary can spend outside of their cells. These steps will affect some 10,000 federal prisoners held in solitary confinement — and hopefully serve as a model for state and local corrections systems. And I will direct all relevant federal agencies to review these principles and report back to me with a plan to address their use of solitary confinement.

States that have led the way are already seeing positive results. Colorado cut the number of people in solitary confinement, and assaults against staff are the lowest they’ve been since 2006. New Mexico implemented reforms and has seen a drop in solitary confinement, with more prisoners engaging in promising rehabilitation programs. And since 2012, federal prisons have cut the use of solitary confinement by 25 percent and significantly reduced assaults on staff.

Reforming solitary confinement is just one part of a broader bipartisan push for criminal justice reform. Every year, we spend $80 billion to keep 2.2 million people incarcerated. Many criminals belong behind bars. But too many others, especially nonviolent drug offenders, are serving unnecessarily long sentences. That’s why members of Congress in both parties are pushing for change, from reforming sentencing laws to expanding reentry programs to give those who have paid their debt to society the tools they need to become productive members of their communities. And I hope they will send me legislation as soon as possible that makes our criminal justice system smarter, fairer, less expensive and more effective.

In America, we believe in redemption. We believe, in the words of Pope Francis, that “every human person is endowed with an inalienable dignity, and society can only benefit from the rehabilitation of those convicted of crimes.” We believe that when people make mistakes, they deserve the opportunity to remake their lives. And if we can give them the hope of a better future, and a way to get back on their feet, then we will leave our children with a country that is safer, stronger and worthy of our highest ideals.”

Washington Post, Barack Obama: Why we must rethink solitary confinement, Jan. 25, 2016

Welcoming the 2013-14 Irene Merker Rosenberg Child Advocacy Scholars

The Center for Children, Law & Policy at the University of Houston Law Center is proud to welcome this year’s Irene Merker Rosenberg Child Advocacy Scholars. The new Scholars come from a wide range of backgrounds and will continue to advance the Center’s mission (including providing fresh content for this blog!).

Continuing (Second Year) Scholars:

AAllison2 115x115@1xllison Arterberry is a third year  student at the University of Houston Law Center. She graduated from Texas A&M University in 2011 with a B.A. in Political Science and Spanish. She has spent parts of her last two summers interning at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Currently, she is a Senior Articles Editor for the Houston Journal of International Law, the Secretary for the Labor & Employment Law Society as well as a member of the Career Development Student Advisory Board and the Association of Women in Law. Additionally, last year she was the Secretary for Aggie Law Society. Allison is most interested in child victim’s rights in the criminal system.

AAshley2 115x115@1xshley Pierce is a third year student at the University of Houston Law Center. She received a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Houston Baptist University in 2010. While she was in college, she worked with a non-profit organization called Ambassadors for Christ that partnered at-risk youth with college students to serve as positive influences. During her first summer as a law student, Ashley worked in employment discrimination law with Bashen Corporation, in order to expand her horizons and see a completely different side of the legal world. During her second summer, she worked as a law clerk with Lilly, Newman & Van Ness, L.L.P., a family law firm. She will continue working there during her third year of law school. Ashley has always been passionate about helping children and families and she has a genuine interest in the intersection of psychology and the law. This year, she is looking forward to learning more about amicus work and she plans on focusing her research and writing on the “best interest” standard as it is applied to children.

Lisa2 115x115@1xLisa Steffek is a third year student at the University of Houston Law Center.  Lisa completed her Bachelors, Masters and Doctor of Philosophy at the University of Texas in Human Development and Family Sciences.  As an undergraduate, Lisa worked as a research assistant studying child attachment.  Lisa also worked for several years at The Settlement Home, a residential treatment center for emotionally disturbed adolescent females.  Most of the girls at The Settlement Home had been removed from their homes by Child Protective Services, and Lisa worked with the girls to teach them life-skills and provided psychological treatment to prepare them for adulthood and the transition to foster homes.  Lisa also worked for six years in various academic capacities at the University of Texas, including an undergraduate teaching assistant, graduate research assistant, and undergraduate writing consultant.  Lisa has presented papers regarding human development at various academic conferences in the states and abroad, and has had her writing published in an international, academic journal.

