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Articles tagged with: Campaign for Youth Justice

We Are Excited to Introduce CFYJ's 2015 Summer Interns

Samantha Goodman Monday, 22 June 2015 Posted in 2015, CFYJ Updates

Intern pic

From left: Samantha Goodman, Nicholas Bookout, Mette Huberts

This summer, Samantha Goodman will be serving as the Campaign’s Public Interest Communications Intern. Hailing from Pittsburgh, Samantha attends Emory University, where she is studying Sociology and French. She coaches soccer and basketball to at-risk youth at the Boys & Girls Club. It was these children’s stories that sparked Sam’s interest in the youth justice reform movement. For fun, she enjoys golf, sailing in Maine, trying new restaurants, travelling, and cheering for Pittsburgh sports teams.

Nicholas Bookout will be conducting Juvenile Justice Policy Research for the Campaign. He is joining us this summer from Harvard College, where he is concentrating in Social Studies. Originally from Gulf Breeze, Florida, Nick’s interest in racial inequality, urban America and mass incarceration lead him to CFYJ. In his spare time, Nick plays basketball, hangs out with his Labs Maizee and Lulu, follows UMich Athletics, and likes Scrabble and Game of Thrones.

Mette Huberts will be working on CFYJ’s State Campaign efforts. Mette grew up in San Francisco, but now attends Boston College, where she is studying Economics and International Studies with a concentration in Ethics and Social Justice. For the past year, Mette has volunteered at the Suffolk County House of Correction in Boston, tutoring and working with inmates. Her experiences there fueled her interest in the criminal justice system and she joins CFYJ looking to foster change. When she has the chance, Mette likes to run, bake, waterski, travel, and hike.

Happy Father's Day from the Campaign for Youth Justice

Samantha Goodman Friday, 19 June 2015 Posted in 2015, Voices

Untitled designBy Samantha Goodman

This Sunday marks Father’s Day, a national celebration and recognition of fathers and the special place they serve in our lives. While some exchange gifts, watch baseball, or enjoy a special dinner with their fathers, others are not as fortunate to spend the special day with loved ones. The Campaign for Youth Justice recognizes all of those fathers who, due to incarceration, are separated from their children this Father’s Day.

We would also like to acknowledge Charlie Curtis of Free Minds Bookclub and Writing Workshop, as well as DC Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie, who are being honored this Sunday by the DC Fatherhood Coalition as Fathers of the Year. Incarcerated at the age of 16, Curtis served five years in federal prisons before being released in 2012. He now serves as Free Minds’ Lead Poet Ambassador, encouraging youth at detention facilities and DC area schools to put a precedent on their education. In addition, he is a full time father to daughter, Chloe (1), and son, Charlie Jr. (1 month).

Tyrone Parker, of the DC Fatherhood Coalition and the Executive Director of the Alliance for Concerned Men, calls Curtis a role model and example to us all.

“He is a young man, who has faced the challenges of incarceration and is now manning up to be a father,” said Parker.

Check out Charlie's story here.

This Father’s day, and always, put family first.

Happy Father’s Day from the Campaign for Youth Justice.


Young, Queer, and Locked Up: LGBT Youth in the Adult Criminal Justice System

Christina Gilbert and Hannah Hussey Thursday, 18 June 2015 Posted in 2015, Voices

In April 2014, a sixteen-year-old transgender girl of color and trauma survivor was placed in an adult correctional facility by the Connecticut Department of Children and Families, which claimed the young woman was too violent to be housed elsewhere. Despite the fact that she had not been charged with or convicted of any crime, Jane Doe remained in the adult prison for two months, much of it in solitary confinement, before being transferred and subsequently placed in a juvenile detention facility for boys.

Unfortunately, situations like Jane's – in which lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) young people become involved with the adult criminal justice system – are all too common. While research about LGBT youth in the adult criminal justice system is scarce, statistics from the juvenile justice system illuminate a disproportionality that likely holds true in adult jails and prisons as well. Most estimates suggest that LGBT youth comprise 5 to 7 percent of the overall youth population, and yet approximately 20 percent of youth in the juvenile justice system self-identify as LGBT. Most of these youth are young people of color. New data suggest that the numbers for girls are even higher, with approximately 40 percent of all girls in the juvenile justice system identifying as LGBT or gender-nonconforming.

