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Articles tagged with: Campaign for Youth Justice

New York Case Example: Why Fully Implementing the Youthful Inmate Standard of PREA Means Removing Youth from Adult Jails and Prisons

Maya Williams, Juvenile Justice Fellow Thursday, 13 October 2016 Posted in 2016, Research & Policy

Wednesday, September 21, 2016, the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) and Legal Services of Central New York (LSNY) filed a class action lawsuit against the Onondaga County Sheriff’s Office and Syracuse City School District on behalf of six named plaintiffs—Black and Latino youth ages 16 and 17 jailed at the Justice Center—and a class of similarly situated youth.

The suit’s charges are over the use of solitary confinement for youth in the adult jail citing, “the use of solitary confinement violates the children’s rights and that the sheriff and school district are denying them an appropriate education in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment, the Eighth Amendment, and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.”

Chalking for Justice During Youth Justice ACTION Month

Jade Kendrick Thursday, 13 October 2016 Posted in 2016, Take Action Now

 

#YJAM has started off with a bang! Voices across the nation are raising awareness about youth justice. But there is another more artistic form of activism: Chalking! Chalk is a fun, harmless way of creating art while also sending a message. It's a perfect way to engage all ages into #YJAM festivities! So help us hit it the pavement and chalk up phrases and images to spread the #YJAM message. Then take a picture of your creation, share it on social media, and use the hashtag #YJAM.  No action is too small to bring awareness! Its as simple as chalking!

A Mother's Story: Transforming Tragedy into Action

Tracy McClard Tuesday, 11 October 2016 Posted in 2016, Voices

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By Tracy McClard, Founder of FORJ Missouri

My involvement with the juvenile justice system began in July of 2007. My son, Jonathon made a poor decision causing another young man to be left with a gunshot wound. Jonathon was sixteen at the time. While I believe my son should have been held accountable for his actions, the process that followed was anything but proportional justice. Jonathan was eventually placed in an adult facility where he experienced violence, emotional trauma and constant fear. At any point in time he could be subjected to physical and sexual violence and was consistently threatened with solitary confinement. Throughout this process Jonathan remained a young sixteen years old and was forced to be surrounded by inmates who were much older and much more powerful. He was forced to give up his education to focus on remaining safe in prison.

#JuviePodcast Youth Justice Awareness Month – Marcy Mistrett Interview

Aprill O. Turner Monday, 10 October 2016 Posted in 2016, Voices

This post was taken from Juvie Podcast and the full article and podcast can be found here

A summons to Action in spreading Awareness about juvenile justice!

Did you know that in the United States, children who commit crimes, whatevertheir age, start out automatically in the adult criminal justice system, and that most defense attorneys who work with children and youth have no specialist knowledge or training in child and adolescent developmental factors? Did you know that a 12-year-old will be completely cut off from any parental access if they are processed through the adult system?

If you would like to know what really goes on when children and youth come into contact with the American criminal justice system, listen in. You are bound to learn a thing or few that will surprise, and even shock you.

We talk to Marcy Mistrett, CEO at the Campaign for Youth Justice in Washington DC, a national advocacy organization committed to ending the prosecution, sentencing, and incarceration of children and youth in the adult criminal justice system. Every year, in October, CFYJ  promotes Youth Justice Awareness Month. We talk about some of the juvenile justice issues important for public awareness.

Listen here.

NEW POLL: Floridians Share Thoughts on Criminal Justice Reform

Jade Kendrick Thursday, 06 October 2016 Posted in 2016, Across the Country

 

