In a Utah Courthouse, Justice for Youth Comes With Shackles

At least 31 states now have rules preventing the automatic shackling of juveniles when they are brought to court. But one rural county in Utah hasn’t got the message.

Inside the pale stone historic courthouse in Manti, Utah, a rural town of 3,500 about two hours south of Salt Lake City, youths coming to court from juvenile detention centers sit in the jury room with their hands bound to a belly chain that rests on their hips, a bailiff watching over them as they wait for their cases to be called.

The chains often stay on when they go into the sole courtroom for their hearing.

And, at times, authorities shackle youths to the floor, cuffing their ankles to a steel plate in the jury room. This happens when a judge orders a juvenile taken into custody; the youth sits chained to the floor until a sheriff’s deputy comes to the courthouse to take him or her to a detention center.

shackles

Court officials in Manti say that because the outdated courthouse has no holding cell, juveniles ordered into custody are shackled while waiting to be transported to a detention center. Photo by Francisco Kjolseth/ The Salt Lake Tribune

That conflicts with practice in many states, where rules governing the shackling of minors ensure that it is used only when justified for security reasons. Those rules in fact are supposed to operate in Utah as well.

Under a 2015 amendment to Utah’s juvenile-offender laws, shackles for minors were restricted only to those judged a flight risk or who might harm others. A subsequent rule enacted by the Utah Judicial Council, allowed a judge to decide on a case-by-case basis whether a youth should be shackled to be restrained in court.

Yet that judicial rule has an exception for “exigent circumstances.” And in Manti, court officials say the outdated Sanpete County Courthouse presents security issues that require them to routinely shackle youths.

But there’s a price to be paid.

Treating even those who commit minor offenses as hardened criminals not only produces long-term trauma but creates a stigma that is hard to overcome for youths whose unstable behavior has already brought them in contact with the law, say youth advocates.

“There is something fundamentally, potentially damaging, to take a person [who has] been injured psychologically, emotionally, physically and further restrain them,” said Shawn Marsh, director of judicial studies at the University of Nevada in Reno.

Marsh was part of a national group that pushed to end indiscriminate shackling nationwide. The social psychology professor said research has shown that few youths are legitimate flight risks who need to be restrained.

Utah legislators appear to agree.

“In my view, the evidence was compelling that shackling a youth in court was unnecessary and only had negative psychological effects of shaming and embarrassment,” Former State Sen. Aaron Osmond, a Republican who sponsored the 2015 bill to change the rules about shackling, told The Salt Lake Tribune.

Before the 2015 amendment, any youth who was staying in a detention center, regardless of the severity of his or her alleged crime, came to court handcuffed.

As a result, in most Utah courtrooms today, youths wear no restraints unless the juvenile court judge finds they pose a risk to public safety or a danger to themselves.

‘Exigent Circumstance’

Nevertheless, concerns about the impact of shackles on vulnerable youth appear to be trumped by the lack of security at the 83-year-old courthouse, an “exigent circumstance” that court officials say won’t be remedied unless a new facility is built.

“We’re doing the best we can,” said Wendell Roberts, the trial court executive for the 6th Judicial District.

In Manti, there’s no holding cell in the courthouse to secure defendants before and after hearings.

The security problems at the 83-year-old Manti courthouse is one reason young people in the county have to be shackled, say local officials. Photo by Francisco Kjolseth/The Salt Lake Tribune

This means adult defendants sit shackled in a jury box in the single courtroom and listen to one another’s cases as they wait for their own to be called. But because juvenile cases are typically not public, young defendants are kept in chains in the jury room while they wait.

Youths frequently continue to wear handcuffs into the courtroom for their hearing, according to Sanpete County Sheriff’s Lt. Brad Bown, who works in the courthouse.

The metal floor ring welded to a heavy steel plate in the jury room was originally made to be used in the courtroom during a murder trial for an adult. Now, it’s used to hold juveniles for short periods of time.

Bown said this generally only happens once every month or so, when a youth is unexpectedly taken into custody and an additional bailiff isn’t available to watch him or her. He couldn’t recall anyone being shackled to the floor in the past six months.

Marsh of the University of Nevada, said one of the most serious effects of shackling youth, many of whom already are suffering trauma, is the loss of autonomy.

“Since [shackles are] being forced upon you, you’ve lost control,” he said. “You’re not given an opportunity to have a choice.”

