D.C.'s juvenile justice system could be restructured and more -- news roundup
- On TV: "Young Kids, Hard Time"
On Sunday, November 20 at 10 pm EST, MSNBC will premiere a one-hour documentary that throws back the veil on the reality of young kids serving long sentences in adult prisons. (Hat tip to the Campaign for Youth Justice.)
- Reform: D.C.'s juvenile justice system could be restructured
Council member Jim Graham, charged with overseeing the city's Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services, is considering a radical change to the agency via, "job development programs, we would have literacy, we would be dealing with this marijuana addiction, having mental health because a lot of these kids are abused. It would be different."
- Civil citations are key to Florida's juvenile justice reform
On July 1, 2011, Florida law began requiring counties to establish a local civil citation process for youth that requires them to admit to the offense, perform community service and possibly participate in intervention services. The non-recidivism rate is 93% in one FL county that has been using this program for two years.
- New community care option for girls in Baltimore
Girls going through the juvenile justice system now have an alternative to detention while waiting to be adjudicated - an alternative that’s been available to boys for years. Some can now attend a youth monitoring program that allows them to live at home and attend a reporting center.
Survey of Police Chiefs Shows Need for Police Training to Work with Youth
At a training of Massachusetts MBTA Training Academy recruits in July, a police officer said to the group, “What I am telling you today we did not get when we were in the academy. Now you’ve got a leg up in dealing with kids by knowing this stuff.” The officer had been trained in a train-the-trainer capacity building effort by Strategies for Youth. “Knowing this stuff about kids makes working with them easier and less stressful and believe me, they can be stressful,” he told the recruits.
The newly released findings of the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) survey on juvenile justice and youth training needs suggest this officer is both right and unusual. Training in best practices for working with youth is helpful, but remains the exception to the rule across the country.
The IACP’s survey, the “2011 Juvenile Justice Training Needs Assessment,” found that police chiefs want training but lack funding and agency resources to provide it to their officers. They wanted their officers to have the skills to work with the increasing and challenging demands posed by youth. The top 5 areas in which chiefs want their officers trained are:
- substance abuse;
- physical, sexual and/or emotional abuse;
- dealing with chronic juvenile offenders;
- bullying/cyber-bullying; and
- gangs. Other topics included internet offending, runaways, and school safety.
The survey is notable for the unusually large size of the sample: over 672 law enforcement officers in 404 law enforcement agencies in 49 states and the District of Columbia. The agencies represented the gamut of departments, from small and rural, to suburban, to large and urban; 77% were police departments.
Demands on Law Enforcement:
While officers have always dealt with children and youth, arguably today they are asked to deal with them more than ever. Cuts in youth serving programs, the increased placement of officers in schools, and the common reaction of calling the police for any youth-related issue, combine to make police the first responders to incidents involving youth.
Less Scared Straight, More 'Talk Therapy'
The other day I watched the A&E program Beyond Scared Straight for the first time. I'm familiar with the original 1979 Academy Award winning documentary, Scared Straight!, that inspired many states across the country to institute similar programs in an attempt to deter juveniles already involved with the criminal justice on some level from a future life of imprisonment. These kids are taken on a tour of a jail and introduced to prisoners who recount horror stories of their time behind bars. The hope is that once given a taste of the grim reality of prison life, these 13-19 year old kids will want to go "straight" and avoid incarceration. Executive produced by the director of the original, Arnold Shapiro, this new "reality" series is the highest rated original program in A&E's history.
The show has been met with harsh criticism. In an op-ed for the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, director of Justice Programs at Governor's Office for Children and Families in Georgia, Joe Vignati wrote: "The scared straight approach is an inappropriate and unacceptable means for disciplining children. This approach has been shown to cause short -and long-term harm and actually INCREASES the likelihood of re-offending among some participants."