A recent survey conducted by the James Madison Institute and the Charles Koch Institute gives deep insight of Floridians’ thoughts on criminal justice reform in their state. The survey results couldn’t have come at a more perfect time. Recently, Florida prosecutor, Angela Corey, lost her chance at reelection in the primary. Corey was notorious for pursuing harsh sentences. She is notorious for failing to get a conviction on George Zimmerman, the man who killed Trayvon Martin. She did a number of other injustices during her eight years in office.  Corey charged a 12 year old boy named Cristian Fernandez with first degree murder of his 2 year old brother, David. Cristian, David, and their other brother and sister had been left at home, without supervision, while his mother was at work. That’s when David received a serious head injury and died. Cristian’s mother came home and took Cristian to school. She would wait eight more hours before taking David to the hospital. While the details around how David was injured are still foggy, Corey immediately deemed Cristian the perpetrator. Cristian was held in an adult jail until his conviction where he sentenced to life without parole. Corey would later fight Cristian’s transfer to a juvenile facility. Corey doubled the number of felony cases in Florida where minors were charged as adults. It would be one of Cristian’s lawyers who challenged and defeated Corey.

So what does her losing the election have to do with this survey?

For one, they show a drastic change in attitude with the Florida population. 72% of Floridians believe that it is time to reform the criminal system in Florida and 64% believe that there are too many nonviolent offenders serving time. The opinions show the possibility that kicking out hard prosecutors means that Floridians want different sentencing practices.  62% of Floridians also said they trust judges over prosecutors to decide if a minor should be charged as an adult. That contradicts Angela Corey’s efforts to increase the number of felony cases for minors charged as adults.

The survey is on par with changing laws in Florida. Recently, the state legislature repealed the “10-20 Life” law that required judges to give mandatory sentences to gun involved offenses. Unfortunately, this repeal will not apply to offenders currently incarcerated, even though 63% of Floridians agreed that it should apply to those already in jail. However, this is still a major step for Florida’s criminal justice reform. Another more preventive law Florida has passed a law regarding mental health and Medicare. This plan requires Medicare to offer comprehensive treatment plans for patients diagnosed with a mental illness. Because people with mental illnesses will have better access to treatment, in the long run, the number of mentally ill people with a criminal record will decrease. Still in discussion in the Florida state legislature is the Direct File bill. This bill would limit the power prosecutors have when deciding to charge a juvenile as an adult. Currently, the law states that if a juvenile, no matter the age, commits a certain offense, such as murder or sexual battery, the prosecutor can send them straight to adult court. Under the new bill, state attorneys can only use direct file for juveniles between the ages of 16 and 18. And the prosecutor can only direct file if it involves the 21 offenses listed in the bill. While the first goal of the bill was to make transfers only to be decided by a judge, supporters of the bill had to compromise in order to move it along. The Human Rights Watch found that Florida has more juveniles transferred into the adult court than any other state. The Florida government has been slow to keep up with public opinion. With new legislation being introduced and passed, hopefully criminal justice reform will begin to take effect.

Girls Justice Day! Why Now is the Time to Act for Justice-Involved Girls

Maheen Kaleem, Esq. Staff Attorney, Rights4Girls and Jeree Thomas, Esq. Policy Director with the Campaign for Youth Justice Friday, 30 September 2016 Posted in 2016

 

Authors: Maheen Kaleem, Esq. Staff Attorney, Rights4Girls and Jeree Thomas, Esq. Policy Director with the Campaign for Youth Justice

 
October marks Domestic Violence Awareness Month. It also marks Youth Justice Action Month.  As we spend this month focusing on the necessity to protect vulnerable women and girls from abuse, we must not forget our girls behind bars.
 
In January of 2016, Latesha Clay was sentenced to nine years in prison for armed robbery.  Latesha is 15 years old. The “victims” in the case were two adult men who had responded to an online ad for sex with a teenager on Backpage.com, a website that traffickers use to sell sex with children.  When two men, at least one of whom had a history of inappropriate involvement with minors, arrived at the hotel to engage in sexual acts with 15 year-old Latesha, two individuals came out of the bathroom and threatened the buyers to give them more money. Latesha was not holding the gun, nor was she aware that the robbery was going to take place.
Under federal law, any individual who solicits a sexual act with a minor in exchange for any material good is guilty of human trafficking, and any child who exchanges sex with an adult for anything of value is a victim. Those who facilitate the sale of teens for sex on websites like Backpage.com are also guilty of human trafficking.  Despite the fact that Latesha is only fifteen, that her adult “boyfriend” convinced her her to post the ad, that she knew nothing of the robbery, and that at least two adult men exchanged money in order to commit acts of sexual abuse against her, she was deemed the perpetrator in this case, and her buyers, the “victims.” What’s worse—Latesha was charged and sentenced as an adult, and must serve her nine year sentence in adult prison.
What We Know About Girls in the Juvenile & Adult Criminal Justice Systems
 
