Closing the Business of Incarceration will Require Jobs, Reentry Programs
How do you bankrupt a brimming system of incarceration that is perversely incentivized to grow? According to New Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman, “you have to go to the source, and whether the source is education or whether it’s legislation, you really have to go to the source.” Gusman provided an upstream suggestion at the Loyola University New Orleans’ event, Louisiana Incarcerated: An Evening with Cindy Chang on June 26, 2012. However, many of the panelists pointed specifically to job training and employment as essential parts of the solution.
The event was centered around an acclaimed 8-part Times-Picayune series titled “Louisiana Incarcerated,” by reporter Cindy Chang. For the series, Chang talked with the formerly incarcerated and criminal justice reformers to get a complete story of the juvenile and criminal justice systems. The town hall styled symposium provided opportunities for panelists to offer their thoughts on the sources of Louisiana’s incarceration problems as well as potential solutions.
Concurring with Gusman’s perspective of root causes, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana Jim Letten said, “the most important part of our jobs is education and prevention. I wouldn’t have told you that 13 years ago.” Letten iterated what several panelists expressed during the panel sessions, which took place over the course of two hours.
The Ultimate Impact of Miller v. Alabama?
As Professor Dan Filler (Drexel) points out so well in a recent post on Miller v. Alabama on the Faculty Lounge, the decision’s direct effect on those currently serving juvenile life-without-parole (JLWOP) may be less dramatic than first imagined. Sentencing rehearings during which mitigating evidence is considered could lead merely to a reimposition of LWOP or a lengthy term of years sentence (40, 50, 60 years) that is the practical equivalent of LWOP. This is not to diminish the value of giving these 2100 prisoners an opportunity for review, reduction of their sentences, and the possibility of eventual release., although as Professor Filler also observed, much will depend there on the quality of defense counsel.
Instead, as I wrote two years ago in regard to Graham v. Florida, which struck down the practice of JLWOP for non-homicides, the ultimate impact of Miller will be seen in its precedential effect:
Fewer Teens Being Prosecuted as Adults in Arizona
The juvenile population in Arizona continues to rise, with projections from the Arizona Department of Economic Security suggesting as much as a 25% increase in the next 10 years. These numbers are in line with what Arizona has seen over the past 5 years--a 10% increase in the juvenile population since 2006.
Despite this increase in overall juvenile population, fewer of Arizona’s youth are entering probation and being sent to adult court. Between fiscal year 2010 and 2011, Arizona sent 15% less juveniles to adult court while the overall juvenile population increased by just over 2%. For the visual learners out there, take a look at this graph:
Ohio: Treatment is the Goal in Juvenile Justice System
Some see the juvenile justice system as a way for youth to "get off light" for serious crimes. Those who work in the system see it as a way to preserve the futures of Marion, Ohio's troubled youths.
"The juvenile justice system is based on the idea of treatment," Marion Family Court Judge Robert D. Fragale said. "The idea is that as juveniles we have the ability to work with these children and do whatever we can to provide the opportunity to change their behavior to become productive members of our community.
Let's Give Kids Better Mental Health
“People are just not reaching us where we are at. We want to be reached.” – Washington, D.C. focus group youth participant.
The mental well-being of our youth is crucial to achieving progress and prosperity in our communities. In Washington, DC, youth face particular challenges as disparities in resources and risks vary drastically in just a matter of miles. I wrote JPI’s report, Mindful of the Consequences: Improving the Mental Health for DC’s Youth Benefits the District, to show that current prevention and treatment services do not match the level of need and many youth are at risk for contact with the justice system due to untreated mental problems. To illustrate this, I mapped where arrested youth are coming from: predominately areas of low income and high rates of risk factors that impact mental well-being.
The general attitude toward youth living in these areas (both with and without juvenile justice involvement) has been fear and blame. However, as I prepared to begin writing this report, I came across a few quotes gathered from a focus group with youth on the various challenges that come with growing up in D.C. These youth commented on what they needed…
“If they gave different programs to fit the criteria to why you were locked up, services that help you specifically, maybe even invest in psychologists.”
“Guidance and someone there they can look up to that is on the right path. Support other than tutoring, someone they can talk to sometimes if they have a problem.”
Richard Buery: Community Engagement Vital for Juvenile Justice System
Over in The Atlantic Cities, Richard R. Buery Jr. of the Children's Aid Society has a very compelling piece about the importance of community-based rehabilitation centers in working with troubled youth.
Engaging the local community is vital to the rehabilitation process. For young offenders, receiving supportive services in their home communities, where they can remain connected to families and local institutions, offers the most reliable path for ensuring that they do not grow up to become lifelong criminals. For most children convicted of minor infractions, effective services can be provided while they live at home, avoiding the costs and negative impact of institutionalization. Yet for the past few decades we have failed troubled youth--the vast majority of them black and Latino (84 percent of all admissions in 2009) - by shipping them to juvenile detention facilities hundreds of miles away from home, often for minor infractions.
