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2015

NEW REPORT: Closer to Home: An Analysis of the State and Local Impact of the Texas Juvenile Justice Reforms

Thursday, 29 January 2015 Posted in 2015, Research & Policy

Today, the Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center released a first-of-its-kind study regarding the results of Texas’ bipartisan effort to improve the state’s juvenile justice system.  The report, Closer to Home: An Analysis of the State and Local Impact of the Texas Juvenile Justice Reforms, provides empirical support for the fact that secure correctional facilities are ‘no place for kids’.

The CSG study, which draws on an unprecedented dataset in Texas – 1.3 million individual case records spanning eight years, assembled from three state agencies – demonstrates highly effective investments by Texas policy-makers in community-based supervision and programming.

CFYJ commends CSG for this comprehensive report.

"CFYJ applauds Texas policy makers, families, and advocates for their smart and effective response to youth crime. It is clear from the CSG report released today that states can reduce the inappropriate incarceration of youth while building safer communities,” said Marcy Mistrett, CFYJ’s CEO. “The finding that youth released from state-secure facilities are three times more likely to commit a felony than similar youth under community supervision, underscores the need to invest in developmentally appropriate, community-based responses for youth.  Texas could further their great impact by raising the age of juvenile court jurisdiction to 18 years, so that thousands more youth could benefit from what we know works."

Some of the reports findings include:

  • Youth incarcerated in state-run facilities are 21% more likely to be rearrested than youth who remain under supervision closer to home.
  • Youth released from state-secure facilities are three times more likely to commit a felony than youth under community supervision.
  • Recidivism rates for youth under community supervision have remained consistent across community-based interventions.
  • Texas has seen a dramatic decrease in the state-secure population, with a 65% reduction between 2007 and 2012, cutting hundreds of millions in state spending and reinvesting a large portion of those savings into county-administered juvenile probation departments. During the same time period, juvenile arrests declined by 33%, a 30-year low.
  • Texas has closed 9 juvenile correctional facilities, demonstrating it is possible to lock up fewer youth while achieving reductions in crime.
  • African American and Latino youth did benefit from the policy changes in Texas, but are still incarcerated at rates disproportionate to their Caucasian counterparts who commit the same offenses.

Please visit this link to download, Closer to Home: An Analysis of the State and Local Impact of the Texas Juvenile Justice.


 

SAMHSA and MacArthur Launch Initiative to Improve Policies and Programs for Justice-Involved Youth

Wednesday, 28 January 2015 Posted in 2015, Research & Policy

States seeking to develop or improve policies and practices that improve outcomes for justice-involved youth with behavioral health disorders are encouraged to apply to the 2015-16 Improving Diversion Policies and Programs for Justice-Involved Youth with Behavioral Health Disorders: An Integrated Policy Academy Action Network Initiative. Up to four states will be selected to participate in this opportunity, which has proven very successful for the 12 previous Policy Academy participants.

Created by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, this initiative seeks to help states learn about effective interventions and the latest research, and work on similar innovations in policy and practice in a cross-site effort.

Throughout the initiative, special attention will be devoted to the following:

  • Integrated responses to co-occurring mental and substance use disorders
  • Research-based screening and assessment
  • Evidence-based and promising-practice approaches
  • Disparity in treatment of youth of color within the juvenile justice system
  • The role of trauma in lives of youth in contact with the juvenile justice system
  • Deliberate coordination among youth-serving systems to improve outcomes for youth with behavioral disorders who are involved in the juvenile justice system

This initiative is made possible by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and will be coordinated by the National Center for Mental Health and Juvenile Justice at Policy Research Associates, Inc. and the Technical Assistance Collaborative, Inc. For more information or an application, please contact Karli Keator at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or click here

OP-ED: UN Calls Out US on Police Violence, Criminalization of Youth of Color

Tawakalitu Amusa Wednesday, 28 January 2015 Posted in 2015, Voices

The death of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teen fatally shot by police in Ferguson, Mo., has brought national attention to the serious and sometimes deadly interactions that youth of color often have with the police.

However, racial discrimination against youth isn’t limited to encounters with the police. These policing practices often result in youth being funneled into the criminal justice system. In the United States approximately 200,000 youth under 18 are tried as adults each year, and on any given day more than 6,000 youth are detained in adult jails and prisons. Due to the racial disparities at every stage in the process — from decisions about whom to stop through whom to prosecute as adults — the majority of the youth in the adult system are minorities.

These young people spend their formative years in adult jails and prisons that frequently place them at risk for sexual and physical violence. Locking youth away in adult facilities that do not address their developmental needs or capacity for change destroys their future.

A United Nations human rights body recently criticized the U.S. for the severity of police use of force against youth of color and its treatment of youth in the criminal justice system. The U.N. Committee Against Torture expressed concern in “Concluding Observations” over the “conditions of detention for juveniles, including their placement in adult jails and prisons” and recommended that the U.S. “resort more to alternatives to incarceration” for juveniles. The committee also emphasized the need to end practices that are particularly harmful to youth. It stated that the U.S. should abolish solitary confinement for juveniles, “ensure that juvenile detainees and prisoners under 18 are held separately from adults” and prohibit the use of stun guns on children.

