Tuesday’s Children and the Law News Roundup

Juvenile Justice secretary meets with Capitol protesters, Tallahasee.com

Department of Juvenile Justice Secretary Wansley Walters listened to the personal stories of several activists who have resided in Gov. Rick Scott’s office since Tuesday of last week.

While the group, mostly comprised of members of social activists the Dream Defenders, is adamant about working to abolish Florida’s Stand Your Ground law, they also have a developed focus on other laws that they say adversely affect the youth in the state.

They had the chance to outline what they would like to see from Walters in her capacity as the DJJ secretary.

Protesters are also working to remove zero tolerance laws where youth are suspended from school for minor offenses and stopping the school to prison pipeline that they say often push youth into prison with adults.

 

Governor directs juvenile justice chief to meet with protesters, Miami Herald

Gov. Rick Scott met Monday with his juvenile justice secretary, Wansley Walters, and directed her to meet with a group of student protesters who occupy part of the state Capitol for a sixth straight day
in opposition to Florida’s self-defense law.

Scott met with Walters at DJJ’s Tallahassee offices on Monday morning and they emerged to speak to reporters afterward in a hastily-called media availability.

Scott  met with the protesters last Thursday night in his office and rejected their request that he call a special legislative session to repeal the self-defense law, known as “stand your ground.” The law is widely perceived to be at the heart of George Zimmerman’s decisions on the night he fatally shot an unarmed black teenager, Trayvon Martin, during an encounter in Sanford in February 2012. Zimmerman was found not guilty of second-degree murder.

“I believe in our stand your ground and our self-defense laws in our state,” Scott said. “But I appreciate the fact that they expressed their concerns.” The governor reiterated his suggestion that the young protesters should focus their concerns on state legislators who passed the self-defense law in 2005.

 

Michigan juvenile lifers: Joint hearing scheduled on proposed changes to unconstitutional state law, MLive

LANSING, MI — State lawmakers are expected to hear testimony next month on proposed changes to Michigan’s “juvenile lifer” law, which was deemed unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court more than a year ago.

Chairs of the House Criminal Justice and Senate Judiciary committees have scheduled a joint session on August 14 for testimony — but not a vote — on bipartisan legislation to update state law in response to the ruling.

Michigan law gives prosecutors broad authority to seek adult charges against minors convicted of certain crimes, including first-degree murder. If convicted, those minors face mandatory life sentences without the possibility of parole.

The U.S. Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision released in June of 2012, said that such mandatory sentences amount to an unconstitutional form of cruel and unusual punishment that fail to acknowledge the potential for character and cognitive development in young people.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — More than a quarter of offenders in West Virginia’s juvenile detention facilities are actually young adults.

State law keeps many juvenile offenders in the custody of the Division of Juvenile Services system until they’re 21 years old. That might need to change, said Denny Dodson, deputy director of the division.

“We either need to change the code or have separate facilities . . .” Dodson said in a recent interview with the Daily Mail.

There’s no policy to keep adult and juvenile offenders separate in the facilities. At one point, advocates said it was good to mix offenders of different ages, Dodson said.

“We took some heat in trying to keep them separate. Obviously, we’re taking some heat for not keeping them separate now.”

A judge recently called the idea into question during a hearing about safety at the Harriet B. Jones Treatment Center, a juvenile corrections facility for sexual offenders and others.

 

The Prison Rape Elimination Act Has Been Law for 10 Years; Time to Make It Policy, Takepart.com

Ten years ago this week, Congress unanimously approved the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) to end sexual violence behind bars.

The law arrived too late for Rodney Hulin, whose mother, Linda Bruntmyer, testified before Congress in 2002 about the brutal rapes of her son in adult prison and his suicide as a result.

In a grievance letter to prison officials, 16-year-old Rodney wrote, “I have been sexually and physically assaulted several times, by several inmates. I am afraid to go to sleep, to shower, and just about everything else. I am afraid that when I am doing these things, I might die at any minute. Please, sir, help me.”

 

Esther Kim

About Esther Kim

Esther Kim is a third year student at the University of Houston Law Center. She graduate from Wesleyan University in 2007 with a B.A. in Liberal Arts with a focus in Chinese Language and Literature. As an undergraduate, she worked one summer at the Citizens' Committee for Children, New York, a child advocacy organization, where she developed an interest in children's rights, community after-school resources, and immigration. Esther has recently been selected to be an Equal Justice Works Fellow, sponsored by Texas Access to Justice Foundation, at Lone Star Legal Aid, where she will be working closely with Asian victims of domestic violence in Harris and Fort Bend Counties.

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