He said the best way to balance security issues with concerns about damaging young people is to have a judge decide shackling on a case-by-case basis — much like what happens in courtrooms throughout the rest of Utah. Thirty-one other states have similar rules preventing automatic shackling, according to the National Juvenile Defender Center.

Anna Thomas, senior policy analyst with Voices for Utah Children, said members of her organization first took note of the metal ring used to shackle youths to the floor in Manti during site visits. They were researching youth access to public defenders, attorneys paid by counties to represent indigent defendants.

“The image [shackling] gives of those kids, and just how it paints them in a courtroom or even in their own community — it’s just super concerning,” she said.

Thomas said Voices for Utah Children found that youths’ experiences in Utah’s juvenile justice system can vary greatly, based on which county they live in — and not just when it comes to whether they will be handcuffed in court. She said the group found frequent discrepancies in whether a youth offender was given an attorney.

“Ideally, you would have kids appointed an attorney upfront,” she said. “When you get further and further away from major population centers, that just gets really hard to implement.”

Not everyone thinks shackling is by definition abusive, however.

“I haven’t noticed anything that jumps out at me as abusive or excessive,” David Angerhofer, who works as a public defender in Sanpete County, he said in a recent interview.

But he admits that not having a holding cell or a conference room in a secure area of the courthouse does create challenges for a defense attorney. If he needs to talk to a young client before a hearing, his only option is to sit side by side in a set of mismatched chairs with his client, just outside the jury room in a secure hallway.

Roberts, the trial court executive, said the only option for adult defendants who need to talk to their attorney — conversations that are supposed to be private — is to either put them in the jury room or use chairs in the hallways.

“That’s why we’re trying to get a new courthouse,” he said.

One problem noted by observers is that the judge and inmates use the same building entrance and exit, Roberts said. There have been times, he added, when a defendant has left the courtroom and followed a judge to his car to argue over a ruling.

In recent years, court officials have asked legislators to provide funds for a new courthouse, but the project has been ranked too far down on the priority list to get state funding.

Court officials already have purchased land to build on, a 2.34-acre plot where a boarded-up, dilapidated construction building and three narrow World War II-era parachute production buildings now stand.

They are trying again this year, requesting more than $19 million in state funds to erect a new building that will help solve their most pressing safety concerns.

The ultimate decision rests with Utah lawmakers, who will dole out funding when the legislative session starts in January.

Until then, youths coming to the outdated courthouse in Manti will be treated differently than other young people in the state, wearing chains when normally they would not.

Jessica Miller, a staff writer for The Salt Lake Tribune, is a 2018 John Jay/Tow Juvenile Justice Reporting Fellow. This is a condensed and slightly edited version of a story written as part of her Fellowship project. The full version can be accessed here. Readers’ comments are welcome.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Rising Number of Life Sentences is ‘Wasteful and Inhumane,’ says Study

Life sentences in the US continue to rise, despite declining crime rates, according to The Sentencing Project.  The study also found that the number of juveniles and women serving life terms has also grown.

Despite declining crime rates, life sentences in the U.S. continue to rise, according to a new study by The Sentencing Project. 

The study authors found the number of people serving life sentences – including life without the possibility of parole ( 53,290), life with the possibility of parole (108,667), and “virtual” life sentences of 50 years or more (44,311) are at an all-time high.

“This is both wasteful and inhumane,” authors said.

“The overwhelming majority of individuals who commit crime—even serious crime—will “age out” of criminal behavior, and their continued incarceration diminishes returns on public safety,” they added.

Moreover, although most life sentences are reserved for those who have committed serious and often violent crimes, over 17,000 individuals serving life have been convicted of a nonviolent offense, including 5,000 convicted of a drug offense, the study found.

And, 59 percent of lifers are serving sentences for homicide, 17 percent for rape or sexual assault, and 15 percent for aggravated assault, robbery, or kidnapping.

Significantly, while people of color are over-represented in prisons and jails, this disparity is even more evident among those sentenced to life imprisonment, where one of every five African American prisoners is serving a life sentence.

The number of women and juveniles  serving life sentences is also alarming, the study said.

Over 6,000 women are serving life or virtual life sentences. The number of women serving life sentences has risen at a faster rate than for men in recent years, according to the study.

More than 7,000 juveniles are serving sentences of life with parole, and another 2,000 are serving “virtual life” prison terms of 50 years or more.

A full copy of the report can be found here.

