UH Law Professor comments on Houston case involving 12-year-old convicted of felony

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In Houston, a 12-year-old girl was recently convicted of a felony for taking a photograph of a classmate in a locker room. Professor Marrus, from the University of Houston Law Center, was quoted in a Houston Chronicle article covering the case.

Following quoted from Houston Chronicle article:

‍University ‍of ‍Houston ‍law professor Ellen Marrus sympathized with the victim but said prosecutors should not have charged the girl with a felony. “If we’re trying to make children into criminals and make them have a record and to have them be punished, then a felony is appropriate,” Marrus said. “If the idea is that our juvenile courts are different and we’re trying to change children’s behavior, then there are better options.”

To read the entire Houston Chronicle article, click here: http://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/houston-texas/houston/article/12-year-old-convicted-of-felony-for-locker-room-4813385.php

After Ohio Kidnapping Victims’ Escape, Spotlight Grows on Human Trafficking

http://www.dreamcenter.org/dream-center/human-trafficking/

The escape of Michelle Knight, Gina DeJesus, and Amanda Berry – the three women allegedly held captive by Ariel Castro for over ten years in Cleveland, Ohio – has rekindled national interest in the scope and pervasiveness of both kidnapping and human trafficking. The women, who were in their mid-teens and early twenties when kidnapped, were reportedly raped and subject to multiple miscarriages.

Castro allegedly forced Knight, DeJesus, and Berry into a decade of sexual horrors before Berry escaped on Monday, May 6, 2013. According to CNN, Knight became pregnant at least five times while forcefully confined in Castro’s home. While pregnant, Knight was reportedly starved for weeks at a time and repeatedly punched her in the stomach until she miscarried. Berry bore Castro’s child in 2007.

According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, approximately 800,000 children are reported missing each year, with approximately 58,000 children being kidnapped for primarily sexual motives. Forcing kidnapped children into sexual relationships draws a dangerous parallel to and serves as a scarring iteration of the broader issue of human trafficking. This close relationship has many individuals and world leaders crying out for stricter governmental reforms in order to curtail the rapid growth of human trafficking.

Between 2008 and 2010, federally funded task forces opened 2,515 incidents of suspected human trafficking. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security defines human trafficking as “a form of modern-day slavery . . . [involving] the use of force, fraud, or coercion to exploit human beings for some type of labor or commercial sex purpose.” The Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that sex trafficking accounts for approximately 8 in 10 incidents of human trafficking, while labor trafficking represents 1 in 10 incidents.

In 2000, an estimated 244,000 American children and youth were at risk of sexual exploitation. The number has since grown with 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 10 boys becoming sexually victimized before they reach the age of 18.

At the Clinton Global Initiative in September 2012, President Obama announced a number of new national commitments to combat human trafficking. These strategies include:

  1. Preventing human trafficking by raising awareness among vulnerable populations, leading by example, and educating the public and first responders;
  2. Prosecuting human traffickers through strengthened investigations and enforcement tools;
  3. Protecting survivors through comprehensive social services, family reintegration, and immigration services; and
  4. Partnering with civil society, state and local governments, the private sector, and faith-based organizations to maximize resources and outcomes.

Since the Clinton Global Initiative, the Obama Administration has implemented a number of programs to help combat the growing number of human trafficking victims. In February 2013, President Obama signed into law the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2013, which was passed by Congress as part of the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act.

The Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2013 aims at strengthening protections for vulnerable children and domestic workers and helps foster effective partnerships to bring services to human trafficking survivors and to prosecute traffickers.

Furthermore, the Department of Homeland Security plans to amend the “T” nonimmigrant visa regulations that allow human trafficking victims to remain in the United States and aid in the prosecution of their traffickers.

Moreover, the Obama Administration has also partnered with leading technology companies to develop applications for trafficking victims, online and on their phones, to help link them with services in their communities. Similarly, the Department of State has partnered with a non-profit organization to increase the availability of pro bono legal services for human trafficking victims.

In light of these national efforts and international endeavors, the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority voted on Tuesday, May 14, 2013, to support the transportation sector’s role in dismantling human trafficking by signing a pledge supported by “Transportation Leaders Against Human Trafficking.” The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority’s decision comes just days after Knight, DeJesus, and Berry regained their freedom.

Through the pledge, the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority will raise awareness of human trafficking, train workers on how to spot potential traffickers and human trafficking victims, and share data that can be used to investigate and uncover human trafficking schemes.

While the steps that have been taken by the Obama Administration and by both national and state governmental agencies hint at the type of governmental and legal reform needed to battle the incidence of human trafficking, the rising frequency of human trafficking calls for further action to combat the evils of this form of modern-day slavery.

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.