This summer, the National Institute of Corrections (NIC) released No Place for Youth: Girls in the Adult Justice System.   The report summarized data and research on girls in the adult criminal justice system and includes a new survey conducted by NIC and the National Council on Crime and Delinquency (NCCD) of members from the Association of State Correctional Administrators (ASCA). 
Despite the absence of sufficient data and research on girls in adult facilities, the little information we do have is cause for concern. According to the NIC/ NCCD survey, only 40.9% of correctional administrators responded that that they could safely serve and house youth, while 42.9% marked that they did not agree when asked if they had assessment tools to appropriately identify the specific needs of girls in adult facilities, let alone age and gender-appropriate programming for children in their care. Girls tried and sentenced as adults confront a system that was not designed to meet their developmental, social, mental health, or safety needs. Furthermore, girls in the adult system are denied the opportunities for rehabilitation that the juvenile justice system is expressly designed to provide.
Unfortunately, the neglect of justice-involved girls is not limited to the adult system. Girls in the juvenile and adult criminal justice systems are more likely to have experienced past physical and sexual abuse, trauma, and mental health challenges. In fact, the behavior that results in girls is often related to trying to escape, survive, or cope with extensive abuse. These drivers disproportionately result in the detention and commitment of girls of color, LBTQ girls, and girls who are gender non-conforming.  In the most extreme circumstances, girls are actually criminalized because of their victimization.
The pathways that gendered violence creates for girls into the justice system were highlighted a 2015 report by Rights4Girls, The Georgetown Law Center on Poverty and Inequality, and the Ms. Foundation for Women entitled, The Sexual Abuse to Prison Pipeline: The Girls’ Story. According to the report, across the country, girls in the juvenile justice system had extremely high rates of sexual violence, sexual abuse, and family violence.  In South Carolina, 81% of girls reported experiencing sexual violence, and in Oregon 76% reported sexual abuse.  In Florida, 84% of girls reported being victims of family violence.  The report also emphasized the lack of understanding, data, and appropriate responses to the unique needs of girls.
The Abuse to Prison Pipeline is the result not only of the high prevalence of physical and sexual abuse among girls, particularly marginalized girls, but also our inability to appropriately respond to girls’ behaviors when they are a direct result of the trauma they have endured. A recent report by Francine Sherman, Unintended Consequences: The Collateral Consequences of Mandatory DV Laws, highlights the increase in girls being charged with simple assault for instances of intra-familial violence. Instead of providing families with appropriate interventions, children who are often victims of domestic abuse are instead criminalized.  
Subjecting girls to the Abuse to Prison Pipeline is not the way to help girls grow, mature, and rehabilitate to meet their incredible potential.  Too often, our most traumatized and victimized girls end up behind bars when they should be met with services. In Ohio, Bresha Meadows currently sits in juvenile detention facing a charge for shooting her father in an effort to protect her mother and herself from domestic violence. Imagine if her family had received the appropriate interventions so that Bresha and her mother were safe from the domestic abuse they endured for years.   
In honor of Bresha, Latesha, and the countless girls behind bars around the country, we encourage families, advocates, and those who work in the juvenile or adult criminal justice system to take action on today, Girls Justice Day.  Tweet, write, and/or meet with members of Congress and tell them to reauthorize the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) by voting in favor of H.R. 5963.  The bill passed the House on September 22nd and is now in the Senate.  The reauthorized bill includes important protections for girls including:
  • Incentives for states to create prevention programming for girls at-risk of entering the juvenile justice system
  • Screening girls in the juvenile justice system for child sex trafficking and diverting them towards community-based programming wherever possible
  • Ending the use of unnecessary restraints on pregnant and post-partum girls
  • Encouraging states to limit use of the Valid Court Order exception, which has led to the disproportionate detention of girls who commit non-violent offenses
  • Ensuring that state juvenile justice advisory groups involve individuals with specific expertise in addressing the needs of girls
In addition, encourage your state and local policymakers and system administrators to implement practices and programs that result in better outcomes for girls.   Fund prevention programs that keep girls from being physically or sexually abused.  Divert girls who have been subject to the Abuse to Prison pipeline away from the juvenile and adult justice system whenever possible, and toward more community-based supports.  To the extent possible, girls should be kept in their homes or as close to their homes as possible in settings that provide trauma and gender-responsive programming, education, and therapeutic support.   In those rare cases when girls must be in secure care, girls and all youth under 18, should always be held in juvenile settings and not in the adult system.
Finally, and most importantly, we need to take the time to ask girls in the system what their needs are—they are the experts on their own lives. When they tell us—we need to listen. Only then will we be able to stop the Abuse to Prison Pipeline and ensure that all of our girls have the opportunity to thrive.
 