Megan Hadley is senior staff writer for The Crime Report.

from https://thecrimereport.org

The Kids ‘Left Behind’ By New York’s Raise the Age Law

Juveniles under the age of 17 will no longer be prosecuted as adults under a state law that went into effect Oct. 1. But since the law isn’t retroactive, thousands of young people arrested earlier are caught in the old system—with potentially devastating consequences, advocates say.

It started with a cell phone.

Last summer, Jay (not her real name), a 16-year-old living in upstate New York, was convinced a woman had taken her mother’s phone, police say, and went to the woman’s house with three friends to retrieve it. They broke in, according to police, and took some other things—including jewelry and makeup—while they were there.

When the woman threatened to call the police, Jay tried to return the items, the police said, but she didn’t return all of them. The woman notified the police and Jay was arrested.

If the incident had happened today, Jay’s case most likely would have been resolved in family court, without criminal penalties. But since it allegedly happened last summer, she was charged as an adult in criminal court with burglary in the second degree, a violent felony that carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison.

That’s because the state changed the way it treats 16-year-olds in the criminal justice system, starting on Oct. 1. Recognizing that teenagers like Jay are prone to impulsive behavior because their brains are still developing, New York lawmakers passed the Raise the Age law in 2017, shifting the age of criminal responsibility from 16 to 18.

(For 17-year-olds, the law will change Oct. 1, 2019.)

Around 21,000 16- and 17-year-olds were arrested in New York last year. Before Raise the Age, New York and North Carolina were the only two states where those 16- and 17-year-olds were automatically prosecuted as adults in criminal court.

Under the new law, the vast majority of their cases will now be diverted to family court, which is meant to emphasize more age-appropriate solutions like counseling and community services over criminal punishment. Only the most serious cases will stay in a new youth part in criminal court.

But for 16-year-olds like Jay, whose cases were pending when Raise the Age went into effect, the old system is still in place. And research shows that system can do permanent damage to their well-being and derail their futures.

“There are kids similarly situated who are being treated totally differently,” said Jay’s attorney, Lauren Parnes. “They could have been arrested right afterward and these cases are now on two totally different tracks.”

For Parnes, the timing is particularly tragic in Jay’s case because this is her first arrest and she almost certainly would have benefited from having her case heard in family court rather than criminal court.

Jay’s mother is a drug user and frequently kicked Jay out of the house, Parnes said, leaving her homeless. Even when she was at home, the power and hot water were often shut off, Jay said, making her unable to shower for school. And Jay’s father lives more than 1,500 miles away in a different state.

Parnes declined to name the town where the alleged crime occurred or the prosecuting district attorney to protect her client’s identity.

In family court, she explained, a judge probably would have seen a girl in need rather than a criminal. The judge might have brought in the Department of Social Services, Parnes said, to help stabilize Jay’s housing and help her access things like food stamps and Medicaid.

“There’s all these sorts of needs that aren’t being addressed.”

Ramen and Mountain Dew

Jay’s situation has echoes across the state. In Schenectady, a 16-year-old was recently charged with third-degree robbery for allegedly stealing a pair of Jordan Pro Star sneakers and fourth-degree grand larceny in the theft of an Apple iPhone 7. Because the alleged robberies occurred in May rather than October, he now faces up to 11 years in prison.

In Plattsburgh, a 16-year-old boy was charged with third-degree burglary after breaking into his mother’s home last summer and stealing ramen and Mountain Dew. Thanks in part to prior arrests for crimes like petit larceny and unauthorized use of a vehicle, the teen’s attorney said, he was sentenced to six months in jail with five years probation.

The attorney, David Gervais, said he was especially disappointed that the judge would jail his client for stealing food.

 “It’s not like he went in to steal medication or to steal cash,” Gervais said. “He didn’t touch anything else. He just literally went in to get food.”

The teen needs rehab, not jail time, Gervais said. Neither the judge nor Andrew Wylie, Clinton County’s district attorney, responded to requests for comment.

Of course, many judges in adult court choose to sentence kids to probation rather than lock them up. Another 16-year-old, in the town of Attica, was arrested in September and charged with second-degree burglary for allegedly stealing an Xbox One from someone’s home.

Like Jay, he now faces up to 15 years in prison. But Wyoming County District Attorney Donald O’Geen said that’s unlikely to happen.

“It will most likely end with the defendant receiving a youthful offender adjudication (which means the criminal record will be sealed) and some term of probation,” O’Geen wrote in an email.

O’Geen added that the incident shouldn’t be downplayed.

“Whether the burglary was committed by a 16-year-old or a 61-year-old, it is still a violent crime and there is still a victim who now lives with the fact that someone has violated the sanctity of their home,” he wrote.