Research on the juvenile justice system likewise demonstrates that LGBT young people come into contact with law enforcement officers and the courts for a variety of reasons. LGBT youth are more likely than their peers to be detained for status offenses such as truancy or running away from home, probation violations, and engaging in survival crimes such as sex work. They are also more likely to be homeless and to struggle with substance use and abuse. Often, these behaviors stem from deeper issues related to the young person's sexual orientation or gender identity, such as family rejection, hostile school climates, or inappropriate foster care placements. Once in the juvenile justice system, lesbian, gay, and bisexual young people experience youth-on-youth sexual victimization at a rate that is nearly seven times higher than that of their heterosexual peers. LGBT youth are also more likely to be put into isolation by facilities who fear they are a threat to other youth or "for their own protection," despite the severe mental health risks posed by solitary confinement.

The experiences of LGBT youth echo those of LGBT people of all ages. LGBT youth and adults experience bias and discrimination at all stages of court proceedings. Certain drivers of incarceration for LGBT individuals contribute to this effect. LGBT people, particularly LGBT individuals of color, face pervasive discrimination in systems ranging from employment to housing to education. LGBT youth and adults are also profiled by police based on intersections of race, sexual orientation, and gender identity, as well as age, religion, disability, or immigration status.

Information about juveniles in juvenile justice settings is also informative in uncovering the experiences of LGBT young people in jails and prisons. Most youth in the adult criminal justice system are there for non-violent offenses. Many of them have never been convicted and are housed in adult jails and prisons while waiting for a trial. These youth face abusive conditions and often receive little or no rehabilitative treatment or education. Under federal law, incarcerated youth must be separated from adults for their own protection – which in practice often results in solitary confinement. This isolation has extremely negative physical and mental health effects, particularly on children. And according to the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission, "more than any other group of incarcerated persons, youth incarcerated with adults are probably at the highest risk for sexual abuse."

Numbers from the Bureau of Justice Statistics indicate that lesbian, gay, and bisexual sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds in adult jails and prisons experience higher rates of inmate-on-inmate sexual victimization – 6.3 percent of non-heterosexual youth compared to 1.7 percent of heterosexual youth, although the study included only a small sample of non-heterosexual youth. Beyond those statistics, little data exists on the specific experiences of LGBT youth in the adult system. Taken together, however, the research on LGBT youth, incarcerated LGBT adults, and youth in the adult system suggest that LGBT youth in adult jails and prisons experience multiple vulnerabilities, opening them up to discrimination and harassment from multiple systems.

Many states require that youth charged with a sex offense be tried in the adult system – one example of an area that impacts LGBT youth in unique ways. While "Romeo and Juliet" laws can reduce or remove penalties for consensual sex between adolescents who are close in age, these provisions have not always applied evenly to LGBT individuals. More recently, researchers found a public bias toward punishing gay youth more severely than heterosexual youth for consensual sex with another young person.

Where numbers are lacking pertaining to LGBT youth in the adult criminal justice system, anecdotal information indicates extensive trends of discrimination and disproportionate representation and points to troubling attitudes that may disproportionately harm LGBT youth. Such attitudes are visible, for example, when a prosecutor abuses their discretion by arguing that "a youth who is old enough to know their sexual orientation or gender identity is old enough to be tried in the adult system," or when feedback expressed during trainings with The Equity Project include questions about why juvenile justice professionals should bother learning about LGBT cultural competency if "the youth are just going to end up in the adult system" anyway.

LGBT young people, like all youth, need protection, safety, affirmation, and guidance in order to successfully transition to adulthood. They also need to be recognized as the young people they are – young people who are resilient in spite of discrimination, poverty, and abuse; young people who engage in normal adolescent behavior; and young people who have enormous potential. Adult jails and prisons offer no way forward for these young people to obtain the tools they need as they seek to empower themselves and change the world around them.

As we celebrate Pride during the month of June, we should encourage policymakers and advocates to promote fair and equitable treatment for all individuals in the juvenile and criminal justice systems, through promoting and supporting training and technical assistance regarding this population, increasing alternatives to detention, and supporting passage of legislation such as the long overdue reauthorization of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA).