New (First Year) Scholars:

Lauren2 115x115@1xLauren “Addie” Fisher is a second year student at the University of Houston Law Center. Addie received her B.A. from Hamilton College and her Masters in Early Childhood Studies from the University of Texas at Brownsville. Before entering law school, she worked at the South Texas Pro Bono Asylum Representation Project (ProBAR) where she provided legal services and “Know Your Rights” to detained immigrant children on the Texas-Mexico border. This summer she clerked with the Family Law Department of the Mexican Foreign Ministry in Mexico City. At UHLC, Addie is the President of the Public Interest Law Organization (PILO) and on the Houston Journal of Health Law Policy.

Esther2 115x115@1xEsther Kim is a second year  student at the University of Houston Law Center.  She graduated from Wesleyan University in 2007 with a B.A. in Liberal Arts with a focus in Chinese Language and Literature.  As an undergraduate, she worked one summer at the Citizens’ Committee for Children, New York, a child advocacy organization, where she developed an interest in children’s rights, community after-school resources, and immigration.  Prior to law school, she worked as a paralegal at Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft, LLP in New York City.  Additionally, Esther serves as treasurer of the UH Student Chapter of AIPN (Association of International Petroleum Negotiators).  Esther is most interested in adoptions and child neglect and abuse.

Megan2 115x115@1xMegan Mikutis is a second year  student at the University of Houston Law Center. She graduated from the University of Houston – Clear Lake in 2012 with a B.A. in Literature. While obtaining her undergraduate degree, Megan tutored undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral students in writing while working for the University of Houston – Clear Lake Writing Center. This summer, Megan worked for the Center for Children, Law, and Policy and had the opportunity to compose a policy statement discussing the disproportionate representation of Limited English Proficient students in special education. Currently, Megan serves as the President of the Student Bar Association as well as a member of the Hispanic Law Student Association. Megan is most interested in education and special education issues.

Sarah2 115x115@1xSarah Muckleroy is a third year student at the University of Houston Law Center. She graduated from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill in 2008 with a B.A. in Media Studies and Art History. This past summer she interned for the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office-Juvenile Division. Sarah has worked for adult criminal defense attorneys, but her main interest is juvenile delinquency.

 

Brandon2 115x115@1xBrandon Schrecengost is a second year student at the University of Houston Law Center.  He graduated with his Bachelors degree in Anthropology from the University of Houston in 2007.  After graduation, Brandon taught science and music at Sharpstown Middle School in Houston ISD.  He began working as an intern with the Center for children Law and Policy this summer and is currently the treasurer of the International Law Society at UHLC. Brandon’s interest in how legal policy effects children the world over, particularly in the realm of education, continues to inform his work.

Tracey2 115x115@1xTracey Toll is a second year student at the University of Houston Law Center.  She attended undergraduate school at Butler University and received a B.F.A., cum laude, with High Honors in Dance Performance.  After graduating, Tracey performed with Ballet Austin for three years.  During that time, she participated in Ballet Austin’s program in which dancers performed and taught movement to at-risk children at schools throughout the Austin area.  After leaving Ballet Austin, Tracey worked as a paralegal practicing insurance defense and product liability defense, which led to her interest in attending law school.  Since starting law school, Tracey has interned for two federal judges at the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, and she spent the past summer working as a Summer Associate with a law firm specializing in civil litigation in areas such as products liability, commercial litigation, labor and employment, and insurance coverage.  Additionally, she is a member of the Houston Journal of Health Law and Policy.  Tracey looks forward to the opportunity to work in the area of children’s rights and to advocate for children.

Alexandra2 115x115@1xAlex Wolf is a second year law student at the University of Houston Law Center.  In 2010, she received a Bachelor of Arts in sociology from the University of Colorado at Boulder.  Prior to attending law school, Alex worked as a paralegal at the Lanier Law Firm’s Los Angeles office.  During college, Alex interned for Covenant House Texas, a shelter for at-risk youth as well as for Conscious Alliance, a non-profit organization dedicated to eradicating hunger for children and adults alike.  Alex also served as an undergraduate research assistant analyzing deviant and suicidal tendencies and behaviors.  This summer, Alex worked as a law clerk for Berg & Androphy, a firm specializing in white-collar defense and qui tam actions.  Alex is on the Houston Journal of International Law and serves as secretary for the Immigration and Human Rights Law Society.