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I am an attorney at law and licensed psychologist (PSY 11415) in California.

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Juvenile Justice News as of Oct 21, 2017

Supreme Court Ends Mandatory Life Sentence for Juveniles
Tue, 26 Jun 2012 07:45:47 - Pacific Time
A divided US Supreme Court struck down mandatory life-without-parole sentences Monday for juveniles convicted of murder, ruling the widespread practice violated the Constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment. According to the story in the Boston Globe, the ruling will nullify Massachusetts law, legal specialists said, and throw into question the sentences of 61 prisoners who over the past four decades were ordered to spend the rest of their lives in jail. Nationally, about 2,500 prisoners are serving life sentences without parole for murders they committed before turning 18.

In a 5-4 vote, the high court ruled that juvenile offenders younger than 18 have "diminished culpability and greater prospects for reform" and that judges should be able to consider the "mitigating qualities of youth" in sentencing, even when juveniles commit heinous crimes. "Such mandatory penalties, by their nature, preclude a sentencer from taking account of an offender’s age and the wealth of characteristics and circumstances attendant to it,” Justice Elena Kagan wrote in the majority opinion. “Under these schemes, every juvenile will receive the same sentence as every other — the 17-year-old and the 14-year-old, the shooter and the accomplice, the child from a stable household and the child from a chaotic and abusive one."

The decision does not prohibit life-without-parole sentences for juveniles, but it prohibits states from making them automatic, as the court noted that 28 states have done.

The far-reaching decision, which extended previous court decisions that barred harsh sentences for juveniles under the Eighth Amendment, will strike down the Massachusetts law requiring that juveniles convicted of first-degree murder be imprisoned for life without hope for parole, legal experts said. Within hours of the court’s decision, some Massachusetts lawyers signaled their intention to challenge sentences, and advocates called for detailed reviews of each case.

"I would hope we would do everything we can to provide these individuals with an opportunity to participate in a meaningful sentencing hearing," said Gail Garinger, the state’s child advocate and a former juvenile court judge. "If we’re trying to be true to the spirit of the ruling, we would want judges to consider any mitigating factors." Read More...

Study Discusses Brain Development and Criminal Law
Tue, 19 Jun 2012 19:09:22 - Pacific Time
An article in Science Daily says that the legal system needs to take greater account of new discoveries in neuroscience that show how a difficult childhood can affect the development of a young person's brain which can increase the risk adolescent crimes.

The research will be presented as part of an Economic and Social Research Council seminar series in conjunction with the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology. Neuroscientists have recently shown that early adversity -- such as a very chaotic and frightening home life -- can result in a young child becoming hyper vigilant to potential threats in their environment. This appears to influence the development of brain connectivity and functions.

Such children may come to adolescence with brain systems that are set differently, and this may increase their likelihood of taking impulsive risks. For many young offenders such early adversity is a common experience, and it may increase both their vulnerability to mental health problems and also their risk of problem behaviours.

These insights, from a team led by Dr Eamon McCrory, University College London, are part of a wave of neuroscientific research questions that have potential implications for the legal system.

Other research by Dr Seena Fazel of Oxford University has shown that while social disadvantage is a major risk factor for offending, a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) -- from an accident or assault -- significantly increases the risk of involvement in violent crime. Professor Huw Williams, at University of Exeter, has similarly shown that around 45 per cent of young offenders have TBI histories, and more injuries are associated with greater violence.

Professor Williams said: "The latest message from neuroscience is that young people who suffer troubled childhoods may experience a kind of 'triple whammy'. A difficult social background may put them at greater risk of offending and influence their brain development early on in childhood in a way that increases risky behaviour. This can then increase their chances of experiencing an injury to their brains that would compromise their ability to stay in school or contribute to society still further."

Professor Williams wants to see better communication between neuroscientists, clinicians and lawyers so that research findings like these lead to changes in the legal system. "There is a big gap between research conducted by neuroscientists and the realities of the day to day work of the justice system," he said. "Although criminal behaviour results from a complex interplay of a host of factors, neuroscientists and clinicians are identifying key risk factors that -- if addressed -- could reduce crime. Investment in earlier, focussed interventions may offset the costs of years of custody and social violence."

