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Federal Update

Promoting Safe Communities: NJJDPC Recommendations to 114th Congress (2015-2016)

Marcy Mistrett Tuesday, 10 March 2015 Posted in 2015, Federal Update

FINAL2 NJJDPC Recs to 114th Congress Page 01

Promoting Safe Communities is a comprehensive document of issues and recommendations for the 114th Congress to promote safe communities by investing in policies that are both effective and based on adolescent development research regarding at-risk youth and the juvenile justice system.  The document calls for leadership and investment in 5 key priority areas, including the restoration of federal leadership in juvenile justice policy; the support and prioritization of prevention, early intervention and diversion strategies; safety and fairness for court-involved youth; the removal of youth from the adult criminal justice system; and support for youth reentering their communities.

Click here to view the recommendations.  

CFYJ testifies on conditions of confinement for DC Youth in Jail

Najja Quail, CFYJ Intern Monday, 23 February 2015 Posted in 2015, Federal Update

by Najja Quail, CFYJ Intern

On February 19th, DC Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie (D – DC), Chairperson of the Committee on the Judiciary held a Performance Oversight Hearing for the Department of Corrections (DOC), the Office of Returning Citizens Affairs (ORCA), the Corrections Information Council (CIC), and the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services (DYRS). At the hearing, the Campaign for Youth Justice testified on the conditions of confinement for youth held in the Juvenile Unit of the Correctional Treatment Facility (CTF), the severe lack of programming for these youth, as well as the need for staff training on adolescent development. One of the top issues mentioned by Carmen Daugherty, Policy Director of the Campaign for Youth Justice, was the issue of solitary confinement and its harmful impact on youth. Daniel Okonkwo, Executive Director of DC Lawyers for Youth testified at the hearing on the inadequacy of adult facilities to provide the services that youth need for positive development. He highlighted a need for education, exercise, and pro-social interactions with positive role models. Okonkwo stated that passage of the Youth Offender Accountability and Rehabilitation Act (YOARA) would alleviate some of the concerns raised by advocates, families, and youth.

During questioning, Councilmember McDuffie raised some questions to Thomas Faust, the Director of the Department of Corrections, regarding some of the poignant issues and concerns regarding youth housed at CTF. Currently, according to Faust, 11 youth are confined in CTF. When questioned about solitary confinement, Faust responded that he “rejected” the term “solitary confinement” because what was actually occurring was an “administrative segregation.” Based on his response, “administrative segregation” means being in a cell for 23 hours a day for a maximum of 5 days, at which time a committee must review whether or not the youth held in this solitary confinement will remain “administratively segregated, ”or be released back to the general population. As the Campaign testified, studies have shown that this type of treatment, whether you call it “administrative segregation” or “solitary confinement,” is harmful to the mental, physical, and emotional health of developing youth.

Furthermore, Faust testified that he questions whether or not the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services’ facility is equipped to house the youth in the Juvenile Unit of the Correctional Treatment Facility due to the fact that some of the youth are “violent offenders.” He then testified that the youth housed in the Correctional Treatment Facility were less likely to act out and were given more privileges due to good behavior which would lead one to believe that maybe there’s more to be said about the “violent offenders” he deemed unsafe for housing in a youth facility. Studies have shown that youth can be rehabilitated, which is the basis for having a separate facility and judicial system for youth and Faust’s testimony on the good behavior of the youth housed in the Correctional Treatment Facility is evidence of this fact. It also further solidifies the need to educate DC Council on the ways youth are treated when they have contact with the law and how YOARA can strengthen public safety by providing much needed rehabilitative services to all youth.

CFYJ continues to monitor conditions of confinement at the CTF and plan on providing testimony at the upcoming DOC budget hearings scheduled for the spring. If interested in providing testimony, please contact Carmen Daugherty at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Leading Conservative, Progressive Groups Join Forces to Launch Nation’s Largest Coalition Aimed at Comprehensive Criminal Justice Reform

Monday, 23 February 2015 Posted in 2015, Federal Update

‘Coalition for Public Safety’ to Pursue Aggressive Effort to Reform System at Federal, State, Local Levels

coalition for public safetyWashington, D.C. – Today, a new coalition of the nation’s most prominent conservative and progressive organizations has formed to pursue an aggressive criminal justice reform effort. The Coalition for PublicSafety will be the largest national effort working to make our criminal justice system smarter, fairer, and more cost effective at the federal, state, and local level.Together, these organizations reach tens of millions of Americans seeking commonsense reform, and will work to build consensus around comprehensive efforts that are designed to address some of the most pressing issues facing the nation’s criminal justice system.

The Coalition’s partners include the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Americans for Tax Reform, the Center for American Progress, the Faith & Freedom Coalition, FreedomWorks, the Leadership Conference Education Fund, and Right on Crime.

The Coalition is being funded by individuals and foundations with a broad spectrum of interests, who have come together to jointly pursue broad criminal justice reform. Supporters include Laura and John Arnold, Koch Industries, Inc., the Ford Foundation, and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

Christine Leonard, former associate director of legislative affairs in the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy for the Obama administration and director of the Washington, D.C. office of the Vera Institute for Justice, will serve as the Coalition’s executive director.