 
 
 

October is Youth Justice Awareness Month

Marcy Mistrett Thursday, 29 September 2016 Posted in 2016, Take Action Now

Youth Justice Awareness Month (YJAM) is almost here, and this month we are turning Awareness into Action!

YJAM’s goal is to bring attention to a movement that prevents youth from entering the adult criminal justice system. Nearly 200,000 youths a year are tried, convicted, and incarcerated as adults in our country annually. YJAM works to unite people to take a stand together and become the voices for the silenced, incarcerated youths of their communities. For the past 8 years, people nationwide have hosted YJAM events and fundraisers. This October, you can also bring the movement to your community!

Visit our website, www.campaignforyouthjustice.org/yjam to learn more about YJAM and access an event planning guide. Our guide will help you plan anything from a dinner party to a concert and festival. You can also donate and encourage friends to sign up for our weekly YJAM newsletter to receive news on upcoming YJAM walk/5ks, film screenings, and other YJAM events near you (Sign up).

Make sure to follow us on Twitter (@justiceforyouth), Facebook (Campaign for Youth Justice) and Instagram (@justiceforyouth), to stay up to date on the latest juvenile justice news and happenings.

Also please,follow the hashtag #YJAM to see what others are doing for the month and share your own YJAM event and pictures! We hope you are inspired to take action, and together, we can stop the prosecution of juveniles as adults.

Thank you for your continued support. Let’s get ready to YJAM!

“Raise the Age”, “Direct File”, and More: States Pursuing Youth Justice Reforms in 2016

Brain Evans Wednesday, 11 May 2016 Posted in 2016, Across the Country

By Brian Evans, CFYJ State Campaign Coordinator

As the year 2016 moves towards its half-way point, one trend has been unmistakable: states are moving to keep more youth out of the adult criminal justice system. And it’s not a regional but a national phenomenon. Led by South Carolina, which is poised to “Raise the Age” of adult court jurisdiction from 17 to 18 – bills have passed both chambers and only minor reconciling of bill language remains – states are adopting a variety of policies designed to treat youth as youth.

Michigan and Louisiana have both seen “Raise the Age” bills pass in one of their legislative chambers – Michigan in the House, Louisiana in the Senate – and in both cases the prospect of the bills ultimately becoming law this year is good. In New York and Louisiana, the governors have vocally backed the “Raise the Age” efforts. In fact, eight of the 9 remaining states that have ages of criminal court jurisdiction lower than 18 have introduced legislation to “Raise the Age” over the past 2 legislative sessions.

But current reform efforts aren’t limited to “Raise the Age”. In Louisiana, Michigan, New York and Missouri, proposed reforms go beyond “Raise the Age” to include larger efforts to change the ways youth are treated by the criminal justice system.  