Dr Eileen Vizard, a prominent adolescent forensic psychiatrist, will talk at the event Neuroscience, Children and the Law, about how the criminal justice system needs to be changed to age appropriate sentencing for children as young as ten years old, whilst also providing for the welfare needs of these deprived children. Laura Hoyano -- a leading expert on vulnerable people in criminal courts -- will discuss the problems children face when testifying in criminal courts. Read More...

Governor Proposes Changes to California Juvenile Justice System
Tue, 29 May 2012 07:58:54 - Pacific Time
California Gov. Jerry Brown was recently quoted telling the state Legislature to "man up" on his proposed budget cuts and yet, when it comes to juvenile justice, it seems the governor consistently bends under pressure according to the story in Youth Today.

Unfortunately, the effects of his juvenile justice compromise will soon be felt by all California residents, according to a new CJCJ publication. With scarce and finite resources, the governor’s decision to grant a reprieve for state youth correctional facilities, in his May revised budget, creates an additional strain on already scantily-funded state services.

This is the second year the governor has removed a proposal for full juvenile justice realignment from his budget. In FY 2011-12, the budget allocated counties $200,000 per state-confined youth, to increase their capacity for serving high-need juvenile offenders. After lobbying opposition from law enforcement interest groups, this proposal was pulled from the budget, while severe cuts were made to the state university systems, department of developmental services, in-house support services and other state-run programs.

Then in January 2012, the governor pulled his mid-year budget trigger cuts due to an increasing revenue shortfall. These triggers cut expansive areas of social and public service sectors, including care-giving to the blind, disabled, elderly and autistic populations, amounting to $611,131,000 reduction in funding to serve California’s most vulnerable populations. An additional $302 million was deducted from the state’s investment in higher education. Yet, the governor granted a reprieve for the state youth correctional facilities trigger, which would have required counties to pay 60 percent of the cost of housing youths there (currently they pay only a nominal fee); losing a projected saving of $67.7 million.

Now the governor is proposing some small scale changes to the state youth correctional budget which are projected to save the state $24.8 million, while simultaneously announcing $4.1 billion worth of additional cuts to the same service sectors that suffered through the triggers early this year.

Ironically, these same services fundamentally reinforce public safety: education, adequate medical care, mental health treatment and supportive living programs are recognized components for reducing crime and recidivism in the community. In comparison, the isolated institutional design of the state youth correctional system is a recognized failure nationwide. Read More...

More juveniles in Santa Cruz County tried as adults than state average
Tue, 30 Aug 2011 20:21:02 - Pacific Time
Santa Cruz County is more likely than most counties in the state to try juvenile offenders as adults for serious crimes, a new study shows. A study authored by the nonpartisan, San Francisco-based Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice, describes “wild” disparities between California counties when it comes to prosecutors filing to try minors in adult courts. Titled “An analysis of direct adult criminal court filing 2003-2009: What has been the effect of Proposition 21?” the paper suggests that some counties use direct filing more than others based on prosecutorial discretion.Proposition 21, passed by voters in 2000, allows prosecutors to “direct file” certain juvenile felony cases in adult court without having to review them first with a judge. The usual reason for direct adult filing is to secure a potentially longer sentence, because youths sentenced in juvenile court typically can only be imprisoned until they are 25. From 2003 through 2009, California prosecutors filed 4,045 youth cases in adult criminal court, the report says. During that time, for every 1,000 youths whose charges qualified for possible adult trials, the state average was 25.4 per thousand. Santa Cruz County had a higher-than-average rate of using the practice with 31.4 filed per 1,000 cases, the report stated. San Francisco County had the lowest rate, with an average of 1.5 per thousand. Ventura County had the highest rate with 122.1 per thousand. "We use direct filings for the most serious offenders," said Bob Lee, the Santa Cruz County district attorney. Juveniles accused of murder and other serious acts of violence would meet that criteria, though Lee said he looks at all cases before they are direct-filed. Lee said he considers the offender’s age and the severity of the crime. "We try to protect the community from people who have demonstrated a callous disregard for human life," Lee said. The year Proposition 21 passed in 2002, it was billed as a way to reign in youth gang violence. But the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice’s report says the law’s application has had no effect on youth crime rates. "Prosecutor predilection towards direct adult criminal court filing is not founded upon any demonstrable effect of reducing juvenile crime rates," the report states. Youth crime has declined statewide, but the analysis found that the 30 counties using direct filing at higher-than-average rates actually saw less of a reduction in youth crimes during the seven years studied than the 28 counties that used it at lower-than-average rates. That discovery, along with "radically different" practices among counties "is disturbing," the authors state. "This practice has not proven successful." Read More...