Cutting these children off from their communities threatens their often fragile family relationships. Worse, young people don't learn to become responsible adults at these facilities--on the contrary, they are often neglected and face abuse. And despite how ineffective and unsafe these facilities are, the city and state spend millions of dollars a year to keep them running. Compared to the alternative, the waste is astonishing. Holding a youth offender in a secure facility costs around $260,000 a year; alternative, community-based treatment programs can cost about $20,000 per child per year, and have better results.
DOE Asks for Strategies to Improve Outcomes for Disconnected Youth
The Federal Interagency Forum on Disconnected Youth recently put out a request for information on ways to improve outcomes for disconnected youth. Comments and suggestions submitted by July 5 will inform the Administration's development of the "Performance Partnership Pilots" program.
From the request:
This request for information offers States, tribal governments, local entities, community-based and other non-profit organizations, private-sector partners, philanthropic organizations, faith-based organizations, researchers, and other interested individuals and entities the opportunity to provide recommendations on effective approaches for improving outcomes for disconnected youth by working across programs and systems that provide relevant services to them. For the purposes of this RFI, “to improve outcomes for disconnected youth” means to increase the rate at which young people ages 14 to 24 who are homeless, in foster care, involved in the juvenile justice system, or are neither employed nor enrolled in an educational institution achieve success in meeting educational, employment, and other key lifelong development goals.
The public input provided in response to this notice will inform the deliberations of the Interagency Forum on Disconnected Youth about determining the best use of the authority requested in the President's FY 2013 budget for the Performance Partnership Pilots. If legislation provides this authority, these pilots would create innovative and comprehensive reengagement strategies that encourage additional academic and non-academic supports and support multiple pathways to prepare disconnected youth for college and career success. Responses to the RFI will also inform how the Department of Education (ED), the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and the Department of Labor (DOL) could deploy other resources for disconnected youth that have been requested in the FY 2013 budget. In addition, the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) are interested in how their programsserving disconnected youth could contribute to Performance Partnership Pilots and other efforts to improve outcomes for this population.
Department of Justice Releases Results of Ground-Breaking Tennessee Investigation
The U.S. Department of Justice's (DOJ) Civil Rights Division's recent investigation of the Juvenile Court of Memphis and Shelby County Tennessee is a "must read" for youth justice advocates, especially as it relates to racial and ethnic disparities and the prosecution of youth in adult criminal court.
The DOJ's extensive investigation, which began nearly three years ago, found a failure to provide adequate due process protections for children before transferring them to adult criminal court and racial disparities in the treatment of African-American children. The report shows that an African-American child is twice as likely as a white child to be recommended for transfer to adult court. Of the 390 transfers to adult court in 2010 in Tennessee, approximately one half were from Shelby County, and all but two of the total children transferred were African-American.
“This report is a step toward our goal of improving the juvenile court, increasing the public’s confidence in the juvenile justice system, and maintaining public safety,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division at a press conference when the report was released. “Upholding the constitutional rights of children appearing before the court is necessary to achieve these ends. The department will work with Memphis leadership to create a comprehensive blueprint that will create sustainable reforms in the juvenile justice system.”
The Crime Report Looks into Practice of Trying Teens in Adult Court
Nathan Jordan is serving a 170-year sentence at Sterling Correction Facility in Colorado for aggravated robbery, motor vehicle theft and possession of a weapon.
But most of his crimes, which did not result in anyone’s death or injury, took place in in the late 1990s, before he was 18 . According to Colorado law, he was a juvenile offender.
So how did Jordan end up with the kind of sentence that might be meted out to serial killers or career criminals?
The answer is devastatingly simple: he was tried in adult court.
New Report Details Conditions for Certified Juveniles in Texas County Jails
A new report provides a comprehensive picture of the conditions for certified juveniles awaiting trial in adult county jails, based on a survey of 41 jails across the state of Texas.
The University of Texas at Austin’s LBJ School Senior Lecturer Michele Deitch (along with coauthors Anna Lipton Galbraith, a master of public affairs student at the LBJ School, and Jordan Pollock, a student at the UT School of Law) has released “Conditions for Certified Juveniles in Texas County Jails,” the second in her series on juveniles in the adult criminal justice system in Texas. The first report, “Juveniles in the Adult Criminal Justice System in Texas” was published in 2011, and compared the significant differences in programming and services for the two populations of youthful offenders—those who get sent to adult prisons after conviction, and those who receive placements in the juvenile system.