In Alabama and Missouri, proposals to remove pre-trial youth from adult jails have made serious progress. Alabama’s bill passed in the Senate but fell short of the finish line when their session ended on May 6, while Missouri’s bill looks very likely to become law. Similar legislation has been proposed in Washington, D.C., as part of an omnibus youth justice package.

Indiana has passed a law allowing some youth sent to adult court to access to a “reverse transfer” process that could send them back into the juvenile system, and in Vermont the power of prosecutors to “Direct File” youth into adult court has been drastically curtailed.

In Florida, where such prosecutorial discretion is used more than in any other state, a bill to curb “Direct File” passed unanimously out of two Senate committees before running out of time at the end of that state’s short 60-day session. Another attempt to reform the use of “Direct File” by prosecutors is underway in California, where a governor-supported ballot initiative on the issue may go before voters in November.

While there are still too many mechanisms for transferring youth into the adult system, it is clear that the states have come to recognize how harmful and counter-productive such transfers are. The results of this year will be better justice for more youth, with powerful positive momentum and strong prospects for even greater gains in the coming years.

How Systems Have Failed My Son this Mother’s Day

Jennifer Hoff Thursday, 05 May 2016 Posted in 2016, Voices

IMG 0065 3By Jennifer Hoff

The most difficult part of having our young, mentally-ill, adult son locked up in solitary confident in California State Prison for months at a time is not  the emotional and mental pain his father, little brothers and I experience as a result of him losing, “in person” contact privileges again or other punishments he might be subjected to that are analogous with such a placement. It is not the overwhelming sadness that arises when you realize you can’t remember your child’s smell because you have not been allowed to hug him for almost a year,  nor the missing of his sweet voice during a phone call.  It is not the daily emotional turmoil of having horrific mental images flash by the minds eye as an incessant reminder of his dire situation.  It is not even that he was allowed to suffer mentally for over three years, denied the very psychiatric medications that he was prescribed from age 12 to quell his frenetic thinking and allow him to process his interactions with the world in a safe and more humane manner. 

As a mother, what is most difficult is that his situation is the predictable outcome of our abysmal system of criminalizing those who “act out” despite lacking the cognitive capacity to do otherwise. We saw this coming for over 15 years and there was absolutely nothing we could do to prevent our son from being punished for his disability and being sucked into the revolving door of the criminal justice system once he turned 18. 

We sought out help for Matthew very early (age 5) as his mental health symptoms began interferring with him attending public schools.  We had access to private doctors and therapists, had the resources to pay for treatment and the wherewithal to request special education services from our school district.  We had the stamina to navigate, for years, a broken mental health system. A system in which no one who is “in charge” seems to be held accountable to help these sick children; nor informs you (the parents) that every provider at the case-planning meetings are hiding their ball under the table to effectively and covertly play the game of “pass the buck” shuffle. Ultimately, those “in charge” denied services for my son as long as possible to avoid costs and save the bottom line.…. For years, Matthew’s father and I paid out of pocket to send him to a clinical day program run by a team of doctors at a highly respected university.  The clinical-day program was eventually exchanged for a dozen failed special educational public school placements, which again failed our son.  Ultimately, we were faced with  all roads leading to the need for a intensive (and expensive) locked facility; an incredibly difficult decision had to be made.

As Matthew’s needs increased, the willingness of our county agencies to provide for them diminished.  Eventually, only legal action proved effective in forcing our school district and county behavioral health departments to meet their legal obligations of providing appropriate educational and psychiatric services for our disabled boy.

The worst part of this journey has been the nausea that comes with knowing my son’s experience is the norm; that this outcome is one of many predictable tragic end points for individuals like Matthew who “don’t respond” to the current protocol of medications and talk therapy.   He has found his peer group in prison.  The overwhelming majority of his neighbors are young men who also suffer from debilitating psychosis, paranoia and delusions, and who have lived in their awful set of circumstances from before they were even able to legally drive a car. 

Most of the prisoners Matthew has met have previously been in the foster and/or juvenile “justice” cog from the young age of 10. They have been labeled as “troubled” and “delinquent”, yet denied medications or treatment or even basic therapeutic services before the preventable tragedy occurs that drove them into the criminal justice system.  These young  venerable  young people do not stand a chance once they are “in trouble with the law” because necessary mental health interventions will be withheld and they will inevitably be funneled into youth or adult prisons… many before they even hit puberty. 

