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Across the Country

Northern Ireland: A Human Rights Approach to Youth Crime

By Rachel Marshall Wednesday, 20 December 2017 Posted in 2017, Across the Country

By Rachel Marshall, Federal Policy Counsel

In 1998, the Good Friday Agreement brought an end to three decades of conflict in Northern Ireland known as “The Troubles.” Even after the peace process, many in Northern Ireland harbored a deep distrust in police and the larger justice system. As part of the healing process, the government realized a complete overhaul of the justice system was needed. From this realization emerged a focus on restorative justice. In 2002, the Northern Ireland Justice Act created a statutory scheme for juvenile justice establishing a restorative justice model as the primary mode of intervention for justice-involved youth. While the model was initially established for 10-16 year olds, in 2005 the statute was expanded to include 17 year olds. Restorative justice is used both in pre-sentence diversion, as well as court-based intervention, with most low-level offenses dismissed with only a “caution.”

Vote Locally

Brian Evans Monday, 06 November 2017 Posted in 2017, Across the Country

By Brian Evans, State Campaigns Director

It is said that all politics is local. It’s also true that all – or at least most – criminal justice is local, and that’s especially the case when it comes to youth involved in the justice system. So while Presidential election years and even-numbered years when members of the U.S. Congress are up for re-election may draw the most attention, off years like this one should not be ignored.

This November 7, mayors, city and county government officials, judges, and local prosecutors, are up for election across the country, and the winners and losers of these races will have a profound impact on local criminal justice policies and practices.

TRICK OR TREAT: Why Treating Children Like Adults is S-C-A-R-Y (Copy)

Marcy Mistrett Monday, 30 October 2017 Posted in 2017, Across the Country

By Marcy Mistrett, CEO

October 31 is Halloween.  It is a time when some communities celebrate the childhood joys of fantasy and play, dressing up as our favorite heroes or villains, and confronting our fears of the darkness.  Witches, ghosts and goblins remain stories whose monsters go away for a year once Halloween ends. Parents and children trek out to the pumpkin patch, carve pumpkins and drink warm apple cider. Children get to explore their neighborhoods, and later enjoy a pumpkin head full of treats.  

In other communities—Halloween is not something children celebrate.  It’s a time when you hunker down inside with your family, when you make sure your doors are locked because people who are out, are looking to do harm.  There are places where monsters are real and where safety is jeopardized, sometimes daily; where “tricks” far outnumber “treats” and where childhood play ends at a much earlier age.


My colleague, Torrie, who is from the Bronx and runs Voices Unspoken, dubs the former communities as those with the “privilege of safety.”  Safety is, but shouldn’t be, a privilege. Safety also shouldn’t be defined as law and order. Especially for children.

Children who are prosecuted as adults learn far too early that the privilege of safety doesn’t apply to them. That the nightmares built around Halloween are an everyday occurrence in the adult system. They are real, recurring, and unnecessary.

Here are reasons why treating children like adults is S-C-A-R-Y:

Sex Offender Registries.  Children charged as adults are placed on sex offender registries for life. This includes children who have never touched another child. As states are moving to re-examine the ways they treat children charged with sex offenses, and removing “mandatory” registration requirements, children sentenced as adults don’t get this case by case review.

Confinement, isolation.  Due to federal laws such as the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA), state facilities are required to separate youth under 18 from adults in their housing units.  Since the number of youth in any one facility is often small, corrections officers often place children in isolation to comply.  This is torture, and PREA strongly recommends against solitary confinement as an approach to compliance. If children remained in the juvenile system, occurrences of isolation are monitored much more closely and many states have strict time limitations on how long a child can remain separated from the general population.

Arrests and interrogations.  When police officers arrest children, they are required to notify their parents who are allowed to be present during the interview.  This does not apply to children charged as adults, no matter how young.  Police are not required to explain complexities like Miranda rights in child-friendly terms, and children often waive their rights to counsel or sign admissions without an attorney present. Children should not be interrogated without an adult in the room, no matter how serious their charges.

Racial and Ethnic Disparities. Our justice system disproportionately prosecutes and sentences African American, Hispanic, and Tribal youth as adults, despite similar offending by White youth. All children deserve the protections, support, and age appropriate interventions of the juvenile court with the goal of keeping youth in their homes and communities.   Given the large number of youth charged as adults who end up on probation, or remanded back to juvenile court, an individualized case review by a juvenile court judge is necessary for any child who faces an adult conviction. There are plenty of evidence-based practices that hold children accountable and reduce recidivism.  Unfortunately, our system does not apply these practices in all communities.  This is unacceptable.

Young people are not mini adults, and shouldn’t be treated as such.   Our adult criminal justice system is broken; it focuses nearly exclusively on punishment, and places all vulnerable people in dangerous and violent conditions. For young people, the exposure to such a punitive environment can permanently disrupt healthy brain development. The vast majority of children charged as adults had no independent case review to determine whether charges were appropriate.  Given the serious ramifications of an adult conviction, no child should be charged without a judicial review that balances individual factors of each child.