States Closing Youth Prisons as Arrests Plunge
Wed, 9 Jun 2010 06:13:10 - Pacific Time
After struggling for years to treat young criminals in razor wire-ringed institutions, states across the country are quietly shuttering dozens of reformatories amid plunging juvenile arrests, softer treatment policies and bleak budgets. In Ohio, the number of juvenile offenders has plummeted by nearly half over the last two years, pushing the state to close three facilities. California's closures include a youth institution near Los Angeles that operated for nearly 115 years. And one in Texas will finally go quiet after getting its start as a World War II-era training base. The closures have juvenile advocates cheering. "I can tell you it's the best thing they can do," said Aaron Kupchik, a University of Delaware criminologist. "Incarceration does nobody any good. You're taking away most of their chance for normal development." Several factors have pushed states to close facilities. In stark contrast to the growing adult prison population, the number of juveniles in state lockups has dropped dramatically, partly because there are fewer juvenile arrests and more offenders in county-based treatment programs. States grappling with busted budgets can't afford to operate facilities with so many empty beds. State reformatories are typically reserved for serious criminals, such as sex offenders and other violent offenders. Unlike the punishment-oriented adult system, juvenile justice focuses on rehabilitation. During the early 1990s, though, tough-on-crime legislators turned to the juvenile system. Nearly every state lowered the minimum age for kids to be tried as adults or increased the kind of crimes that land kids in the adult system. But juvenile arrest rates dropped, falling 33 percent between 1997 and 2008, according to the latest U.S. Justice Department data.Criminologists aren't sure why fewer kids are getting in trouble. Some believe more kids are avoiding drug trafficking. Others think programs such as group homes, halfway houses and after-school tutoring closer to kids' homes have reduced recidivism. "No fancy stats suggest this is a cure-all, but what I think you do see is the accumulation of those small results of people doing this increasingly in cities and towns all across the country," said Elliot Currie, a University of California-Irvine criminologist.Those reforms have gained momentum as studies found teens sent to adult court often got in worse trouble after they were released and lawsuits emerged over poor conditions at state lockups. Many states have tweaked their juvenile polices so only the most serious offenders land in their systems. "We're locking up the right kids," said Bart Lubow, program director for the Annie E. Casey Foundation, which helps fund such juvenile offender programs. "It's about making smarter decisions." As a result, the number of juveniles in state institutions has dropped. According to the Justice Department, the number of juvenile offenders declined 26 percent between 2000 and 2008, from about 109,000 to 80,000. All the empty beds offer states struggling with budget deficits a way to save money — downsize juvenile justice systems. The number of kids in state residential custody in California peaked at 10,000 in 1996 but now stands at 1,500, said state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation spokesman Bill Sessa. The state has closed six institutions since 2003, most notably the Fred C. Nelles Youth Correctional Facility, which had operated just outside Los Angeles since 1890. State officials keep the institution clean for film crews; the paranormal research television series "The Othersiders" investigated reports of bangs and voices there in an episode last year. The closings have generated as much as $40 million in savings for the state's juvenile justice department through job reductions, Sessa said. Read More...

