Thursday’s Children and the Law News Roundup

Boy Kills Neo-Nazi Dad: Protecting Family or Premeditated Murder?, LA Times

The fate of a 12-year-old boy charged with killing his neo-Nazi father now rests in the hands of a Riverside County Superior Court judge who must decide whether the youngster knew what he did was wrong, and what should be done with him.

The son’s attorney, Public Defender Matthew Hardy, told Riverside County Superior Court Judge Jean P. Leonard that hate “cooked” inside the boy during years of being his father’s punching bag and after hearing Hall threaten to burn down the family’s Riverside home with his wife and children inside.

Chief Deputy Dist. Atty. Michael Soccio, however, urged the judge not to let the boy escape into the “Alice in Wonderland” juvenile justice system to avoid responsibility for a cold-blooded murder.  Soccio said Hall’s affiliation with the National Socialist Movement, while abhorrent to most, didn’t mean he was a bad parent, nor did it justify his murder.

If the judge agrees with the defense, the boy would be released, possibly into the foster care system. If she finds him responsible, she could send the youngster to a state prison facility for juveniles or a treatment facility for delinquents, or place him on probation. The boy could remain in juvenile custody until he is 23, at which time the district attorney’s office has the rarely used option of petitioning the court to extend his sentence one year at a time.

Hotel Employees Get Training in Spotting Sex Trafficking, StarTribune Minneapolis

A hotel guest who repeatedly refuses housekeeping services. A room paid for in cash, or a guest who doesn’t bring luggage. An older man checking in with a younger girl who looks disheveled or frightened.  All of these are of possible tip-offs to juvenile sex trafficking and part of a training session Tuesday at a downtown Minneapolis hotel. Hennepin County and the city launched the education effort with the Minnesota Lodging Association to train hotel employees to spot potential underage sex trafficking.

“It’s as easy to dial up for a juvenile to come to your hotel room as it is to order a pizza,” Minneapolis police Sgt. Greg Reinhardt said. With the help of ads online at the notorious backpage.com, young girls and boys can be served up to be raped within a half-hour, he and others said.  Reinhardt said Minneapolis made 19 arrests last year in juvenile sex trafficking.

The children who are trafficked now can get help under a Safe Harbor law that allows them to be treated as victims and get social services rather than be treated as juvenile offenders.

Backsliding at DJS: Adding More Beds to Private Juvenile Treatment Facilities is Bad Policy, Baltimore Sun

State officials were right last week to postpone approval of a Department of Juvenile Services contract to increase the capacity of the privately owned Silver Oak Academy juvenile residential treatment facility in Carroll County. The department wants to double the number of beds there, from 48 to 96, in order to reduce the backlog of youthful offenders awaiting treatment in overcrowded lockups.

Getting more troubled young people out of detention centers and into treatment where they can receive the help they need is certainly a worthy goal. But the way the department is going about it flies in the face of the state’s own commitment to limit the size of such facilities to no more than 48 kids. Putting more beds at Silver Oak risks backsliding toward the kind of larger, harder-to-manage facilities that Maryland has been struggling move away from in recent years.

What’s so glaring about this case is that Silver Oak is the new incarnation of the old Bowling Brook Academy, a mega-facility that was forced to close when a boy died there while being restrained. Rite of Passage wasn’t in charge then, and its management of Silver Oak has gotten generally high marks. But why take a chance? Many youth experts say juveniles tend to do better in smaller facilities that are closer to their homes. That’s a wiser policy than backsliding along a path that’s already proven counterproductive.

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