After Raise the Age, Where Will Adolescent Offenders Go?

New York has finally joined other states in barring 16- and 17-year-oldswho get in trouble with the law from being tried as adults. But now officials are scrambling to find a secure place to house them and keep them out of the justice system.

On Oct. 1, the first phase of a New York State law known as “Raise the Age” took effect, meaning 16-year-olds can no longer be arrested or tried as adults. A year from now, the law will extend to 17-year-olds as well.

Authorities are just beginning to grapple with the next challenge: Where will these young offenders be housed?

New York’s Albany County, which encompasses the state capital district, is upgrading a facility in Colonie, N.Y., not far from the county jail, to accommodate the new class of youthful offenders.

Senior Investigator Shawn Noonan, the commanding officer of Professionals Standards for the Albany County Sheriff’s Office, calls it a “two-pronged approach”—and the first prong involves upgrading security.

jail

The Capital District Detention Facility in Colonie, N.Y., is being upgraded in anticipation of taking older offenders, aged 16 and 17 years, following the implementation of the state’s Raise the Age legislation. Photo by Michael Koff/The Enterprise

He said that the new facility must take into account that some of the youths may have committed “serious crimes,” and need to be held securely to avoid dangers to others, even as it seeks to make the facility “less institutionalized” in the hope of decreasing recidivism and providing troubled young people with an alternative to jail.

The Capital District Juvenile Secure Detention Facility, which primarily serves Albany, Schenectady, Saratoga, and Rensselaer counties, is one of only eight secure facilities in the state, which are the only institutions qualified to take in detained 16-year-olds and eventually 17-year-olds.

New York used to be just one of two states that prosecuted 16- and 17-year-olds as adults. Only North Carolina remains. In five states—Georgia, Michigan, Missouri, and Texas—17-year-olds are automatically prosecuted as adults.

Thirteen states—Alaska, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, and West Virginia—have no minimum age for prosecuting a child as an adult.

Under New York’s new law, 16-year-olds must be placed in settings appropriate for their age, rather than in jail; those charged with non-violent crimes are to be diverted into community-based programs just like offenders who are 15 and younger.

Sixteen-year-olds arrested on serious charges will go to a youth part of criminal court and be placed in secure detention facilities for adolescents.

A 16-year-old in New York now has several different paths that he or she can follow, according to Noonan, who has been helping with several Raise the Age transitions, including upgrading the county’s juvenile facility to house adolescent offenders, as well as dealing with changes in policy for arresting and charging them.

Sent to Family Court

Any 16-year-old charged with a penal misdemeanor after Oct. 1 will be sent to Family Court, so that he or she will not have a permanent criminal record. If the youth is pulled over for a vehicle or traffic misdemeanor, or a violation, he will go to the local court.

But if that 16-year-old is charged with a felony, he’ll be sent to the newly created Youth Court.

In Albany County, the Youth Court will be in the same building as Family Court and will be overseen by Family Court Judge Richard Rivera, said Noonan.

The 16- and 17-year-olds whose cases remain in Youth Court will be known as adolescent offenders; their counterparts aged 13 to 15, known as juvenile offenders, will be tried in the Youth Court as well. According to the Raise the Age law, adult sentencing will apply, but the judge must take the adolescent offender’s age into account when sentencing, and he or she is eligible for youthful-offender treatment.

In the court system, public defenders will be trained to represent someone in the Youth Court, said Susan Bryant, the acting director for the New York State Defenders’ Association.

Public defenders are also participating in local conversations on county plans for implementation of Raise the Age, which include addressing social services, probation, and transportation.

There is still concern about minors being detained as juveniles, she said.

“It’s certainly a step hopefully towards continued reform,” she said. “I’m not sure if this is the best structure for it, but we will see how it goes.”

One debate is over whether all cases should begin in Family Court, said Bryant. She noted a judge may treat a 16- or 17-year-old more like an adult since they appear older.

Judicial education is needed, Bryant said, although the Youth Court judges being trained to work with adolescent offenders may also be serving in Family Court.

table

A map of New York shows eight secure juvenile detention facilities in red, which are able to hold adolescent offenders. Another two dozen non-secure facilities are marked in blue. Counties shaded in purple are in a partnership to share Albany County’s facility; those shaded in lavender have side agreements to send adolescent offenders to Albany County’s facility. Courtesy The Enterprise.

 

New York has two dozen detention centers for juveniles 16 and younger, scattered across the state. Under the new law, New York has eight secure facilities for adolescent offenders who are awaiting trial and for those convicted and sentenced to less than a year.

The goal is to avoid young people being held far from their homes and families, said David Condliffe, executive director of the advocacy group Center for Community Alternatives and a member of the state’s Raise the Age task force.

Adding ‘Trauma to Trauma’

“Imagine you’re 16 years and you find yourself hundreds of miles from home … It adds trauma to trauma,” said Condliffe.

Condliffe said incarceration has decreased in places like New York City, due to a focus on alternatives to incarceration, while incarceration has increased in rural parts of the state, an assertion backed up by data from the Vera Institute.

Sixteen- and eventually 17-year-olds who face trial in Youth Court must now be held for trial in youth facilities if a judge determines there is a need for pre-trial detention. They can no longer be held in county jails as adults, but instead must be held in separate wings of secure youth facilities, or “specialized secure juvenile detention facilities for older youth.”

Adolescent offenders will be detained in county-operated facilities located in Buffalo and Rush, a suburb of Rochester, as well as in Onondaga, Albany, Westchester, and Nassau counties, according to Monica Mahaffey, a spokeswoman for the Office of Children and Family Services.