Christina Gilbert is the Director of The Equity Project. Hannah Hussey is a Research Associate at the Center for American Progress.

“Girls and Juvenile Justice” at the Coalition for Juvenile Justice Annual Conference

Samantha Goodman Wednesday, 17 June 2015 Posted in 2015, Federal Update


By: Samantha Goodman, CFYJ Fellow
Last week, Congressmember Karen Bass (D-CA) led a briefing in the U.S. House of Representatives with a focus on improving the juvenile justice system for incarcerated girls. Panelists from across the country included: Members of Congress, Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) and Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Hon. Patricia Martin (Ill.), Hon. Donna Groman (CA), Hon. Joan Byer (KY), Sonya Brown (Boys Town’s Care Coordination Program, Esché Jackson (Anti-Recidivism Coalition), and Haley Caesar (Pace Center for Girls). The advocates on the briefing called for better strategies regarding representation as well as more holistic ways to view girls victimized by trauma.
Rep. Scott , the ranking member of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, began the hearing by articulating the need to take a proactive approach to crime and stop waiting for,  “people to get off track.”
Esché Jackson, who now serves as the co-chair for the Anti-Recidivism Coalition Member Board, grew up in south Los Angeles traumatized by domestic issues and involved with gang violence and illegal substances. At 15, she was facing murder charges.
“At the time of my incarceration, I had a lot of deep-rooted issues. I was crying out for help and no one seemed curious about my story,” Jackson explained.
Another panelist, Haley Marie Caesar, described how physical abuse from her mother sent her over the edge. At age 12, when she fought back and defended herself, Caesar was charged with Domestic Aggravated Battery. Caesar expressed the need for judges and lawyers to ask questions and try to understand where the anger and violence stems from.
“I was just a case number, and no one asked about who I was,” she said.
Judge Byer, Circuit Court Judge in the Family Division of Jefferson County, Kentucky, stressed tha,t “If I had only known,” is not an adequate excuse. Unless judges stop and ask why an action occurred, “they are letting down the community.”
Judge Martin, the Presiding Judge in the Child Protection Division of the Circuit Court of Cook County, urged all of the people dealing with a particular child to communicate and collaborate. Martin reaffirmed Byer’s belief that judges need to have a baseline knowledge of all the disciplines affecting children in order to make the best decisions for their futures. This includes everything from trauma, adolescent health, neglect, substance abuse, etc.
“Let’s make certain that their lives are what they want. It is my responsibility to let them shine their stars” , said Martin.
Rep. Lee, the ranking member for the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security and Investigations, emphasized her hope, “to breathe life into the criminal justice system”, and called our current efforts, “unfair and unjust as they particularly relate to our young people.”
She spoke of recent events in McKinney, TX, where a police officer threw a 15-year-old bikini-clad girl to the ground and drew his gun on other teenagers. She believes the 114th Congress is the session when juvenile justice reform will take place.
Rep. Bass closed the hearing with words of hope, explaining the bipartisan nature of this issue, “the best policy is done when the people involved are a part of the decision-making.”

Raising Awareness for LGBTQ Youth in the Juvenile Justice System

Monday, 01 June 2015 Posted in 2015, Across the Country

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Resources and legislation that help and protect LGBTQ youth, a marginalized and vulnerable group within the juvenile justice system, are lacking. June is dedicated to raising awareness of the unique challenges that LGBTQ youth face in the system and the path forward to creating reform.

Research conducted by The Equity Project has shown that LGBTQ youths are more likely to confront certain barriers and environmental risk factors connected to their sexual orientations and gender identities. For example, compared with their heterosexual classmates and peers, LGBTQ youths are more likely to experience bullying at school   more likely to experience rejection or victimization perpetrated by their parents/caregivers (often resulting in youths’ running away from home)   more likely to face homelessness   twice as likely to be arrested and detained for status offenses and other nonviolent offenses, and at higher risk for illicit drug use. Available research has estimated that LGBT youths represent 5 percent to 7 percent of the nation’s overall youth population, but they compose 13 percent to 15 percent of those currently in the juvenile justice system.  Schools, law enforcement officers, district attorneys, judges, and juvenile defenders are ill equipped to deal with the challenges that these young people face. As a result, the system often exacerbates previous damage by unfairly criminalizing LGBTQ youth—imposing harsh school sanctions, labeling them as sex offenders, or detaining them for minor offenses, in addition to subjecting them to discriminatory and harmful treatment that deprives them of their basic civil rights.

