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Federal Update

New Report: Economic Costs of Youth Disadvantage, and High-Return Opportunities for Change

Thursday, 30 July 2015 Posted in 2015, Federal Update

A new report from the White House Council of Economic Advisers explores the barriers that disadvantaged youth face, particularly young men of color, and quantifies the enormous costs this poses to the U.S. economy. In particular, this report focuses on the significant disparities in education, exposure to the criminal justice system, and employment that persist between young men of color and other Americans.
 
The report highlights the economic costs of youth crime stating, "The average annual cost of incarceration for a single juvenile is over $100,000—far more costly than the sticker price of tuition at the most expensive college in the country or a year of intensive mentoring. This suggests that government expenditures on crime could be redirected toward higher-return investments that generate larger benefits for the wider economy."
 
Incarceration vs. Other Investments
 
Read the full report here

The EPA’s 2020 Environmental Justice Action Agenda: A Call to Protect Our Nation’s Youth from Hazardous Conditions While Incarcerated

Tuesday, 28 July 2015 Posted in 2015, Federal Update

By Nicholas Bookout, CFYJ Fellow
 
On July 14, 2015, The Human Rights Defense Center sent a letter to the EPA – endorsed by CFYJ – urging the agency to include the United States’ prisoner population in its 2020 Environmental Justice Action Agenda. Much to the excitement of criminal justice and environmental advocates, the following day an EPA staff person responded by saying that the Environmental Office will acknowledge this gap in EPA policy and include the prisoner population in its 2020 agenda. 
 
Per Executive Order 12898, government agencies are to, “Focus federal attention on the environmental and human health effects of federal actions on minority and low-income populations with the goal of achieving environmental protection for all communities.” As such, the EPA is currently drafting its Environmental Justice 2020 Action Agenda, which seeks to, “Make a visible difference in environmentally overburdened, underserved, and economically distressed communities.” 
 
With prison population being disproportionately both low-income and individuals of color, there is no question that the prisoner population comes from overburdened and economically distressed backgrounds. Furthermore, the 2.3 million yearly incarcerated Americans, 100,000 youth amongst them, are exceedingly exposed to harmful environmental conditions. The HDRC provides numerous examples of this environmental overburdening; these circumstances include prisoners facing close proximity to toxic waste, prolonged exposure to contaminated drinking water, and sickness resulting from exposure to coal ash. Thus, the prisoner population, by and large, faces harmful conditions of industrial pollution both prior to and during incarceration. 
 
However, as the HRDC letter articulates, the EPA does not currently take the prisoner population into account as it formulates this action agenda. Therefore, millions of Americans, and thousands of children, are continually exposed to hazardous environmental conditions. Luckily, with the EPA’s acknowledgement of this gap in policy, there will soon be an effort to remedy these injustices. 
 
Unfortunately, the United States still locks up thousands of children in the adult criminal justice system. In an effort to recognize another negative consequence of this practice, and to positively influence the conditions of confinement for adults and youth alike, the Campaign for Youth Justice wholly endorsed the HRDC’s letter. CFYJ is excited that the EPA will include the prisoner population in its 2020 Environmental Justice Action Agenda, taking a small yet important step towards justice for our nation’s youth. As such, we also hope that the United States government and American People, as supposed global leaders in the realm of Human Rights, will take note of yet another injustice in our nation’s criminal justice system, and work towards reform that will increasingly remove our nation’s youth from these harmful circumstances of imprisonment. 

NJJDC: Promoting Safe Communities; Recommendations to the Administration

Marcy Mistrett Wednesday, 01 July 2015 Posted in 2015, Federal Update

COVER
 
Today the National Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Coalition (NJJDPC) released, “Promoting Safe Communities; Recommendations to the Administration,” a bi-annual call to action for the federal government to use it’s leadership to end the inhumane practices used against youth in contact with the law. 
 
Despite significant reforms over the past decade to reduce youth incarceration and out-of-home placements, there are still far too many youth being locked up in our juvenile and criminal justice systems. Despite falling crime rates and a 45% decrease in youth arrests over the past decade, the United States still arrests more than 600,000 youth a year, the vast majority of whom could be more effectively treated in community-based settings.  Each year, we incarcerate 55,000 children in state prisons, most who are there for non-violent crimes.  An additional 250,000 youth are prosecuted in the adult criminal justice system annually; and on any given night more than 6,000 youth are held in adult jails and prisons.
 