“Our justice system needs reform. It’s simply too complicated, too big, and too expensive – and all Americans are picking up that tab,” said Christine Leonard, Executive Director of the Coalition. “We’ve brought together an amazing Coalition of prominent and diverse organizations from across the aisle to help solve the issues facing our criminal justice system. It’s inspirational to see such bipartisan support for reform, and I look forward to working with all of our partners.”

The Coalition for Public Safety will build consensus around the need for reform through educational events, national outreach, and media. The Coalition will work across the political spectrum to pursue a comprehensive set of federal, state, and local criminal justice reforms that will reduce jail and prison populations and associated costs, end the systemic problem of over-criminalization and over-incarceration – particularly of low-income communities and communities of color, ensure swift and fair outcomes for both the accused and the victims, and make communities safer by reducing recidivism and breaking down barriers faced by those returning home after detention or incarceration.

For more information on the Coalition, please visit www.coalitionforpublicsafety.org.

Criminal Justice Reform is a Bi-Partisan Effort

Kay Xiao Monday, 02 February 2015 Posted in 2015, Federal Update

The Advancing Criminal Justice Reform in 2015 briefing and panel discussion presented by the Constitution Project Right Left Justice Working Group covered a broad range of topics dealing with criminal justice reform. The panelists included David Keene, Opinion Editor, The Washington Times, Piper Kerman, advocate and author of the memoir, Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Woman's Prison, Pat Nolan, Director, Center for Criminal Justice Reform, American Conservative Union, Van Jones, President, Dream Corps Unlimited and CNN Contributor, and Mark Holden, Senior Vice President and General Counsel, Koch Industries, Inc. The congressional speakers were Senator Al Franken (D –MN), Senator Rob Portman (R – OH), Representative Danny K. Davis (D – IL) and Representative James Sensebrenner (R – WI).

The panelists and congressional speakers emphasized the need for bipartisan cooperation in supporting legislation like the Second Chance Act. Goals brought up in the discussion included data-tested methods to help former inmates integrate successfully into society and recidivism reduction. The rationales for these proposed changes were grounded in arguments that criminal justice reforms are economically beneficial, morally just and safer for the community at large.

The discussion also touched upon mental health within the criminal justice system, and the potential risks of not addressing mental health issues in prisons.

Bipartisan consensus on strengthening federal law to reduce incarceration, make state juvenile justice systems more fair, improve public safety

Thursday, 11 December 2014 Posted in 2014, Federal Update

Today Juvenile justice advocates across the country applaud Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) for the introduction of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Reauthorization Act of 2014, to reauthorize and strengthen the Juvenile Justice Delinquency and Prevention Act of 1974 (JJDPA).
Signed into law by President Gerald Ford on September 7, 1974, and most recently reauthorized in 2002, the JJDPA embodies a partnership between the federal government and the U.S. states, territories and the District of Columbia to protect children and youth in the juvenile and criminal justice system, to effectively address high-risk and delinquent behavior and to improve community safety. 
More than seven years overdue for reauthorization, the JJDPA is the only federal statute that sets out national standards for the custody and care of youth in the juvenile justice system and provides direction and support for state juvenile justice system improvements. The JJDPA also supports programs and practices that have significantly contributed to the reduction of delinquency.
Despite a continuing decline in youth delinquency, more than 60,000 young people are held in detention centers awaiting trial or confined by the courts in juvenile facilities in the U.S.  For these confined youth, and the many more kids at-risk of involvement in the justice system, the JJDPA and programs it supports are critical. Youth who are locked up are separated from their families, and many witness violence. These youth struggle when they get out, trying to complete high school, get jobs, housing, or go to college. Aside from the human toll, the financial costs of maintaining large secure facilities have also made it vital to rethink juvenile justice in every community.
Key provisions in include:
  • Phase-out of the Loophole that Allows Status Offenders to Be Locked Up While current federal law prohibits detaining youth for status offenses (like truancy and running away from home), youth can be ordered by a court not to do these things as a condition of release through a court order. Many youth are subsequently detained for technical violations of such a valid court order. Many states have already prohibited use of this exception – known as the VCO exception – in light of research that shows it is harmful to youth development and is costly, especially when compared to community-based alternatives.  The bill calls on all states to phase out use of the VCO exception over the next three years.
  • Strengthening of Protections to Keep Youth out of Adult Jails and Prisons Research shows youth confined in adult jails and lock-ups are more likely to re-offend upon release and while confined are at pronounced high risk of suffering assault and committing suicide. The bill extends the jail removal and sight and sound core protections to keep youth awaiting trial in criminal court out of adult lock-ups and ensures sight and sound separation from adult inmates in the limited circumstances where they are held in adult facilities.
  • Supports for State Efforts to Reduce Racial and Ethnic Disparities The bill gives clear direction to States and localities to plan and implement data-driven approaches to ensure fairness and reduce racial and ethnic disparities, to set measurable objectives for reduction of disparities in the system, and to publicly report such efforts.
For more information go to www.ACT4JJ.org.