They may be held at such facilities not only during pre-trial detention, but also if their sentence is one year or less following conviction.

“OCFS and the State Commission on Correction certify and regulate the detention centers. Counties operate them,” Mahaffey wrote in an email to The Enterprise. “Every county is not required to operate a facility, but every county must have a facility available for its use.”

She noted that these facilities are not to be located at county jails, but can be at juvenile secure detention facilities if the offenders are separate from the younger juvenile delinquents and juvenile offenders.

Alex Wilson, associate counsel for the New York State Sheriff’s Association, said that lately the association members have frequently discussed the issue of so few secure facilities in the state, especially upstate.

But beyond transportation, there are concerns about having enough beds, or places for the 16-year-olds, Wilson said.

“It certainly presents a problem,” said Bryant. Currently, she said, no 16-year-old has been sent to a secure facility.

Bryant said a number of counties are considering alternatives to using one of the eight secure facilities. For example, Tompkins County, in central New York on the edge of the Southern Tier, is considering creating a specialized secure facility to be shared among counties in the Southern Tier, she said.

On Oct. 16, the Tompkins County Legislature authorized the county to enter into an agreement to form a local development corporation to create a new specialized secure detention facility.

In April, the Tompkins County joined 10 other counties in a coalition to explore Raise the Age issues, including where to house adolescent offenders.

“The problem is the law requires them to be in these specialized facilities, but the cost of every county having one just doesn’t necessarily make any sense,” Bryant said.

“But from the defense perspective we want our clients to be as close to home as possible, as close to a lawyer as possible so that they can have regular communication and aren’t being transported across the state for a court appearance.”

Wilson noted that there has been a lot of discussion on treating 16-year-olds and eventually 17-year-olds as juveniles rather than adults upon their arrest. He said that their detention will have to take place in special rooms separate from where adult offenders are detained upon their initial arrest up until they are arraigned in court.

But Wilson said that the Raise the Age legislation is written with the presumption that most young offenders will not be detained; he believes most are or will be released on their own recognizance and that probation officers and ankle monitors will be more often used than jail time.

The goal of the legislation and the presumption is that, when someone is brought into the Youth Court, they will be released, Bryant said.

But finding secure facilities for those who require it remains a hurdle.

“You’re trying to find balance,” said McLaughlin, explaining that the county cannot have too few beds or suffer as some facilities have from having too many empty beds after overbuilding.”

Juvenile detention in New York has been reduced by over half since 2010 due to diversion and prevention programs, said Mahaffey.

“Raise the Age provides an opportunity for the same strategies to be applied to 16- and 17-year-olds,” she wrote in an email to The Enterprise.

This is a condensed and slightly edited version of an article by H. Rose Schneider, a 2018 John Jay Rural Justice Reporting Fellow, written as part of her fellowship project. The complete story, published in the Altamount Enterprise, can be viewed here. Readers’ comments are welcome.

from https://thecrimereport.org

After Raise the Age, Where Will Adolescent Offenders Go?

New York has finally joined other states in barring 16- and 17-year-oldswho get in trouble with the law from being tried as adults. But now officials are scrambling to find a secure place to house them and keep them out of the justice system.

On Oct. 1, the first phase of a New York State law known as “Raise the Age” took effect, meaning 16-year-olds can no longer be arrested or tried as adults. A year from now, the law will extend to 17-year-olds as well.

Authorities are just beginning to grapple with the next challenge: Where will these young offenders be housed?

New York’s Albany County, which encompasses the state capital district, is upgrading a facility in Colonie, N.Y., not far from the county jail, to accommodate the new class of youthful offenders.

Senior Investigator Shawn Noonan, the commanding officer of Professionals Standards for the Albany County Sheriff’s Office, calls it a “two-pronged approach”—and the first prong involves upgrading security.

jail

The Capital District Detention Facility in Colonie, N.Y., is being upgraded in anticipation of taking older offenders, aged 16 and 17 years, following the implementation of the state’s Raise the Age legislation. Photo by Michael Koff/The Enterprise

He said that the new facility must take into account that some of the youths may have committed “serious crimes,” and need to be held securely to avoid dangers to others, even as it seeks to make the facility “less institutionalized” in the hope of decreasing recidivism and providing troubled young people with an alternative to jail.

The Capital District Juvenile Secure Detention Facility, which primarily serves Albany, Schenectady, Saratoga, and Rensselaer counties, is one of only eight secure facilities in the state, which are the only institutions qualified to take in detained 16-year-olds and eventually 17-year-olds.

New York used to be just one of two states that prosecuted 16- and 17-year-olds as adults. Only North Carolina remains. In five states—Georgia, Michigan, Missouri, and Texas—17-year-olds are automatically prosecuted as adults.

Thirteen states—Alaska, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, and West Virginia—have no minimum age for prosecuting a child as an adult.

Under New York’s new law, 16-year-olds must be placed in settings appropriate for their age, rather than in jail; those charged with non-violent crimes are to be diverted into community-based programs just like offenders who are 15 and younger.

Sixteen-year-olds arrested on serious charges will go to a youth part of criminal court and be placed in secure detention facilities for adolescents.

A 16-year-old in New York now has several different paths that he or she can follow, according to Noonan, who has been helping with several Raise the Age transitions, including upgrading the county’s juvenile facility to house adolescent offenders, as well as dealing with changes in policy for arresting and charging them.