“Family Court is not the place to send cases for solutions as they have no teeth.”

But in criminal court, even probation often carries major risks for young offenders. In the New York City borough of The Bronx, Derek (not his real name), a 16-year-old who allegedly tossed away a gun during a police pursuit in June, was charged as an adult with gun possession. The judge offered him five years’ probation, but his attorney is worried that a mistake like smoking marijuana or missing too much school could land him in prison.

A family court judge might have placed him in a therapeutic group home for some period of time, or ordered him to attend outpatient programs to address substance use or mental health issues, notes Gregg Stankewicz, director of the Adolescent Defense Project at the Bronx Defenders.

And that’s a smarter approach than criminal punishment, he said.

The young people his team encounters live in over-policed communities, Stankewicz explained, and the vast majority grow out of the behavior that results in arrests.

“That’s why it’s so important that we don’t permanently set back these young people, either with a record or with the physical and mental harm that can come from incarceration,” he said.

That approach benefits public safety as well, he said. Several studies have found that young people transferred to the adult criminal justice system are more likely to reoffend than those treated as juveniles.

“For the health of the community and the child,” Stankewicz said, “we need a more rehabilitative system that’s focused on repair.”

While many public defenders want Raise the Age to go further, some prosecutors question whether it’s needed at all. The District Attorneys Association of New York referred a request for comment for this story to Washington County District Attorney Tony Jordan, a member of its executive board.

Jordan said that even before the law, less than 5 percent of the 16- and 17-year-olds arrested ended up with permanent records.

Prosecutors have long offered young people access to diversion programs, he said, and used incarceration only as a last resort.

“We’ve always looked at a 16-year-old as a 16-year-old,” Jordan told The Appeal. “Sometimes their actions are such that there’s a different consequence, but we never lose sight of the fact that they’re a 16-year-old.”

Nancy Ginsburg, director of the Legal Aid Society’s Adolescent Intervention and Diversion Project, pushed for the law, yet acknowledges that some judges and prosecutors in the adult system assess teens’ cases fairly.

But she said adult court lacks the breadth of services and legal options available in family court.

“It’s just not possible to fairly adjudicate kids in a system that was created for adults,” she said.

There are already signs that some district attorneys will resist the new law. Patrice O’Shaughnessy, a spokesperson for the Bronx DA’s office, said cases are assessed “on an individual basis.”

But even now, the office would argue to keep cases involving 16-year-olds with guns in criminal court.

“Since the Raise the Age law went into effect if [a] 16-year-old is charged in a gun case, we would ask to keep that case under ‘extraordinary circumstances,’” she said, alluding to a provision in the law that prevents some cases from being transferred from criminal to family court.

What Constitutes ‘Extraordinary’ Circumstances?

Stankewicz of the Bronx Defenders finds it troubling that the DA is looking to exclude certain groups of teenagers from the law’s protections. “If the District Attorney’s office believes every gun possession case is ‘extraordinary,’ they misunderstand the nature of Raise the Age,” he wrote in an email.

The law states that absent “extraordinary circumstances,” a gun possession case would stay in criminal court only when a firearm is displayed. “A blanket position that every firearm possession amounts to ‘extraordinary circumstances’ would be an attempt to get around the intent of Raise the Age,” he wrote, “and to continue using the adult criminal justice system against children.”

As prosecutors and public defenders debate the new law, some attorneys say the kids who just missed it should be part of the conversation.

“The reason they implemented this legislation existed when my client allegedly committed this crime,” said Parnes, Jay’s lawyer, who said she thinks the law should have covered 16-year-olds whose cases were still pending when it went into effect.

Brian Degnan, who represented the teen who allegedly stole the Xbox, agrees. He said he tried to argue that point in court, but the judge in the case, Michael Mohun, said his hands were tied by the law. (Through a spokesperson, Mohun said he could not comment on the case.)

But Degnan doesn’t blame the judge for his client’s misfortune.

“He’s getting lost in the legislative shuffle,” Degnan said. “I think it was very short-sighted on the part of the legislature.”

 The kids who were left behind have reached the attention of the state legislators who shepherded Raise the Age to passage, according to Cathy Peake, chief of staff for Assembly Member Joe Lentol, who was a lead negotiator on the law. Lentol’s office has heard concerns about 16- and 17-year-olds still being charged as adults.

Emboldened by Democrats gaining control of both houses of the state legislature, Peake said the office is starting to hold meetings to discuss Raise the Age fixes, such as requiring courts to automatically seal the cases of 16- and 17-year-olds arrested or convicted before the law took effect.

