Friday’s Children and the Law News Roundup

Connecticut Mulls Outlawing Juvenile Life Without Parole, JJIE

Connecticut’s Sentencing Commission is currently evaluating a proposal that would outlaw juvenile sentences of 10 years or greater without parole opportunities, The CT Mirror reports.

The proposal, if enacted, would affect every juvenile in the state currently sentenced to 10 or more years. Offenders sentenced to 60 years or less would have parole hearings after serving half of their sentences, while offenders sentenced to 60 or more years under the proposal would have parole eligibility after serving 30 years.

Under the sentence modifications, young people sentenced to 20 years would become eligible for parole by the time they were 24, while 17-year-olds sentenced to 60 or more years would have parole opportunities when they turned 47.

Be Careful when “Making Healthy Choices,” ChildLaw Blog

Attorneys who represent youths, parents, and foster parents have reason to be concerned about a pamphlet recently published by the federal government’s Children’s Bureau. The pamphlet, “Making Healthy Choices,” is intended to advise youth in foster care about psychotropic medications and is being distributed nationwide in English and Spanish.

Unfortunately, the pamphlet encourages youths to fill out a checklist/questionnaire of crimes they may have committed and to list deficits in their personalities and character. The youths are encouraged to share the checklist/questionnaire information with people who have authority over them. We believe that the result will be stigmatization of youths and in some cases even arrests and convictions flowing from youths’ confessions to criminal acts.

We intend to ask the Children’s Bureau to withdraw or revise its pamphlet/questionnaire. Attorneys who may be interested in joining in this recall effort may request further information by sending an e-mail with the text “subscribe—Children’s Bureau pamphlet:” to eopton@youthlaw.org.

New Report Examines High Cost of School Discipline in Budget-Stressed Texas School Districts, JJIE

The Austin-based advocacy organization Texas Appleseed recently released a report examining the financial impact on several Texas school districts of using exclusionary discipline techniques, including expulsions, out-of-school suspensions and alternative education program referrals.

The findings in “Breaking Rules, Breaking Budgets: Cost of Exclusionary Discipline in 11 Texas School Districts” stem from an evaluation of about 25 percent of the state’s 4 million public school students. According to researchers, the total “cost of discipline” for the 11 school districts studied resulted in a combined $140 million in expenditures from 2010 to 2011. The combined cost includes a number of factors, including the cost of operating alternative education campuses, security and monitoring expenses and overall lost state funding due to out-of-school suspensions.

Researchers said that budgetary constrictions – including a recent $5.4 billion cut to the state’s public education budget – means Texas school districts will have to be more strategic in selecting effective, evidence-based programs to improve student outcomes.

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