Sent to Family Court

Any 16-year-old charged with a penal misdemeanor after Oct. 1 will be sent to Family Court, so that he or she will not have a permanent criminal record. If the youth is pulled over for a vehicle or traffic misdemeanor, or a violation, he will go to the local court.

But if that 16-year-old is charged with a felony, he’ll be sent to the newly created Youth Court.

In Albany County, the Youth Court will be in the same building as Family Court and will be overseen by Family Court Judge Richard Rivera, said Noonan.

The 16- and 17-year-olds whose cases remain in Youth Court will be known as adolescent offenders; their counterparts aged 13 to 15, known as juvenile offenders, will be tried in the Youth Court as well. According to the Raise the Age law, adult sentencing will apply, but the judge must take the adolescent offender’s age into account when sentencing, and he or she is eligible for youthful-offender treatment.

In the court system, public defenders will be trained to represent someone in the Youth Court, said Susan Bryant, the acting director for the New York State Defenders’ Association.

Public defenders are also participating in local conversations on county plans for implementation of Raise the Age, which include addressing social services, probation, and transportation.

There is still concern about minors being detained as juveniles, she said.

“It’s certainly a step hopefully towards continued reform,” she said. “I’m not sure if this is the best structure for it, but we will see how it goes.”

One debate is over whether all cases should begin in Family Court, said Bryant. She noted a judge may treat a 16- or 17-year-old more like an adult since they appear older.

Judicial education is needed, Bryant said, although the Youth Court judges being trained to work with adolescent offenders may also be serving in Family Court.

table

A map of New York shows eight secure juvenile detention facilities in red, which are able to hold adolescent offenders. Another two dozen non-secure facilities are marked in blue. Counties shaded in purple are in a partnership to share Albany County’s facility; those shaded in lavender have side agreements to send adolescent offenders to Albany County’s facility. Courtesy The Enterprise.

 

New York has two dozen detention centers for juveniles 16 and younger, scattered across the state. Under the new law, New York has eight secure facilities for adolescent offenders who are awaiting trial and for those convicted and sentenced to less than a year.

The goal is to avoid young people being held far from their homes and families, said David Condliffe, executive director of the advocacy group Center for Community Alternatives and a member of the state’s Raise the Age task force.

Adding ‘Trauma to Trauma’

“Imagine you’re 16 years and you find yourself hundreds of miles from home … It adds trauma to trauma,” said Condliffe.

Condliffe said incarceration has decreased in places like New York City, due to a focus on alternatives to incarceration, while incarceration has increased in rural parts of the state, an assertion backed up by data from the Vera Institute.

Sixteen- and eventually 17-year-olds who face trial in Youth Court must now be held for trial in youth facilities if a judge determines there is a need for pre-trial detention. They can no longer be held in county jails as adults, but instead must be held in separate wings of secure youth facilities, or “specialized secure juvenile detention facilities for older youth.”

Adolescent offenders will be detained in county-operated facilities located in Buffalo and Rush, a suburb of Rochester, as well as in Onondaga, Albany, Westchester, and Nassau counties, according to Monica Mahaffey, a spokeswoman for the Office of Children and Family Services.

They may be held at such facilities not only during pre-trial detention, but also if their sentence is one year or less following conviction.

“OCFS and the State Commission on Correction certify and regulate the detention centers. Counties operate them,” Mahaffey wrote in an email to The Enterprise. “Every county is not required to operate a facility, but every county must have a facility available for its use.”

She noted that these facilities are not to be located at county jails, but can be at juvenile secure detention facilities if the offenders are separate from the younger juvenile delinquents and juvenile offenders.

Alex Wilson, associate counsel for the New York State Sheriff’s Association, said that lately the association members have frequently discussed the issue of so few secure facilities in the state, especially upstate.

But beyond transportation, there are concerns about having enough beds, or places for the 16-year-olds, Wilson said.

“It certainly presents a problem,” said Bryant. Currently, she said, no 16-year-old has been sent to a secure facility.

Bryant said a number of counties are considering alternatives to using one of the eight secure facilities. For example, Tompkins County, in central New York on the edge of the Southern Tier, is considering creating a specialized secure facility to be shared among counties in the Southern Tier, she said.

On Oct. 16, the Tompkins County Legislature authorized the county to enter into an agreement to form a local development corporation to create a new specialized secure detention facility.

In April, the Tompkins County joined 10 other counties in a coalition to explore Raise the Age issues, including where to house adolescent offenders.

“The problem is the law requires them to be in these specialized facilities, but the cost of every county having one just doesn’t necessarily make any sense,” Bryant said.

“But from the defense perspective we want our clients to be as close to home as possible, as close to a lawyer as possible so that they can have regular communication and aren’t being transported across the state for a court appearance.”

Wilson noted that there has been a lot of discussion on treating 16-year-olds and eventually 17-year-olds as juveniles rather than adults upon their arrest. He said that their detention will have to take place in special rooms separate from where adult offenders are detained upon their initial arrest up until they are arraigned in court.

But Wilson said that the Raise the Age legislation is written with the presumption that most young offenders will not be detained; he believes most are or will be released on their own recognizance and that probation officers and ankle monitors will be more often used than jail time.

The goal of the legislation and the presumption is that, when someone is brought into the Youth Court, they will be released, Bryant said.

But finding secure facilities for those who require it remains a hurdle.

“You’re trying to find balance,” said McLaughlin, explaining that the county cannot have too few beds or suffer as some facilities have from having too many empty beds after overbuilding.”