The Equity Project, guided by experts on juvenile court processing and LGBTQ youth in the justice system, released Hidden Injustice; Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Youth in Juvenile Courts (Fall 2009) to help inform justice professionals about the experiences of LGBT youth in the juvenile justice system. Many of the issues that affect all youth in the justice system — incarceration for misdemeanors, increased time in detention, and disparate impact on minority youth just to name a few—are augmented for LGBTQ youth. The report also identifies key issues specific to LGBTQ youth and makes recommendations for juvenile justice professionals to implement moving forward.

Please join CFYJ this June in learning more about this issue and raising awareness for reform. Follow the Equity Project on Twitter and Facebook.

Request NJPC's new data brief, entitled "The Incarceration of Children & Youth in New Jersey's Adult Prison System

Tuesday, 26 May 2015 Posted in 2015, Across the Country

Youth Suffer Long Term Solitary Confinement, Gross Racial & Ethnic Disparities, Justice by Geography, and Lack of Due Process

A local study by the New Jersey Parents's Caucus (NJPC) of 472 children and youth, ages 14 to 17, who were waived, sentenced and incarcerated in New Jersey's adult prison system between 2007 - 2015, showed:

  • Justice by geography: Rates of incarceration in the adult prison system vary significantly across counties in New Jersey, suggesting that justice depends on where one lives, not on the facts of a given case.
  • Youth are regularly deprived of due process: Approximately 30% of the 472 youth waived to adult court during the study period spent more than 2 years incarcerated, between their arrest date and their sentencing date, violating their right to a speedy trial.
  • Youth are regularly put in solitary confinement - especially youth with mental health disorders: Although solitary confinement is known to be psychologically damaging, especially to children, 53% of these youth spent a total of approximately 15,359 days (42 years) in solitary confinement between 2010 and 2015; 5 percent spend over a year there, and about 4 percent spent 2 years or more in solitary.  Nearly 70 percent of those placed in solitary had a mental health disorder, with nearly 37% having two or more diagnoses.
  • Youth suffer abuse while in adult prison: once incarcerated in an adult prison, one in four youth surveyed reported physical abuse; 5% reported sexual abuse.

These disturbing statistics appear in NJPC's new data brief, entitled "The Incarceration of Children & Youth in New Jersey's Adult Prison System: New Jersey Youth Justice Initiative ." The brief is comprised of comprehensive state data which NJPC gathered from the New Jersey Department of Corrections (NJ DOC) on 472 children incarcerated in the adult prison system. The data largely covers the period 2007 - 2015, though some information gathered dates back to 2003. In addition to the data retrieved from the NJ Department of Corrections, NJPC has compiled additional data from a subset of the same population (120 youth) by means of a survey provided to incarcerated youth and their parents, caregivers and family members

"These data show how broken our system is," said Kathy Wright, executive director of the NJPC, a parent of a justice-involved youth, and a fellow in the National Juvenile Justice Network's Youth Justice Leadership Institute. "We should not be sending youth to the adult system, where their rights are violated, they are unsafe, and their mental health needs go unmet. New Jersey's juvenile justice system was created because as a society, we realized our children, due to their age, can be rehabilitated, and they should be given the opportunity to do so.

Results from the data brief highlight a myriad of injustices that continue to plague New Jersey's justice system. Most blatant are the gross racial and ethnic disparities that exist in justice system. Youth of color are disproportionately represented among those waived to the adult prison system in New Jersey, making up approximately 90% of youth included in NJPC's data set; 72% are African American males, exceeding all other ethnic groups and genders. Furthermore, rates of youth incarceration in the adult prison system vary significantly across counties in New Jersey, suggesting that justice depends on where one lives, not on the facts of a given case. For example, in Camden County, 14 to 17 year olds make up 5.8% of the population of children between the ages of 0-17, but make up 15.3% of our data set between 2007 and 2015. In comparison, in Hunterdon County, where youth 14 to 17 make up 6.3% of the population of children between the ages of 0-17, exactly 0% were incarcerated in the adult system between 2007 and 2015.