“It’s not uncommon that we fight to get a good law and then we come back to make it even better,” she said.

For now, however, Jay is on edge. She is living out of state with her aunt and uncle and trying to get her GED. “I’m doing so good out here,” she said.

But with her case still open, the threat of incarceration is hanging over her head.

“Doing jail time really scares me,” she said.

If she were given a chance to take her case to family court instead, “maybe they would have seen that I really made a mistake,” she said, “and that I’m trying to change.”

Cassi Feldman is a 2018 John Jay/Tow Juvenile Justice Reporting Fellow. The Crime Report is pleased to co-publish this article, which also appeared today in The Appeal. Reader’s comments are welcome.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Young, Black and Charged as Adults

African-American teens in Pennsylvania’s second-most populous county were 20 times more likely than their white peers to be arrested and charged as adults in 2016 and 2017, according to a newspaper investigation.

Denzel Glover was 16 when he was arrested and taken to Pittsburgh’s Allegheny County Jail for shooting another teen in September 2016. Kiyon Swindle was 17 when he was arrested in March 2017 for leading Allegheny County police on a high-speed chase that ended with Swindle crashing a stolen vehicle into another vehicle, injuring several people.

Tomichael Sherrell was just 15 when he was arrested and charged with robbery, and 16 when he was sentenced to five years of probation after pleading guilty to felony robbery. He spent nearly a year in county jail because he could not pay cash bail.

From the moment Sherrell, Swindle, and Glover were charged, they were treated as adults, held in adult jail, and then prosecuted by the Allegheny district attorney’s office and convicted as adults.

Pennsylvania law requires that people who are accused of serious felony offenses like murder, robbery and aggravated assault, and are at least 15 years old, be charged as adults if the case involves the use of a weapon during the crime or if the person has a history of using a weapon.

But these cases can be diverted to the juvenile system by prosecutors after defendants are charged. Despite numerous opportunities, the district attorney’s office never moved Sherrell, Swindle or Glover from adult court to the juvenile system.

Marsha Levick, deputy director and chief counsel at the Juvenile Law Center, a Philadelphia-based non-profit that advocates for juveniles, told The Appeal that “nothing good” comes from incarcerating and prosecuting children as adults.

“You’re removing kids from their communities,” she said. “That’s strike one.”

Swindle, Glover, and Sherrell have something in common with majority of children charged and tried as adults in Allegheny, Pennsylvania’s second-most populous county with over 1.2 million residents.

They are African American.

Allegheny County Jail

Allegheny County Jail. Photo via Flickr

The Appeal reviewed all charging dockets filed in magisterial district judge offices in Allegheny County in 2016 and 2017 and found nearly 200 cases where teens were charged as adults by the district attorney’s office. In more than 80 percent of those cases, the defendant was African American.

The review only tracked cases where the defendant was under the age of 18, both when the offense occurred and at the time charges were filed.

Black youth only account for about 20 percent of the total youth population age 14-17 in Allegheny County, according to the federal Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. But African-American teens in the county were 20 times more likely than their white peers to be arrested and charged as adults in 2016 and 2017, The Appeal found.

The Appeal made multiple attempts to reach Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala’s office for comment but received no response.

*“There’s all of this implicit, and sometimes explicit, bias that drives law enforcement into [minority] communities and that drives these kids into our justice system,” Levick said.

And that racial disparity only grew as cases moved through Allegheny County’s system.

In 2016 and 2017, Black teens in the county accounted for about 85 percent of children charged in adult court, 91 percent of those referred for prosecution, nearly 97 percent of those who received an adjudication, and 100 percent of all children sentenced to either jail or prison, according to The Appeal’s review of court records. Black teens were also 85 times more likely to be prosecuted in adult court than their white peers.

The Appeal also found that prosecutors were less likely to withdraw cases against Black teens early in the proceedings, before those cases reached the trial court. And in Pennsylvania, withdrawing can often indicate that a case might move from adult to juvenile court.

Of the six cases involving a white teen sent to Zappala’s office, The Appeal found only two criminal dockets in the higher court. In one case, the defendant died before trial; the other was still active at the time of The Appeal‘s review.

Conversely, about 70 cases involving Black teens were sent to Zappala for prosecution. From those cases, The Appeal found that Zappala’s office created 46 adult criminal dockets—28 of those cases have ended in a prison, jail or probation sentence; in three, Zappala’s office dropped all charges; and 15 are still awaiting adjudication.