Women’s Equality Day: Commemorating Progress While Fighting to Fulfill the Promise of Equality for ALL Women

Thursday, 17 August 2017 Posted in 2017, Across the Country

By Anne-Lise Vray, Communications Associate

On August 26, we celebrate Women’s Equality Day, in “commemoration of that day in 1920, on which the women of America won their right to vote, as an opportunity to continue to work for equal rights for ALL citizens.” While this is a day to celebrate and women have made many strides, we still have room for improvement to achieve equality for all. The treatment of  incarcerated girls and women in the criminal justice system is certainly one of those areas.  

International Youth Day 2017: Celebrating the Contribution of Youth to Transformation, Social Justice, and Peace

Friday, 11 August 2017 Posted in 2017, Across the Country

By Jeree Thomas, Policy Director, and Tim Klipp, Juvenile Justice Fellow

August 12, 2017 is International Youth Day. The United Nations General Assembly adopted the day by resolution in December 1999. The adoption of the day occurred nearly a decade after the United Nations adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Among the rights outlined in the Convention are the right of children to stay connected to their parents when they are separated by State action, the right of children to express their views and to be heard in judicial and administrative proceedings, and the right to liberty in the criminal justice and juvenile justice context. Under Article 37 of the Convention, the use of “arrest, detention, or imprisonment of a child shall be in conformity with the law and shall be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time...”   The United States has not ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which is why International Youth Day is an important time to lift up the rights, voices, and needs of youth.

“Unalienable Rights”

Friday, 30 June 2017 Posted in 2017, Across the Country

By Brian Evans, State Campaign Director

This July 4, we celebrate the 241st anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. This Declaration did more than just begin the process of extricating 13 colonies from British rule. It asserted that “all men” had “unalienable Rights” to “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness”, establishing extremely lofty aspirations for the emerging United States of America.

These aspirations have not been met.

Showing Support For Our Most Vulnerable Youth During National Youth Violence Prevention Week

Thursday, 06 April 2017 Posted in 2017, Across the Country

By Catherine Armstrong, Juvenile Justice Fellow

April 3-7 is National Youth Violence Prevention Week. This important week of advocacy is led by Students Against Violence Everywhere (SAVE), a founding partner of the National Youth Violence Prevention Week Campaign. This year, the campaign is specifically focusing on the role we can all play in promoting safer communities that will help ensure fewer youth become engaged in violent behavior.

Remembering Youth in Adult Jails & Prisons during Sexual Assault Awareness Month

Thursday, 30 March 2017 Posted in 2017, Across the Country

By William Tipton, CFYJ Policy & Research Fellow and Terri Poore, MSW, Policy Director at the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. This month, the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence (NAESV) and the Campaign for Youth Justice (CFYJ) are partnering to highlight those vulnerable youth living in adult jails and prisons across the country as well as those laws and policies that can protect and support incarcerated youth if properly implemented.

Kent v. United States: Fifty-One Years of Due Process for Youth Waived to Adult Court

Tuesday, 21 March 2017 Posted in 2017, Across the Country

By Catie Armstrong, Juvenile Justice Fellow

March 21, 2017 marks the fifty-first anniversary of Kent v. United States, 383 U.S. 541 (1966).  In Kent, 16 year-old Morris Kent was arrested in Washington D.C. for various charges.  Kent was placed in police custody for 24 hours, and while in custody he was questioned repeatedly about the alleged offenses.  He eventually admitted to some of the offenses.  Kent’s mother hired an attorney to handle his case, and together they prepared to enter the juvenile court system.  But what happened next would unexpectedly define a generation of due process rights for youth waived to the adult criminal justice system.

International Women's Day: Standing in Solidarity with Justice-Involved Women

Tuesday, 07 March 2017 Posted in 2017, Across the Country

By Anne-Lise Vray, Communications Associate

Today, we wear red to stand in solidarity with our young justice-involved women. March 8 marks the 2017 edition of International Women’s Day, yet another occasion to remember that girls and women in the U.S. and across the world continue to face grave disparities and dangers in many – if not all - areas of society. When it comes to the justice system, girls are among the most vulnerable groups. They are the prime victims of the sexual abuse to prison pipeline, a term used to describe the pathways of gendered violence that lead girls into the juvenile justice system. And the numbers are terrifying. Reported rates of sexual abuse are more than four times higher for girls in the system than for boys. Rights 4 Girls cites that 1000 American children are arrested each year for prostitution and that 73 percent of girls in the juvenile justice system have histories of sexual and physical abuse, while 80 percent meet the criteria for a mental health diagnosis. Additionally, girls are twice as likely as boys to report five or more Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES), traumatic or stressful periods during childhood that may impair the brain’s ability to function (ACES, i.e emotional, physical or sexual abuse, emotional neglect, household substance abuse etc). ACES may cause children to mistrust adults, have difficulties learning and/or making friends; all of which make young people vulnerable, including over-representation in youth-serving systems such as child welfare, juvenile justice and/or mental health systems.

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