Once incarcerated, children and youth are frequently subject to long-term solitary confinement, even though solitary confinement is known to be psychologically damaging, especially to children. Worse, one in four youth surveyed reported physical abuse, and 5% reported sexual abuse. Finally, and most disturbingly, the needs of New Jersey youth are not being met in their communities. Almost three out of four (71%) of youth waived to the adult system were known to at least two child-serving agencies prior to their involvement in adult court, with the majority having been involved in the mental health system. Of those youth, more than two out of three children have two or more mental health diagnoses.

According to Wright, "Given the large number of New Jersey youth involved in multiple child-serving systems prior to their incarceration in the adult system, this data brief serves as a call to action for state officials, child-serving systems, community-based organizations, legislators, and other interested stakeholders throughout the state of New Jersey to revisit the way in which we view and provide services to all children and youth, regardless of their race, ethnicity or geographical location, and the way in which services are provided to them and their families.Somehow, we have lost our way. The institution of racism has reared its ugly head and we are funneling kids of color who need our help into the juvenile justice system where, unlike the schoolhouse, there is no eject button, and they cannot say no."

NJPC's The Incarceration of Children & Youth in New Jersey's Adult Prison System: New Jersey Youth Justice Initiative  was recently posted on the National Center for Mental Health and Juvenile Justice (NCMHJJ) on their homepage and the National Black Disability Coalition.  The data brief is also available for download on the New Jersey Parents' Caucus website at at http://www.newjerseyparentscaucus.org.  

A Call to Action: Dear Governors, Protect Our Children from Rape in Adult Jails and Prison Today. There's No Excuse.

Carmen Daugherty Friday, 15 May 2015 Posted in 2015, Across the Country


Last year, Gov. Rick Perry, refused to complete a process to bring Texas into full compliance with the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA), saying it would result in unfunded mandates for local sheriffs and a reduction in prison guards. The actual gap between where Texas is and where it needs to be is relatively small, but the problems that remaining noncompliant will create for the state- including increased possibility for litigation and a loss of federal grant money - could be substantial.

Gov. Perry is just one example, in one state that magnifies a larger problem.

Over a decade ago, the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously approved PREA, a bill designed to end sexual violence behind bars. The passage of PREA was a bipartisan effort, signed into law by President George W. Bush, also a former governor of Texas.  U.S. Department of Justice officials worked tirelessly to write and issue regulations in 2012 to implement PREA through several comment periods.  

Now is the time to ensure that all states are in compliance and the U.S. Attorney General and the nation's governors need to devote their attention to enforcing this law. Today, Governors from across the country will once again provide information to the Department of Justice as to whether the state will be in compliance, or continue working towards full compliance.

What's at stake if PREA is not enforced? 

For starters, the safety and well-being of the approximate 100,000 children placed in adult jails and prisons every year.  

These children include Ameen, incarcerated in adult prison as a teen, who wrote CFYJ a letter stating that he witnessed a 14 year old being sexually assaulted by three other inmates, and Antonio, sent to adult prison at age 17, who wrote to us about his experiences stating that, "I came to prison so young; sexual advances were made toward me. I had to defend myself the best way I knew how, which was to fight."  And these children include Rodney Hulin, sent to adult prison at 16, repeatedly raped and died by suicide. Unfortunately these stories are more common than we recognize and youth are 36 more times more likely to commit suicide in an adult jail than in a juvenile detention facility.

To protect children, the PREA regulations include the Youthful Inmate Standard that bans the housing of youth with adults, prohibits contact between youth and adults in common areas, and ensures youth are constantly supervised by staff.  At the same time, the regulations limit the use of solitary confinement in complying with this standard. Enforcement of the Youthful Inmate Standard is just the baseline for safety, and we need to encourage our jurisdictions to go further to ensure that no child is victimized in a detention facility.

Governors and local officials should implement the best practices to fully protect youth in the justice system.  Best practices include removing youth from adult jails and prisons, and instead placing them in juvenile detention and correctional facilities where they are more likely to receive developmentally appropriate services, educational programming and support by trained staff. 

