News update: Juveniles broke out of a Nashville detention center

According to an article in The Tennessean, several juveniles being held in the Woodland Hills Youth Development Center in Nashville, Tennessee escaped from their bedrooms in the middle of the night on May 7, 2014. The children made it to the outdoor courtyard on the detention center’s campus, but they were caught before they actually left the grounds.

The spokesperson for the Center said, “The kids for a while were running around in the yard, but there was nowhere to go.”

When it was realized that the children were not in their beds, on-duty employees called the police, who were on guard outside of the Center’s property. Eventually, employees were able to convince the boys to return to the facility. They returned around 6:00 a.m., after the 4:00 a.m. escape.

There were no injuries incurred or weapons used, to anyone’s knowledge at this point. The children escaped through windows that they had broken in their individual bedroom doors.

This news article prompted the research of other juveniles attempting to escape from juvenile detention facilities. Unfortunately, it is not all that rare that juveniles are able to (at least to some extent) leave their room and attempt escape.

The following are more examples of recent attempted escapes:

– Guard beaten in violent escape from Harvey juvenile detention center

– 4 juveniles escaped detention center, assaulted guards

– Video from a massive escape at juvenile detention center

– Teen back in custody after escaping from S.F. juvenile detention facility

– Two boys escape from juvenile detention centerescaping jail

Courthouse Dogs Calm Testifying Juveniles


“Petting, scratching, and cuddling a dog could be as soothing to the mind and heart as deep meditation and almost as good for the soul as prayer.” ― Dean Koontz, False Memory

Several programs exist across the country in which prosecutors and defense counsel use professionally trained dogs to help ease the anxiety juveniles experience while being interviewed or testifying in court.  Oftentimes, juveniles must discuss details of physical or emotional abuse, and having an affectionate, yet unobtrusive dog nearby helps ease the stress.  Research has shown that within as little as five minutes of petting or interacting with a dog, a person’s heart rate and blood pressure lowers; breathing becomes more regular; muscle tension is reduced; and speech, memory, and mental functions increase.  The physiological changes juveniles experience when courtroom dogs are around aid their ability to testify, which is extremely important because juveniles’ testimony needs to be as articulate and complete as possible.  In her article, Court Facility Dogs—Easing the Apprehensive Witness, Colorado attorney Gabriela Sandoval states, “The more at ease a child feels, the more effective his or her testimony will be.  Articulate testimony will assist in obtaining evidence that can either convict or exonerate the defendant.  When the child witness is comfortable, emotions may not obstruct or slow down important testimony.”

The Courthouse Dogs Foundation was founded with the mission “to promote justice with compassion through the use of professionally trained facility dogs to provide emotional support to everyone in the justice system.”  Their website,, recounts the positive outcome from a trial in which a testifying juvenile was allowed to be accompanied by a facility dog:

In September of 2012, in Snohomish County, WA, Mary Mazalic was brought to trial for starving, beating, and burning a ten-year-old girl.  Senior Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Lisa Paul filed a motion in limine to ask the court’s permission to allow facility dog Stilson to sit at the feet of this child victim while she testified in court.  Her brief included an affidavit from victim advocate Heidi Potter, Stilson’s handler, documenting how Stilson provided comfort to this child during the investigative phase of these crimes.  The judge found that this child suffered emotional trauma from these events. 
 The defense did not object to the presence of Stilson with the agreement that he would be concealed by the witness box and the jury would not be aware of his presence.
  While in the witness box, Stilson remained calm and out of sight during the lengthy direct and cross-examination.  He did not even move when defense counsel spilled a glass of water into the witness box and several people moved to this area to clean up the water.

The defendant was convicted as charged.

After the trial, jurors stated they did not know that a dog was in the courtroom.  Stilson, the invisible dog, was bred, raised, and trained by Canine Companions for Independence.  His behavior exemplifies the high level of training of a facility dog.

This is only one of numerous success stories of facility dogs assisting in criminal, juvenile, and drug courts.  Additionally, these dogs visit juveniles in detention facilities and are a friendly presence during their recovery process.  Currently, there are courthouse dogs working in twenty-one states:  Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and Washington.

