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2015

The Hidden Costs of Incarceration in the Adult System

Nils Franco Tuesday, 29 September 2015 Posted in 2015, Research & Policy

Collateral consequences borne by community, family members, according to new report

By Nils Franco, CFYJ Intern

The Ella Baker Center for Human Rights this month published “Who Pays,” a report investigating the adult criminal justice system’s long-term effects on inmates, families, and society. The Center surveyed more than 700 former inmates and 300 family members in 14 states. This effort produces reliable data on the economic, social, and health-related burdens communities bear from incarceration, which bring “increased poverty, destabilized neighborhoods, and generations of trauma,” according to the report.

The findings demonstrate that adult sentences cost more than just the lost years of one individual’s incarceration. The costs of even a minor offense can add up in thousands of dollars of debt, mental health issues, and the specter of a permanent record. While the report surveys the general population of the adult prison system, many of its findings apply especially severely to juveniles.

The burden of judicial punishment, the report finds, is not carried by the offenders alone: their families lose a source of income, their families must find a way to pay off legal fees, and their families must pay to stay in contact with their incarcerated loved one. No family or individual is an island, however, and the economic setbacks can spread to the entire community.

Most tangible among the collateral consequences are the economic costs, which pile up measurably at every stage of the system. Over half of respondents said they could not afford conviction-related fees, which average $13,607 per inmate. While imprisoned, inmates’ basic needs must be paid for by family, at absurd costs. Under these financial pressures, one in five families faces eviction during a loved one’s incarceration because of housing unaffordability, and almost two in three struggle to afford other necessities. Economic strains continue after incarceration because of the stigma attached to a criminal record. 76 percent of former inmates found it “very difficult or nearly impossible” to get a job after prison, and less than half worked fulltime five years after release. Unpaid debts incurred during adult incarceration compound the effects of employment constraints, and 12 percent of former inmates are put back into prison for missing conviction-related debt payments.

Meanwhile, government aid that could lift men and women back onto their feet during re-entry is denied even to minor offenders. Past drug offenders are ineligible in most states for federal welfare programs, and local housing authorities can deny public housing to individuals with a record. One in 10 family members polled lost their public housing after a loved one with a record returned home. Unpaid criminal justice debts can also result in the denial of student loans, disability benefits, and Social Security.

Lasting incarceration-related health effects in adults detailed in the report are even more severe for youth, who are less emotionally developed and more likely to be victimized by adult prisoners. 66 percent of the general population of former inmates said their or their family’s health suffered from incarceration’s effects. Many reported pre-existing chronic health problems worsening, while high healthcare costs block inmates from getting needed treatment. Mental health in particular suffers from experiences related to incarceration, and PTSD and depression are linked to and exacerbated by those experiences.

With robust new data, the Center’s report powerfully underscores the ripple effects of incarceration. By locking up a young offender for even a few years, we destroy not just his or her economic and social opportunity, but in fact harm entire families and communities. Developmentally, childhood is a ripe moment for growth through opportunities, health, and second chances. The adult criminal justice system impairs all of these, and at high societal costs. Stripping juveniles of their lifetime earning potential and saddling their families with debt are undesirable outcomes of a criminal justice system. The Ella Baker Center report provides crucial insight into the collateral consequences of prison life, and understanding these post-incarceration stressors helps to explain why juveniles tried as adults have higher recidivism rates than juveniles tried in the appropriate system.

An executive summary of the report can be found here.

Written by Nils Franco, a policy and law intern with the Campaign for Youth Justice. Nils studies economics and public policy at American University.

Reauthorization of the JJDPA: Briefing Recap

Tomás Perez Friday, 18 September 2015 Posted in 2015, Federal Update

2nbdChris Bellamy, Assistant DA from Tennessee, speaking about the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act, “I support the JJDPA because I’m hard on crime.”

Yet, the JJDPA would be one of the last bills in the Senate which people would correlate with being “hard on crime”. Most would associate being hard on crime as using the most punitive approaches to responding to criminal behavior resulting in increased incarceration rates.

This is not the case with the JJDPA. The Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act aims to lower incarceration rates and spending, while offering protections for youth who are in the juvenile justice systems, without compromising safety of communities. However, to Bellamy’s point, this bill also uses evidenced-based practices that have shown to decrease crime rates and increased public safety. Some might refer to these tactics as being “smart on crime”.

This week, a briefing in the Russell Senate Office Building was held to discuss the bipartisan bill S. 1169, the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Reauthorization Act (JJDPA) of 2015. Senators from both sides of the aisle have cosponsored the bill, including Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI). Those in attendance ranged from advocates for youth in the system, to staffers of senators and others with ties to the juvenile justice system, who came to hear testimony from groups such as the Coalition for Juvenile Justice, the Justice Policy Institute, Boys Town, and Fight Crime: Invest in Kids. There were also speakers with ties to the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, and the District Attorney’s office of Tennessee’s 19th Judicial District. The panel talked about the JJDPA and how the reauthorization can improve upon current law.