Recent research suggests that sending teens through the adult justice system and incarcerating youth with adults can have grave consequences.

Youth held in adult prisons and jails are twice as likely to die by suicide  than their adult counterparts, and roughly 36 times more likely to die by suicide than their peers held in juvenile facilities.

Research has also found that young people sent through the adult justice system are more likely to commit new offenses, and commit them more quickly than similarly charged youth who went through the juvenile system.

As such statistics have come to light, courts and states have begun rethinking how they punish children.  Four U.S. Supreme Court decisions have held that the death penalty and mandatory life without parole sentences for children are unconstitutional. In one such ruling, the high court noted that “adolescent brain anatomy can cause transient rashness, proclivity for risk, and inability to assess consequences.”

States have also moved away from the “adult time for adult crime” and “superpredator” narratives of the 1980s and 1990s. In 2016, the Vermont legislature passed a law allowing people 21 and younger, and charged with certain nonviolent offenses, youthful offender status and adjudication through the juvenile system.

Last year, New York raised its age of adult criminal liability from 16 to 18; in October, Washington State’s Supreme Court held that life without parole sentences were unconstitutional for individuals convicted of offenses they committed as children.

The American Bar Association now recommends that children “be treated as juveniles in the court justice system, with a focus on rehabilitating rather than simply punishing.”

But there’s movement in Pennsylvania, too.

In 2014, the state Supreme Court determined that lifetime sexual offender registration for individuals who committed offenses when they were children was unconstitutional and a violation of state law. The lower court cited a growing body of research regarding youth brain development and delinquent behavior, noting that “lifetime registration is also contrary to the rehabilitative goals of our juvenile justice system, as a court of second chances.”

And the conservative columnist George F. Will recently urged the U.S. Supreme Court to take a juvenile life without parole case out of Mississippi to force the state to take seriously its rulings granting parole eligibility to youth who are not “permanently incorrigible.”

The attorney for Joey Chandler, the lifer in the case, argued that he has been incarcerated “virtually without disciplinary blemish and that he excelled in job training programs offered at the prison.”

“Accountability matters,” Levick of the Juvenile Law Center said. “But accountability in developmentally appropriate ways is what we should be focused on.”

Joshua Vaughn is a 2018 John Jay/Tow Juvenile Justice Reporting Fellow. This is a condensed and slightly edited version of a story that appeared this week in The Appeal. The full version can be accessed here.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Wanted: Judges Who Can Change the Way Police Treat Youth

The large number of federal judicial openings this year represents an opportunity to pick judges who can make sure police live up to legal precedents preventing them from treating young people as adults, argue two youth advocates.  

Adult to child: “You should know better.”

It’s time courts said something similar to law enforcement agencies.

The unusually large number of judicial appointments for openings on the federal bench this year presents a unique opportunity to respond to calls for improved policies and better training for law enforcement in its interactions with youth.

The scientific evidence is clear: young people are developmentally different than adults. Yet courts routinely excuse police agencies for failing to train officers to strategically handle routine interactions with youth.

Instead of requiring law enforcement agencies to adopt strategies reflecting an understanding of the limited maturity, poor impulse control and proclivity for risk-taking that is a hallmark of normal adolescent development, courts continue to ignore the unique legal status of youth by applying adult precedents.

Lisa Thureau

Lisa Thurau

Youth harmed by the excessive use of force by police can sue for civil rights violations under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and by bringing a so-called Monell claim against the respective agency or municipality. Generally, a Monell claim requires a plaintiff pushing for systemic change to allege “an underlying constitutional violation.”

Several rulings have established precedents for such claims.

In Kitchen v. Dallas County, Tex., establishing “municipal liability” under section 1983 requires proof of: “(1) a policymaker; (2) an official policy; and (3) violation of constitutional rights whose moving force is the policy or custom.’

Supporting rulings were handed down in Tunica County, Miss. v Hampton Co. Nat. Sur., LLC.

In other decisions, the absence of policies for situations that should have been anticipated by law enforcement could also lead to a finding of liability.

 Yet, only two courts have held law enforcement agencies and cities liable for failing to implement policies and training that would prevent police from inflicting harm on youth.

That’s an avoidable problem.

Daniel Pollack

Prof. Daniel Pollack

Monell claims can succeed if courts mandate law enforcement agencies to integrate U.S. Supreme Court decisions regarding the “signature characteristics of youth” into their policies and practices. This would require police agencies to adopt the judicially recognized facts regarding youths’ developmental abilities.