Juvenile detention in New York has been reduced by over half since 2010 due to diversion and prevention programs, said Mahaffey.

“Raise the Age provides an opportunity for the same strategies to be applied to 16- and 17-year-olds,” she wrote in an email to The Enterprise.

This is a condensed and slightly edited version of an article by H. Rose Schneider, a 2018 John Jay Rural Justice Reporting Fellow, written as part of her fellowship project. The complete story, published in the Altamount Enterprise, can be viewed here. Readers’ comments are welcome.

from https://thecrimereport.org

U.S. Juvenile Justice Agency Overhaul Worries Advocates

Trump appointee Caren Harp has overhauled the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. One advocate says it appears that the agency “is taking a less central role.”

Since President Trump appointed her to head the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Caren Harp has begun reshaping the agency with a goal in mind: deregulation. Several divisions are gone and new ones have been created. That has worried advocates and juvenile justice practitioners who see it as an effort to gut the office of its power and scope, reports the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange. The divisions of Juvenile Justice System Improvement, State and Community Development and Youth Development, Prevention, and Safety have been shut down. The research duties of the OJJDP’s Innovation and Research Division were transferred to the National Institute of Justice. “We want OJJDP to be as big, as strong and as helpful to the states as possible,” said Sarah Bryer of the National Juvenile Justice Network. “It’s held states to a very hard standard. It’s pushed the bar. So, when we see divisions being shut down or being transferred to other agencies, it makes it appear that OJJDP is taking a less central role.”

Harp said OJJDP’s goals are unchanged, and that only some of the ways to achieve them has shifted. OJJDP “envisions a nation where our children are free from crime and violence. If they come into contact with the justice system, the contact should be both just and beneficial to them,” a agency spokesman said. Jeffrey Butts of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice Research and Evaluation Center said transferring OJJDP’s research functions risks effectively freezing research in the field. Closing of divisions such as Juvenile Justice System Improvement ― a point of contact for advocates and social workers who provided input — has left many of them perplexed and worried. New divisions have exacerbated concerns, such as the Special Victims and Violent Offenders Division, which some advocates say will emphasize punishment.

from https://thecrimereport.org

DOJ Ends Six-Year Oversight of Memphis Juvenile Court

The Justice Department says the juvenile justice system has improved, but only one-fourth of unresolved items in the equal protection category were in “full compliance.” One official says oversight will continue at the local level. Another calls the Justice Department action an “underhanded move.”

The U.S. Department of Justice is ending its agreement to monitor the juvenile court and detention center in Memphis’ Shelby County. The decision sparked outrage among some Shelby County leaders, many of whom said they want oversight to continue, the Memphis Commercial Appeal reports. The agreement was started in 2012 to address an investigation of the county’s juvenile justice system. The investigation found that Shelby County was deficient in about 120 areas, with systemic discrimination against African-American children, unsafe confinement conditions and failure to provide due process to youth appearing for proceedings.

A county website says that nearly half of the items under the equal protection category are in “partial compliance.” Only 25 percent, or eight items, were in “full compliance.” Commission Chairman Van Turner said, “For them to pull oversight at this juncture — it should trouble everyone in this county.” Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris said the end to oversight acknowledges the work done at juvenile court. On Friday, only 45 youth were detained — an historic low. “We’ll continue the oversight, it’ll just transition from federal oversight to local oversight,” Harris said. “We have to make sure progress continues.” Acting Assistant U.S. Attorney General John Gore of the Civil Rights Division said, “Shelby County made commendable efforts to improve its juvenile justice system. The Department is pleased to see Shelby County and its local elected officials embrace and show public commitment to continuing the reforms it has made.” Several Shelby County Commissioners were unhappy about a lack of communication from the DOJ. “This underhanded move just really makes me wonder whose children matter,” said Commissioner Tami Sawyer. “And until we can see that all kids do matter, that black and brown kids matter in Shelby County, we’ll have to continue to fight.”

from https://thecrimereport.org

WA Court Halts Juvenile Life Without Parole Terms

In a 5-to-4 ruling, the Washington Supreme Court said a life sentence for juveniles convicted of aggravated murder constitutes cruel punishment and is unconstitutional. The case involved a 16-year-old who fatally shot his parents and drowned a five-year-old brother.

A divided Washington Supreme Court ruled that a life sentence for juveniles convicted of aggravated murder constitutes cruel punishment and is unconstitutional, reports the Seattle Times.  Justice Susan Owens said, “the direction of change in this country is unmistakably and steadily moving toward abandoning the practice of putting child offenders in prison for their entire lives.” In a minority opinion, Justice Debra Stephens, argued the majority is reinterpreting a 2012 U.S. Supreme Court decision, Miller vs. Alabama, and that the majority improperly eliminated trial judges’ discretion.

