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Take Action to Protect Youth in Adult Facilities Using Our PREA Action Kit

Jeree Thomas Wednesday, 28 September 2016

PREA Week:

October 10 - 14, 2016

#ImplementPREA #EndPrisonRape #NoExcuses

CFYJ PREA orange 01

 

How can you help?

We need you to encourage your Governor to certify your state’s compliance with PREA by October 15th.   If your Governor can not certify, he or she should release a statement of what it will take for the state to certify compliance with PREA during the next audit cycle. In addition to working to eliminate sexual assault in prisons, PREA has a Youthful Inmate Standard to protect youth under 18 in adult facilities.

Take Action: Contact your Governor Today! Use our sample tweets to encourage your governor to certify PREA compliance on October 15th.

Sample Tweets

@GovernorX The Prison Rape Elimination Act was passed to end sexual abuse behind bars. Act now to #EndPrisonRape

@GovernorX Youth are 36x more likely to commit suicide in an adult jail than in a juvenile detention facility #ImplementPREA

@GovernorX 65% of Youth reported being victimized more than once in adult facilities #ImplementPREA

@Governor X Jails & prisons are not equipped on their own to protect youth from the dangers of adult facilities. #ImplementPREA 

 

@GovernorX PREA incentivizes states to detect, prevent & respond to sexual abuse in jails and prisons #ImplementPREA

 

@GovernorX No More Excuses! To protect youth from dangers of adult facilities we must #ImplementPREA TODAY! #youthjustice

Governor Twitter Handles
 

AL – Robert Bentley @GovernorBentley

AK – Bill Walker @AkGovBillWalker

AZ – Doug Ducey @dougducey

AR – Asa Hutchinson @AsaHutchinson

CA – Jerry Brown @JerryBrownGov

CO – John Hickenlooper @GovofCO

CT – Dannel Malloy @GovMalloyOffice

DE – Jack Markell @GovernorMarkell

DC – Muriel Bowser @MayorBowser

FL – Rick Scott @FLGovScott

GA – Nathan Deal @GovernorDeal

HI – David Ige @GovHawaii

ID – Butch Otter @ButchOtter

IL – Bruce Rauner  @GovRauner

IN – Mike Pence @GovPenceIN

IA – Terry Branstad @TerryBranstad

KS – Sam Brownback @govsambrownback

KY – Matt Bevin @GovMatBevin

LA – John Bel Edwards @LouisianaGov

ME – Paul LePage @Governor_LePage

MD – Larry Hogan @LarryHogan

MA – Charlie Baker @MassGovernor

MI – Rick Snyder @onetoughnerd

MN – Mark Dayton @GovMarkDayton

MS – Phil Bryant @PhilBryantMS

MO – Jay Nixon @GovJayNixon

MT – Steve Bullock @GovernorBullock

NE – Pete Ricketts @GovRicketts

NV – Brian Sandoval @GovSandoval

NH – Maggie Hassan @GovernorHassan

NJ – Chris Christie @GovChristie

NM – Susana Martinez @Gov_Martinez

NY – Andrew Cuomo @NYGovCuomo

NC – Pat McCrory  @PatMcCroryNC

ND– Jack Dalrymple   @NDGovDalrymple

OH – John Kasich @JohnKasich

OK – Mary Fallin  @GovMaryFallin

OR – Kate Brown @OregonGovBrown

PA – Tom Wolf @GovernorTomWolf

RI – Gina Raimondo  @GinaRaimondo

SC – Nikki Haley @nikkihaley

SD – Dennis Daugaard  @SDGovDaugaard

TN – Bill Haslam @BillHaslam

TX – Greg Abbott @GovAbbott

UT – Gary Herbert @GovHerbert

VT – Peter Shumlin  @GovPeterShumlin

VA – Terry McAuliffe @GovernorVA

WA – Jay Inslee @GovInslee

WV – Earl Ray Tomblin @GovTomblin

WI – Scott Walker @GovWalker

WY – Matt Mead   @GovMattMead

 

Take Action: Sign on here to the Campaign’s Petition to the National Sheriff’s Association to support the removal of youth from adult jails and lockups.

Take Action: Share your experience

In order to understand first hand and support recommendations for change, we need to hear about the experiences of those affected by the current system. If you or a member of your family has been impacted by juvenile and criminal justice policies, please tell us your story using our online toolkits, which can be accessed at http://campaignforyouthjustice.org/take-action/share-your-story-testimonials.These toolkits contain everything you need to effectively tell your story, including consent forms, writing tips and topics to address, and example stories

The Campaign for Youth Justice is also deeply committed to cultivating spokespersons to tell the world why children should not be treated the same as adults in the criminal justice system. If you are interested in learning more about CFYJ or interested in joining our Spokesperson Bureau you can email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call (202) 558-3580.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Get Ready for Girls Justice Day on October 4, 2016!