With strong federal leadership, the pace of juvenile justice reforms can be accelerated.  Research over the past 25 years has increased our understanding of what works and how to best approach juvenile delinquency and system reform.  Many jurisdictions across the country are implementing promising reforms, and there is an increasingly clear path for moving toward community and evidence-based approaches to reducing adolescent crime. 
 
In its final 18 months in office, the Administration has the opportunity and responsibility to support effective systems of justice for our youth and should begin by focusing on the following five priority areas: Restore Federal Leadership in Juvenile Justice Policy; Support and Prioritize Prevention, Early Intervention, and 
Diversion Strategies; Ensure Safety and Fairness for Court-Involved Youth; Remove Youth from the Adult Criminal Justice System; Support Youth Reentry.
 
In a moment of  bi-partisan agreement that our juvenile and criminal justice systems are inhumane, ineffective and costly, it is time for the Administration to take action on behalf of our nation’s youth. 

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

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

Girls_and_JJ1.jpg

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.”

SUMMARY: Hearing on “Improving Accountability and Oversight of Juvenile Justice Grants" United States Senate Judiciary Committee – April 21, 2015

Marcy Mistrett Wednesday, 22 April 2015 Posted in 2015, Federal Update

act4jjSenator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) led a hearing of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday on the oversight and accountability of juvenile justice programs authorized by the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA). The Act, first passed forty years ago and last reauthorized in 2002, provides guidance and funding to states around building effective juvenile and criminal justice systems that protect kids and promote public safety.

The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), housed under the Department of Justice, was created by the Act to ensure states comply with the four core requirements of JJDPA: (1) the de-institutionalization of status offenders, (2) the removal of youth from adult jails, (3) the sight and sound separation of youth from adults while confined, and (4) addressing the disproportionate minority contact of youth involved in the juvenile justice system. As Mr. Grassley highlighted, “Congress designed [juvenile justice] grants to be earned each year—not to be handed out as entitlements.” The hearing explored whether the Justice Department was providing adequate oversight to the administration of this Act.

Witnesses at the hearing articulated the need for more transparency between the federal government and states, attention to updating regulations and guidance for the Act, and delays and inconsistencies in compliance auditing. Furthermore, witnesses testified to the importance of the JJDPA in protecting our youth, with some notable excerpts below:

“The power of this law is that it really helps kids,” noted Elissa Rumsey, Compliance Monitoring Coordinator at OJJDP and DOJ Whistleblower, DC.

“ We need a strong federal presence with adequate funding. Congress should proceed with a fortified reintroduction of JJDPA,” Professor Dean Hill Rivkin, Distinguished Professor, University of Tennessee College of Law, TN

“The time is ripe to re-authorize the JJDPA and in so doing make the changes necessary to improve the accountability and oversight of juvenile justice grants. I do not view this hearing as an obstacle to re-authorization, but an opportunity to improve upon a historic and strategic Act of Congress that has assisted states like mine to do the right thing for youth.” Judge Steven Teske, Chief Judge, Clayton County Juvenile Court, GA.

At the hearing, Senator Charles Grassley and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) both reaffirmed their commitment to reintroducing and passing a strengthened Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA). The Senators co-sponsored S. 2999 to reauthorize JJDPA in December, 2014. The bill strengthened the core protections and accountability since the last reauthorization more than 13 years ago. 

To watch the hearing or read the testimony, go to the U.S, Senate Judiciary Committee website.

“Sixth Amendment Right to… Detention?”

Najja Quail, CFYJ Policy Intern Tuesday, 14 April 2015 Posted in 2015, Federal Update

By Najja Quail, CFYJ Intern

“Without counsel, an accused’s chances of regaining liberty are substantially prejudiced.” The Constitution Project recently hosted a luncheon to discuss its recent report on pretrial justice and the right to counsel at first judicial bail hearings. In its report, The Constitution Project highlighted the lack of constitutionally mandated counsel for indigent clients at pretrial hearings where bail is set, often at an amount that no indigent citizen could pay. The lack of representation at these hearings often results in indigent clients spending unnecessary time in jail, not because of an adjudication of guilt, but simply because they cannot afford bail. For youth, the negative impacts of this practice are even more detrimental.