Cookhorne v. Fischer Settlement Provides Beneficial Reforms for Youth in Solitary Confinement

Courtney Thomas, Northeastern University School of Law: CFYJ Intern Tuesday, 28 October 2014 Posted in 2014, Federal Update

Prisoner’s Legal Services of New York (PLS) reached a landmark settlement with the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) in the case of Cookhorne v. Fischer which will result in significant and positive changes regarding the use of solitary confinement as a disciplinary sanction for 16 and 17 year old inmates in DOCCS custody.

The settlement agreement contains several amendments to DOCCS policies and prohibits solitary confinement of youth for disciplinary purposes by limiting the maximum hours of confinement per day. The agreement mandates that a youth may be confined for no more than 18 hours a day, five days per week, and no more than 22 hours the other two days of the week. It further establishes a minimum number of hours for programming and recreation during this out-of-cell time. The settlement agreement also requires that regulations be amended to state that age is a mitigating factor in disciplinary proceedings where a youth has been accused of misconduct and requires a written statement of how the age affected the disposition.

Advocates are a Powerful Voice at DC Council Hearing

Monday, 27 October 2014 Posted in 2014, Federal Update

On Wednesday, October 22nd, the DC Council Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety held a public hearing on Bill B20-825, the Youth Offender Accountability and Rehabilitation Act of 2014 (YOARA). The hearing was chaired by Councilmember Tommy Wells, Chairperson of the Committee. Wells began the hearing by highlighting the main provisions of the bill and the positive changes this would have for youth charged as adults in the District of Columbia. DC supporters of the bill made sure to have a strong presence, and with the leadership of the JOY Campaign team, over 100 people attended the hearing.

What the YOARA bill does:
1) Prevents most youth from being held in adult jail while they are awaiting trial.
2) Allows youth who have been charged as adults to have the adult court judge review all the available facts to determine if adult prosecution serves the public interest. If not, the judge can transfer the case down to juvenile court.
3) Ends the practice of automatically charging all youth with a prior conviction in adult court, even for minor offenses and if local prosecutors think the case would be more appropriately handled in juvenile court.

Building Safe & Strong Communities

Samantha Phillips Friday, 19 September 2014 Posted in 2014, Federal Update

Kids Don’t Care What You Know, Until They Know That You Care: Building Safe & Strong Communities

 This month on Capitol Hill, National experts came together to discuss community-based alternatives to incarceration that improve public safety and support youth.  The panelist all had one definite thing in common: each panelist believes in providing cost-effective, community-based alternatives to institutional placement.  

New York Governor Forms Commission on Youth, Public Safety & Justice

Friday, 11 April 2014 Posted in 2014, Federal Update

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By Christopher Costner

CFYJ Fellow

On April 9, New York Governor, Andrew Cuomo, announced the members for his Commission

on Youth, Public Safety & Justice. This Commission will generate recommendations and policies regarding youth in New York’s criminal and juvenile justice systems. The Governor indicated that New York’s laws are archaic and in desperate need of improvement. New York is currently one of only two states (North Carolina being the second) that automatically charges 16 and 17 year olds as adults. In 2013 alone, New York State had 33,000 cases handled in the adult court system involving children only 16 and 17 years old. Due to this, thousands of children were denied the proper services and help that they would be offered in juvenile courts and detention facilities. Members appointed to the commission include several justice focused groups such as: the Albany Chief of Police, NYC Director of the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, Executive Director of the Children’s Defense Fund, and Executive Director of the Correctional Association of NY.

This Commission is a great step towards justice for New York youth, and the Campaign for Youth Justice will be eager to follow the work of this prestigious commission. For more information see this press release from the Governor’s Office, which outlines the Commission’s goals and all the participating members.

Governor Rick Perry Refuses to Protect Vulnerable Populations in Texas Jails and Prisons

Monday, 07 April 2014 Posted in 2014, Federal Update

The Campaign for Youth Justice in continuing our mission to protect children and youth incarcerated throughout the United States, condemned a recent statement by the Texas governor that he will not certify whether Texas’s prisons and jails are in compliance with the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA), which was enacted by a unanimous vote of Congress and signed in to law by President George W. Bush in 2003.  

In a letter sent to Attorney General Holder on March 28, 2014, Texas Governor Rick Perry stated that he will not provide the Department of Justice with information on Texas’ compliance with PREA. The purpose of the Act is to “provide for the analysis of the incidence and effects of prison rape in federal, state, and local institutions and to provide information, resources, and recommendations and funding to protect individuals from prison rape.”

“Prison rape is not a bargaining chip. Thousands of children under 18 are placed in Texas jails and prisons each year with real potential of victimization. Governor Perry is behind the times and should be ashamed at the potential harm he will cause to thousands of inmates in Texas,” said Carmen Daugherty, Policy Director for the Campaign for Youth Justice.

For CFYJ's full press release, click here.

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