There are four main components of the JJDPA, the deinstitutionalization of status offenders (DSO), adult jail/lockup removal for youth, sight and sound separation from adults, and addressing disproportionate minority contact to the system (DMC).

Marc Schindler, Executive Director of the Justice Policy Institute, spoke about the history of the JJDPA. “We know that when young people are held in adult facilities we get terrible outcomes” he said.

Research has shown that youth released from adult facilities are more likely to offend than youth released from the juvenile justice system. It has also shown the lack of educational opportunities and other resources that are not present in adult facilities, but are available in juvenile centers matter. We know that it is a “lose-lose” situation when youth are in adult facilities because they can’t be kept safe or distanced from adults without being isolated/confined which in turn has other harmful effects. And, we know that youth incarcerated in adult facilities are 36 times more likely to commit suicide than youth in juvenile facilities. Schindler was talking about all of this research and more.

All the speakers spoke about their expertise and experience with the juvenile justice system to support the JJDPA and its reauthorization. The Honorable Judge Deborah Schumacher spoke about the deinstitutionalization of status offenders. A status offense is an offense that is only considered illegal because of the age of the offender; such offences like truancy, running away from home, and breaking curfew. In the case of minors, such offenses are things like truancy, or breaking curfew. “Status offenses are no reason to incarcerate a child,” said Judge Schumacher, “more harm will come of incarcerating a child for a status offense than if we used a community based alternative."

Chief Richard Crate, a police chief from Enfield New Hampshire and member of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, spoke about the treatment of youth at the local level. He notes that the area where he has seen the most success has been in alternative programs for youth, some may know them as “diversion” or “restorative” youth courts or programs in which the state takes custody of the youth but “we don’t incarcerate them, we help them. We tell them, at least in New Hampshire, that everyone makes mistakes, and we’re not there to punish them.” The JJDPA will help to support these types of state efforts.

The JJDPA has positive, far--reaching effects on youth and communities all across the United States. Aeryn Van Eck was a youth who had been incarcerated, but they was placed in a non-secure, family like setting at Boys Town, an organization focused on fostering child rehabilitation and development into leaders and productive members of society. She spoke about the positive experience that alternative routes can have for youth who have offended. She notes that the JJDPA and initiatives like it were a big reason for her success.

With support for the bipartisan bill growing, there is a good chance it will be passed by the Senate this year. The law has worked in the past to lower the crime rates, lower incarceration rates, and lower spending on prisons, while investing in children successfully. The air in the room of the senate office building after the briefing was lively with chat of growing support from more senators, and a hopeful outlook for a renewed and improved JJDPA.

Written by Tomás Perez, intern with the Campaign for Youth Justice. Tomás is a senior, political science major at the University of California, Merced.

SAFE Justice Act: A Briefing Recap

Tomás Perez - Juvenile Justice Fellow Friday, 11 September 2015 Posted in 2015, Federal Update

Written by Tomás Perez - Juvenile Justice Fellow

Bernie KerikThis week, a briefing took place inside the Library of Congress to discuss the appropriately named house bill H.R. 2944, The Safe, Accountable, Fair, and Effective (SAFE) Justice Act. An audience of media representatives, congress members, interest group lobbyists, and other individuals invested and concerned with the criminal justice system packed the Members Room, awaiting the briefing from the panel of speakers. The panel consisted of a variety of point people on the issue ranging from former U.S. Attorney, Tim Heaphy, to a former federal prison inmate, to a victim’s rights advocate, to even the general counsel for Koch Industries, Inc. The primary congressional speakers were Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) and Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA), which added to the diverse and bipartisan representation of supporters at the briefing.

Van Jones, a CNN political contributor, started the briefing with a general overview of the SAFE Justice Act. If enacted into law, the bill, according to FAMM (Families Against Mandatory Minimums), would “reduce prison costs and populations, save money, reinvest savings into law enforcement needs (e.g., training, body cameras, blue alerts), and protect the public by using state-tested, evidence-based practices that are reducing crime”. The SAFE Justice Act seeks to end over-criminalization, and break the cycle of recidivism, or relapse of criminal behavior. It uses strategies that were implemented in 32 states (such as New York, Texas, Rhode Island, Wisconsin, Georgia, and South Carolina) where there was state-level reform that reduced both their crime and imprisonment rates over the past five years.

