Weekly Round Up (September 24, 2019)

Florida officer fired for ‘traumatic’ arrests of two 6-year-old students at school

An Orlando school resource officer who arrested two 6-year-old children on the same day last week was fired Monday amid growing outcry, officials said.

Orlando Police Chief Orlando Rolón said Dennis Turner, who had been suspended after the incidents Thursday at a charter school, did not follow the department’s policy requiring approval from a supervisor for any arrest of a minor younger than 12.

“On behalf of myself and the entire Orlando Police Department, I apologize to the children involved and their families,” Rolón said during a news conference Monday. “As a grandfather of three children less than 11 years old, I can only imagine how traumatic this was for everyone involved.”  Read More

State Bar Board Takes Position Against Indiscriminate Juvenile Shackling

The State Bar of Wisconsin’s Board of Governors, which represents the membership through elected seats in 16 districts, has voted unanimously to support a policy position against the indiscriminate shackling of juveniles in juvenile court.

Specifically, the State Bar now supports a no-shackling presumption but recognizes that judges would retain authority to order shackling if necessary, as a matter of safety.

“The State Bar believes the practice [of shackling juveniles] impedes the attorney-client privilege, chills juveniles’ constitutional right to due process, runs counter to the presumption of innocence, and draws into question the rehabilitative ideals of the juvenile court,” the State Bar’s adopted policy position states.  Read More

 

On any given day, more than 53,000 youth in the United States are being held in a detention center or criminal justice facility, according to the Prison Policy Initiative, a national nonprofit and non-partisan advocacy group.
Stuck in a school-to-prison pipeline, these youth are being funneled from the classroom to the courtroom to incarceration – a phenomenon that is disproportionately impacting students of color who come from economically disadvantaged families, suffer from learning and mental disabilities and languish in school systems that don’t provide sufficient resources or support, Rhode Island College Assistant Professor of Educational Studies Jeremy Benson said.
“Over the last 40 years or so, we’ve seen ideas, practices and personnel from the criminal justice system permeate our educational system – primarily in poor and working class urban schools – with profoundly harmful effects on the educational trajectories and life chances of youth of color in particular,” said Benson, whose research centers on the political economy of urban education, critical race theory and educational inequality, policing and mass incarceration

Read More

Happy Holidays for the Children in the Harris County Juvenile Detention Center

 

This holiday season, approximately 230 children spent Christmas, Hanukkah, and other respective holidays away from family and friends. This year, though, the normally cheerless surrounding of the  Harris County Juvenile Detention Center was brightened by the effective efforts of local organizations and donors to supply special holiday stocking stuffers for the kids  to arrange into “gifts” to give each other. The donations included hygiene kits, holiday cards, socks, candy, and snacks. The efforts helped remind Harris County Detention Center children they are not forgotten and to provide a sense of community support.

This time of year we can remember impulsive childhood choices don’t define the future for kids. With all the children and youth needing advocates, support, and such urgent help, it can be hard to know where to start. But these donors made the choice to start by providing holiday cheer. The words of Mother Theresa ring true: “We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.” If we do what we can, add our drops together, it can and will make a difference during the holidays and beyond.

Thank you to the following donors for contributing to the holiday bags for the Juvenile Detention Center this holiday season:

The Center for Children, Law, & Policy, Members of Congregation Beth Yeshurun, Affiliates of Interfaith Ministries, American Heritage Girls Troop 471, Katherine Brem, Alex Hunt, Gavriella Roisman, Ellen Marrus, Honolulu Stake Punahou Prep. and Kaimaki Seminary, and those donors who wish to remain anonymous.

A few shots of volunteer organizations donating to this years efforts:

Victims or Offenders? Young Women and Sex Trafficking in Houston

If we refer to young women in Houston as sex trafficking victims, why are so many of them arrested and put in detention on prostitution charges?

 

One of Houston’s “worst kept secrets” is slowly becoming a known and accepted fact. Victim advocates say sex trafficking is a $99 billion a year industry. In the Lone Star State, a study from the University of Texas states 79,000 trafficked victims are minors. No matter how they got into “the life,” as so many call it, getting out is never easy. Read that full article here.

There are even services sprouting up, one titled the “Anti-Trafficking Alliance” (aka ATA.HTX) to find these young women and get them out of the grips of this life.

Many of these young women advertise their services on a cite called backpage.com. As of April 6, 2018, the website was seized by the federal government. You can read more about the charges against the founders here.

Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, said the seizure of the site was “an important step forward in the fight against human trafficking. This builds on the historic effort in Congress to reform the law that for too long has protected websites like Backpage from being held liable for enabling the sale of young women and children.”

With all of this positive change and reform surrounding sex trafficking, the question still remains: why arrest and charge these girls? If the men and women who force them to perform these services are only receiving probation: why arrest and charge these girls?

To their credit, Harris County has formed CARE court (formerly referred to as “girls court”) to help these types of girls. However, there are only limited spots and it is difficult to get accepted. The majority are left to the regular juvenile court. Many are kept in detention, or sent off to placement. Placement can help, as there are therapy and support groups. However, many girls run away to go back to “the life” for many reasons.

Some enjoy it, some like the money, some like the freedom, some trust these “groomers” more than their own family, some are just scared.

But why should they be punished because a “groomer” got to them at their most impressionable age? An age where they have trouble standing up against peer pressure? An age where they are both pleasure and thrill seeking? An age where they rebel against their parents? An age where they have no income of their own and might see this as an opportunity?

According to Fort Bend Co. Pct. 3 Constable Wayne Thompson, groomers “lure young people into these environments and start them off by gaining their friendship and then introducing them to alcohol and drugs. The next thing you know, you end up in a different city and you don’t know where you’re at or how to get away.”

As recently as February 20, 2018, there was an article about Houston entitled, “How to protect your child from sex trafficking predators in the suburbs.” Read all about it here.

If the majority of the reporting on all of this talks about this young women as victims, why are we still arresting them? Hopefully, the shutting down of backpage.com is a step in the right direction.

If you yourself have been a victim of sex trafficking or know anyone who needs help: here are some local (Harris County) resources.

Anti-Trafficking Alliance HTX specializes in investigations to locate and recover trafficking victim. You can contact them at 713-714-6612.

Rescue Houston, a 24/7 hotline for victims in Houston. You can contact them at 713-322-8000.

Elijah Rising, a Houston-based group working to combat sex trafficking through prayer, awareness, intervention and aftercare.