Report On "Kids For Cash" Juvenile Justice Scandal
Tue, 1 Jun 2010 07:51:09 - Pacific Time
In a harsh and devastating report, a commission set up to investigate the "kids for cash" scandal in Pennsylvania's Luzerne County issued far-reaching recommendations Thursday aimed at overhauling the state's juvenile justice system. More than half of its 66-page report recounts how the scandal unfolded, drawing on testimony and court transcripts to show the suffering of thousands of young victims and their families. "We had judges who if they weren't criminal they were incompetent. We had defense lawyers who didn't perform their functions. We had prosecutors who stood by. ... We had a community that at least at some level was aware of what was going on," commission Chairman John M. Cleland said at a news conference Thursday. The 11-member commission was created as a result of a federal corruption probe that led to charges against two Luzerne County judges accused of receiving more than $2.8 million in payoffs from the operators of two juvenile detention centers. The report by the Interbranch Commission on Juvenile Justice outlines 43 recommendations aimed at restoring public confidence and preventing a similar scandal in the future. The recommendations would affect everyone who touches the juvenile justice system, from judges to defendants. Gov. Ed Rendell and Pennsylvania Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille said they had not yet reviewed the report and could not comment. House Majority Leader Todd Eachus, a Democrat from Luzerne County, said he would propose legislation to address some of the recommendations, specifically the one related to the lack of access by juveniles to counsel. "No one in Pennsylvania should be denied legal representation, least of all children, and we need to do everything possible to ensure juvenile defendants are truly provided the same rights to legal counsel as anyone else in this country," said Eachus in a statement. The report described as "Dickensian" the role of former Judge Mark A. Ciavarella Jr., who ordered children as young as 11 to jail for failure to pay fines, "effectively using the county detention center as a debtor's prison for children." More than half the juveniles who appeared in Ciavarella's courtroom between 2003 and 2008 did so without counsel, the report said. Witnesses told the commission that Ciavarella had pressured defendants into waiving their right to counsel and even had a table set up outside his courtroom with waiver forms to sign. The report concluded that many defense attorneys who had appeared before Ciavarella "clearly abdicated their responsibilities" to defend their clients and "protect their due process rights." Read More...

New Report Highlights Strategies to Improve California's Juvenile Justice System
Thu, 27 May 2010 10:34:15 - Pacific Time
The California Endowment issued a report today highlighting the results of a four year initiative created to strengthen the capacity of county juvenile justice systems to provide mental health and other needed services for youth while in custody and in the community. Promising Practices from the Healthy Returns Initiative: Building Connections to Health, Mental Health, and Family Support Services in Juvenile Justice outlines collaborative strategies implemented by probation departments in Humboldt, Los Angeles, Santa Cruz, Santa Clara, and Ventura counties that improved outcomes for youth and their families. "The Healthy Returns Initiative brought together governmental agencies, community partners, and private providers to develop sustainable practices that address the myriad of issues these youth often face - substance use, lack of comprehensive physical and dental health care, untreated mental health problems, limited educational and employment opportunities, and family stress," explained Laura Garnette, Santa Cruz County probation director. The Healthy Returns Initiative was developed by The California Endowment to address the alarming trend of youth with unaddressed mental and physical health issues entering and languishing in California's juvenile justice system. Approximately 50 percent of youth detained at the county-level in California have a suspected or diagnosed mental illness and 75 percent have a substance abuse disorder. At the same time, county-level juvenile justice programs face numerous challenges in effectively providing services and treatment. State and local budget cuts have severely reduced counties' ability to meet the needs of probation youth in detention and in the community. Almost two thirds of probation departments report insufficient staff to handle the number and severity of mental health issues in their systems. They are hindered by a lack of appropriate placement options for youth with severe mental illness and have limited access to community-based services for youth with less severe mental health and substance abuse disorders. Due to lack of funding, 30 of 45 counties report the lack of an appropriate selection of services in terms of type, quality, or capacity available for mental health issues. These inadequacies contribute to longer and more costly stays in detention facilities and the ineffective use of probation resources. "The results of this initiative show that there are some simple, common sense practices that can be implemented to ensure that youth with mental health and other critical issues are identified and receive appropriate services," said Barbara Raymond, program director with The California Endowment. "In this time of diminished resources, it is critical that county agencies and community-based providers work together to develop and implement smarter, collaborative, and more responsive models of care." By implementing the promising practices highlighted in the newly released report, the Healthy Returns Initiative accomplished a range of positive outcomes for youth and their families. Read More...