Thursday’s 5-to-4 ruling upheld a Court of Appeals decision on Brian Bassett, who was 16 when he fatally shot his parents with a stolen rifle and drowned his five-year-old brother in a bathtub in 1995. The appeals court agreed with Bassett that a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of release for juvenile defendants violates the state’s prohibition against cruel punishment. “It’s an excellent decision. The U.S. is the only country in the world that sentences people to life for something they did as a child,” said Bassett’s attorney, Eric Lindell. “It’s very consistent with our state constitution and the science that’s developed and proved the minds of juveniles are different from the minds of adults.” Grays Harbor County Prosecutor Katie Svoboda said, “When someone commits a triple homicide like Bassett did, that wasn’t a youthful impulse kind of crime, like a drug deal gone bad or a robbery gone bad. It was a premeditated triple homicide crime, including a 5-year-old child who was drowned in a bathtub. I think the facts of the case matter and the victims matter.” There are 30 Washington inmates serving life sentences without the possibility of release for killings when they were 17 or younger. Washington joins 20 other states and Washington, D.C., in abolishing life without parole for juvenile offenders.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Young People in Adult Facilities Still ‘At Risk,’ says Youth Justice Group

In a report examining state compliance with standards set by the Prison Rape Elimination Act for the detention of young people, the Campaign For Youth Justice argues that “loopholes” in implementation of the standards still leave many youths vulnerable to sexual or physical assault.

Young people held in adult prisons or jails still remain “at risk” for sexual or physical assault despite growing state compliance with standards set by the Prison Rape Elimination Act, according to the Campaign For Youth Justice (CFYJ).

The report by the youth advocacy group, released to mark “Youth Justice Action Month” on the 15th anniversary of the 2003 Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA), reviewed 826 audits by PREA of adult facilities conducted between 2014-2018 across all 50 states.

The audits examined compliance with the Youthful Inmate Standard—a set of guidelines by the Department of Justice requiring youth under 18 to be housed “sight and sound-separated” from adults while held in adult jails, lockups, detention facilities and prisons.

Researchers found that the overall number of sexual assault incidents reported by correctional administrators involving young people under 18 held in adult facilities tripled from 8,768 in 2011, before the DOJ’s youth guidelines were finalized, to 24,661 in 2015.

The increase in reported incidents may reflect the mandates to compile statistics set since the Youthful Inmate Standard was implemented, the researchers said, noting that “implementation of the PREA standards have succeeded in increased awareness and training on how to address sexual assault in state-run facilities, resulting in more reported incidents than before.”

But it added that “litigation, data and numerous news stories suggest that youth who remain in these facilities are unfortunately still at risk.”

The study said existing data do not provide a clear answer to the question of whether youth under 18 are “safer” in adult facilities now than they were before the passage of PREA, but it argued that “implementation loopholes still leave some youth vulnerable. “

The study added: “There is also growing recognition that safety should not only be defined as the absence of sexual assault, but also the absence of prolonged solitary confinement, having access to mental health treatment to address depression and self-harm, and being free from other traumatic institutional policies.”

By those measures, the study said, there is still a lot of work to be done.

“While PREA’s Youthful Inmate Standard was a step in the right direction, when it comes to providing youth what they need to develop into productive adults, it’s not nearly enough,” said Marcy Mistrett, CEO of the Campaign for Youth Justice, in a statement accompanying the study.

“For many young people who remain in adult jails, compliance with the standard has resulted in prolonged solitary confinement, and continued threats to their physical safety. To ensure safety and rehabilitation, youth should not be held in places that were not designed or programmed with them in mind.”

CFYJ, a Washington, DC-based nonprofit, advocates for removal of young people from the adult criminal justice system adult facilities, and for creating “more developmentally appropriate ways to hold youth accountable for their actions, while eliminating the harms associated with exposure to adult courts, jails, and prisons.”

The report, prepared by Jasmine Awad, Rachel Marshall, Eric Rico, and Jeree Thomas, singled out several facilities which “exceeded” the standards and could serve as models for innovative practices elsewhere.

  • The Farmington Correctional Center in Missouri, which was praised by the auditor for its “impressive services” including assigning separate housing for youthful offenders;
  • The Lovelock Correctional Center (LCC), a prison in Nevada, which also contained a separate facility for young inmates, though it was limited to a small 20-bed unit;
  • The Wyoming Honor Conservation Camp & Wyoming Boot Camp.

But the study said legislators at the federal, state and local levels needed to develop more targeted policies to ensure the safety of young people involved with the justice system.

Recommendations included:

  • Passage of state bills to remove youth under 18 from adult facilities;
  • Restrict the use of solitary confinement of youth held in adult facilities, r otherwise moved youth to juvenile placements if “sight and sound” separation isn’t possible;
  • Shorten the 180-day “corrective action” period under PREA to ensure a swift response to safety threats.

The full report, entitled, “Is It Enough? The Implementation of PREA’s Youthful Inmate Standard,” can be downloaded here.

from https://thecrimereport.org

The Uphill Road to Prisoners’ Rights

Extralegal violence against inmates has diminished as prisoners gained standing under U.S. law, but courts, lawmakers and prison administrators have carefully limited civil rights of the incarcerated⸺ushering in what some advocates call the modern era of hygienic, systematized and lawful cruelty.

In the fall of 2010, a 12-year-old was in a fight at her middle school in northern Mississippi.

The police officer assigned to the school as a School Resource Officer arrested her for simple assault and brought her to the local juvenile jail. A guard there patted her down by hand, and then went over her with a metal detector wand.

Because she was booked for a “violent” offense, the jail’s rules also required a cavity search. The girl had to take off all her clothes, bend over, spread her butt apart, and cough, so the guard could check if she had contraband hidden in her rectum. The guard didn’t find anything.

In 2013, the girl’s mother sued the county over the cavity search, alleging it violated her daughter’s civil rights. She had a straightforward case: Cavity-searching children harms them psychologically—the girl had never even been naked in front of her doctor without her mother present, their lawyer said.

Considering the girl’s jailers admitted they didn’t suspect that she was hiding anything in her rectum, that harm seemed unjustifiable.