States that need assistance should consult other states that have already adopted policies to keep children out of adult jails or prisons, such as Colorado, Indiana, and Virginia.  States can also seek federal technical assistance through the U.S. Department of Justice sponsored centers such as the National PREA Resource Center and the National Center for Youth in Custody and apply for federal grants from the federal Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA).

Thousands of individuals and organizations in nearly every state have called on the U.S. Attorney General and the nation's governors to ensure that children are protected from the dangers of adult jails and prisons through the PREA. 

Since PREA was passed, an estimated one million children have cycled through adult jails and prisons.  Unfortunately, the PREA came too late to impact these childrens' safety and well-being. Now is the time for the U.S. Attorney General and the nation's governors to fully implement this law and protect our children.

Raise the Age Leads to PREA Compliance in Texas

Elizabeth Henneke Thursday, 14 May 2015 Posted in 2015, Across the Country


This Friday, May 15, governors across the country will once again certify that their states are following the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) and protecting people in prison from sexual abuse.

In Texas, this issue has sharply divided the corrections community.  On March 28, 2014, then Governor Rick Perry announced that Texas would not comply with the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA).  Since that time, Texas sheriffs — custodians over the thousands of Texans housed in local county jails — have made clear that Governor Perry’s statements did not reflect their own views on PREA.  The vast majority of Texas Sheriffs have made clear that they intend to comply fully with PREA standards because these standards reflect best practices for keeping those in their care safe.  These Sheriffs have asked the Texas Legislature to help them comply by raising the age of juvenile jurisdiction from 17 to 18. 

Among other things, PREA requires all offenders under 18 to be housed separately from adults in correctional facilities.[1]   Research has shown that adult correctional facilities are a breeding ground for violence and abuse.  Youth are over eight times as likely to have a substantiated incident of sexual violence while in state prisons than adults in these same facilities.[2]  Moreover, 17-year-olds who are held in adult correctional facilities are subject to isolation, which poses a severe danger to their mental and physical health.[3]  Because PREA defines a “youthful inmate” as anyone under the age 18, 17-year-olds MUST be kept “sight and sound” separated from the rest of the adult population.  Unfortunately, county jails (where the majority of youth are held) are not equipped to segregate 17-year-olds without isolating them.[4]

This Youthful Inmate Standard (examined more fully below) has greatly impacted adult county jails, forcing them to expend extra costs to comply, and leaving many counties unable to comply due to architectural constraints.  For example, Dallas County spends approximately $79,850 per week to separate 17-year-olds from adults.[5]  Harris County has had to evacuate entire floors to move one or two 17-year-olds to the shower.[6]  Smaller counties are logistically unable to provide “sight and sound” separation and/or avoid placing youth in insolation without retrofitting facilities at tremendous expense.[7]  Simply put, Texas county jails cannot continue housing 17-year-olds with adult inmates or in isolation cells without financial cost and/or liability risk. 

Yet another county concern is lawsuits: PREA exposes counties to increased civil liability,[8] with the potential for substantial litigation costs.  While the Department of Justice maintains that “[t]he standards are not intended to define the contours of constitutionally required conditions of confinement,”[9] it is highly likely that the PREA standards will inform future civil litigation surrounding prison conditions.  In Farmer v. Brennan, the United State Supreme Court set forth the standard for determining if prison conditions violated the Eighth Amendment.[10]  The two-part test adopted by the Supreme Court required the plaintiff to prove (1) that the conditions were cruel and (2) that the government was deliberately indifferent to the conditions facing the inmate.  Prior to PREA, this second prong—deliberate indifference—narrowed the class of claims that litigants were able to bring, because it is extremely difficult to prove that a government entity was deliberately indifferent to the conditions facing inmates. 