Jeree Thomas Wednesday, 28 September 2016

 

Girls Justice Day Action Kit

October 4, 2016
During National Youth Justice Action Month in October, the Campaign for Youth Justice wants to highlight the strength, resilience, and needs of girls who have had contact with the juvenile or adult justice systems.  For more information on the experiences that push girls into the system and what you can do to take action on behalf of girls, check out the tool kit below.

Reports:
The Sexual Abuse to Prison Pipeline: The Girls Story
OJJDP Policy Guidance: Girls in the Juvenile Justice System
Gender Injustice: System-Level Juvenile Justice Reforms for Girls
No Place for Youth: Girls in the Adult Justice System

Organizations:
Rights4Girls
The National Crittenton Foundation
National Resource Center for Justice Involved Women

OJJDP National Girls Initiative

Take Action: Share Information about Girls Justice Day with friends & family on social media!

 Sample Facebook Post:
National Institute of Corrections Report: 6 things the justice system can do to support justice-involved girls:
  1. Minimize harm to girls in the system
  2. Provide appropriate programming and services
  3. Use gender- and age-appropriate classification tools and risk and needs assessments
  4. Create opportunities for Relationship Building with Peers, Family Members, and Community Supports and Resources
  5. Provide Off Ramps Out of the System
  6. Listen to Girls
Learn more about supporting justice-involved girls! #GirlsJusticeDay http://bit.ly/1KKVhcv

Too many girls are behind bars because of the #AbusetoPrisonPipeline. Learn more about supporting justice-involved girls and what Girls Justice Day is all about! http://bit.ly/1fp0qfM

Tell Your Senator to Vote in Favor of the Reauthorized Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Bill: H.R. 5963.  H.R. 5963, the Supporting Youth Opportunity & Preventing Delinquency Act because it will provide greatly needed supports for justice-involved girls, such as:

  • Incentivizing states to create prevention programming for girls at-risk of entering the juvenile justice system;
  • Screening girls in the juvenile justice system for child sex trafficking and diverting them towards community-based programming wherever possible;
  • Ending the use of unnecessary restraints on pregnant and post-partum girls;
  • Encouraging states to limit the use of the Valid Court Order exception, which has led to the disproportionate detention of girls who commit non-violent offenses.

Sample Tweets

Keep girls safe and out of the adult justice system! #GirlsJusticeDay http://bit.ly/2dzsFLJ

Keep girls safe! Girls do not belong in adult facilities.  #GirlsJusticeDay http://bit.ly/2dzsFLJ

Girls should never be subject to the #AbuseToPrisonPipeline   #GirlsJusticeDay  http://bit.ly/1fp0qfM

Adult facilities are no place for girls #GirlsJusticeDay http://bit.ly/2dzsFLJ

Bresha Meadows is a victim of the #AbuseToPrisonPipeline. Girls deserve protection, not jail. #GirlsJusticeDay  http://bit.ly/1fp0qfM

Latesha Clay is a victim of #childsextrafficking. She deserves services not jail. #NoSuchThing #GirlsJusticeDay http://bit.ly/1fp0qfM

Pregnant girls behind bars should never be shackled. #GirlsJusticeDay http://bit.ly/2cTh0TV

Gynnya McMillen was one of too many girls arrested for behavior link to abuse within the home #GirlsJusticeDay http://bit.ly/2dzrewR

We must take action on behalf of the thousands of girls subjected to the #AbuseToPrisonPipeline #GirlsJusticeDay http://bit.ly/1fp0qfM

In our fight to end mass incarceration, we can’t forget #girlsbehindbars #GirlsJusticeDay http://bit.ly/1KKVhcv 

Take Action: Tell Your Senator to Vote in Favor of the Reauthorized Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Bill: H.R. 5963.

  1. Find contact information for your U.S. Senator here: http://www.senate.gov/senators/contact/
  2. Email or call your Senator and tell him or her to support H.R. 5963, the Supporting Youth Opportunity & Preventing Delinquency Act because it will provide greatly needed supports for justice-involved girls, such as:
    1. Incentivizing states to create prevention programming for girls at-risk of entering the juvenile justice system;
    2. Screening girls in the juvenile justice system for child sex trafficking and diverting them towards community-based programming wherever possible;
    3. Ending the use of unnecessary restraints on pregnant and post-partum girls;
    4. Encouraging states to limit the use of the Valid Court Order exception, which has led to the disproportionate detention of girls who commit non-violent offenses.

Take Action:  Tell your Governor to prioritize the needs of girls in your state.

