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Juvenile Justice News

California lawmakers want to roll back some criminal sentencing laws, keep young offenders out of adult court

In a legislative hearing packed with criminal justice experts and former youth offenders, California lawmakers pushed forward a bill this week to keep minors who commit crimes out of adult courts.

The proposal, one of several in a package of bills introduced by Sens. Holly J. Mitchell (D-Los Angeles) and Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens), is part of an ongoing effort to divert young people from a path to prison and create parity in state punishment laws. Other bills would roll back mandatory sentencing rules that research shows disproportionally affect black and Latino defendants.

California Should Lead Nation by Setting Minimum Age Standard

In most U.S. states, children of any age can be processed through the juvenile justice system. This year, proposed legislation in California — a state with no established age minimum — seeks to bring needed protections to children ages 11 and younger by prohibiting their prosecution in juvenile court. If successful, Senate Bill 439 will lessen the harm of unnecessary justice system involvement by allowing young children to receive age-appropriate supports through alternative systems, including schools, community-based health providers and child welfare agencies.

Juvenile justice systems were designed for older adolescents, not children. Subjecting the very young to formal processing undermines the effectiveness of treatment and increases the likelihood that they will return to the justice system. Research shows that justice system contact, particularly at an early age, can have harmful, lifelong impacts. Formal processing, regardless of outcome, can cement a negative self-image and hinder healthy development, increasing a child's likelihood of continued contact with the justice system.

CALIFORNIA: A question of basic morality (or lack of it) on legal defense for juveniles

There is something deceptively arcane in the details of a report released last week on the criminal defense of juveniles in Los Angeles County, and in a follow-up motion the Board of Supervisors is to take up on Tuesday. Panel lawyers, flat fees, hourly rates, caseloads — that kind of thing.

CALIFORNIA: As LA County ends solitary confinement for minors, artists step in to reimagine the SHU

At Camp Joseph Scott, a juvenile detention center in Santa Clarita, five girls worked on the wall – some standing, some crouching – their arms occasionally crisscrossing as they painted the nature scene. "I find it like a meditating type of therapy," said Anaceli, 17, who was five months into a seven-month sentence. (We're not using last names to protect the identities of the minors). 

CALIFORNIA: California debates banning long-term solitary confinement for minors

California could lead the way in banning long-term solitary confinement for juveniles in jail, ending a practice that experts say severely harms mental health and increases the risk of suicide.
A newly introduced bill, which has support from both criminal justice reform advocates and state probation officials, would bar youth detention centers from placing juveniles in isolation for more than four hours and says facilities could only use “room confinement” as a last resort after exhausting all less-restrictive options.

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CALIFORNIA: End solitary confinement in juvenile halls (LADN)

California legislators should know the name and story of Kalief Browder. Earlier this month the 22-year-old hanged himself with a cord from an air-conditioner at his family’s Bronx apartment. The once normal teen had endured two years of solitary confinement and beatings during his three years on Rikers Island. Never convicted of a crime, he was the subject of a New Yorker profile that offered a compelling case study on why the practice of isolating youth should stop. It achieves no reasonable goal of rehabilitation. And it is too often used as a primary means of control in juvenile halls.

California: New Law to Protect Jailed Youth

Human Rights Watch

California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law a bill that could prevent hundreds of young offenders from enduring rape, assault, and gang life in prison, Human Rights Watch said today. On September 27, 2014, Brown signed Assembly Bill 1276, which requires the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to conduct committee-based, specialized review of each person under age 22 entering prison to consider placing them at a lower security level facility with increased access to educational and self-help programs. Human Rights Watch has advocated for passage of the bill. 

Celebrating Youth Justice Action Month: How W&M Alumni and Students Can Help Youth in the Adult Criminal Justice System

October is National Youth Justice Action Month. In 2015, Barack Obama signed the first presidential proclamation in recognition of the month, which was initiated in 2008 by a Missouri mother, Tracy McClard, after her 17-year-old son committed suicide while in an adult jail. 

Children Being Housed In Adult Prisons Is an Ongoing Tragedy In America

On the eve of Oct. 17, 2016, 15-year-old Jaquin Thomas was found hanging in his cell at the Orleans Justice Center, an adult prison facility in New Orleans. The teen’s reported suicide came three months after entering the prison on suspicion of murder and a month after being beaten in his cell.

Children in solitary confinement: we must stop treating kids in the system like adults

The images on Four Corners on Monday have shocked the country. They revealed extreme abuse being inflicted on detainees, in a systematic way. This was not a case of one corrections officer doing the wrong thing. This was a case of practices that were clearly accepted by a number of officers, known about by more, and tolerated, if not sanctioned, by the corrections system itself.

City council votes to pass resolution supporting juvenile justice reform

The state of Florida prosecutes more children as adults for criminal offenses than any other state. It's the message behind a resolution the Pensacola City Council voted on Thursday evening.

COLORADO: Bill to Limit Juvenile Solitary Confinement Advances in Colorado House

The state Legislature is considering a bill to limit the use of solitary confinement as a punishment for Colorado's youths. Despite a 1999 law banning seclusion, independent investigations have shown the Colorado Department of Youth Corrections has repeatedly put juveniles in isolation for days and weeks at a time. Elise Logemann, executive director of the Colorado Juvenile Defender Center, said two separate investigations found the state's Department of Youth Corrections had repeatedly held kids in small rooms with only a metal bed frame, toilet and sink. 

Column: It’s time to stop funneling Florida youth into the adult criminal justice system

Florida prosecutes more children in the adult criminal justice system than any other state. And historically, the 13th Judicial Circuit — which covers all of Hillsborough County and many of the constituents I represent — has been one of the worst.

Column: Take care over cost in juvenile justice

Michigan does not allow 17-year-olds to drop out of school, serve on a jury, vote in elections, live independently from their parent or guardian, purchase fireworks or rent a hotel room. However, the state does require all 17-year-olds to be charged as adults if arrested for any offense. 

Michigan is one of only five states that treat 17-year-olds as adults in the criminal justice system, which harms not only those young people being jailed but also local communities and the state economy.

Commentary: Our Work to Reform the Juvenile Justice System Is Not Yet Complete

Dakota County, Minnesota, prosecutor James Backstrom, in his July 28 opinion piece, “America’s Juvenile Justice System is Appropriately Balanced,” affirmed many of the strongest arguments for ongoing juvenile justice reform. He recognized that “youth are fundamentally different from adults” and acknowledged that “[w]e now know that the human brain is not fully developed until the early twenties.”

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