PREA has the potential, however, to change the way this litigation proceeds in the future by providing national standards—supported by extensive evidence-based research, correctional administrator input, public commentary, and other documentation—that suggest what governments must do to provide safe environments for inmates.  Thus, failure to follow these PREA standards could be seen as prima facie evidence of deliberate indifference and may result in plaintiffs succeeding past the initial stages of litigation, substantially increasing litigation costs to facilities that fail to comply with PREA.  One ex-inmate of Travis County has sued, alleging that county and sheriffs’ officials displayed deliberate indifference to his safety by failing to comply with PREA; he is seeking $2 million in damages as compensation for the rape he sustained while in the Travis County jail.[11]

Because protecting and serving 17-year-olds in adult custody is a challenge for local jails, a risk to long-term public safety, and a burden on taxpayers, many Sheriffs have chosen to support “raising the age” of juvenile jurisdiction.

All eyes are now on the Texas Legislature, a bill authored by Chairman Harold Dutton of the House Juvenile Justice and Family Issues Committee winds its way through the Legislative process.  HB 1205 would raise the age of juvenile jurisdiction from 17 to 18. If the Legislature fails to act on this important bill, it will have left Texas youth in a vulnerable position, subjected local counties to threats of expensive litigation, and failed to recognize what every parent knows:  17 year olds are still children and should be treated as such. 

Elizabeth A. Henneke is the Policy Attorney at Texas Criminal Justice Coalition.


[1] Ibid.

[2] National Standards to Prevent, Detect, and Respond to Prison Rape, 77 Fed. Reg. 37106-01, 37128 (Jun.20, 2012)

(amending 28 C.F.R. pt II5); see also, Lacey Levitt, “The Comparative Risk of Mistreatment for Juveniles in Detention Facilities and State Prisons,” International Journal of Forensic Mental Health 9 (2010): 44-54, http://www.prearesourcecenter.org/sites/default/files/library/riskofjuvenilemistreatment.pdf (Youth in adult prisons are “five times more likely to report being sexually assaulted by other inmates than in a juvenile commitment facility.”).

[3]  Deitch, et al., "Conditions for Certified Juveniles,” 25-26.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Sheriffs Adrian Garcia, Christopher Kirk, and Lupe Valdez, “Sending 17-Year-Olds to Adult Jails Costly to Teens and Taxpayers, “Dallas Morning News, May 19, 2014, http://www.dallasnews.com/opinion/latest-columns/20140519-sending-17-year-olds-to-adult-jails-costly-to-teens-and-taxpayers.ece.

[6] Deitch, et al., "Conditions for Certified Juveniles,” 25.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Deitch, et al., "Conditions for Certified Juveniles,” 25-26.

[9] Ibid, 2.

[10] 511 U.S. 825 (1994).

[11] Farzad Mashhood, “Ex-Inmate Sues Over Travis County Jail Rape Claim,” Austin American-Statesman, March 14, 2014.

Maryland: Gov. Hogan Signs Bill Removing Youth From Adult Jails

Thursday, 14 May 2015 Posted in 2015, Campaigns


This week in Annapolis, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan signed House Bill 618 into law. With his signature, Hogan ended Maryland's practice of holding young people ages 14-17 who are automatically charged as adults in adult jails. Passage of the new law is a major victory for the statewide youth-led advocacy Just Kids Campaign, which is an initiative of the Baltimore nonprofit Community Law in Action (CLIA). 

In Maryland, young people between the ages of 14-17 are automatically charged as an adult if they are accused with one of 33 offenses. Many of these youth have the opportunity to ask for a transfer hearing to send their case from adult court to juvenile court. 

The law, which goes into effect on October 1, 2015, requires that the Maryland Department of Juvenile Services holds every transfer eligible juvenile automatically charged as an adult in juvenile detention centers and not adult jails while they await their transfer hearing. The law also outlines the exceptions to the policy. The exceptions are when a young person is released on bail, recognizance or other conditions of pretrial release, when there is no capacity at a Department of Juvenile Service Detention Center, or when a judge finds that detention in a secure juvenile facility would pose a risk to the child or others. 

In 2013, the Maryland Department of Juvenile Services implemented a policy of holding qualified Baltimore City juveniles who have been charged as adults in juvenile facilities, ending the practice of holding those youth in the city's adult pre-trial detention center. With the passage of House Bill 618 into law, this practice now becomes the policy statewide. 

