Panel 1: Lessons from other jurisdictions about juvenile reform
Betsy Clark, Illinois Juvenile Justice Initiative
a. How did you do it? Change has involved taking apart harsh juvenile justice laws part by part. Illinois Juvenile Justice Initiative started working on transfer issues – trying to change the effects of the most racially disparate laws in the country.
b. Status offenders were disappearing from the system. Compromise to get misdemeanors treated differently. 16,000 misdemeanor arrests – concern in Cook County about the price. Price increase in juvenile system for bringing misdemeanors back to juvenile system – price did not happen – detention burdens were reduced and arrests dropped.
c. Recently felonies have come to the forefront as well. Off ramps of the juvenile court system are extraordinary – these kids will disappear from the justice system because of how strong the system is. The only real answer is to keep kids out of the adult systems. –arrests are down, detentions are down – focus on restorative justice.
d. How did you make a stakeholder’s commission come together? We did not in Illinois for the misdemeanor reform. For felonies, the State advisory group has taken this one and has published a report setting the stage for confirming that the misdemeanor system is effective and that the system can handle felonies.
e. This is a conversation going around the entire country and the world – in Europe for example it says it goes without saying that children should never be treated in anything but a juvenile system.
f. No money was attached to the misdemeanor rules and so now there are concerns on the probation side. This is bad because off ramps need to be set up in the right way – including the schools.
g. You have to get the voice of impacted communities into the conversation who should claim the money that could be saved from financial changes to them.
h. Diversion procedures in statute – police have authority to judge cases at the precinct level – can release kids to parents, community services.
Abby Anderson, Connecticut Juvenile Justice Alliance
a. Connecticut is smaller than NY but legally and politically how was change generated in Connecticut and how was public support generated.
i. Connecticut is smaller but it is a state wide system so all state is moving at once.
ii. Raising state in a vacuum was not the way to go – race and ethnicity issues, gender issues, LGBTQ issues, status offender issues. Focus was on whole issue.
iii. If there are problems – “fix them.” 2005 panel that was legislatively mandated to bring stakeholders together to bring together input. A further committee was created upon the increase of the age with all stakeholders to affect implementation.
iv. Law passed, with a large implementation window to allow for the justice system to adjust to the new changes with stakeholder impact.
v. Is change for violent juvenile offenders possible? How did Connecticut deal with making such changes politically viable: In 2010 when 16 year olds came in – 4200 new 16 year olds, and 16 transferred. 98 percent taken. All accept A and B felonies came along although some B felonies do.
vi. There is a specific way to address these issues with various constituencies- it is important to reach out to many different stakeholders and understand how to breach these important conversations with such stakeholders. Anecdote of stressing to white parents that this is not just a minority issue.
b. One of things that has been gratifying is that the testimony to the legislature that these changes will have an actual change is turning out to be true and so this data is helpful. Changes to status offender system did not greatly impact the system. Detention numbers after the changes were low enough that it was possible to close a detention facility and reinvest in services.
c. No longer accepting “normal adolescent behavior."
Jim Davis, Missouri Initiative “The Missouri Model”
a. Missouri started off in 1948, in effect to a really harsh prison. Focus on making programs therapeutic.
b. Focus on letting kids help each other – create cohesive teams to treat young people – indeterminate sentences where groups can influence recommendations of who gets released – still the rule in Missouri.
c. Focus on 16 year olds – can keep them until 18th birthday. 16 is where you get the most change; not as much changes at 15. Now have certain programs where you can keep a person till 21. Of this dynamic program out of about 41 young adults – 30 have not been incarcerated – 6 did not last in the program.
d. NY has been doing certain things; breaking down large groups of children in prison, focusing on school attendance – the challenge in NY will be “if you tell a young person you can serve more time or getting an early release with some provisions they choose to serve more time.” Closer to home initiative is working.