The unconditional love and support the courthouse dogs offer juveniles make them a positive counterbalance to the often overwhelming and stressful setting of the courts.  The placement of dogs in the courthouse is a wonderful program, which hopefully, will continue to grow and be implemented in more courts throughout the country.


Above Photo:  Courthouse dog Russell, trained by Assistance Dogs of the West, works at the Southern Arizona Child Advocacy Center with Director Kathy Rau.  Photo courtesy Courthouse Dogs Foundation.

Intro Photo:  Molly B at the King County Courthouse. Molly B was bred and trained by Canine Companions for Independence.  Photo courtesy Courthouse Dogs Foundation and the Seattle Police Department.

For more information regarding the Courthouse Dogs Foundation or for starting a program for the use of courthouse dogs, visit

Tuesday’s Children and the Law News Roundup

Picture courtesy of

With Severe Budget Deficits, Florida DJJ May Be Forced to Close Several Facilities, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange

Facing a budget shortfall to the tune of $54.5 million, Florida’s Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) may end up closing some detention centers to cover its losses.

Earlier this summer, the state DJJ was hit hard by a Court of Appeals ruling, which found that the department had overcharged counties. As a result, a large percentage of county-level juvenile justice costs were shifted towards the state, which now assumes an additional $35.5 million in costs. Making matters worse, new Medicaid guidelines, which denied matching grant money for DJJ-operated residential facilities, resulted in the DJJ losing $19 million in federal funding.

Earlier this month, Florida DJJ Secretary Wansley Walters sent a letter to Gov. Rick Scott, urging legislators for an earlier release of general revenue and to delay “implementation of non-critical contracts” as a means of offsetting some of the department’s deficits. Even so, the department would still require a loan from the state if payments from counties were lower than expected.

State officials to visit Avon Park riot site, Fox News


Teen detainees at the Avon Park Youth Academy in Polk County threw televisions off rooftops, trashed furniture and burned the office that held the records over the weekend.

In the aftermath, state and county officials disagree whether the facility’s staff was equipped to handle such a situation.

The school is under the jurisdiction of the Department of Juvenile Justice and is used as a rehabilitation and vocational school for moderate-risk young offenders.

Authorities say the majority of the school’s students participated in the riot, which started just before 9 p.m. and quickly spiraled out of control.

The academy houses 138 kids. The more co-operative ones stayed at the facility to help clean up. The ones suspected of starting and participating in the incident were moved to Polk County’s South County Jail in Frostproof.

Monday, Polk Sheriff Grady Judd said the situation could have been kept under control if the staffers were equipped and allowed to use pepper spray.

Special Victims: Law, Order and India’s Children, DNA India

“There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children”, saidNelson Mandela. If that’s true, India needs to do some urgent soul searching. Nowhere is our attitude to children better reflected than in the way our systems of law and order treat them. 63 years after our Constitution recognised them as equal citizens, 39 years after we adopted our first National Policy for Children and 21 years after we ratified the UN Child Rights Convention (CRC), we have yet to agree on a uniform definition of who exactly is a child. Definitions vary depending on whether it’s marriage, work, education, sexual offences, culpability for crimes, adoption or inheritance that’s at issue.

Few children of the elite or the middle-class in India have the opportunity to interact officially with the police, the judiciary or the alphabet soup of entities labelled CWCJAPUAHTUJJBNCLP,CARASFCACSCPS or NCPCR For the estimated 176 millionchildren who are homeless, orphaned, abandoned, abused, trafficked, bonded, illegally employed, lost, refugees, displaced, accused of a crime or simply poor, on the other hand, the forces of law and order are omnipresent determinants of their fates.

Illinois Law Takes Child Support From Casino Winnings, CBS St. Louis

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (IRN) – A new Illinois law will strip deadbeat parents of their gambling winnings.

Casinos and racetracks will be required to garnish the winnings of any parents who are behind on child support. The proceeds would be turned over to the Department of Healthcare and Family Services to be distributed to the families.

“When anyone wins over $1,200, it will be required under the law to check that against our real-time database,” said State Sen. Darrin LaHood (R-Dunlap), sponsor of the bill.

LaHood estimates that the law will bring in as much as $1 million in its first year. Kelly Jakubek of the Department of Healthcare and Family Services says it will help make a dent in the state’s $3.1 billion backlog of unpaid child support.