A Federal Prosecutor's Perspective

Former U.S. Attorney, Tim Heaphy spoke about his experience being a federal prosecutor for several years and his perspective on reform for the criminal justice system. He stated that he prosecuted people hard, and for the highest charges. The vast amount of cases he heard were drug related and non-violent he said. However, while he was a U.S. Attorney, he would prosecute on charges of conspiracy, which basically meant that although the defendant was not a direct perpetrator of whatever crime was committed, the fact that they were slightly affiliated with the direct perpetrator(s) and/or had a knowledge to the slightest degree of what possible crimes were being committed, it made them not only an accessory to the crime, but a conspirator by allowing it to happen. Heaphy would use this method to his fullest extent, until he later realized that the window of resources for prosecutors was diminishing because the spending on incarceration and prisons was increasing. This was to the point that prosecutors were left with minimal resources not only for themselves, but also for the prisoners. It was at this moment that he realized that there must be reform to balance out the budget for the justice department. The past 20 years has shown a dangerous trade off in which more money was being put into imprisoning people and less money going to federal assistance to state and local law enforcement, including resources for those convicted.

Federal Prison: Not Just for the "Worst of the Worst"

A notable panel speaker was Bernie Kerik, who had a unique set of perspectives on the issue by not only being a former NYPD officer, detective, and eventually commissioner, but also an ex-inmate of federal prison. Kerik was a leader in criminal justice as well as national security and crime and terrorist prevention. He was nominated by former president Bush to be head of Homeland Security, but withdrew his nomination after being investigated by the Bronx District Attorney’s Office. He pleaded guilty to two ethics violations, misdemeanors, in 2006, and then was indicted by a grand jury on charges of conspiracy, tax fraud, and making false statements in 2007 and served 4 years in federal prison. Kerik stated, “like many Americans, thought that federal prison was reserved for ‘the worst of the worst’ but I was wrong”. He stated that while he was there, he met many young adults who were first time offenders, and were charged with nonviolent crimes. There were many who were charged at the state level then turned over to federal prosecutors. It is not hard to imagine that some of these were juveniles charged as adults, and then somewhere along the line, were handed off to federal prosecutors or transferred to federal adult facilities due to overcrowding or lack of accountability.

We Cannot Incarcerate Our Way Out Of These Problems

Dionne Wilson, a victim’s rights advocate and survivor outreach coordinator for Californians for Safety and Justice, spoke on behalf of communities most impacted by the crime in America today. Wilson was married to a police officer and said that she, like many Americans, had an idea for what “justice” meant. Her husband was shot and killed in 2005, and like any person, she wanted the shooter to receive the fullest extent of punishment. Who could blame her? The courts agreed with her and sentenced a death penalty to the defendant. Yet, the verdict would not suffice, or give her any closure or peace of mind. After contemplating the issue for many years, she became an advocate for sentence reduction and prison reform to stop the cycle of crime in America not by being “hard on crime”, but by being smart on crime. “We cannot incarcerate our way out of these problems” she said, and with that she would be one of the most unlikely faces for incarceration-reduction and prison reform. She noted that she was very privileged to be in her position, as the wife of a police officer, many people would listen to her. But when she would speak to other victims of crime, such as the families and communities, she noticed not everyone was as well received. Now, she acts as a voice for the voiceless and advocates for prison reform that ends the cycle of violence, to really solve the root of the problem.

The Cycle of Incarcerations

Many other people from all backgrounds and expertise spoke to defend this bill, either from a moral standpoint, a fiscal standpoint, and a constitutional standpoint. The overarching support from the briefing was clear to be bipartisan, and diverse. The issue of mass incarceration is a pressing issue that has now demanded the attention and priority of the federal government on a scale of magnitude that the country has not seen before. PEW charitable trusts--who were also represented at the briefing--shared their research which has shown that prison spending grew twice as fast as all other justice department spending from 1980 to 2013. With the bill aiming to end the cycle of crime and incarceration, this could have a big impact on the youth of America as well. At the moment, youth tried and convicted as adults will often serve out their sentences into adulthood and in some cases, until death. This leaves them stuck if they are to assimilate back into society at the end of their sentence. Without proper resources for them, this leads to recidivism, and they will likely offend again. This is the cycle of incarceration and crime that the SAFE Justice Act is aiming to end. It is time for America to stop the cycle of incarceration not by being “hard on crime” but by being smart on crime.

Written by Tomás Perez, intern with the Campaign for Youth Justice. Tomás is a senior, political science major at the University of California, Merced. 