Holding youth charged as adults in secure juvenile facilities across the state is important for many reasons. First, it ensures that juveniles will immediately receive mental health and educational services that are considered appropriate for such youth while they await trial. Youth held in adult jails are not required to receive these services. Second, it protects youth regardless of their geographic location.Each county jail treats youth charged as adults differently. The majority of youth are either held in solitary confinement or in the general population with adult inmates while they await trial. Third, it decreases the likelihood that a young person will return to the criminal justice system. Youth held in adult facilities are more likely to reoffend and reoffend more violently than those treated in juvenile facilities. Finally, it protects young people from harm. Studies show youth held in adult jails are at a higher risk of physical and mental harm from other inmates and guards.

Ninety-three percent (93%) of the pretrial population of youth charged as adults is male, and 80% is African American. Between 2012-2014, the largest population of juveniles charged as adults and held in detention were in Baltimore City, followed by the Central Region (Baltimore County, Howard County, Harford County, and Carroll County).

 "This is an important first step in removing youth from the adult criminal justice system," says Kara Aanenson, CLIA's Director of Advocacy. 

Community Law In Action (CLIA) cultivates the leadership skills of Baltimore City's youth to elevate the unique voice of young people to advocate for positive community change.  In addition to leading the Just Kids Campaign, CLIA runs the Law & Leadership Academies program in four Baltimore City public high schools. 

Just Kids Campaign is a statewide advocacy campaign working to change the way youth charged as adults are treated in the Maryland justice system though policy changes, community organizing and public education.  The mission of the Just Kids Partnership is to stop the automatic prosecution of Maryland juveniles as adults.  The campaign trains young people and families who have been directly impacted by the criminal justice system to become advocates for statewide systems change.  

Florida Must Protect Youth Behind Bars, Comply with PREA

By Tania Galloni Wednesday, 13 May 2015 Posted in 2015, Across the Country

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This week, governors across the country are facing an important deadline. They must let the Department of Justice know by Friday if their state is complying with the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA).

All eyes need to be on Florida Gov. Rick Scott.

His response will affect the group most vulnerable to sexual violence in prison – young people. More than 2,000 of the state’s prisoners are under 21. As of today, there are more than 400 youths age 18 and under in Florida’s adult jails and prisons.

Floridians are already familiar with media reports of violence and abuse of our adult prisoners. But youths in prison don’t always report sexual assault. When they do, they often report multiple incidents.

Unfortunately, the governor hasn’t shown federal officials whether the state is keeping youths safe in its prisons. He could even remain silent on Friday. Under PREA, governors can choose to not provide information to federal officials, but their state will face a financial penalty.

If Scott chooses this route, Floridians need to let him know that this is unacceptable. There is federal money available to help states comply with PREA, but Florida must assure officials the state will reach compliance. Reaching compliance may not be an easy task, but it must be done. There is no excuse for Florida not to take every step to protect youths from sexual assault in prison. 

Tania Galloni is the managing attorney for the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Florida office.

For more information and to join Florida reform efforts, please visit: http://noplaceforachild.com/

Please visit our blog this week for updates on PREA from around the country.

Additionally, here are some sample posts for social media, please share:


“There’s No Excuse” national week of action to end prison rape #ImplementPREA

Prison Rape Elimination Act was passed to end sexual abuse behind bars. Act now to #ImplementPREA

PROBLEM: Jails & prisons are not equipped to protect youth from dangers of adult facilities. SOLUTION: #ImplementPREA

PREA would help the more than 2 million people behind bars including the 100K youth in jails & prisons every day  #ImplementPREA

There's No Excuse! Protect Children from Rape in Adult Jails & Prisons. Take Action TODAY#ImplementPREA

Implementing PREA will save lives. Join our efforts to protect youth behind bars #ImplementPREA


On any given day, over 8,000 youth are confined in adult jails and prisons. Research shows that youth are not safe in adult facilities and are at the greatest risk of sexual victimization. Youth are 36X more likely to commit suicide in an adult jail than in a juvenile detention facility. Take Action during the “There’s No Excuse” #ImplementPREA.

Prison rape is no laughing matter: More than 2million people behind bars including the 100K youth in jails & prisons are at risk of sexual abuse every day. The Prison Rape Elimination Act was passed to end sexual abuse behind bars. Its time for Governors to ensure that PREA is implemented in every state. Learn more and take action #ImplementPREA

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