The notion that prisoners have rights is a relatively new development in the U.S. Until the 1960s, incarcerated individuals had effectively no constitutional protections. But over the ensuing two decades, extralegal violence against inmates began to diminish as prisoners gained standing under the law.

But courts, lawmakers and prison administrators have carefully limited inmates’ civil rights in the years since, ushering in the modern era of hygienic, systematized and lawful cruelty, as some see it.

The Mississippi county authorities argued they had the right to make and enforce the rules at their jail. After all, the cavity search wasn’t arbitrary or malicious. It was protocol for anyone detained on charges of violence, drug possession or theft. The jail dealt with dangerous people. The administrators had a responsibility to protect their inmates from themselves and each other.

“A razor blade is a razor blade is a razor blade, whether it’s concealed in the anus of an adult or whether it’s concealed in the anus of a child,” said the county’s lawyer. “That razor blade can still slash somebody’s jugular vein.”

Courts have a long tradition of hostility to prisoners’ rights.

In 1871, a court ruled that a citizen was a “slave of the state” for the duration of his or her prison sentence. Later rulings softened in tone, though not substance.

As a rule, judges refused to intervene in the affairs of prisons, and their various legal rationales were collectively known as the Hands-Off Doctrine. A judgment from 1951, for example, conceded that there was a good chance the old coal stove in the inmates’ dormitory of an Alaskan jail would set the building on fire and burn them alive. But it went on to dismiss the claim that the conditions amounted to cruel and unusual punishment.

The judge justified his ruling, in part, by comparing the inmates’ circumstances to the suffering of American soldiers who were then serving in combat in Korea.

The broader civil rights movement spurred change, together with the activism, riots and lawsuits of people in prison. A seminal case in Texas, for instance, exposed heinous overcrowding and the torture of prisoners. Other cases rounded out prisoners’ rights to free speech, to practice their religion, and to access the courts, among other things.

But the progressiveness of those rulings was inextricable from the barbarity they were overturning, Lisa Kerr, an expert in prison law at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont. explained in an interview.

Almost as soon as medieval abuses, such as the dark, disease-ridden cells and the use of prisoners as guards, were uncovered, courts, lawmakers and prison administrators began building new ways to deny rights to people in prison.

In the Mississippi girl’s case, the county’s lawyer had a powerful argument grounded in decades of precedent: Courts owe prison administrators “wide-ranging deference.” People in cages may have rights, the principle goes, but only if they don’t interfere with administrators’ “herculean” work of maintaining order and encouraging rehabilitation.

Judges regularly imply that prison officials deal with monstrous people (read: jugular-slashing children with razors in their rectums). As a result, they give the officials special latitude to do their work—so long as they stay within a constitutional, rules-based “penal philosophy.”

But that check on administrators, the requirement that they run their prisons constitutionally, is often meaningless. The courts weigh restrictions on prisoners’ rights against the need to run the prison effectively. But the deck is stacked: courts also justify those same restrictions based on the need to run the prison effectively.

It’s circular logic under which rights almost always lose out to restrictions.

Administrators also take matters into their own hands. In one notorious case, a California prison facing a lawsuit staged a riot during the judge’s tour of the facility, to encourage him to see it in a more terrifying light.

On a subtler level, prison officials often make it hard to assess whether their rights-restricting rules actually work, because they don’t keep records that would serve up measurable evidence. For example, it’s not an accident that there’s so little data on the effect solitary confinement has on safety in U.S. prisons.

When there’s no hard evidence, prison officials’ “expertise” reliably wins by default. Sometimes, even facing evidence that a prison’s rules aren’t justified, they still win.

F.T. Greem

F.T. Green

The cavity searches at that Mississippi jail had literally never turned up anything that a wand and a pat-down didn’t find, according to court records, which seemed to undermine the argument that they served a legitimate purpose.

But the court still ruled last year for the jailers, who now have a constitutional blessing to force 12-year-olds to strip, bend over, spread their butts, and cough.

American penal policies make sense if prisoners are monsters. If not, they’re just making monsters out of their jailers. History suggests it’s the latter.

Editor’s Note: Identifying details of the Mississippi school case have been omitted from the story to protect the girl’s identity.

F.T. Green is a reporter in Toronto. His website is ftgreen.xyz. He welcomes comments from readers.

from https://thecrimereport.org

U.S. Juvenile Justice Law Moves Closer to Renewal

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) was blocking reauthorization of a law funding juvenile justice reforms in states. Cotton now backs the measure when sponsors dropped a provision he opposed that would have reduced jailing of juveniles for minor offenses.

The federal Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) may be on the brink of reauthorization after years of disagreement and inaction in Congress, reports the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange. The law sets the core safety standards for juveniles that states must follow in order to qualify for federal grants. It also aims to prevent delinquency and curb racial and ethnic disparities in juvenile justice system. It hasn’t been reauthorized since 2002. The House and Senate each passed their own bills to reauthorize the JJDPA last year. On Sept. 28 the House approved a version that included the Senate’s language.

Reauthorization could lead to increase funding for JJDPA and improve the treatment of youth in the juvenile justice system. The act was first approved in 1974. Previous attempts to reauthorize the law were blocked by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), who opposed a provision that would limit judges’ authority to lock up some young offenders for “status offenses” such as truancy or running away. Earlier versions of the bill sought to phase out a loophole that allowed the detention of juveniles for status offenses that were in violation of a Valid Court Order (VCO). Cotton convinced key sponsors Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) to keep the VCO exception in exchange for his support. As of 2014, 26 states and the District of Columbia allowed youth detention for status offenses. More than 7,000 young people were incarcerated annually for committing status offenses as of 2016.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Trump Justice Policies Dehumanize Young People of Color: Study

The Trump Administration has been unrelenting in its return to frameworks and failed policies proven to criminalize and dehumanize communities of color, argues a new report by the The Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP).