Since 2005, there have been five U.S. Supreme Court decisions reiterating these facts and directing juvenile justice stakeholders to adjust their practices accordingly.

However, in the jurisprudence of Monell claims for law enforcement misconduct towards youth, the U.S. Supreme Court’s decisions on the legal obligations of system stakeholders are nowhere to be found.

Requiring the police to treat youth according to their actual functional and developmental abilities is hardly a new idea. In 1948, the Supreme Court ruled in Haley v. Ohio,that beating of a 15-year-old African-American boy to obtain a confession was improper.

The Court took special judicial recognition of age in its decision:

“A 15-year old lad, questioned through the dead of night by relays of police is a ready victim of the inquisition…we cannot believe that a lad of tender years is a match for the police in such a contest. He needs counsel and support if he is not to become the victim first of fear, then of panic.”

ln 2005, in Roper v. Simmons, the Court forbade the use of the death penalty for youth who had committed a capital offense before turning 18.  In that decision, the Court endorsed the judicial recognition of the “signature characteristics of youth” – including enhanced susceptibility to outside pressures and possession of characteristics not as well formed as those of an adult.

The Court reiterated these views in three cases between 2005 and 2016: Graham v. Florida; Miller v. Alabama and Jackson v. Hobbs; and Montgomery v. Louisiana. These cases abolished the automatic use of life without parole for youth, and permitted retroactive application of the ruling.

In 2011, the Court, in J.D.B. v. North Carolina, required that age be considered when determining when to “Mirandize” youth:

“In many cases involving juvenile suspects, the (Miranda) custody analysis would be nonsensical absent some consideration of the suspect’s age. (2405) In short, officers and judges need no imaginative powers, knowledge of developmental psychology, training in cognitive science, or expertise in social and cultural anthropology to account for a child’s age. They simply need the common sense to know that a 7-year-old is not a 13-year-old and neither is an adult (2407)…”

So, we’re all on notice: Lawmakers, judges, and police officers are legally bound to treat youth differently.

Recognizing these decisions would have helped several federal court judges promote improved training and policies for officers. Consider for instance, Judge Abdul Kallon’s 2015 decision in J.W. v Birmingham Bd. of Educ. In this case, school resource officers (SRO) deployed by the Birmingham Police Department routinely used Freeze +P (mace) over a five-year period, spraying over 100 students, including pregnant girls, for explanations that defied reason.

In one example presented to the court:

“Without telling G.S. to calm down, that she was under arrest, or that he was about to spray her with Freeze +P, Officer Clark sprayed G.S. in the face, and G.S. fell to the ground.”

SROs also failed to decontaminate youth who had been sprayed. The BPD’s policy allowed the use of chemical sprays on adults who resisted police commands. The court found that police violated the Constitution when they sprayed youth who verbally resisted commands or had not resisted at all.

Ye, it did not find either the police department or the city liable for their failure to train SROs, in spite of strong evidence of their long pattern of abusive use of chemical sprays on youth.

Instead, Judge Kallon sidestepped this opportunity by citing Eleventh Circuit precedent involving adults:

 “Although it seems “obvious” in the layman’s sense of the word that the circumstances at issue in this case would lead to an unconstitutional use of force, in light of the Court’s unwillingness to apply its aside in Canton, the court declines to base its conclusion on an obvious need for training.” [emphasis added]

More recently, Judge Jane Stranch, in her concurring opinion in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in B.R. v. McGivern, expressed her conviction that officers need to be trained to work with youth.

This case involved flagrant police mistakes regarding interrogation of an 11-year-old girl accused of the rape of three older girls. The investigating officer was aware from Facebook posts that the older girls had frequently bullied the 11-year-old.

Judge Stranch concluded:

“…it is of unquestionable importance that law enforcement officers receive proper training and support in how to understand and interact with children – whether they are accusers or the accused – in a way that recognizes the unique needs and vulnerabilities of children.”

­­

Unfortunately, that’s as far as the Sixth Circuit went in coaxing law enforcement to improve their policies and training to protect other youth from similar harm.

Courts must go further.

They must insist that law enforcement agencies are on notice and must provide developmentally appropriate, trauma-informed policies and training to guarantee the humane treatment of youth.

Such policies recognize that children experience innumerable types of trauma in their lives, understand the influence of such trauma, and respond to its effects. They do exist and training for police in strategies for implementing them are available.