A January op-ed for the Baltimore Sun titled "Scary -- and ineffective," written by Laurie O. Robinson and Jeff Slowikowski, two Justice Department officials, sites research that says those who participated in a scared straight type program were 28 percent more likely to offend than youths who had not participated. The Campaign for Youth Justice is calling for the show to be pulled from A&E.
In the episode I saw, there was a young man named Brandon who lived in Detroit. Brandon sported a tattoo on his right forearm of a skull and the word "Heartless" underneath and said he lived by the creed "MHD," which stands for "Money, Hoes, Drugs." Money brings women, and drugs bring money, Brandon explained. The worst he had ever done, he admitted, was shoot someone.
Recognizing All Victims of Crime
Over the last few decades, the victims' rights movement has been effective in highlighting the needs and concerns of victims of crime. This movement –- born out of the women’s right era of the early 1970s -– continues to pick up steam as states amend laws and policies to give victims more defined rights and services. However, as the victims' right movement has evolved, so must its recognition of and treatment of victims.
When you hear the word “victim,” seldom do you associate that with young African American men. Society, through sensationalist media reporting, scapegoating and rhetoric-laden politicking, has done a thorough job of painting what a “perpetrator” and a “victim” look like. One of those paintings uses more color than the other.
The irony of such mischaracterization is that young black males are victimized at a higher rate than any other demographic. According to the U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics Criminal Victimization in the United States, 2008, blacks are victimized at a personal crime rate of 26.6 percent in comparison to whites, who are victimized at a personal crime rate of 18.6 percent –- yet when victims are talked about, this population doesn’t enter the discussion.
Going into my senior year in high school, I worked an entire summer from sun-up to sundown to save enough money to help my mother buy me a car. When I finally got that car, it was broken into not long afterward. I felt angry, stranded, violated, sad and a whole host of other emotions, but for whatever reason, I never felt like a victim.
Why not? I had obviously just been victimized.
Three Strategies for Changing Juvenile Justice: Which Is Most Likely to Last?
A recent report from the National Juvenile Justice Network (NJJN), titled, "Bringing Youth Home: A National Movement to Increase Public Safety, Rehabilitate Youth and Save Money," documented the extraordinary number of states and jurisdictions (at least 24) that are closing or downsizing their youth correctional facilities, due to budget cuts, legislation, lawsuits, and pressure from reformers. (Download the report for tips on ways to downsize wisely.)
This is a good thing, because it means taxpayers can save money or avoid the high cost of incarceration, and reallocate those monies to community-based programs that are more effective at helping young people turn their lives around.
Right on the heels of the NJJN report comes a new report from Jeffrey A. Butts and Douglas N. Evans from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice's Research and Evaluation Center in New York, titled, Resolution, Reinvestment, and Realignment: Three Strategies for Changing Juvenile Justice. In it, they ask:
- Do these reforms represent a permanent shift in policy and practice, or are they merely a temporary reaction to tight budgets and low rates of violent crime?
- Will policymakers maintain the reforms if and when crime rises and budgets rebound?
Addressing the Collateral Consequences of Convictions for Young Offenders
Two million juveniles are arrested each year, and the collateral consequences they could face begin at this first point of contact with the system, regardless of whether charges are subsequently applied and the individual is convicted. People involved in the justice system encounter substantial challenges in gaining employment, civic participation, finding housing, applying to college, and accessing medical and mental health care. Placement on public registries such as sex offender registries are an increasingly common policy tools,, despite lack of evidence of effectiveness and mounting evidence of harm.
A popular area of focus among advocates, practitioners, law enforcement and right-minded policymakers over the past decade has been to strengthen reentry support so that the odds of recidivism and return to the system are minimized. Less attention has been paid to the consequences that accompany a juvenile conviction but young people as well as adults face system-imposed obstacles to success based on a delinquent or criminal record.
The philosophical beginnings of the juvenile justice system rested on the notion that young people who became delinquent were amenable to reform and the system should respond by providing ample rehabilitation services. It was also emphasized that youth should be spared from the stigma of involvement with the adult criminal justice system and not be branded as “criminals.” Matters that were dealt with in the juvenile justice system were to be done so in an informal, non-adversarial, and highly confidential manner.