U.S. Supreme Court rejects life sentences for some youths
Tue, 18 May 2010 08:44:48 - Pacific Time
The Supreme Court on Monday ruled that juveniles who commit crimes in which no one is killed may not be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Five justices, in an opinion by Justice Anthony Kennedy, agreed that the Eighth Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishment forbids such sentences as a categorical matter. The case, which attracted nationwide attention because of a trend toward increasingly strict punishment for juveniles who commit violent crime, could reverberate in Silicon Valley. Four defendants, including three teenage boys, are currently being tried as adults in Santa Clara County for an attack last Halloween on a pair of young trick-or-treaters. The attempted murder charges against them still could result in life sentences, but the Supreme Court ruling ensures the juvenile defendants will have a shot at parole if convicted. "A state need not guarantee the offender eventual release," Kennedy wrote, "but if it imposes the sentence of life, it must provide him or her with some realistic opportunity to obtain release before the end of that term." The ruling marked the first time that the court excluded an entire class of offenders from a given form of punishment outside the context of the death penalty. —‰'Death is different' no longer," Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in dissent. Life sentences with no chance of parole are rare for juveniles tried as adults and convicted of crimes less serious than killing. California is one of only a few states that had permitted sentences of life without parole for juveniles convicted of non-homicides, but as of November 2009, there were only four such inmates in the state's prisons, according to state Department of Corrections figures. Overall, there are more than 260 inmates who were juveniles serving life-without-parole sentences in California, including those convicted of murder, and four of them are from Santa Clara County. Read More...

Prostitution is the leading reason for girls' involvement in the juvenile justice system.
Tue, 20 Apr 2010 16:18:48 - Pacific Time
Unfortunately, in both urban and rural regions of the nation, American-born girls are being trafficked and sold. An estimated 100,000-300,000 American children are at risk for becoming victims of commercial sexual exploitation. According to the Department of Justice, the average age of a prostituted girl in the U.S. is 12-14 years. These sexually exploited girls are routinely raped, beaten into submission, and even tattooed like cattle by their pimps. This is a new and emerging phenomenon. Ten years ago, there were not the same disturbing stories of traffickers seeking out and preying on girl runaways within 48 hours after they have left home. Or very young girls in rural and suburban communities being kidnapped and then sold to men for sex. In the last decade, there is even a lingo that has developed of "domestic trafficking hubs," where Ohio and Georgia are considered among the top states for the selling and purchasing of American girls. Why is this happening? There is the Internet, which has created an easy and accessible venue for the commercial sexual exploitation of children. As a result, young girls are the new commodities that traffickers and gangs are selling. And, there isn't a culture of crime and punishment for selling girls as there is for selling illegal drugs. It is less risky, and more profitable (the girls are "reusable"), to traffic girls, instead of meth or crack. Perversely, it is the girls -- and not the men -- who end up being criminalized. Prostitution is the leading reason for girls' involvement in the juvenile justice system. The Annie E. Casey Foundation, citing the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention statistics on juvenile arrests, reports that 63% of girls in detention are there for prostitution. Girls are put behind bars for being raped and sexually exploited by pimps and the men who purchase them for the night. Read More...

News Archive


Getting the state out of juvenile justice: Mon, 12 Apr 2010 07:42:33 - Pacific Time: Read More...


Santa Clara County considers barring the practice of jailing very young children: Fri, 9 Apr 2010 08:09:21 - Pacific Time: Read More...


Proposal would send 17-year-olds to juvenile justice system: Mon, 29 Mar 2010 11:36:58 - Pacific Time: Read More...


For Juveniles in NY Family Court, Judges Seek Safer Alternatives to Prison: Tue, 9 Mar 2010 08:06:20 - Pacific Time: Read More...