 

Sample Tweets:

@GovernorX keep girls safe and out of the adult justice system! #GirlsJusticeDay2016  http://bit.ly/2dzsFLJ

 

@GovernorX Girls should never be subject to the #AbusetoPrisonPipeline. Prioritize girls in your policies.   http://bit.ly/1fp0qfM

AL – Robert Bentley @GovernorBentley

AK – Bill Walker @AkGovBillWalker

AZ – Doug Ducey @dougducey

AR – Asa Hutchinson @AsaHutchinson

CA – Jerry Brown @JerryBrownGov

CO – John Hickenlooper @GovofCO

CT – Dannel Malloy @GovMalloyOffice

DE – Jack Markell @GovernorMarkell

DC – Muriel Bowser @MayorBowser

FL – Rick Scott @FLGovScott

GA – Nathan Deal @GovernorDeal

HI – David Ige @GovHawaii

ID – Butch Otter @ButchOtter

IL – Bruce Rauner  @GovRauner

IN – Mike Pence @GovPenceIN

IA – Terry Branstad @TerryBranstad

KS – Sam Brownback @govsambrownback

KY – Matt Bevin @GovMatBevin

LA – John Bel Edwards @LouisianaGov

ME – Paul LePage @Governor_LePage

MD – Larry Hogan @LarryHogan

MA – Charlie Baker @MassGovernor

MI – Rick Snyder @onetoughnerd

MN – Mark Dayton @GovMarkDayton

MS – Phil Bryant @PhilBryantMS

MO – Jay Nixon @GovJayNixon

MT – Steve Bullock @GovernorBullock

NE – Pete Ricketts @GovRicketts

NV – Brian Sandoval @GovSandoval

NH – Maggie Hassan @GovernorHassan

NJ – Chris Christie @GovChristie

NM – Susana Martinez @Gov_Martinez

NY – Andrew Cuomo @NYGovCuomo

NC – Pat McCrory  @PatMcCroryNC

ND– Jack Dalrymple   @NDGovDalrymple

OH – John Kasich @JohnKasich

OK – Mary Fallin  @GovMaryFallin

OR – Kate Brown @OregonGovBrown

PA – Tom Wolf @GovernorTomWolf

RI – Gina Raimondo  @GinaRaimondo

SC – Nikki Haley @nikkihaley

SD – Dennis Daugaard  @SDGovDaugaard

TN – Bill Haslam @BillHaslam

TX – Greg Abbott @GovAbbott

UT – Gary Herbert @GovHerbert

VT – Peter Shumlin  @GovPeterShumlin

VA – Terry McAuliffe @GovernorVA

WA – Jay Inslee @GovInslee

WV – Earl Ray Tomblin @GovTomblin

WI – Scott Walker @GovWalker

WY – Matt Mead   @GovMattMead

 

Register, Vote, and Reform

Emily Sands & Brian Evans Monday, 26 September 2016 Posted in Take Action Now

Don’t let anyone tell you that your vote doesn’t count! Today is National Voter Registration Day, and it is vital to ensure you are able to cast your ballot on Election Day. One of the best ways to fight for youth justice is to vote for those who have the power to create legislative policy change. The children that are impacted by this legislation have to rely on the voting power of those who are of legal voting age.  You can be their advocate during this election!

The statistics on voter registration and participation are grim. The census bureau reported that in the 2012 presidential election only 65% of all citizens were registered to vote and only about 57% actually voted. The numbers for local and state elections are even lower. It is important not to get caught in this apathetic voting trap. Your vote will help choose representatives who understand the importance of creating a justice system that protects children.  

The power of voting isn’t only relevant at the national level. It is equally as significant to vote for your local representatives. Whether you are voting for judges, prosecutors, or state legislators, each vote can act as a step toward reform.  Your local representatives are going to have the greatest impact on possible policy changes, and your prosecutors and judges will have a tremendous impact on how youth are treated in practice.

Those you elect will be making vital decisions that could drastically improve the lives of kids most susceptible to being abandoned to the adult justice system. Policies such as raising the age for being tried as an adult, eliminating solitary confinement for juveniles, and creating alternatives to the traditional juvenile system are just a few of the ways we can construct a safer justice system for youth. We can no longer wait to address these issues when the risks for children in the system are so high. Don’t leave it to someone else to confront these challenges. You can play a powerful role in the campaign by casting your ballot and allowing your voice to be heard.

So don’t wait! Be part of the efforts to change the system and register to vote today!  

The American Correctional Association’s Policy Could Help Bring Adult Facilities One Step Closer to PREA Compliance

Jeree Thomas Tuesday, 13 September 2016 Posted in Federal Update

In late August, the American Correctional Association (ACA) announced its newly adopted policy on the use of restrictive housing in adult jails and prisons. In addition to the policy, they announced a set of expected practices or standards that are in the final stages of field testing.

Restrictive housing, also known and experienced by youth and adults across the country as segregation, isolation, and solitary confinement, is dangerous and often inhumane.  Youth and adults placed in restrictive housing are separated from the general population, held in their rooms for 22-hours a day with limited programming, and many times limited human contact.  According to the ACA policy statement, the goal of the policy is to encourage correctional facilities to use the practice in a “justly, humanely and… constitutionally correct manner…”  Specifically, the ACA calls for the creation of policies and procedures that “[f]orbid solitary confinement that results in isolation… [and] [p]rohibit agencies from confining offenders under the age of 18 in extended restrictive housing.” 

This policy on restrictive housing aligns with one of the requirements of the Prison Rape Elimination Act’s (PREA) Youthful Inmate Standard.