If you had asked me when Matthew was younger and still at home, cycling his way through ineffective treatments,  how I was doing, I would have most likely burst into tears; for navigating the pediatric side of this nightmare was an incomprehensible, demoralizing experience that  each year left its marks on my psyche and spirit.  The pain of watching your child be discarded like trash by the very agencies tasked with his care is not easily explained to even the closest friends.  Today when folks ask me the same question my response is less emotional but rarely is it a complete answer….. for even folks who actually might know our story, or who work in the “field of mental health” find it hard to grasp the reality that our system isn’t filled with “cracks” for these young people to fall into.  Rather, to everyone’s surprise and dismay, instead of cracks, there is a looming  cliff that we systematically push young people off of when they age into adulthood. 

Nowadays my response to the “how are you doing” question, yields a filtered mantra of “pretty good considering…” or “well I am still here…” .  I make it a point to share our story with anyone and everyone who will listen; not to be a source of pain for people, but rather to leverage the pain I feel into becoming the motivation they need to jump into action and become part of the solutions. 

This is our modern day human rights crisis…throwing away children into a churning system for the past 15-20 years  has not only been a costly, failed, social experiment of being “tough on crime,” but more egregiously, it has stolen the futures of thousands of young folks, by answering their cries of help with a lock and key. Most “troubled youth” are not born that way…they are generally created out of years of neglect, abuse, misdiagnosis, and failed treatment;  and then severely penalized when they act out with the very behaviors that textbooks outline-- the step by step progression from victim to offender.  We know these facts, yet somehow the past few decades have been marked with an all out war against the treatment of childhood offenders and a refusal to allow for the degree of cognitive functioning the individual possessed to be used as a method of defense aimed at rehabilitation over incarceration. 

We have criminalized behaviors psychiatrists say are “normal” for an immature, traumatized or sick brains…we know that some brains are different and lack capacity to fully function, yet our leaders have allowed generations of children to be swallowed into the pit of the criminal justice system to be forgotten.

I have hope though, and I know we are not alone. I know some families experience this same journey but with an even more tragic outcome.  I am grateful for the work advocates and non-profits are doing both in the mental health reform and juvenile justice fields.  These broken systems will not self-correct and it is up to impacted individuals and families to demand they change for the better.

I have perspective, our story’s tragic ending didn’t create catastrophic collateral damage to our child or to our community. For this, we know were are the lucky ones.

Last Mother’s Day when I went to see my son, he was able to visit me in person for a change.  We really enjoyed each other, holding hands and hugging…being face to face, looking in the same beautiful auburn eyes that peered up at me when he was a baby swaddled in my arms. Now, despite the new homemade tattoos he had someone ink on his beautiful face, (because it seemed like a good idea “at the time”…he says, “sorry mom”) he is still my boy deserving of help. 

Jennifer Hoff is a concrned mom and juvenile justice advocate.


#IMPACT --Thank You to Our Funders, Public Welfare Foundation and Annie E. Casey Foundation

Aprill O. Turner Wednesday, 06 April 2016 Posted in 2016, CFYJ Updates

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2016 marks CFYJ’s 10th Anniversary and we have launched our “Impact Year” -- a series of events, social media campaigns, blogs, and other activities to highlight voices from the field to REFLECT on how far we have come; REJOICE in the progress we’ve made; and RECOMMIT to ending the practice of trying youth as adults. We hope you join us on a year’s journey to reflect, rejoice and re-commit to treating youth humanely, and removing them from the adult criminal justice system. 

We thank our funders, Public Welfare Foundation and Annie E. Casey Foundation for featuring us in their newsletters. Keep an eye out for more #IMPACT news as the year continues.

Annie E. Casey Foundation (Link)

Public Welfare Foundation Newsletter:

R2 Newsletter March2016 Page 1

 

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