LA County probation workers going unpunished: Thu, 4 Mar 2010 05:27:20 - Pacific Time: Read More...


Records reveal problems in L.A. County juvenile probation office: Mon, 22 Feb 2010 07:24:15 - Pacific Time: Read More...


County opens blinds on juvenile detention: Sun, 14 Feb 2010 20:23:05 - Pacific Time: Read More...


Throw-Away Children: Juvenile Justice in Collapse: Wed, 10 Feb 2010 07:56:09 - Pacific Time: Read More...


Troubled teens, canines help each other: Mon, 8 Feb 2010 07:06:57 - Pacific Time: Read More...


Lines of justice blurred with pens, mugs and tee shots: Tue, 2 Feb 2010 07:13:12 - Pacific Time: Read More...


JDAI - Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative: Sun, 31 Jan 2010 08:00:40 - Pacific Time: Read More...


Conference Highlights Juvenile Justice Models for Change: Sun, 24 Jan 2010 08:33:00 - Pacific Time: Read More...


States Giving Juvenile Justice Responsibility To Counties: Sat, 23 Jan 2010 14:40:17 - Pacific Time: Read More...


Juveniles become prey: Sat, 23 Jan 2010 14:36:25 - Pacific Time: Read More...


Maryland's Department of Juvenile Services Has Major Challenges: Sun, 17 Jan 2010 07:56:05 - Pacific Time: Read More...


Culture of Violence' Plagues New York's Juvenile Prisons: Mon, 11 Jan 2010 09:17:09 - Pacific Time: Read More...


12 Percent of Adjudicated Youth Report Sexual Victimization in Juvenile Facilities: Thu, 7 Jan 2010 08:06:12 - Pacific Time: Read More...


Treatment of Youths in New York Prisons Spurs Suit: Thu, 31 Dec 2009 07:26:38 - Pacific Time: Read More...


Teenagers Use Violence to Boost Their Social Standing: Thu, 24 Dec 2009 05:40:56 - Pacific Time: Read More...


New York Can Do Better By Juvenile Offenders: Sun, 20 Dec 2009 10:37:45 - Pacific Time: Read More...


Senate Judiciary Panel Advances Juvenile Justice Bill: Fri, 18 Dec 2009 14:22:39 - Pacific Time: Read More...


De-Criminalizing Children: Wed, 16 Dec 2009 22:02:47 - Pacific Time: Read More...


Justice Department Bulletin Details Declining Juvenile Arrests in 2008: Tue, 15 Dec 2009 06:41:10 - Pacific Time: Read More...


Sensible fixes to youth crime and delinquency policies: Mon, 14 Dec 2009 03:37:15 - Pacific Time: Read More...


Youth Advocates "Ticked Off" At Obama For Juvenile Justice Vacancy: Sat, 12 Dec 2009 19:21:21 - Pacific Time: Read More...


Reform school threw parties for judges, probation officials: Tue, 8 Dec 2009 07:36:12 - Pacific Time: Read More...


Justice for Virginia juveniles: Sun, 6 Dec 2009 12:52:21 - Pacific Time: Read More...


Task force outlines plan for transforming juvenile justice: Fri, 4 Dec 2009 04:20:36 - Pacific Time: Read More...


Juvenile justice group sues judges: Tue, 1 Dec 2009 05:31:34 - Pacific Time: Read More...


Breaking the cycle of youth crime: Sat, 28 Nov 2009 15:58:57 - Pacific Time: Read More...


Juvenile justice: Making it better: Sat, 28 Nov 2009 06:50:56 - Pacific Time: Read More...


Imprisoning children for life is not justice: Fri, 27 Nov 2009 20:27:46 - Pacific Time: Read More...


Suit claims abuse, filth at juvenile detention center: Mon, 20 Apr 2009 11:46:24 - Pacific Time: Read More...


Santa Clara County poised to cut juvenile prevention programs: Sun, 19 Apr 2009 15:45:45 - Pacific Time: Read More...

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