The Youthful Inmate Standard requires agencies to make their best effort to avoid using isolation on youth in adult facilities in order to comply with requirements to house and keep youth and adults separate in adult facilities.[1] The policy also reflects the Department of Justice’s report and recommendations released in January 2016 to limit the use of restrictive house.[2]

On October 15th, Governors across the country will provide the Department of Justice with certification of compliance with PREA or an assurance that they will spend five percent of their funding to come into compliance with PREA.  The ACA’s new policy statement should be used to encourage those Governors who are not in compliance with the Youthful Inmate Standard to makes sure their state correctional policies, procedures, and practices protect youth in adult jails and prison from solitary confinement and extended restrictive housing.  It is critical that Governors hear from communities about the importance of complying with PREA, and particularly the Youthful Inmate Standard which protects one of the most vulnerable populations in adult facilities.  Call, email, write a letter, or tweet your Governor today and during PREA Action Week, October 10th-14th. 

If we want our youth to reenter communities as law-abiding citizens we must at the very least treat them like human beings and show them what it means to be law-abiding.  Tell your Governor to show youth what it means to be law-abiding by ensuring your state is in full compliance with PREA. 
________________________________

[1] Youthful Inmate, National PREA Resource Center, (Last Updated Feb. 7, 2013)  http://www.prearesourcecenter.org/faq/youthful-inmates

[2] Report and Recommendations Concerning the Use of Restrictive Housing, U.S. Department of Justice (Jan. 2016) https://www.justice.gov/dag/file/815551/download

It’s Back to School Week For Most Kids

Marcy Mistrett Wednesday, 07 September 2016 Posted in Across the Country

Youth Locked Up As Adults Remain Where Punishment Reigns Over Childhood

 

As I scan social media this week, I’m met with many “milestone” pictures of children on their way back to another year of school.  There are many common threads among these photos,—new shoes, new uniforms, new hairstyles, new smiles with missing teeth, new teachers to learn from and new friends to meet, new books to read and new school buildings to navigate.  But to a tee—all the pictures signify the start of something new and exciting-with parents who tenderly comment on how hard it is to watch their children grow up so fast.

Interspersed among these delightful “back to school” pictures, a quieter and unhappier thread is also unspun.  It’s the stories of children who won’t be returning to school this week; those who have been locked up as adults and housed in facilities where rehabilitation and their future aren’t a priority; where punishment reigns over childhood. It’s the story of Miriam Abdullah in Arizona, who died of suicide in an adult jail shortly after her 18th birthday-she had been there since she was 16-and in isolation since March.  It’s the headline that Brendan Dassey’s case was reversed, after ten years of incarceration and being locked up in an adult facility since he was 16.  It’s the finding from an appellate court in Wisconsin that upholds the decision to try the two young girls (age 12 at arrest) as adults who acted on auditory hallucinations of a fictional character, Slenderman, telling them to harm their friend. 

Juvenile justice systems were created to rehabilitate children, which means their staff are trained to work specifically with youth.  It is a system, that when run well, balances public safety with rehabilitation—an approach that is supported by the vast majority of people across the country.  It means that children under the care of the juvenile justice system have access to education and recreation while incarcerated; that family engagement is considered part of treatment; that mental health and substance abuse treatment is provided to those youth who need it.  That the system sees their role as temporary, and understands the real work of changing lives takes place in the context of home and community.

This is not so in the criminal justice system, that was created to punish adults for breaking the law.  Youth who are transferred to criminal court do not fare well.  Beyond their exposure to violence and vulnerability to sexual and physical assault or lengthy isolation, children in adult facilities lack access to even basic education.   In the rare case that education is offered (11% of jails offer education opportunities) in the months or years that youth are pending trial, it is often only GED preparation; while if they were held in a juvenile facility, they could continue earning high school credits.  For those who managed to finish high school before their arrests, they could use PELL Grants to take a college class if detained in a youth facility—outside of a small handful of pilot programs, this opportunity would not be provided to youth in the adult system.  Despite the fact that research has shown that access to education is a key factor in reducing recidivism, youth who sit in adult jails and prisons receive no such benefit.  

In December 2015, President Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which includes new provisions to strengthen correctional education for youth in juvenile facilities and eligible adult correctional institutions.    Under ESSA, State Education Agencies will receive federal funding if they submit a complete state plan with procedures to evaluate the educational needs of youth in these facilities, better coordinate the transfer of student records and credits, improve reentry planning, and help youth re-enroll back into school or an alternative program upon release.  Unlike juvenile facilities, adult correctional facilities are a lot less likely to meet ESSA eligibility requirements, because far fewer adult facilities provide at least 15 hours of educational programs to youth. 