The committee also expressed concern about “numerous reports of police brutality and excessive use of force by law enforcement officials, in particular against persons belonging to certain racial and ethnic groups.” It articulated “deep concern at the frequent and recurrent police shootings or fatal pursuits of unarmed black individuals.” It noted in particular reports of racial profiling and excessive use of force by the Chicago Police against African-American and Latino young people.

Other U.N. bodies have criticized the U.S. for racial profiling, discrimination in the justice system and laws and policies that allow or require youth under the age of 18 to be treated as adults in the criminal system. In August, the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) issued “Concluding Observations” expressing concern about racial disparities at all levels of the criminal and juvenile justice systems. CERD criticized the “disproportionate rate at which youth from racial and ethnic minorities are ... referred to the criminal justice system, prosecuted as adults, and incarcerated in adult prisons.”

It recommended that the U.S. address the racial disparities and “ensure that juveniles are not transferred to adult courts and are separated from adults during pretrial detention and after sentencing.” CERD also expressed concern about the “practice of profiling racial and ethnic minorities by law enforcement officials.” It emphasized concern over the high levels of brutality and excessive force used by law enforcement officers toward mostly “members of racial and ethnic minorities, including unarmed individuals.”

The Committee Against Torture and CERD criticism of the U.S. reflect important concerns about how racism affects the policing of communities and the treatment of youth of color within the criminal justice system. They also reflect the consensus of the international community that children in conflict with the law have the right to special protection because of their youth and their capacity for change. Subjecting youth to adult criminal punishments rather than providing age-appropriate rehabilitative programs during a crucial time in their development will have a lifelong detrimental impact.

The comments from these two U.N. committees recognize that we must do more to address racial discrimination and to protect youth of color. It is time the U.S. is held accountable for the actions of law enforcement officials and pushed to develop alternatives to the criminalization of youth. Hopefully, the recent international scrutiny can support advocates currently taking to the streets in solidarity to show that the lives and future of minority youth do matter.

Tawakalitu Amusa is a third-year law student in the International Women’s Human Rights Clinic at the City University of New York Law School. IWHR submitted a report to the U.N. Committee Against Torture with the Campaign For Youth Justice and other groups.

New York: It's Time to Raise the Age

Carmen Daugherty Thursday, 22 January 2015 Posted in 2015, Research & Policy

"Our juvenile justice laws are outdated. Under New York State law, 16-and 17-year-olds can be tried and charged as adults...It's not right; it's not fair. We must raise the age."

Governor Cuomo, State of the State Address, Jan. 8, 2014

In April 2014, Gov. Cuomo established the Commission on Youth, Public Safety, and Justice to develop a plan to raise the age of juvenile jurisdiction. The question was never "if" New York would raise the age, but "how". It was clear New York did not want to be the last state that automatically prosecutes 16 and 17 year olds in the adult system.

Finally, last Monday, on MLK Day, Governor Cuomo and the Commission on Youth, Public Safety and Justice released their recommendations on how to accomplish this feat. The Commission agreed that this was the right time to "raise the age" for several reasons including extensive research on adolescent brain development and the significant impact on adolescents when incarcerated in jails and prisons. Additionally, data showing higher suicide rates and higher recidivism, and the disproportionality of young men of color charged as adults strongly influenced the Commission to make the following recommendations:

1. Raising the age of adult criminal responsibility to 18: Juvenile jurisdiction should be expanded to include 16-year-olds in 2017 and 17-year-olds in 2018. This phase approach will allow for an initial infusion of the smaller population of 16-year-olds followed by full implementation. Youth charged with violent felonies will still originate in the criminal court.

2. Keeping youth out of adult jails and prisons: Prohibit confinement of any minor in an adult jail or prison and allow youth to remain in youth settings until age 21.

3. Diverting more cases before they reach the courts: Mandate diversion attempts for low-risk (per risk assessment) misdemeanor cases.

4. Establish family engagement specialists to facilitate diversion options: Support for family engagement specialists would strengthen capacity to engage youth and their families in targeted services and maximize the benefits.

5. Develop a continuum of effective community-based services at the local level to be used by probation: Community-based supervision provided to 16- and 17-year-olds should use evidence-based interventions individually tailored to reduce the risks and address the needs presented by the youth.

6. Create the capacity to seal one conviction from crimes committed under age 21: Allow for sealing after two years without a conviction for a misdemeanor conviction and five years for a felony conviction (excluding violent felonies, Class A felonies, homicides, and sex offenses).

In total, the Commission recommended 38 improvements to how youth are treated by New York's criminal justice system. The full report can be found here. These thoughtful recommendations should be uplifted, celebrated, and passed by the New York Assembly, quickly, and without debate. As the Commission and Governor have stated, the time is now, New York.

 

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