PREA’s 12th Birthday

Carmen Daugherty Friday, 11 September 2015 Posted in 2015, Across the Country

#ImplementPREAThis week marks the twelfth anniversary since Congress passed the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) to address the sexual assault and victimization in prisons, jails, lockups, and other detention facilities. Some could characterize PREA’s development as being in its adolescence. Thus, we exercise patience and understanding when the law and regulations aren’t panning out as neatly as Congress could have hoped. Yet, we wait, give rational excuses as to why PREA audits aren’t going as smoothly as anticipated, and hold our collective breath for the Department of Justice to “figure it out”. "Give it time to work", we hear, and we nod our heads in agreement. We recognize that such a massive law with its substantial regulations will take time to trickle down to the states in a way that we, as a nation, feel like the law is “working” and a decrease in rape and abuse in prisons will be well documented. We unwearyingly sit down with other advocates and policy makers to figure out how to strengthen the law. While urgency exists, we focus more on getting it right so another ten years doesn’t pass with the same results.

Ironically, or not to some, we do not exercise the same level of patience, consideration, or solution focused attitudes when it comes to youth involved in the criminal justice system. On any given day, nearly 6200 youth under 18 are sitting in adult jails and prisons. Some in solitary confinement for their own “protection” and some in general population because the crime they have committed automatically makes them an “adult”. All much too young to waste away behind bars; many first time, nonviolent offenders; and none receiving rehabilitative services proven to reduce recidivism and increase public safety.

Fortunately this group of inmates was not forgotten by The National Prison Rape Elimination Commission—a group of experts brought together to provide recommendations to the Department of Justice on creating PREA standards--that made strong recommendations on the removal of youth from the adult system. The Department of Justice took these recommendations in stride and stated “as a matter of policy, the Department supports strong limitations on the confinement of adults with juveniles.”  To advance this position, the PREA regulations include a “Youthful Inmate Standard” to protect youth in adult facilities. That standard provides that youthful inmates, which the standards define as “any person under the age of 18 who is under adult court supervision and incarcerated or detained in a prison or jail,” must be housed separately from adult inmates in a jail or prison, but may be managed together outside of a housing unit if supervised directly by staff.  While not a panacea, it certainly provides a sturdy floor for which states can stand and reach higher with the support from the federal government.

The ACLU and Human Rights Watch estimate 100,000 youth in jails and prisons each year which means a staggering 1.2 million youth have cycled through an adult facility since PREA’s enactment. The vast majority of states statutorily allows the housing of youth in adult jails and prisons. Most without the full protection of what PREA can offer.  Despite these grave figures, incremental progress is documented at the state level with twelve states (CO, ID, IN, ME, NV, HI, VA, PA, TX, OR, OH, MD) passing legislation limiting the states’ authority to house youth in adult jails and prisons in the last decade. Approximately one state a year since PREA's enactment. 

As states continue to work towards full PREA compliance, we should start seeing new policies and regulations that reflect the way states treat young offenders in their facilities.  Ideally, this will lead to the full removal of youth from adult jails and prisons to really see the success of PREA.  Indeed, several states have used the advances in brain research paired with the costs of PREA compliance and falling crime rates to argue for removing youth under 18 from criminal court jurisdiction altogether (e.g. Massachusetts and New Hampshire both raised the age of criminal responsibility to 18, in part to comply with PREA).  

Later this month, Campaign for Youth Justice will release a report that examines the ways that states regulate the housing of youth in adult prisons in the PREA-era. We combed through state statutes and state Department of Corrections' policies to see how youth under 18 are housed. The results are not surprising and reiterate how we punish youth who sometimes make terrible decisions; no second chances. As we recognize in so many other facets of society,  adolescence is a time of mistakes and lessons learned. And when it comes to policymakers, we recognize that the enactment of laws often times require a few years to see results so we exercise patience and have a willingness to tweak where beneficial to society. Shouldn't we do this for some of our most vulnerable youth as well?

Back To School

Marcy Mistrett Friday, 04 September 2015 Posted in 2015, Across the Country

It’s back to school time in the nation’s capitol and a buzz is in the air—traffic is picking up, parents are excited to get back to the routine of school days, and kids can’t wait to meet their new teachers and reconnect with old friends.  It’s a time for fresh starts and new beginnings—of opportunity to overcome academic challenges of the past and embrace the possibilities of the future.

However, children that we have charged as adults in the criminal justice system, don’t get to be part of this routine. While detained in adult jails—they receive little—if any-- formal education.   In adult prisons, these youth have been barred from receiving PELL grants since 1994, unlike youth in the juvenile justice system. We tell this to 100,000 children a year who spend months, years, and even decades, in adult jails and prisons.

Our country doesn’t educate children that we have prosecuted as adults because we have already told them their lives don’t matter. That they have lost the opportunity for a second chance.  That punishment for what they have done (or been accused of doing) is valued more than the opportunity to get services and turn their lives around. We tell them this despite polling that shows that 78% of the American public believes in second chances for youth, and favor rehabilitation over incarceration.  In the past year, we have sent this message to 10 year olds in Pennsylvania,  12 year olds in Wisconsin,  14 year olds in Mississippi,  and 15 year olds in Florida that are sitting idle in adult jails and prisons, “doing time”—but not mastering their times-tables.