So, as we start another school year, I ask state governors and legislatures to review their transfer and certification laws in order to serve youth in the juvenile justice system where they are guaranteed greater access to appropriate services.  I also ask citizens to contact their State Education Agency and their State Board of Education, and demand a strong education plan and sound procedures for incarcerated youth under Title I Part D of ESSA.    Research shows that keeping justice-involved youth engaged in their academics reduces recidivism and results in better reentry outcomes. Not only will action on this issues keep your communities safer, but you will provide a second chance to a young person.  In the famous words of the UNCF, “a mind is a terrible thing to waste.”

2016 Tribal Juvenile Code: Youth Don’t Belong in Adult System

Tuesday, 16 August 2016 Posted in Research & Policy

By Nils Franco, Juvenile Justice Fellow

The U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) expressly denounces the trial of youth under age 18 as adults in a draft model juvenile justice code published earlier this year as a template for tribal law. Tribal governments face unique challenges in juvenile justice, with systems of overlapping jurisdictions spurning confusion and threatening tribal rights as well as children’s rights. The juvenile code helps American Indian and Alaskan Native tribes develop codes of their own for operating tribal judicial systems.

The BIA’s draft of the Model Indian Juvenile Code does not provide for an adult-system transfer under any circumstances. A sidebar explaining the decision succinctly explains:

“Trying children as adults has not been shown to reduce crime, facilitate rehabilitation, or make communities safer.”

Citing research compiled by the Department of Justice (as well as by the Centers for Disease Control), the explanation details how transfer has “little deterrent effect on would-be juvenile offenders” while in fact having “the unintended consequence of increasing recidivism … and thereby promoting life-course criminality.”

BIA’s statements to that effect are noncontroversial in the criminological community, but rarely does an authority – a state legislature, for instance – have an opportunity to rewrite the juvenile code from top to toe to reflect evidence-based practices. This model code presents just such an opportunity for BIA.

Congress mandated the code with legislation in 1986, and the first version published in 1988; however, BIA has not issued an update since. The update, co-developed with American Indian groups and tribal law scholars, brings together evidence-based and developmentally appropriate practices, approaching juvenile delinquency from more of a public health perspective. BIA oversees U.S.-tribal relations with more than 500 federally recognized American Indian tribes.

The update to the 1988 model code assists “federally recognized tribes in creating individual codes focused on juvenile matters,” according to a BIA press release. The code, along with other advancements from the BIA and Department of the Interior (which oversees BIA), represents bolstered support for tribal sovereignty through the oft-criticized Bureaus of Indian Affairs and Indian Education.

Administrators from the Department of Justice and Department of the Interior as well as advocates in tribal sovereignty and juvenile justice herald the new code. DOJ Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) Administrator Robert Listenbee called the update “an important step forward in ensuring tribal courts have the resources they need to respond effectively to at-risk and delinquent youth in Indian Country,” noting that the revision attends to the OJJDP mission of “safeguarding the fair and equitable treatment of all youth in the juvenile justice system.”

The head of BIA, Lawrence Roberts, says the 2016 model code “improves decades-old guidance to aid tribes in developing their own codes that will serve and protect” justice-involved youth. The National Council of American Indians and the Center of Indigenous Research and Justice both provided technical and community input to support the drafting of the code.

Childhood Mental Illness - Morgan's Story

Friday, 12 August 2016 Posted in Voices

By Alyson Showalter - This story was originally published here.

Morgan Geyser ( affectionately nicknamed Mogo while in utero) was just 12 years old when her life changed forever due to the consequences of mental illness and the justice system. Before her mental illness took it's toll on her, her mother Angie is quoted as saying "Morgan loved animals and was always gentle and kind. She enjoyed reading, writing, drawing, anime, and playing with her American Girl dolls. She was an excellent student and her teachers always loved having her in class. She used to stay after school to help her English teacher clean up the classroom. She was always a quirky kid who marched to the beat of her own drum. She was intensely creative and had a silly sense of humor. She was a loving and affectionate member of our family." 

Morgan is diagnosed with early onset schizophrenia or psychosis, she did not tell her parents she was experiencing symptoms . She was diagnosed in December 2014.Schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders are medical illnesses that result in strange or bizarre thinking, perceptions (sight, sound), behaviors, and emotions. Psychosis is a brain-based condition that is made better or worse by environmental factors - like drug use and stress. Children and youth who experience psychosis often say "something is not quite right" or can't tell if something is real or not real. It is an uncommon psychiatric illness in young children and is hard to recognize in its early phases.


