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CFYJ Submits Testimony to Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Solitary Confinement

Wednesday, 26 February 2014 Posted in 2014, Federal Update

By Aprill O. Turner

On Tuesday, Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL) held a second hearing on the use of solitary confinement in American prisons, jails and detention centers.

The hearing was held before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights, entitled "Reassessing Solitary Confinement II: The Human Rights, Fiscal, and Public Safety Consequences," examined the widespread use of solitary confinement  for federal, state, and local prisoners and detainees.

Leaders of the panel called on federal and state prison authorities to ban the use of solitary confinement for juveniles, pregnant women and the mentally ill as part of a national reassessment of the harshest method of incarceration. Citing the country's extensive use of solitary confinement since the 1980s, Durbin said the extreme conditions contribute to the gradual deterioration of prisoners' mental health. Durbin said more than half of prison suicides take place in solitary.

The United States now holds far more prisoners in solitary than any other nation. Researchers estimate that roughly 250,000 youth are prosecuted in the adult criminal justice system every year and on any given day, approximately 10,000 youth are held in adult jails and prisons. The policy of many jails and prisons to “protect” youth from these conditions is solitary confinement.  Many children who are placed in isolation experience harmful consequences, for some children this has meant death.

Youth are frequently locked down 23 hours a day in small cells with no natural light.  These conditions can cause anxiety, paranoia, and exacerbate existing mental disorders and put youth at risk of suicide.  In fact, youth housed in adult jails are 36 times more likely to commit suicide than are youth housed in juvenile detention facilities.

Among the speakers was Damon Thibodeaux, a former Louisiana death-row prisoner who spent 15 years in solitary confinement, for 23 hours a day, before being exonerated in 2012. His cell in a  jail was 8-by-10 feet with three solid white walls, a toilet, sink, a bed, desk, and chair. Thibodeaux says he had five total visits in his 15 years in solitary.

"I do not condone what those who have killed and committed other serious offenses have done, but I also don’t condone what we do to them when we put them in solitary for years on end and treat them as subhuman,"  said Thibodeaux.  “We are better than that. As a civilized society, we should be better than that.”

Rick Raemisch, Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Corrections also testified.  Raemisch spent more than 20 hours locked down in Colorado's administrative segregation unit and published an account of the "mind-numbing'' experience.

"This isn't a way to treat an American, we are failing in this area of our mission,'' he said.
Piper Kerman, the author of the memoir-turned-Netflix-hit,  Orange is the New Black, testified that though she never spent time in solitary confinement during her 13-month stint in federal prison, women behind bars describe it as a “prison within a prison.”

Prison staff, Kerman told the senators in attendance, could keep inmates in solitary confinement for as long as they wanted. Kerman offered the account of a female inmate who did spend time in solitary in her testimony. The woman, Kerman said, felt remorse for her crimes, but "most of all I felt sorry that there wasn't a rope to kill myself, because every day was worse than the last."

Other testimonies were given by: Charles E. Samuels, Jr., Federal Bureau of Prisons; The Honorable Craig DeRoche, Justice Fellowship; and Marc Levin, Center for Effective Justice Texas Public Policy Foundation.

The hearing explored developments since the 2012 hearing, and what more should be done to curb the overuse of solitary confinement while controlling costs, protecting human rights, and improving public safety.

To view this hearing, click here.

Written testimony from the Campaign for Youth Justice can be found here.

Statement from Sue Burrell, Youth Law Center, Staff Attorney

Statement from Grace Warren, Advocate for Juvenile and Adult Criminal Justic

Campaign for Youth Justice Seeks Applicants for its 2014 Summer Fellowship Program- Deadline March 31!

Wednesday, 19 February 2014 Posted in 2014, Voices

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The Campaign for Youth Justice (CFYJ), a national advocacy organization dedicated to ending the practice of trying, sentencing, and incarcerating youth under the age of 18 in the adult criminal justice system, is accepting applications for its 2014 Summer Fellowship Program.
The Summer 2014 Fellowship Application deadline is March 31, 2014.  The following fellowship opportunities are currently available for Summer 2014:
For additional information about CFYJ, please visit, here.

