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Juvenile Justice News

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Teenage brains not mature

Regarding your May 16 article, “DA: Prison for youth depends on the crime, 17 is ‘reasonable age.’” Floyd County District Attorney Leigh Patterson is erroneous in her presumptions that teenagers have the same decision-making process as adults, and therefore should be treated as such.

Locked Up for the Holidays

The “most wonderful time of the year” may be the hardest for tens of thousands of young people locked up for the holidays. But many states try — within the confines of security rules, budgets and protocols — to make the season a little brighter for youthful offenders, who often are housed far from home. 

Locked Up: What Is A Youth Prison?

For a young person who experiences life behind the walls of a youth prison, it can mean many things. We’re using the mnemonic, “locked up” to show some of these key characteristics of a youth prison. This article is the first in a series, Locked Up: What is a Youth Prison? One of those traits is that a youth prison is large. 

Louisiana Juvenile Defendant Age May Be Raised to 17

At 17, Devin Harris is not old enough to buy a pack of cigarettes. But when he was accused of trying to use someone else’s credit card to buy cigarettes, he swiftly realized that — at least when it comes to the criminal justice system — the state of Louisiana considers him to be an adult. “The last thing I wanted was to be in the system,” said Mr. Harris, who was in jail for nine nights in April because his mother could not afford the bond before he entered a pretrial diversion program. For the teenager, those were long nights. “I called my dad — I ain’t talked to my dad in almost two years,” he said. “I just needed somebody to talk to.”

LOUISIANA: New Orleans, Lafayette teenagers to lobby legislators about raising age for adulthood in criminal justice system

Earlier this year, Jasmine Jeff went to the animal shelter feeling like a responsible teenager — and walked away feeling like a child. Her father had told her she could adopt a dog. So Jeff, who was then 17, walked into the shelter, looked in the first window and fell in love with a terrier, small in size but with outsized charm, she said. But she was then told she was not eligible to adopt it because she was not yet 18.

LOUISIANA: Raise The Age bill to charge 17-year-olds as juveniles passes Louisiana House

Louisiana is about to raise the age of what is considered an adult in the eyes of the law. To date, Louisiana is one of nine states where 17-year-olds who commit minor offenses are treated as adults. Senate Bill 324 on Thursday won easy approval in the Louisiana House and already has been approved by the state Senate. The measure passed the House by a vote of 97-3 with 21 co-authors. But a minor change in wording means the legislation must return to the Senate for final passage. 

LOUISIANA: Study: Orleans Parish DA prosecutes 80 percent of juvenile offenders as adults

Article in WDSU 6 News

For teens who get in trouble with the law in Orleans Parish and are accused of violent offenses, there is about an 80 percent chance they will be charged as an adult.

The findings are from a Southern Poverty Law Center study on how juveniles are prosecuted in New Orleans. For 15 to 16 year olds the District Attorney has the sole discretion to transfer that case to adult court.

"More than 83 percent of juvenile cases are transferred to adult court. That's out of step with other parishes in Louisiana, said Meredith Angelson with the Southern Poverty Center. That's compared to 22 percent in neighboring Jefferson Parish, and 5-7 cases a year in Baton Rouge.

The advocacy group believes trying juveniles as adults causes more harm than good. They are appealing to District Attorney, Leon Cannizzaro,  to consider special circumstances.

LOUISIANA: Too young to take custody of his son, but old enough to be tried as an adult?

Buying a lottery ticket.  Voting.  Serving on a jury.  Joining the military. To do any of those things you have to be at least 18.  In Louisiana, though, you automatically enter the adult justice system at 17 — even for minor offenses. That needs to change.The illogic behind this policy hits close to home for me. I am a high school senior of 17 with a one-year-old son who is my pride and joy.  When he was born, I was not able to sign his birth certificate. Too young, I was told. When my son’s mother ran into some legal problems and couldn’t care for him, the judge told me that I was ineligible to file for custody because I was not an “adult”.

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MARYLAND: Efforts to reconsider life sentences for juveniles gain momentum in Maryland

On a January day in 2005, Matthew McCullough stood at the defense table in a crowded Towson courtroom. The 18-year-old was facing a judge for his role in a shooting outside Randallstown High School — an act of violence that left the suburbs shaken and another teen paralyzed. William "Tipper" Thomas III, also 18, watched from his wheelchair, where doctors had told him he would remain for the rest of his life. The sentence: one hundred years. 

Maryland: Report - Provide Treatment, Not More Juvenile Prisons

Juvenile Justice Exchange

Maryland should invest in community-based treatment for juvenile delinquents instead of spending $225 million to build three juvenile prisons and replace buildings at a fourth, a state juvenile justice advisory panel urged. The Maryland Juvenile Justice Monitoring Unit, part of the state Office of the Attorney General, made its recommendations in a 51-page report. "We should be contracting with folks offering evidence-based treatments in the community in the same way as if one of our children got in trouble," said Nick Moroney, the unit's director. 

Md. lawmakers consider housing for youth charged as adults (Maryland)

After 10 years as chief of the St. Mary’s County Detention Center, Capt. Michael Merican is in a situation he says isn’t just difficult, it’s impossible. Merican pays close attention to the needs and well-being of 200 inmates, but one causes him constant worry: a terrified 17-year-old boy. “I have him in a medical holding cell all by himself because he’s too frightened to even put him in protective custody unit with other adults,” Merican said of the teen, who arrived at the facility Jan. 6 after being charged as an adult with assault and kidnapping. “He can’t watch TV or play board games. I put him out to recreation all by himself. He’s scared to death.”

Mental health: Gaps remain in juvenile mental health care (Las Cruces Sun-News)

Nationally, between 60 to 70 percent of kids in the juvenile justice system have a mental health disorder and roughly 90 percent have experienced at least one traumatic event," said Terri Williams, deputy secretary of the Kansas Department of Corrections in a news statement from July 28, 2014. This falls closely in line with what child psychiatrist George Davis said recently in a phone interview. Davis, the director of CYFD juvenile justice services based in Albuquerque, has vast experience in the adolescent juvenile justice population and said that he believes 90 percent have been "severely compromised and are victims of neglect and abuse.

MISSOURI: Proposed law to raise age of ‘juveniles’ in court

Missouri should join 40 other states and raise the age for juveniles being handled by adult courts, as proposed in a Senate bill.“Currently, Missouri charges all 17 year-olds as adults, no matter what the offense — misdemeanor or felony,” sponsor Wayne Wallingford told the Senate’s Judiciary committee this week. “This bill changes the definition of ‘child’ to include all children under 18 years of age. 

Missouri: State Taskforce Working to Curb Child Incarceration

The St. Louis American

Missouri is one of only seven states that still has 17 as the default age of adult prosecution. Several juvenile rights advocates are trying to raise the age to 18, as well as make it harder to let children as young as 12 face criminal charges as adults and face being put into adult prisons. The bipartisan Missouri Juvenile Justice Taskforce heard testimonies in Jefferson City on Wednesday and are expected to recommend legislation to be introduced this term. Children go through a "transfer hearing" before they are tried in court as adults and put into adult prisons. But Missouri's transfer process has several flaws that allow for children to get stuck in adult jails unnecessarily, sometimes for several months, said Mae Quinn, Washington University law professor and director of the Juvenile Law and Justice Clinic. 

More States Consider Raising the Age for Juvenile Crime

If  you’re a teenager, whether you’re an adult in the eyes of the law depends on the state you live in. Slowly, that’s starting to change. Today, most states, including Washington, D.C., treat adolescents as juveniles through the age of 17. Nine states still have a lower bar, at age 16, apart from New York and North Carolina, where the age is 15. 

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