The appearance of symptoms of psychosis before age 12 is rare (less than one-sixtieth as common as the adult-onset type), but studying these cases is important for understanding this disorder. For those who might develop psychotic disorders or schizophrenia as adults (adult-onset), it is not uncommon for them to start experiencing early warning signs during puberty or adolescence. The period of time when an adolescent experiences the early warning signs of psychosis is called prodrome. During this time, youth recognize that their experiences (hearing or seeing things that are not there) are strange or concerning. They may not easily admit these problems unless asked. Being aware of the early warning signs and offering support is crucial.
Childhood-onset - Most children with schizophrenia show delays in language and other functions long before their psychotic symptoms (hallucinations, delusions, and disordered thinking) appear. In the first years of life, about 30% of these children have transient symptoms of pervasive developmental disorder, such as rocking, posturing, and arm flapping. Childhood-onset of psychosis may present with poor motor development, such as unusual crawling, and children may be more anxious and disruptive compared to those with later onset. 
Symptoms-

Feeling like their brain is not working
Feeling like their mind or eyes are playing tricks on them
Seeing things and hearing voices that are not real
Hearing knocking, tapping, clicking or their named being called
Confused thoughts
Vivid and bizarre thoughts and ideas
Sudden and bizarre changes in emotions
Peculiar behavior that seem unusual
Increased sensitivity to light, sounds, smells or touch
Concept that people are “out to get them”
Fearfulness or suspicion that isn't warranted
Withdrawal from others
Severe problems in making and keeping friends
Difficulty speaking, writing, focusing or managing simple tasks 

Treatments- Early diagnosis and medical treatment are important. It is especially important that children and youth with the problems and symptoms listed above receive a complete evaluation. These children may need individual treatment plans involving other professionals. A combination of medication and individual therapy, family therapy, and specialized programs (wraparound services, early psychosis treatment) is often necessary. Changes in life style (keeping stress low, taking fish oils), additional supports (therapy and school support) and psychiatric medication can be helpful for many of the symptoms and problems identified.
Making the choice about whether or not to use medications can be difficult. Second-generation (atypical) antipsychotic drugs are usually tried first because they may cause fewer side effects than standard drugs. Serious side effects of second-generation antispychotic drugs can include weight gain, diabetes and high cholesterol. Currently, the Food and Drug Administration approves the use of two second-generation drugs in children ages 13-17, Risperidone (Risperdal) and Aripiprazole (Abilify). Source; mental health America

An expert witness revealed that Geyser's father had suffered from a similar mental illness as an adolescent and was hospitalized at least four times when he was 14. Matthew Geyser later went on disability because of his schizophrenia, said Deborah Collins, a forensic psychologist, who said she interviewed him and reviewed his medical records as part of her work for the defense."There is a genetic component in psychiatric disorders," Collins said. "If a parent has a history, there can be a higher rate of incidence among offspring." (Source; JSOnline)

Both Morgan and Anissa were twelve years old at the time of the stabbing, as was the victim. All three were classmates, enrolled in the same middle school and had been at a sleepover at Morgan's home the night before. Morgan and Anissa had discovered Slender Man on the Creepypasta Wiki, a website that hosts creepypasta, or Internet horror stories. Morgan and Anissa at the time believed that Slender Man was real, and that they wanted to become his "proxies", or followers, to prove their loyalty to him, prove his existence and to prevent him from harming their families. Morgan and Anissa believed that the only way they could become Slender Man's proxies was to sacrifice someone.After they carried out the assault, Morgan and Anissa believed they would become servants of Slender Man and be allowed to live in his mansion, which they believed was in Nicolet National Forest. (source;wikipedia)

Morgan and Anissa planned to carry out the attack Saturday morning in a bathroom at a local park. However, they actually carried out the attack in a nearby forest while playing a game of hide-and-seek. The victim was stabbed nineteen times. The girls then fled. Law enforcement conducted a mass search for Morgan and Anissa. Morgan and Anissa were found walking by a Waukesha County Sheriff's Deputy.(source;wikipedia)

Morgan and Anissa have been charged with attempted first-degree intentional homicide in adult court. Children's brains don't develop fully until their 20's. Longitudinal neuroimaging studies demonstrate that the adolescent brain continues to mature well into the 20s. Current studies demonstrate that brain structures and processes change throughout adolescence and, indeed, across the life course. These findings have been facilitated by imaging technologies such as structural and functional magnetic resonance imaging (sMRI and fMRI, respectively). Much of the popular discussion about adolescent brain development has focused on the comparatively late maturation of the frontal lobes, although recent work has broadened to the increasing “connectivity” of the brain.
Throughout childhood and into adolescence, the cortical areas of the brain continue to thicken as neural connections proliferate. In the frontal cortex, gray matter volumes peak at approximately 11 years of age in girls and 12 years of age in boys, reflecting dendritic overproduction . Subsequently, rarely used connections are selectively pruned  making the brain more efficient by allowing it to change structurally in response to the demands of the environment. Pruning also results in increased specialization of brain regions; however, the loss of gray matter that accompanies pruning may not be apparent in some parts of the brain until young adulthood. In general, loss of gray matter progresses from the back to the front of the brain with the frontal lobes among the last to show these structural changes.
Neural connections that survive the pruning process become more adept at transmitting information through myelination. Myelin, a sheath of fatty cell material wrapped around neuronal axons, acts as “insulation” for neural connections. This allows nerve impulses to travel throughout the brain more quickly and efficiently and facilitates increased integration of brain activity. Although myelin cannot be measured directly, it is inferred from volumes of cerebral white matter . Evidence suggests that, in the prefrontal cortex, this does not occur until the early 20s or later.
The prefrontal cortex coordinates higher-order cognitive processes and executive functioning. Executive functions are a set of supervisory cognitive skills needed for goal-directed behavior, including planning, response inhibition, working memory, and attention. These skills allow an individual to pause long enough to take stock of a situation, assess his or her options, plan a course of action, and execute it. Poor executive functioning leads to difficulty with planning, attention, using feedback, and mental inflexibility, all of which could undermine judgment and decision making.
Synaptic overproduction, pruning and myelination—the basic steps of neuromaturation—improve the brain’s ability to transfer information between different regions efficiently. This information integration undergirds the development of skills such as impulse control . Although young children can demonstrate impulse control skills, with age and neuro-maturation (e.g., pruning and myelination), comes the ability to consistently use these skills. (source; http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)