Advocates Discuss the Need to Improve the JJDPA and Stregthen the role of OJJDP

Carmen Daugherty Wednesday, 19 February 2014 Posted in 2014, Uncategorised


On February 13th and 14th, the Campaign for Youth Justice participated in a meeting of the “Committee on a Prioritized Plan to Implement a Developmental Approach in Juvenile Justice Reform” held at the National Academies of Sciences. CFYJ’s Policy Director, Carmen Daugherty, participated in an afternoon panel with fellow advocates from the National Juvenile Justice Network (NJJN) and Justice Policy Institute (JPI) to discuss the need to reauthorize, and appropriately fund, the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA). The panelists discussed the importance of the JJDPA and how it helps states leverage federal dollars towards innovative, evidence based programming and the need for the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) to be the leader in juvenile justice research.

To learn more about why JJDPA matters, visit here

To read coverage by the Juvenile Justice Exchange about this meeting, visit here.

Governors Must Certify PREA Compliance or Face Fiscal Penalties by May 2014

Carmen Daugherty Thursday, 13 February 2014 Posted in 2014, Uncategorised

On February 11th, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) issued a letter to state governors reminding them of their obligations under the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) and setting a strict deadline for governor certification of compliance. Per the PREA standards, states risk losing valuable federal dollars--such as the Bureau of Justice Assistance's Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Formula Program and the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention's (OJJDP) Act Formula Grant Program--if unable to provide DOJ with certification of compliance or assurance that money will be used to come into compliance.  

A governor's certification of full compliance, "shall apply to all facilities in the State under the operational control of the State's executive branch, including facilities operated by private entities on behalf of the State's executive branch." 28 C.F.R. § 115.501(b). By May 15th 2014, governors must provide DOJ with such a certification or provide DOJ with an assurance that the state will use no less than 5% of its federal grant dollars to come into the compliance "in the future."
While we applaud DOJ for setting a certification date, we wonder how many states will actually be able to certify compliance by May 2014. Although the PREA standards have been in effect since August 2012, it is unclear what progress has been made in the states since audits began in August 2013. We also wonder how long state governors can promise to use federal dollars to come into compliance without actually taking any substantive steps to keep corrections facility residents safe.
Considering that nearly 100,000 youth are held in adult jails and prisons each year, how long can we wait for full implementation of the Youthful Inmate Standard? Or are we to be satisfied to receive "assurances" from the state that "we're working on it" only to find ourselves back in the same spot we were in 10 years ago when PREA became the law of the land? 
As May 15, 2014 draws near, helps us encourage states to come into compliance by signing this petition urging your Governor to take action now.



Meeting of the Committee on a Prioritized Plan to Implement a Developmental Approach to Juvenile Justice Reform

Tuesday, 11 February 2014 Posted in 2014, Take Action Now

On February 13-14, the Committee on a Prioritized Plan to Implement a Developmental Approach to Juvenile Justice Reform, under the direction of the Committee on Law and Justice (CLAJ), will hold its second meeting where the committee anticipates discussing access to and the quality of counsel, the role of State Advisory Groups, family engagement, and racial and ethnic disparities. This meeting will also discuss the role of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) within the larger Office of Justice Programs at the U.S. Department of Justice, and the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act Reauthorization. CJJ Executive Director Marie Williams, J.D. will present on the role of State Advisory Groups on February 13.

Click here to RSVP. 

This committee is charged with assessing and prioritizing strategies and policies to effectively reform the juvenile justice system building on the recommendations from the 2013 report, Reforming Juvenile Justice: A Developmental Approach. The committee assesses OJJDP's activities and internal capacities to implement its legislative mandates on juvenile justice systems, policies, and practices; and, consults with experts and practitioners in the field of juvenile justice. The committee also examines existing literature in three areas:

  • Implementation science,
  • Cross-agency collaboration,
  • and Appropriate criteria for prioritization in the context of juvenile justice reform, including cost-benefit and cost-effectiveness analysis where applicable.