We don’t educate them because we likely locked them out of their schools before we locked them up in adult facilities.  An estimated 65% of incarcerated children meet the criteria for a disability, three times higher than the general population according to the National Disability Rights Network.  Children with learning and emotional disabilities are more than twice as likely to receive an out of school suspension than those without disabilities. For disabled children of color, these numbers are even more disparate—1:4 boys and 1:5 girls of color with disabilities are suspended from school.

We also don’t educate them despite knowing that education while incarcerated is one of the most affordable ways to ensure that when they go home, they stay home. Yet, most youth are denied educational and rehabilitative services that are necessary for their stage in development when in adult facilities. A survey of adult facilities found that 40% of jails provided no educational services at all, only 11% provided special education services, and a mere 7% provided vocational training. This lack of education increases the difficulty that youth will have once they return to their communities.

On Capitol Hill and in the White House, policymakers are just starting to question these tactics with the (re) authorization of new laws and pilot programs that benefit incarcerated youth. Unfortunately, most have limited application to youth in adult facilities. For example: 

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) is up for reauthorization.  Title 1 Part D of ESEA addresses prevention and intervention programs for neglected, delinquent, or at-risk youth, requiring that schools facilitate the re-enrollment, re-entry and proper education for youth returning from juvenile justice system placements; that educational records and credits earned during placement in the juvenile justice system are transferred back to the youth’s community-based school; and that some of the  funds are allocated toward youth re-entry and re-enrollment into high quality educational settings.  These supports do not apply to youth returning from adult facilities.

The Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) is also up for reauthorization.  It has four core protections for incarcerated children including the removal of youth from adult jails, so they can receive developmentally appropriate services (including education).  Both the Senate Bill (S1169) and House Bill (HB2728) increase opportunities for incarcerated youth to transfer educational credits received while incarcerated back to their home high school.

Finally, the PELL grant program, which helps low income students pay for college does extend to youth incarcerated in juvenile facilities and adult jails. However, those in adult prisons have been barred from using PELL grants to pay for college credits since 1994.  Just this past July, the Obama Administration launched a pilot program, Second Chance Pell Pilot, in which incarcerated individuals who are eligible for release in the next five years can apply for PELL grants.

Education remains the great equalizer in our country in terms of long-term positive outcomes for children and families. Access to education should be a requirement for children who have come in contact with the law, to help them prepare for a successful future.  All children deserve the right to a quality education, even those we consider adults before their age determines them to be.

Pathways to Desistance Study: Longer Sentences for High-Risk Youth Do Not Increase Deterrence

By: Nicholas Bookout, CFYJ Fellow Monday, 24 August 2015 Posted in 2015, Research & Policy

By: Nicholas Bookout, CFYJ Fellow

In 2003, a longitudinal study, Pathways to Desistance, saw data collected for 7 jailpicyears on 1300 serious adolescent offenders from Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania and Maricopa County, Arizona. From this data, numerous criminology experts recently analyzed the data in an effort to learn more about deterrence – punishment as a threat to deter individuals from offending –   in high-risk adolescents.

This study contained multiple findings that have important juvenile justice implications. Most prominently, this study found that more severe punishments, such as correctional placement or longer lengths of placement, do not reduce arrests or offending in high-risk youth. In other words, severity of punishment has, as this study finds, no influence on deterring high-risk youth from later committing more crimes. Additionally, in a matched-pairs comparison of offenders (which controls for a variety of factors), this study found that when comparing those in placement to those given probation, there was not a deterrent effect.

Furthermore, the study found that many of the influences of punishment on risk-involved decision making are very individualized processes. Essentially, there is no formula or one set of policies that can prove to be most effective in deterring crime for large groups of individuals. As the writers of the study state, “This process does not operate in the same way for all offenders—policies that assume a ‘one size fits all’ approach will fail for some offenders.”

In a country where children are often given unnecessarily severe forms of punishment, including being tried and incarcerated as adults, this study makes it clear that increasingly punitive measures do not lead to increasingly decreased crime and recidivism. Accordingly, the authors of this study, “Advocate for shifting resources from prisons to areas that are related to offenders’ perceptions of risk.”

From this study it is clear that, more often than not, increasingly severe punishment for adolescents does not reduce crime. Therefore, it is no better for society – especially considering the astronomical costs of incarceration – to unnecessarily lock up our nation’s youth to, “Teach them a lesson.” Instead, we need to reform our juvenile justice system to take a more a rehabilitative approach to our nation’s youth. In doing so, we will not only save countless resources, but also countless lives.

