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2016

Alternatives to Youth Incarceration: New Report Calls for the End of Youth Prisons

By Jeree Thomas, CFYJ Policy Director Friday, 28 October 2016 Posted in 2016, Federal Update

By Jeree Thomas, CFYJ Policy Director

“We do not need these huge facilities because all they do is break us down.”  Da’Quon Beaver, a community organizer for the RISE for Youth Campaign, recounted his experience of incarceration in several of Virginia’s large youth prisons on a panel held at the Department of Justice on Friday, October 21st. 

The panel discussion was preceded by a presentation of a new report entitled, The Future of Youth Justice: A Community-Based Alternative to the Youth Prison Model.  The report was written in collaboration between the Harvard Kennedy School and the National Institute of Justice.  It documents not only the failure of the youth prison model, but several state campaigns around the country to replace the model with community-based programs and placements for youth. 

Guest Column: Redeemed Juveniles Like Me Are Not the Exceptions

Xavier McElrath Bay, Youth Justice Advocate, The Campaign for Fair Sentencing of Youth Thursday, 20 October 2016 Posted in 2016, Campaigns

By Xavier McElrath Bay, Youth Justice Advocate, The Campaign for Fair Sentencing of Youth

Today is special for me for several reasons.

For starters, I will have the honor of spending much of the day in a symposium at San Quentin State Prison in California. I especially look forward to sharing time with the members of KID C.A.T. (Creating Awareness Together), a group of individuals who were sentenced to life without parole when they were children. After years of incarceration, they created their own support group with a mission to organize acts of community service and goodwill.

During my first two visits to San Quentin earlier this year, I learned about the group’s past activities, which have included conducting food and hygiene product drives for the homeless, fundraising to sponsor youth involvement in community programs, raising awareness and money for cancer research, and folding hundreds of origami hearts for kids at Oakland’s Children’s Hospital. All these activities took place behind the walls of San Quentin and were facilitated by people once considered to be heartless, remorseless monsters as a result of the now-disproven “superpredator theory.”

 

Guest Column: Youth Justice Awareness Month: Transforming Awareness into Action

Jody Kent Lavy, Executive Director, The Campaign for Fair Sentencing of Youth Thursday, 20 October 2016 Posted in 2016, Campaigns

By Jody Kent Lavy, Executive Director of the Campaign for Fair Sentencing of Youth

October is Youth Justice Awareness Month — as proclaimed by President Obama — and we are celebrating and honoring all of the hard work of community leaders, advocates, coalition builders, legislative champions, judicial officials, defenders, and directly impacted individuals who seek to ensure that our country holds children accountable in age-appropriate ways that account for their experiences with trauma and their capacity to grow and change.

Our partners at the Campaign for Youth Justice started Youth Justice Awareness Month in 2008 to draw attention to the need to end the prosecution of youth in the adult criminal justice system. As awareness has grown, so have opportunities to create change, so the founders have decided to focus this year and in the future on transforming awareness into action. We are thrilled to join them in their efforts.

Guest Column: Words that Hide the Reality of the Juvenile Justice System

Laurie Spivey, MST Expert, Multisystemic Therapy Services Thursday, 20 October 2016 Posted in 2016

By Laurie Spivey, MST Expert, Multisystemic Therapy Services

A look behind the euphemisms that proliferate the system

Imagine that you are sitting in court with your teenage son or daughter. The judge orders your child to six months living in a “training school” to address the concerns of the court. What would you imagine that to be? Something like a military school or a boot camp? A cluster of cabins in the woods where kids do ropes courses and practice trust falls?

The truth is that most training schools are thinly veiled youth prisons. Commonly referred to as “secure placements,” they are actually cinder-block buildings behind barbed-wire where children wear orange jumpsuits, rubber shoes and handcuffs. They live in cellblocks and behind bars, get limited contact with their families and are at high risk of sexual and physical abuse. There is an intentional glazing over of the horrors within these facilities, under-reporting of crimes against young people behind bars and a number of creative euphemisms aimed at shielding us from the truth.

 

Support of Michigan's Bill Package to Raise the Age

Jeree Thomas, CFYJ Policy Director Monday, 17 October 2016 Posted in 2016

 

Senator Rick Jones, Committee Chair

Judiciary Committee

Michigan State Senate

P.O. Box 30036

Lansing, MI 48909-7536

Re: In Support of HB 4947- HB 4966 – “Youth in Prison” Bill Package

 

Dear Chairman Jones and Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee:

The Campaign for Youth Justice strongly supports HB 4947 through HB 4966.  This comprehensive bill package will protect youth by raising the age of juvenile court jurisdiction, funding developmentally-appropriate rehabilitative services, and prohibiting the placement of youth in adult facilities where they are vulnerable to physical, sexual, and emotional abuse.  We encourage all members of the Senate Judiciary Committee to vote in favor of these bills, so the full Senate may put Michigan one step closer to positive youth justice reform.

The Campaign for Youth Justice is a national non-profit that supports state efforts to reduce and eventually eliminate the need to prosecute, sentence, and incarcerate youth in the adult criminal justice system.   As a result, we have seen the powerful impact of policies that raise the age of juvenile court jurisdiction, limit the use of juvenile transfer to the adult court, remove youth from adult facilities, and ensure that youth in adult facilities are safe from physical, sexual, and mental abuse.   Since our founding 10 years ago, 30 states have passed legislation to reduce the prosecution, sentencing, and incarceration of youth in the adult system.

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

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

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

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

Chalking for Justice During Youth Justice ACTION Month

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

 

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

A Mother's Story: Transforming Tragedy into Action

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

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By Tracy McClard, Founder of FORJ Missouri

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

#JuviePodcast Youth Justice Awareness Month – Marcy Mistrett Interview

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

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

A summons to Action in spreading Awareness about juvenile justice!

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

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

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

Listen here.

NEW POLL: Floridians Share Thoughts on Criminal Justice Reform

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

 

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

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

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

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

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