The Trump Administration has been unrelenting in its return to failed policies that have  criminalized and dehumanized young people of color, argues a new report by The Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP).

The rhetoric in tweets, speeches, and press statements has made the political climate ripe for advancing policies that roll back recent criminal justice reforms in favor of a “law-and-order” agenda, Kisha Bird, Duy Pham and Justin Edwards argued in the report , entitled “Unjustice: Overcoming Trump’s Rollbacks on Youth Justice.”

These failed policies echo a modern-day political playbook ripped from the 1960s that vilified communities of color and further systematized racial inequities in the criminal justice system, claims the study by CLASP, a nonpartisan advocacy group .

The study examined the following decision-making points that can affect young people of color: promising police reform strategies under threat; reversing progress in strategic prosecutorial choices; and criminalizing youth culture and youth of color.

Notably, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) under the leadership of Attorney General Jeff Sessions repeatedly paints people of color as dangerous, uses misleading crime data, and makes false links between immigration and crime to incite fear, they said.

“The Department of Justice claimed that “the violent crime rate increased by 3.4 percent nationwide in 2016, the largest single-year increase in 25 years.

“However, while violent crime and murder did increase in 2015 and 2016, these trends warrant more investigation and are much more nuanced than the administration’s rhetoric leads the public to believe.”

Trump reinforces this rhetoric, stirring fear that violent crime has reached unprecedented levels, despite steadily decreasing over the last 25 years with minor one- or two year fluctuations, the authors wrote.

More, Sessions voiced concern over police oversight investigations during his confirmation hearing, testifying that federal lawsuits against local law enforcement could “undermine the respect for police officers and create an impression that the entire department is not doing their work consistent with fidelity to law and fairness.”

Bird, Pham and Edwards recalled that in a March 2017 memo, Sessions ordered a sweeping review of consent decrees with law enforcement agencies about police conduct. Soon after that, he announced the department’s withdrawal from consent decrees and DOJ investigations into city police departments.

Then, the withdrawal of the DOJ from supporting consent decrees rolls back progress in community-police relations and civil rights in many communities. It also puts young people—particularly young men of color—at greater risk of unconstitutional discrimination by law enforcement, according to the report.

Sessions’ rescission of the Obama-era guidance to eliminate mandatory minimum sentences for low-level, nonviolent drug offenses returns us to an era of excessive punishments that has exacerbated mass incarceration and the unjust racial profiling and discrimination that persist in our justice system, they added.

“Mandatory minimums worsened punishments for youth and young adults of color without providing solutions or addressing root causes, especially following the series of reforms in the 1994 Crime Bill and “tough-on-crime” policies.”

Yet many of the most threatening and transparent actions of the Trump Administration directly target immigrant communities, CLASP argued.

“What started in the campaign as racist attacks on immigrants has translated into the administration actively pushing a false theory that immigration causes crime and painting immigrant youth as dangerous gang members.”

The administration has criminalized immigrant youth as a part of its strategy to push nationalist immigration policies that are devastating youth and young adults of color, regardless of immigration status, authors continued.

The study recalled that the president refers to gang members as “animals” and repeatedly mentions gang violence when talking about immigration to advance his agenda.

Jeff Sessions also says the administration is working “to examine the unaccompanied minors issue and the exploitation of that program by gang members who come to this country as wolves in sheep clothing.”

The authors concluded that the devastating effects of the administration’s dehumanizing rhetoric on immigrant youth of color are “immoral.”

They made the following policy recommendations:

  • Examine the commitment of law enforcement and state and local policymakers to researching, implementing, and investing in 21st century policing strategies.
  • Assess and document public statements and policies of chief law enforcement officials that address mass incarceration and reduce mandatory minimums.
  • Review and analyze existing and newly proposed state gang enhancement laws.
  • Establish accountability safeguards and standards to reduce and eliminate racial disparities in the juvenile and criminal justice system.
  • Build partnerships across agencies and stakeholders to make criminal justice reform and reinvestment a priority, as demonstrated by state, county, and city budgets, as well as the state and local legislative agenda.

A full copy of the report can be found here.

Megan Hadley is Associated Editor of The Crime Report. Readers’ comments are welcomed.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Would a Resentful Justice Kavanaugh Derail Juvenile Justice Reform?

The furor over Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s alleged sexual misconduct as a 17-year-old raises questions about how he would rule on key juvenile justice cases if he is confirmed by the Senate, a John Jay College conference was told Thursday.

The furor over Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s alleged sexual misconduct as a 17-year-old raises questions about how he would rule on key juvenile justice cases if he is confirmed by the Senate, a John Jay College conference was told Thursday.

“I bet you [Kavanaugh] is going to be pretty pissed off about how we all tried to derail his nomination with something he did when he was 17,” said Elton Anglada, president of the Juvenile Defender Association of Pennsylvania.

Anglada said that if Kavanaugh were asked to rule in cases that required the Court to re-examine previous rulings establishing that youths under 18 could not be held legally responsible for criminal acts, based on scientific findings about adolescent brain development, he might be tempted to turn his current critics’ words against them.