Liz Ryan, Campaign for Youth Justice
a. Breadth and depth of reforms as they relate to juvenile justice: goal of rolling back harsh laws affecting juveniles throughout the country.
b. There has been a seat change in the thinking about these issues. Four Trends.
i. A number of states have worked to increase the age of criminal court jurisdiction (Connecticut, Massachusetts and North Carolina debating). Even Mississippi has removed 17 year olds from mandatory adult prosecution.
ii. Transfer Waivers: Give judges more discretion on either front end or back end in order to remove younger offenders from automatic prosecution in adult criminal court and to examine the process of transfer. Arizona, Colorado, Utah and Virginia have made these changes.
iii. Focus on kids in adult jails and prisons and removing them from those institutions. Solitary confinement issues in adult prisons.
iv. Miller and Rand decisions.
v. A good diea for framing these policies is to stress the fiscal savings that go along with the effective implementation of these programs.
c. Five lessons from these trends:
i. Importance of data and analysis on the state level – creating baselines of information in order to better understand the policy necessary.
ii. Value of recidivism research – kids more likely to reoffend if in adult criminal court. This data makes it easier to argue for reform on a platform of public safety.
iii. Public strongly supports these kinds of reforms – fairness issue, appalled by how children are being treated. Polling shows that public does not want kids in adult criminal court – they also want systemic changes to change racial disparities.
iv. Study commissions created by states that brought together resources and stakeholders generated welcome input, recommendations, and affected implementation systems
v. Directly affected youth and families were involved in efforts.
d. Studies show that truancy leads to more crimes.
Dean Hill Rivkin
a. Here with a cautionary tale about juvenile justice reform. In Tennessee there has been a substantial drop in youth held in correctional facilities.
b. Reform was substantial and not sustained – while Tennessee is being lauded as a place where there is a drop of youth incarceration – the dark underbelly of the system is much worse.
i. Special litigation section of civil rights division came to Memphis and challenged a situation where discretion had run wild – systemic pervasive due process violations. Statewide issues have gotten worse.
ii. Disproportionate minority contact – youth of color in system. In 2010 among the confined youth in the state 54% were black. This was up from 47 percent in 2001. Increased arrest rates.
iii. NY has experienced some terrible outcomes in the last few years. “Jamal F.” in Kings County – suspended numerous times, given option of going to suspension school. Ridiculous focus on technical issues.
Laura Cohen, Rutgers University
a. NJ much more progressive in NY on this issue. NJ has a waiver up system – every youth starts in the juvenile court – certain types of crimes expose kids to waiver to the adult system on two different processes. No young person waived under the age of 14. Notion of 13 year olds being automatically charged in the adult system is astounding. The second thing is that 14 and 15 year olds continue to have full panoply of rights recognized by Supreme Court in Kent – if prosecutor wants to waive you up you have a probable cause hearing and an amenability hearing.
b. For youth who are 16 and 17, charged with less serious waivable offenders also get both hearings. Those charged with A felonies do not get a right to an amenability hearing. Continues to be contentious – some judges still want discretion even for those charged with A felonies judges push back.
c. New body of law holding kids to be less morally culpable in crime. Argument being made is that a very deferential standard of review accorded judges is too deferential – overwhelming negative consequences of waiver decision and eventual incarceration – prosecutors had to be accorded less deference. Supreme Court bought it based on developmental grounds and Kent grounds – so now you have a less deferential prosecutorial review standard.
d. The lesson is that NY is moving towards reform but as we move towards reform it is important to think of all the different avenues that lead kids to the system – not just prosecution but other things that happen once they hit the system and those things need to be addressed.
e. NJ has been successful in reducing pretrial secure detention; have been part of juvenile detention alternatives initiative – population in detention centers has plummeted – but have not gone as far as the Missouri model.
f. No true promise of parole. Despite youth culpability holdings, and development, the board looks at them and their offenses as they look to all other offenses.