Courts need to do more to direct law enforcement agencies to avail themselves of these resources.

Courts to law enforcement agencies: “You should know better.”

Lisa H. Thurau is executive director of Strategies for Youth. She can be reached at lht@strategiesforyouth.org. Daniel Pollack is professor at Yeshiva University’s School of Social Work. He can be reached at dpollack@yu.edu. They welcome readers’ comments.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Several States Will Keep Collecting Juvenile Race Data

The U.S. Justice Department is rolling back a rule that states keep data on racial disparities in the juvenile justice system. Several states will compile them anyway. Black girls are overrepresented in the system.

Several states have announced they will continue collecting data on racial and ethnic disparities in the juvenile justice system, five months after Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Administrator Caren Harp announced the agency is rolling back these reporting requirements. The announcements came in the chat box of an OJJDP webinar focused on federal data on girls in the juvenile justice system, writes Sara Kugler of National Crittenton, an advocacy group, for the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange. Iowa Department of Human Rights Executive Officer Kathy Nesteby said that although the Justice Department isn’t requiring collection of the data, Iowa will keep doing it “to maintain continuity with previous data we’ve produced.” Representatives from Illinois and Washington state said they would also continue collecting data.

The comments were made during a presentation that largely highlighted the dramatic racial disparities at all points of system contact for girls. The over-representation of black girls in the juvenile justice system is an irrefutable and ongoing injustice, Kugler said. Despite making up 15 percent of the youth population, black girls are 35 percent of girls’ delinquency cases. Benjamin Adams of the the National Institute of Justice said black girls are nearly three times more likely to be referred to juvenile court for a delinquency offense than white girls. Relative to their black and Hispanic peers, white girls are more likely to have their cases diverted and less likely to be detained. The top three offenses for incarcerated girls are all nonviolent crimes. OJJDP administrator Harp says the agency has been too focused on “avoiding arrests at all costs.” Kugler argues that girls getting arrested and moving deeper through the system are not a threat to public safety, and would likely be better served by services and interventions than by expensive and harmful incarceration.

from https://thecrimereport.org

The Children Who Will Miss Thanksgiving

The First Step bill isn’t the only piece of justice legislation stalled in Congress. A bill to overhaul the Juvenile
Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act—affecting 45,000 children held in custody– is still awaiting the Senate’s OK.

As families gather tomorrow to break bread, give thanks and count their blessings, there are 45,000 children locked in secure facilities across this country who will be absent from their families’ tables.

Some 4,000 of them will be in adult jails.

It doesn’t have to be this way.  Many states have made great strides in not only removing children from secure custody (a 55 percent drop in a little over ten years), but also in removing them from adult jails.  Some 70 percent of youth charged as adults are now detained in youth facilities.

All of this has happened while youth crime has fallen to near 40-year lows.

Sarah Bryer

Sarah Bryer

The children behind bars are overwhelmingly African American, Latinx, and tribal youth—a vestige of this country’s sordid history of criminalizing and forcefully separating children of color from their families.

As members of the U.S. Senate sit down to eat with their children and extended families, how many will be thinking of these tens of thousands of children, who are too young to cast their votes in elections?

Who are silenced behind the tall and imposing walls of the legal system.

Who were too often silenced as victims before their first arrest.

Who are deemed unworthy and too often, forgotten, by those who wield political power.

As the buzz increases about the possibility of a compromise sentencing reform package, another bill, amending the 1974 Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA), passed twice by the House, once by the Senate, sits quietly, patiently, invisibly—like the children it was designed to protect.

Marcy Mistrett

Marcy Mistrett

This JJDPA would help federal law on juvenile justice catch up to the states.  It would improve public safety by incentivizing prevention and early intervention, prioritizing families, removing children from adult jails, and helping states reduce their over-reliance on incarceration (especially for youth with non-criminal behavior like skipping school and running away).

The Act would provide a guiding framework to help states treat all youth equally so that we can eliminate the unfair racial and ethnic disparities in our systems.  And it would help states invest in community programs that work—by healing, holding accountable and, dare we say, loving these children.

This is a matter of priority—not partisanship, that could easily be settled with a five-minute conversation.  Yet, the shroud of silence continues.

So, dear Senators, as you sit with your children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren please gather the will to do what is right; and bless those children who can’t be with their families, embraced, and fed this Thanksgiving.

Pass the JJDPA.

Sarah Bryer is the Executive Director National Juvenile Justice Network, Marcy Mistrett is the CEO of the Campaign for Youth Justice.

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

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