A procedural vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination is scheduled Friday, in the aftermath of an FBI investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct brought by three women when he was a student at Georgetown Prep and Yale University. The investigation reportedly could not corroborate the allegations. If the procedural vote passes, the full Senate may vote on the nomination as early as Saturday.

In several landmark rulings, the Court has steadily chipped away at previous legal precedents that allowed individuals to receive the death penalty or life-without-parole sentences for crimes they committed as minors. The justices ruled in Roper v Simmons (2005) that it was unconstitutional to impose the death penalty for a crime committed by a child under the age of 18, reversing a 1989 Stanford v Kentucky ruling that allowed juveniles aged 16 years or older at the time of their crimes to receive the death penalty.

Then, in Graham v Florida (2010) the Court found that sentencing juveniles to life without the possibility of parole for a non-homicidal crime is also a violation of the U.S. constitution, ruling that individuals who committed such crimes as minors could be released based on “demonstrated maturity and rehabilitation.”

Two years later, in Miller v Alabama, the Court ruled it was unconstitutional to sentence juveniles to mandatory life without parole.

All three cases were the product of long, hard-fought campaigns by justice reformers to incorporate into U.S. jurisprudence findings by numerous psychologists and behavioral experts that adolescents were unable to take responsibility for their actions or to understand the difference between right and wrong.

They represented significant achievements in what was an historic effort to use modern science about brain development to transform how young people were treated in the criminal justice system.

But they were not necessarily settled law, Anglada said at the John Jay conference, which was organized to examine “Unfinished Business” in juvenile justice, for journalists selected as reporting fellows by the Center on Media, Crime and Justice at John Jay.

Editor’s Note: The Center on Media, Crime and Justice publishes The Crime Report.

According to Anglada, who also serves as assistant chief of the Juvenile Unit at the Defender Association of Philadelphia, the 5-4 decisions were ultimately carried by now-retired Justice Anthony Kennedy (whose seat Kavanaugh has been nominated to fill).

Kennedy wrote majority opinions for two of them—Roper v. Simmons and Graham v. Florida, in which he cited research that found juveniles to be less mature and possess less of a sense of responsibility for their actions than adults.

“These cases are going to go back up to the Supreme Court,”Anglada predicted. “And I think about myself standing in front of Kavanaugh three or four years from now arguing that you shouldn’t revisit Graham, Miller and Roper and my client should be treated differently because he’s a juvenile, and we don’t want to hold a juvenile responsible for his entire life for something he did 35 years ago.

“Say that to Brett Kavanaugh with a straight face and see what answer you get.”

Other speakers at the conference noted that juvenile justice was returning to a “rehabilitative and therapeutic model” after an era in which one-dimensional punitive strategies dominated the approach to youthful criminality.

Farewell to the Era of ‘Super-Predators”

The era was driven by a false narrative of the emergence of youthful “super-predators” responsible for a wave of violence, fanned by media sensationalism and several academics, said Michael Umpierre, a senior research fellow at the Center for Juvenile Justice Reform of the McCourt School of Public Policy at Georgetown University.

But since the beginning of this century, a “developmental approach” based on the notion that punishment should be developmentally appropriate for adolescents has been “taking hold across the country,” Umpierre said.

“The developmental approach embodies the recognition that adolescents are different than adults and from children too,” he added, noting that the number of juveniles now locked up in prison was half that of a decade ago.

Researchers, advocates and legal experts told the conference that significant juvenile justice challenges remained—most importantly the racial and ethnic disparities that affect authorities’ responses to juvenile misbehavior—and they warned that federal support for addressing those disparities was now in doubt.

Marsha Levick

Marsha Levick, Juvenile Law Center

“It’s impossible to talk about youth justice without talking about race,” said Marsha Levick, deputy director and chief counsel of the Juvenile Law Center, noting recent decisions by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Protection (OJJDP), to stop collecting data on disproportional minority impact, and return to a more punitive language in addressing juvenile misconduct.

“What we measure is what we worked on, and if we’re not collecting data on racial disparities, then we can’t address them.”

Michael Harris, senior attorney for the National Center for Youth Law, said white federal and state policymakers still took a narrow, biased view of young African-American and Latinx offenders as “other people’s kids.”

“They don’t think about how to treat kids as if they were their own kids,” he said, noting that 58 percent of young people detained in juvenile facilities were African American, although African Americans represented just 16 percent of the U.S. juvenile population.

Kim Dvorchak, executive director of the National Association of Counsel for Children, said that despite reforms enacted by state legislatures —some 70 pieces of legislation in at least 36 states have enacted major reforms in areas ranging from raising the age of adult jurisdiction to removing youths from adult prisons over the past decade—there were still major shortcomings.

“Florida has prosecuted 7,800 children as adults in the name of public safety,” she said.

Added Levick: “We need to talk about the way the system continues to screw kids.”

Yet future reforms in juvenile justice may now be held hostage by a new Supreme Court Justice embittered by what he regards as an effort by liberal reformers to wreck his nomination, according to the Philadelphia Defender’s Anglada.

“The doctrine of adolescent development is the most positive advance (in juvenile justice) we have seen since 1998, showing that juveniles have the capacity for change,” Anglada said.

 “I don’t think that’s going to play well for adolescent development cases when they come up in front of the court (if Kavanaugh is approved as the ninth Justice).”

This story was prepared from reports by J. Gabriel Ware, Nancy Bilyeau and Stephen Handelman of The Crime Report. Readers’ comments are welcome.

from https://thecrimereport.org