More often than not, the result of the lack of counsel at preliminary hearings is detention. For youth charged as adults, this often means being detained in an adult jail. The Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) requires that youth in adult facilities be separated by sight and sound from the adult population. Too often this results in youth being placed in solitary confinement, a torturous practice, before any adjudication of guilt. The Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) does not require sight and sound separation for youth charged as adults, a loophole with equally devastating consequences.

In Rothgery v. Gillespie, Justice Souter asserted that “counsel’s advocacy at the initial appearance is essential to the fair administration of our system of justice.” The lack of counsel often results in youth being unnecessarily detained which places them at a grave disadvantage. As a country, we consistently recognize the vulnerability of youth and generally view them as a group requiring special protections. However, when it comes to our treatment of youth involved in the justice system, we seem to lose sight of the fragility of youth and often treat them harsher than adults. The loss of liberty is one of the most highly protected constitutional rights, a right that does not disappear simply because someone is accused of committing a crime.

To learn more about pretrial justice and judicial bail hearings, please contact The Constitution ProjectConstitution Project.

Promoting Safe Communities: NJJDPC Recommendations to 114th Congress (2015-2016)

Marcy Mistrett Tuesday, 10 March 2015 Posted in 2015, Federal Update

FINAL2 NJJDPC Recs to 114th Congress Page 01

Promoting Safe Communities is a comprehensive document of issues and recommendations for the 114th Congress to promote safe communities by investing in policies that are both effective and based on adolescent development research regarding at-risk youth and the juvenile justice system.  The document calls for leadership and investment in 5 key priority areas, including the restoration of federal leadership in juvenile justice policy; the support and prioritization of prevention, early intervention and diversion strategies; safety and fairness for court-involved youth; the removal of youth from the adult criminal justice system; and support for youth reentering their communities.

Click here to view the recommendations.  

CFYJ testifies on conditions of confinement for DC Youth in Jail

Najja Quail, CFYJ Intern Monday, 23 February 2015 Posted in 2015, Federal Update

by Najja Quail, CFYJ Intern

On February 19th, DC Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie (D – DC), Chairperson of the Committee on the Judiciary held a Performance Oversight Hearing for the Department of Corrections (DOC), the Office of Returning Citizens Affairs (ORCA), the Corrections Information Council (CIC), and the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services (DYRS). At the hearing, the Campaign for Youth Justice testified on the conditions of confinement for youth held in the Juvenile Unit of the Correctional Treatment Facility (CTF), the severe lack of programming for these youth, as well as the need for staff training on adolescent development. One of the top issues mentioned by Carmen Daugherty, Policy Director of the Campaign for Youth Justice, was the issue of solitary confinement and its harmful impact on youth. Daniel Okonkwo, Executive Director of DC Lawyers for Youth testified at the hearing on the inadequacy of adult facilities to provide the services that youth need for positive development. He highlighted a need for education, exercise, and pro-social interactions with positive role models. Okonkwo stated that passage of the Youth Offender Accountability and Rehabilitation Act (YOARA) would alleviate some of the concerns raised by advocates, families, and youth.

During questioning, Councilmember McDuffie raised some questions to Thomas Faust, the Director of the Department of Corrections, regarding some of the poignant issues and concerns regarding youth housed at CTF. Currently, according to Faust, 11 youth are confined in CTF. When questioned about solitary confinement, Faust responded that he “rejected” the term “solitary confinement” because what was actually occurring was an “administrative segregation.” Based on his response, “administrative segregation” means being in a cell for 23 hours a day for a maximum of 5 days, at which time a committee must review whether or not the youth held in this solitary confinement will remain “administratively segregated, ”or be released back to the general population. As the Campaign testified, studies have shown that this type of treatment, whether you call it “administrative segregation” or “solitary confinement,” is harmful to the mental, physical, and emotional health of developing youth.

Furthermore, Faust testified that he questions whether or not the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services’ facility is equipped to house the youth in the Juvenile Unit of the Correctional Treatment Facility due to the fact that some of the youth are “violent offenders.” He then testified that the youth housed in the Correctional Treatment Facility were less likely to act out and were given more privileges due to good behavior which would lead one to believe that maybe there’s more to be said about the “violent offenders” he deemed unsafe for housing in a youth facility. Studies have shown that youth can be rehabilitated, which is the basis for having a separate facility and judicial system for youth and Faust’s testimony on the good behavior of the youth housed in the Correctional Treatment Facility is evidence of this fact. It also further solidifies the need to educate DC Council on the ways youth are treated when they have contact with the law and how YOARA can strengthen public safety by providing much needed rehabilitative services to all youth.