The meeting will take place at:

Keck Center of the National Academies
Room 100
500 5th St., NW
Washington, DC

Click here to learn more about the project.  

Baltimore: Youths in adult jail face higher risk, longer wait for trial

Friday, 07 February 2014 Posted in 2014, Across the Country

Recently ABC2 (Baltimore) explored the fine line between rehabilitation and punishment in Maryland:

For thousands of teens accused of crimes, punishment precedes any conviction in court. While awaiting trial and ostensibly presumed innocent, they can be held for months or even years in county jails for -- and sometimes with -- adult suspects.
Federal law aims to shield youths from extended detention and from physical or psychological abuse by adult inmates. But the protection does not apply to suspects 17 and younger sent to adult court to be tried for serious offenses such as assault, rape or murder. Youth advocates say this exemption amounts to a major loophole.

 Click here for the full story and video segment.

(ABC2 Baltimore)

SAMHSA and MacArthur Renew Commitment to Justice-Involved Youth with Behavioral Health Needs

Friday, 17 January 2014 Posted in 2014, Take Action Now

States seeking to develop or improve policies and practices that divert justice-involved youth with behavioral health disorders to appropriate community-based programs and services are encouraged to apply for a new Integrated Policy Academy initiative.

Up to five states will be selected to participate in this effort based on their commitment to improving policies and practices for these youth. Throughout the duration of the initiative, selected states will receive technical assistance to guide the establishment of sustainable models and strategies for diverting youth with behavioral health disorders as early as possible. This initiative will focus specifically on school-based and probation-intake diversion strategies, with special emphasis on:

The Campaign for Youth Justice Applauds Gov. Andrew Cuomo for his Support of ‘Raising the Age’ in New York State

Wednesday, 08 January 2014 Posted in 2014, Federal Update

Today Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) delivered his annual, ‘State of the State’ Address in which he announced his support to ‘Raise the Age’ of juvenile court jurisdiction in the state of New York.

The Campaign for Youth Justice (CFYJ) applauds Gov. Cuomo for addressing this issue and urging swift action movement on the measure this year:

From Courts to Communities: The Right Response to Truancy, Running Away, and Other Status Offenses

Monday, 23 December 2013 Posted in 2013, Research & Policy


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“Status offenses” can sound like a scary concept, but in reality, status offenses are simply behaviors that are prohibited because of an individual’s legal standing as a minor. They can be things like running away or skipping school, or under-age drinking. While these youth need help, the problem is that the court system is often not the most appropriate place for these cases to be handled.


Like most aspects of juvenile justice, it can be difficult to even know where to begin to stem the tide of these types of cases. Fortunately, a new paper from the released by the Status Offense Reform Center at the Vera Institute of Justice called “From Courts to Communities:  The Right Response to Truancy, Running Away, and Other Status Offenses” aims to increase understanding about what status offenses are and what possible solutions look like in the real world.


The good news is that there are alternatives that work – states like Florida, New York, Louisiana, and Washington have taken incredible steps forward. And they aren’t alone. Across the country, communities are implementing alternatives that involve diverting youth from courts, immediate responses to families in crisis, and other hallmarks of effective systems. 


Want to learn more? Check out “From Courts to Communities” today to learn more about status offenses and the strategies that are working around the country today to achieve better outcomes for youth!

Research and Support for Retaining Ohio Youth in the Juvenile Justice System Grows: New Report and Resolution Call on Ohio to Continue Efforts to Keep Youth Out of Adult Court

Thursday, 19 December 2013 Posted in 2013, Research & Policy

Columbus, OH – On December 17th, the Children’s Law Center, Inc. released an updated report on Ohio youth in the adult criminal justice system; this report updates the original Falling Through the Cracks report issued in May 2012.  The report covers developments on youth in adult court both nationally, including the U.S. Supreme Court holding in Miller v. Alabama that youth cannot be sentenced to mandatory life without parole, and in Ohio, where the legislature passed SB 337 to keep youth out of adult jails.

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