"Beyond 'Scared Straight'" Program “Incoherent” According to Conflict Management Expert
The premier episode of the new season of the controversial reality show, “Beyond Scared Straight,” adheres to the themes that made it A&E’s most watched show: a small group of at-risk youth spend the day in prison where they are yelled at, intimidated and humiliated by sheriff’s deputies and inmates alike. The screaming and threats of prison rape are followed by emotional conversations with the inmates as they describe to the teens where they went wrong and how the teens can avoid the same fate.
The episode features Mecklenburg County, N.C.’s “Reality Program,” created by Sheriff Daniel “Chipp” Bailey.
“Our Reality Program stresses education, not intimidation,” Bailey is quoted as saying on the program’s website.
According to the website, the mission of the program is to “provide the community with a program which will help educate young people about the long-term effects of participating in criminal activity.”
After watching the show, non-violent communication and conflict management expert Dr. Heather Pincock was baffled.
“There is no coherent approach in the diversion program,” Pincock said. “Most of the episode they [the deputies] were there to intimidate the youth or break the youth down or humiliate them. Then they suddenly start saying. ‘We’re your friends, we’re here to help you.’ There are very mixed messages around their role. It doesn’t make any sense.”
On "Scared Straight" -- From a Personal Experience
I just watched the first episode of this season of A&E’s “Beyond Scared Straight.” This was my first exposure to the show. JJIE.org has covered the details of this program and experts have weighed in about it in this space, from knowledgeable, yet slightly removed positions. [Scroll down for related posts on the Reclaiming Futures blog. -- Ed.]
For me, however, it was a strange and personal experience. Watching the show I was flooded by memories of my own time in prison, both as a young man and as an older prisoner in contact with “at-risk youth.” I felt waves of emotion, mostly negative, as I watched fear and intimidation used, along with a smattering of humane connection, to bring about change in these young people.
When I first arrived at the youth prison in Alto (a notorious prison at the time in north Georgia) in 1985, I was placed in a dorm. The officer told us that if we were fighting and refused to stop when he called “break,” he would “bust our ‘tater” with his billy club.
This same officer, after catching me in an infraction, had me squat and walk around the dorm, quacking like a duck. I did this because I feared refusing and facing more severe punishment. This memory came back to me as I watched a similar scene on the show. The use of mindless exercise as punishment seemed similarly sadistic to me. I do not recall that this experience had any positive effect on me. Conversely, I instead became more skilled at not getting caught.
10-Step Guide to Recidivism Reduction for Probation Departments, and More: a Roundup
- Is Our Racial Gap Becoming a Generation Gap?
A provocative post from PolicyLink. Nearly half of the nation's young people are of color, but over 80 percent of America's seniors are white. "For the first time," the author argues, "America's seniors, business leaders, and elected officials simply do not see themselves in the faces of today's young. For many, this signals less obligation and commitment to the kinds of programs and resources that would help provide a boost for the next generation."
- Addiction: What Gets Us Hooked?
The title says it all. (H/t to Paul Savery.)
- OJJDP Seeks Nominations for Awards at October Conference
The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) is seeking nominations for awards in four categories, to be given out at its fall conference, scheduled for October 12-14, 2011. UPDATE August 18: Deadline has been extended to August 29, 2011.
Could UK-Style Riots Happen in U.S. Cities Next?
It has been a bad week in the United States in a bad year marked by remarkable international turmoil. The recession and high unemployment persist at a time when the powerless seemed poised to fight back, creating a recipe for insurrection—as happened first in the Middle East and now in Great Britain.
All that sounds only too familiar, so should the United States expect riots here next? Are recent instances of mob violence in Philadelphia, Milwaukee, and Montgomery County Maryland leading edges of a wave of violence here?