CFYJ continues to monitor conditions of confinement at the CTF and plan on providing testimony at the upcoming DOC budget hearings scheduled for the spring. If interested in providing testimony, please contact Carmen Daugherty at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Leading Conservative, Progressive Groups Join Forces to Launch Nation’s Largest Coalition Aimed at Comprehensive Criminal Justice Reform

Monday, 23 February 2015 Posted in 2015, Federal Update

‘Coalition for Public Safety’ to Pursue Aggressive Effort to Reform System at Federal, State, Local Levels

coalition for public safetyWashington, D.C. – Today, a new coalition of the nation’s most prominent conservative and progressive organizations has formed to pursue an aggressive criminal justice reform effort. The Coalition for PublicSafety will be the largest national effort working to make our criminal justice system smarter, fairer, and more cost effective at the federal, state, and local level.Together, these organizations reach tens of millions of Americans seeking commonsense reform, and will work to build consensus around comprehensive efforts that are designed to address some of the most pressing issues facing the nation’s criminal justice system.

The Coalition’s partners include the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Americans for Tax Reform, the Center for American Progress, the Faith & Freedom Coalition, FreedomWorks, the Leadership Conference Education Fund, and Right on Crime.

The Coalition is being funded by individuals and foundations with a broad spectrum of interests, who have come together to jointly pursue broad criminal justice reform. Supporters include Laura and John Arnold, Koch Industries, Inc., the Ford Foundation, and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

Christine Leonard, former associate director of legislative affairs in the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy for the Obama administration and director of the Washington, D.C. office of the Vera Institute for Justice, will serve as the Coalition’s executive director.

“Our justice system needs reform. It’s simply too complicated, too big, and too expensive – and all Americans are picking up that tab,” said Christine Leonard, Executive Director of the Coalition. “We’ve brought together an amazing Coalition of prominent and diverse organizations from across the aisle to help solve the issues facing our criminal justice system. It’s inspirational to see such bipartisan support for reform, and I look forward to working with all of our partners.”

The Coalition for Public Safety will build consensus around the need for reform through educational events, national outreach, and media. The Coalition will work across the political spectrum to pursue a comprehensive set of federal, state, and local criminal justice reforms that will reduce jail and prison populations and associated costs, end the systemic problem of over-criminalization and over-incarceration – particularly of low-income communities and communities of color, ensure swift and fair outcomes for both the accused and the victims, and make communities safer by reducing recidivism and breaking down barriers faced by those returning home after detention or incarceration.

For more information on the Coalition, please visit www.coalitionforpublicsafety.org.

Criminal Justice Reform is a Bi-Partisan Effort

Kay Xiao Monday, 02 February 2015 Posted in 2015, Federal Update

The Advancing Criminal Justice Reform in 2015 briefing and panel discussion presented by the Constitution Project Right Left Justice Working Group covered a broad range of topics dealing with criminal justice reform. The panelists included David Keene, Opinion Editor, The Washington Times, Piper Kerman, advocate and author of the memoir, Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Woman's Prison, Pat Nolan, Director, Center for Criminal Justice Reform, American Conservative Union, Van Jones, President, Dream Corps Unlimited and CNN Contributor, and Mark Holden, Senior Vice President and General Counsel, Koch Industries, Inc. The congressional speakers were Senator Al Franken (D –MN), Senator Rob Portman (R – OH), Representative Danny K. Davis (D – IL) and Representative James Sensebrenner (R – WI).

The panelists and congressional speakers emphasized the need for bipartisan cooperation in supporting legislation like the Second Chance Act. Goals brought up in the discussion included data-tested methods to help former inmates integrate successfully into society and recidivism reduction. The rationales for these proposed changes were grounded in arguments that criminal justice reforms are economically beneficial, morally just and safer for the community at large.

The discussion also touched upon mental health within the criminal justice system, and the potential risks of not addressing mental health issues in prisons.



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