Treating Youth as Youth: New Jersey Reforms How Kids are Waived to the Adult System

Jose Andres “Shea” Rosario - New Jersey Parents Caucus, Inc. Monday, 17 August 2015 Posted in 2015, Campaigns

By Jose Andres “Shea” Rosario - New Jersey Parents Caucus, Inc.

By raising the minimum waiver age, narrowing the offenses that a young person can be charged for as an adult, creating a reverse waiver procedure, establishing the presumption that a waived and convicted youth will serve his sentence in a juvenile facility, and creating other safeguards for youth in the justice system, New Jersey has taken a small, but important step in protecting our young people from the trauma of the adult criminal justice system. The bill, S2003, was proposed by Senator Pou and signed into law by Governor Christie on August 10.

Originally, youth arrested and charged in New Jersey could be waived into adult court using different criteria, depending on their age and circumstances of the offense. While the waiver age has only increased by one year, from 14 to 15, prosecutors now only have a limited list of offenses to waive. Prosecutors must also clearly state, in writing, the facts that support the waiver application. Courts can deny those waiver motions if they are clearly convinced that the prosecutor abused their discretion in considering waiver factors such as special education status, involvement in child welfare, mental health disorders, and the nature and circumstances of the alleged offense(s).

The list of offenses that a youth can be waived for has also been narrowed. No longer will a non-violent offense such as a computer crime be used to waive a 16-year-old. Adding more protection for youth, if they’re acquitted on their waived charge but convicted for something else, they will be sentenced in a juvenile court where they will only be subject to the penalties under the juvenile code. In addition, there is now the presumption that, unless good cause is shown, detention is to be served in a juvenile facility, as well as any sentencing up to age 21.

While not a true reverse waiver, it is now possible to have the youth’s case sent back to family court, which is a mechanism that unfortunately has not existed in the state. Not only will S2003 decrease the flow from juvenile to adult court, but it will also allow us the ability to reverse that flow. If there is consent from the prosecutor and defense, the court may send the case back to juvenile court if the interests of the public and the best interests of the youth require access to programs or procedures uniquely available to family court, and the interests of the public are no longer served by waiver. Ideally, consent from both parties should not be required, but a form of reverse waiver is absolutely better than no reverse waiver at all. This is another way that the law has created new safeguards for youth to avoid being tried and convicted in adult criminal court.

S2003 is not without its faults. For example, the waiver age is still too low. It sets a higher age limit for those disposed/sentenced to juvenile facilities, but it’s still relatively low given what we know about adolescent brain development. Prosecutors still have too much discretion and do not have to face a high standard of proof in regards to waivers. While some additional burdens have been added on the prosecutor, it still remains the duty of the youth to provide information on things such as their mental health history.

These new, complicated safeguards could be avoided by following other states which have eliminated their waiver system all-together. We need to be reminded that we are still dealing with children who are still in their formative years, who don’t always act out rationally, and who rely on adults to guide them into adulthood. Guiding them into prisons does more harm than good, to the youth, their families, their communities, and society-at-large.

2015 State Legislative Sessions: An Update on Nationwide Juvenile Justice Reforms to Protect Youth from the Adult Criminal Justice System

Nicholas Bookout, CFYJ Fellow and Carmen Daugherty, Policy Director Tuesday, 11 August 2015 Posted in 2015, Federal Update

Nicholas Bookout, CFYJ Fellow and Carmen Daugherty, Policy Director

With the JJDPA reauthorization making it out of the Senate Judiciary, along with President Obama’s recent speech at the NAACP and subsequent prison visit, there is no question that juvenile justice reform has both the American Public and federal policymakers’ attention. While these steps towards federal juvenile justice reform are very exciting, it is also very important to acknowledge the reforms taking place nationwide in state legislatures.

This legislative session, legislation to protect youth from the adult criminal justice system was introduced in the form of 35 bills in 19 different states. To summarize the results of these bills:

  • 7 bills that the CFYJ supports passed!
  • 3 bills are still active in legislative sessions (3 in California).
  • 18 bills that were introduced but the legislative session ended before they were passed or voted down.
  • 6 bills that we supported died (5 in Florida, 1 in New York).
  • 1 bill that we opposed died (Delaware).

Very few bills were introduced that ran contrary to the movement to protect youth from the adult system. One of these few bills was introduced in Delaware. Senate Bill 12 would have required adults who possess a firearm, and were convicted of a violent crime at age 16 or 17, to receive a mandatory minimum sentence. However, this bill died in committee, signaling a victory for youth justice.

Most Recent Victories!