In August 2014, Morgan was ruled incompetent to stand trial.Morgan had been diagnosed by state psychiatrists with Childhood Onset schizophrenia, and was remanded to the Winnebego Mental Helath Institute. In December 2014, both girls were ruled competent to stand trial.They have been set to be tried as adults because Wisconsin law states, "all murder and attempted-murder charges for children older than 10 start in adult court." A conviction on first-degree charges in adult court could result in a sentence of up to 45 years in state prison, whereas a conviction in juvenile court could lead to three years incarceration, better mental health treatment and then supervision until the age of 18. Bail was set at $500,000 each. Morgan's parents have appealed the decision to remain in adult court several times and lost the appeal. 

Morgan is held in the state hospital currently and is allowed contact visits daily. She had no windows in her room and no access to the outdoors at the juvenile detention center, she was only allowed contact visits twice a month and non-contact visits twice a month. Morgan's parents are allowed to visit daily at the hospital. Morgan was sexually assaulted while in custody by her roommate and her roommate was simply moved to another room. Morgan did not receive treatment for her schizophrenia for 19 months. Morgan's family and medical team have seen a steady decline in her mental state since returning to Juvenile Detention.

The impact of being detained instead of rehabilitated will forever make its mark on Morgan and her family.
Families that lose a loved one to the justice system and mental illness can also be traumatized. The loss of a loved one has been said to feel like death in the family. It can cause major depression, PTSD, financial problems, personal attacks by society and much more. Angie Geyser states "It feels like a death. The sense of loss is impossible to describe. I had the highest of hopes for Morgan, and now I just hope to bring her home."

After thoughts: I chose to write this article because I could be Morgan's mother, anyone could be Morgan's mother. The mass incarceration of mentally ill youth in America has ballooned. We are no longer focusing on rehabilitation, our society would rather lock them up and throw away the key. We are charging children as adults now and it has a major impact on our society. With the right treatment and therapy those with serious mental illness CAN be rehabilitated and I will touch on this later in my series on the mass incarceration of our mentally ill youth. I am deeply touched by Morgan's story due to my own struggles with mental illness and my children's struggles with mental illness. It can happen to anyone and until we wake up and begin to treat it as a illness our prisons will continue to have overcrowding and mental illness will progressively get worse. I am blown away by Angie Geysers strength to continue to fight for Morgan and to provide her with the support and unconditional love she needs despite everything and everyone that is against her, Angie is attacked daily as is her family. But then when I put myself in her shoes I know I would do the same for my child. We don't have to support crime but we can choose to change the cycle and give those in need of help the help they deserve. We are our children's biggest advocates, no matter the crime a child deserves the love and guidance of their parents, after all that is our responsibility as a parent so why are we giving up on the most vulnerable people in America? 

If you would like to support Morgan and her family please check out: 

slenderchance.com
https://www.facebook.com/SupportingMogo/

Fighting for justice

Friday, 12 August 2016 Posted in CFYJ Updates

By Ashley K. Speed, William & Mary Alumni Association

This story was originally published on the William & Mary Alumni Association's blog

From the courthouse to the jailhouse to the General Assembly, Jeree Harris Thomas ’08 is an advocate for children’s rights. It’s a passion so imbedded in her DNA that she self-designed her undergraduate major while at William & Mary to ensure her future advocacy work.

Thomas, an attorney, was recently named the recipient of the inaugural Youth Justice Emerging Leader Award given by the National Juvenile Justice Network. The award was given to Thomas for her advocacy work on issues related to the school to prison pipeline and reforming Virginia’s juvenile justice system. 

The characteristics of the award recipient are described as “an advocate for youth justice who embodies passion, boldness and perseverance, and who is committed to raising up the voices, experiences and expertise of system-involved youth and people of color to ensure that those most directly impacted by injustice are at the forefront of the youth justice movement.” 

“It was a huge surprise, but a really big honor,” Thomas said. “To be held in such high regard was really an honor.” 

Thomas, is a former fellow of NJJN’s Youth Justice Leadership Institute. She was one of 10 juvenile justice fellows selected nationwide. Thomas was previously an attorney with the JustChildren program of the Legal Aid Justice Center in Richmond, Va. Thomas began her work at JustChildren in 2011, with a two-year award from the Skadden Fellowship Foundation. 