House Bill 3718 is an enormous victory for Illinois. Before passage of the law, children under the age of 18 can be automatically transferred to adult courts. This practice has very negatively impacted communities of color, with 99 percent of the youth arrested and transferred to adult court in Cook County between 2010 and 2012 being children of color. 90 percent of these cases were then pled guilty – often resulting in adult incarceration. However, House Bill 3718 requires a juvenile judge to review this transfer to determine the proper court for the child, taking into account the age, background, and individual circumstances of the child. With the signature of this bill, countless children would be saved from unnecessarily harsh sentences, and the physical, mental, and sexual abuse that often comes with adult incarceration as a youth.

In New Jersey, the Governor recently signed Senate Bill 2003. This bill includes numerous provisions that drastically improve juvenile justice in New Jersey. First, this bill increases the minimum age at which a youth can be tried as an adult from 14 to 15. Second, it   limits the transfer and incarceration of youth under the age of 18, instead of the current lower limit of 16, to only those committing the most serious and violent of crimes. Third, this bill makes it more difficult for youth to be transferred to adult court, as prosecutors must submit written analysis on the reasons for the transfer, which is then granted only at the discretion of a judge. Finally, this bill tightens restrictions on the use of solitary confinement for youth. These reforms would signal a positive move towards justice for New Jersey youth, while also improving physical and mental well-being.

Other Important Victories

In Louisiana, House Resolution 73 requests the Institute on Public Health and Justice to study the issue of raising the age of juvenile jurisdiction to include seventeen-year olds. Hopefully the results of this study will yield further legislation to protect children in one of the tougher states for youth justice.

Previously, the state of Maryland authorized a district court exercising criminal jurisdiction over a juvenile to order a child be held in a juvenile facility. With the passage House Bill 618, the law now mandates that the district court, when exercising criminal jurisdiction, orders a child be held at a juvenile facility, except under a few specific circumstances (bail, no capacity, security risk). Additionally, if the district court withholds a transfer to a secure juvenile facility on the basis of the child posing a risk to his or her own safety or the safety of others, the court must state on the record the reasons for finding such a risk. Because of the recent drop in juvenile crime rates, the juvenile facilities have the ability to accommodate more children without significantly impacting their expenditures. Therefore, this bill will reduce the number of children held pre-trial in adult facilities, without imposing increasing costs on the state of Maryland.

Texas, a state surprisingly making positive strides in youth justice reform, passed two bills protecting youth. In Texas, a juvenile may be waived by a juvenile court to be tried as an adult in a criminal court. Previously, this transfer could not be appealed until after a juvenile had been convicted or deferred. With the passage of Senate Bill 888, a juvenile has the right to appeal a juvenile court order that waives exclusive jurisdiction before adjudication. This legislation also mandates that the Supreme Court take up standards to accelerate the disposition of these appeals by the appellate court or the Texas Supreme Court. These appeals may be taken by or on behalf of the child. With the post-adjudication appeal process often taking years to complete, this streamlined process increases the efficiency of appeals, potentially saving the state of Texas countless resources. Meanwhile, juveniles facing charges will encounter a more just process capable of adequately accounting for the differences between juveniles and adults.

The second bill, Senate Bill 1630, first aims to reduce the number of Texas youth held in TJJD (Texas Juvenile Justice Department) facilities, especially those far from their families and communities. To do so, they are expanding the scope of juvenile probation, with this probation serving as an alternative to incarceration for low and medium risk youth.   This bill will keep low and medium risk children in Texas closer to home, likely decreasing recidivism and providing specialized services for the needs of youth.

Finally, Utah also undertook positive youth justice reform. Previously, a Utah district court held jurisdiction over any 16 year old that committed any sort of felony. With Senate Bill 167, this jurisdiction is now limited to about ten violent felonies. In addition, when the state petitions to have a juvenile transferred to a district court under the premise of an allegation of one of these felonies, the juvenile judge may exercise judgment on the transfer. The judge can now take into consideration the interests of the minor, the ability of different facilities (both adult and juvenile) to provide rehabilitative services, and the course of action best suited to reduce the risk posed to the public. Lastly, with SB 167, juveniles may not be shackled or otherwise restrained when appearing in court. Consequently, this bill will reduce the number of youth in Utah unnecessarily tried as adults, while also providing for more humane treatment of children and safeguards to keep them out of adult facilities.

Finally, in California, there are multiple reforms taking place. The California District Court of Appeals recently upheld Proposition 47, the Reduced Penalties for Some Crimes Initiative, which was approved in November 2014. As a result, non-violent, non-serious crimes in California must now be classified as a misdemeanor instead of a felony. Consequently, those sentenced under previous guidelines may be re-sentenced. Such ruling allows thousands of youth previously sentenced to unusually harsh penalties to appeal these decisions and leave incarceration.

Furthermore, Senate Bill 382 passed the California Senate and Assembly, and simply awaits concurrence on amendments. If signed by the governor and enacted, this bill would allow judges to consider more comprehensive information when granting a transfer waiver. By doing so, judges will have a greater opportunity to consider the rehabilitative capacity of a youth before subjecting that individual to adult court, its more austere consequences, and potential incarceration.

The Campaign for Youth Justice is incredibly excited about the passage and progress of these bills. With each piece of legislation passed, countless youth in these states are in one form or another protected from the horrors of being incarcerated with adults as a child. More of the United States’ children are kept out of harm’s way, and given a better chance to be rehabilitated, in lieu of being subjected to inhumane punishment.

While it is encouraging to see these positive steps taken, and CFYJ commends these states and all involved for passing such legislation, there is still so much more to be done – in these states and across the nation. With a per day average of 6,000 of America’s youth spending time in adult jails or prisons, these reforms are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the need to protect our nation’s youth. Until this number is zero, we must keep fighting to have children be treated by America’s criminal justice system as just that – children. 

The Realities of the School to Prison Pipeline

Friday, 31 July 2015 Posted in 2015, CFYJ Updates

By Mette Huberts, CFYJ Fellow

As summer begins to wrap-up and the thoughts of another school year creep back into our minds, this week the CFYJ fellows focused on a different type of school experience at our last Summer Institute Event. Kaitlin Banner, a staff attorney in the Ending the Schoolhouse to Jailhouse Track program at the Advancement Project, was kind enough to share her experience and knowledge on the school-to-prison-pipeline with us. She not only explained the causes and consequences of policies that form the pipeline, but also talked openly about how we must go about reforming the issue.
 
The “school-to-prison-pipeline” is a buzz term used to emphasize how our education systems are indirectly pushing kids out of school and on a pathway to prison. Due to the combination of an excess of strict zero-tolerance policy laws and vague laws that lead to high disparity rates, students are being arrested for “crimes” such as scribbling on desks and hugging a friend. Over 3 million students each year receive an out-of-school suspension as punishment for such acts, with black children having a one in six chance of being suspended at least once. This overuse of out of school suspensions only exacerbates the problem, forcing kids to fall behind in school and become disengaged. One way to combat this overuse of suspension and expulsion, Banner informed us, is to create a longer, more intensive due process for students facing such punishments. This longer process is a heavier burden on the schools and therefore discourages them from immediately turning to suspension and expulsion where it may not be necessary. 
 
In addition, Banner explained that the more we allow our schools to feel like prisons, the more inclined students will be to act like criminals. Instead of implementing surveillance cameras, armed guards, and metal detectors, schools need to start talking to kids about their actions in a developmentally appropriate manor. Referring to things such as speaking back to a teacher as “disorderly conduct” and swiping headphones as “theft” only tells the child that they are a criminal rather than simply a teenager acting out. While of course these actions cannot be condoned, they must be addressed with consideration of age and situational factors. At the Advancement Project, one of the solutions Banner uses to fight the pipeline is to implement restorative justice practices in schools, encouraging a focus on adult to student and peer to peer relationships instead of punishment. This has proven much more successful than the harsh punishment on small acts of wrongdoing that schools have previously (and often still do) used. 
 
By identifying both the causes and consequences of the school-to-prison-pipeline, Banner helped us better understand the faults of the system and the pressing need for change. Through providing ideas and tactics of reform she inspired and encouraged us to be more consistently aware of the realities of the school-to-prison-pipeline and to call for reform. There are millions of lives at stake here, millions of children being unjustly treated and sent down the wrong path from their school, a place many of us instinctively deem safe. It is up to us to recognize and work to end the pipeline and to refocus our schools on education instead of punishment.  

Kids Count: Washington, D.C.’s Rate of Juvenile Incarceration the Highest in the Country

Thursday, 30 July 2015 Posted in 2015, Research & Policy

On Wednesday, July 29th, the Washington Post published an article “The states where children are most likely to be locked up, poor and hungry” discussing the well-being of children across the nation. This article utilized the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Kids Count report, a collection of statistics tracking the welfare of children on a state-by-state basis. 
 
Unfortunately, this article and report highlight a very sad figure: the District of Colombia has the highest rate of juvenile incarceration in the entire nation. With 618 out of every 100,000 children in D.C. incarcerated, this rate is more than twice that of every state in the nation, save three (Wyoming, South Dakota, Nebraska). 
 
While the JJDPA reauthorization, in the form of Senate Bill 1169, is seeing movement in the Senate with a voice vote out of the Judiciary Committee, the federal government alone cannot act to protect the youth in our nation’s capital. With about 1 out of every 150 children in DC incarcerated, the DC city council, with the help of the DC JOY Campaign, needs to act NOW to protect the children of DC and their futures. 
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