“I worked with kids who experienced educational or mental health issues to make sure they had the services they needed while incarcerated and services they needed when they reentered their community,” said Thomas, whose work also entailed drafting legal briefs to show a child’s progress in hopes of swaying judges to lighten an imposed sentence. 

Thomas is currently the policy director at the Campaign for Youth Justice in Washington, D.C. Her role is to advocate for youth who are tried as adults. She works with state advocates to change laws that push youth into the adult criminal justice system. 

“In some states, it’s about giving youth an opportunity to have a hearing in front of a judge to determine what is appropriate instead of youth ages 16 or 17 being automatically treated as adults, and in other states it’s about keeping youth, some as young as 13 and 14 from being incarcerated in adult facilities,” Thomas said.  

While at William & Mary, Thomas earned an interdisciplinary degree in social justice and community advocacy. 

“My degree at William & Mary focused on the intersection of race, education, gender and poverty and how those things impact people,” Thomas said. “I was very happy to be able to create a degree around my interests. That helped me leverage that knowledge when I went to law school.”

Thomas also said her involvement with the university’s Sharpe Community Scholars Program shaped her career path and influenced her focus on child advocacy work.  

“I decided to do a self-designed major in social justice and community advocacy as a result of the Sharpe Program,” Thomas said. "As a result of my major and a real commitment to service-learning, the College created a “Community Studies” minor program."

Thomas doesn’t know what the future holds for her professionally, but is committed to being a lifelong learner.

“I honestly thought my last job was my ultimate career goal, and it was incredibly fulfilling work,” Thomas said. “But I realize now that I have to leave myself open to learn about new opportunities and to continue to push myself to grow professionally and do as much good as I can.”

Raising the age of criminal jurisdiction beyond 18

Thursday, 11 August 2016 Posted in Research & Policy

By Anne-Lise Vray & Jessica Sandoval

Over the past few years, voices asking to raise the age of criminal responsibility beyond age 18 have emerged. As a leader in the youth justice field, the Campaign for Youth Justice plays an important role in ending the prosecution, sentencing, and incarceration of youth in the adult criminal justice system. CFYJ accomplishes this in three ways, through (1) state and federal advocacy, by providing technical assistance and training support, (2) strategic communications, by lifting the voices of those most impacted, and (3) research, by serving as a clearinghouse of information and effective alternatives. As the only national organization dedicated to this issue, we were interested in finding out what raising the age to 21 practically and logistically imply, especially in order to address the concerns of many stakeholders in the field – particularly those who fear that it is dangerous to house youth over 18 with younger children.

To determine current practice on the ways states with extended juvenile court jurisdiction beyond age 18, we interviewed juvenile justice department administrators in the states who have extended age of juvenile court jurisdiction 21 and up to 25.  From these interviews, the following themes emerged:

  • Programming looks the same across populations;
  • Housing youth up to age 25 in juvenile facilities does not add any extra challenges to behavior and safety;
  • The average length of stay in committed facilities ranges from 7.5 months to 37 months for 18-25 year-olds;
  • Risk assessment is always used, regardless of age; Re-entry programs are not different for older youth; Housing separation based on age is not necessary; and
  • The juvenile justice system is where this older population of youth belongs.

Overall, our interviewees agreed upon the fact that these older youth were better served in the juvenile justice system, where they can – unlike in the adult system - receive educational programs, appropriate treatments, and actually be rehabilitated. They also addressed the concerns about these young adults having a bad influence on younger children, and asserted that putting them together could actually have a positive effect, while no particular additional behavioral challenges could be observed. “There are 15 year olds housed with 24 year olds. The kids go where their needs are best met, regardless of their age. Instances of victimization are very rare because of the big brother mentality that develops between older youth and younger kids,” one of the interviewees told CFYJ.

According to adolescent brain science, a young person’s brain is not fully developed until they reached their mid-20s. The interviewees were aware of the research, and many of them used it as a base to defend the system in place in their state. “Brain development science shows that the juvenile justice system is still the appropriate setting for this older population, regardless of crime, based on culpability, etc…,” a juvenile justice department leader told us. The evidence presented by brain development science is indeed what one the main reasons to raise the question of extending juvenile jurisdiction to this older population in the first place.

This piece of research conducted by CFYJ modestly contributes to informing the field about the pros and cons of raising the age of juvenile jurisdiction beyond 18, what factors may be present, and if it’s the appropriate time to consider this option.

2016 Summer Institute: Session 5 – Mentoring Incarcerated Youth

Monday, 08 August 2016 Posted in Voices

By Francesca Sands, Juvenile Justice Fellow

Last week, the CFYJ interns wrapped up the 2016 Summer Institute series with one last discussion led by Penelope Spain, CEO of Open City Advocates, an organization that trains law students to be mentor-advocates for youth who have been sentenced in the juvenile system both during and after incarceration. With an air of genuine passion for her work, Penelope shed light on the most important components of mentorship.

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