Effects on Youth Prosecuted As Adults (Nancy Ginsburg)
· Youth ages 13-15 are tried as adults for some offenses
· Youths ages 16-17 suffer all of the same consequences as adults, including:
o Large fines (particularly harsh for low-income people)
o Severe immigration consequences (i.e. deportation)
o Difficulties in obtaining admission to college, job opportunities, professional licenses
o Restrictions on joining the military
o Restrictions on public housing
o Orders of protection may exclude youth from home or schools
§ If youth violates order, punished as adult
· Criminal courts have much more limited access to resources for children than do family courts
Importance of Rehabilitation for Youthful Offenders (Hon. Eduardo Padro)
· Family court has a legal mandate to act in the “best interests” of youth
o Contrast to adult court, where the only guideline is that the punishment must fit the crime
· Youthful Offender (YO) status existed before the juvenile court system
o In deciding whether to grant YO status, consider:
§ Type of offense
§ Level of violence
§ Criminal history
· Youth must “earn” YO status through a detailed process:
o Judge meets with youth, parent/guardian, and program representative for 30 - 45 min. to discuss expectations
§ Important to engage youth directly
o Youth must agree to:
§ Go to school
§ Refrain from drugs
§ Be open to receiving mental health services
§ Refrain from gang or “gang-like” activity
o Youth is monitored for 1 year, then granted YO status, 5 years probation
§ Probation can be terminated early for college, military service, or out-of-state job
· Strengths of Current Program
o Evaluates youths individually
o Alternatives to Incarceration program
o Committed judges
· Weaknesses of Current Program
o Difficult for judges to place children in residential facilities
o Lacks quality mental health services
o Lacks non-secure, group setting as an alternative to living with family
o No training for judges
Programs for Youth Offenders in the Juvenile Court System (Deborah Lashley)
· In both adult and juvenile courts, there are not enough resources, but in family court, access to ACS records and better access to school records
o Allows “big picture” assessments of youth
· Project Star
o 6 wk. program for teen prostitutes
o Educates participants about health, legal, and emotional issues associated with prostitution
o Helps participants access mental and physical health services if desired
· Youth Court in Red Hook
o Low level offenders judged by peers
· Project Redirect
o 18 mo. program for former gang members
o Participants wear ankle bracelet for 1st month to discourage association with gang members
o Involves group meetings, mentors
· Back on Track program offers educational support services
o Special program targets undercredited 8th graders
· Choices and Consequences program on drunk driving
· Youth and Congregations program offers comprehensive services
o Assesses person and family
o Includes community service (painting murals, working for animal shelters, hospitals, etc.)
· Reentry program for youth under age 25
o Goal is to engage youth before they leave the criminal justice system
§ Helps to transition back to living with family and set goals
Youth Offenders and Family Court (Hon. Edwina Richardson-Mendelson)
· Systemic change have recently occurred in the juvenile justice system
o Filings in family court dropped from 9,000 in 2005 to 6,000 in 2012
o Placements in OCFS facilities dropped from 1,500 in 2005 to 500 in 2012
· Reasons for changes
o Fewer arrests, more diversion programs
o Risk assessment process
o Close to Home program
· Goal of family court is to balance needs of community with best interests of children in the context of a “due process”-driven system
o Emphasizes importance of appellate review
· Improvements are the result of the investment of money and time
Interdisciplinary & Interagency Reforms (Ana M. Bermudez)
· Principles Guiding Reform Efforts:
o Limited resources
o Assess risk of reoffending and attempt to reduce risk
§ Low risk youth require less intervention (more isn’t always better)
o Avoid becoming a “social service” system
§ Must ensure safety of community, not just needs of youth
· Determine detention procedure and disposition of case based on “grid” which considers category of offense and risk of reoffending
o Ensures fairness and consistency within system
§ If deviate from “grid,” must justify deviation
Relationship Between Schools and Courts (Donna Lieberman)
· NYCLU released report documenting criminalization of school discipline
o NYC Public Schools have 5,200 school safety officers and 3,000 guidance counselors
· Arrests in schools are usually for minor offenses
· Summonses are usually for disorderly conduct (i.e. cursing, talking back)
o Often not proportionate to offense
· 95% youths arrested in schools are minorities
o Overwhelmingly black, disproportionately male
· “Zero tolerance” policies in schools increase suspension rates
o Suspension increases the likelihood youths will drop out of school, which increases their risk of incarceration
· NYPD has imported “street tactics” into schools
o Unlike streets, school is supposed to be a safe environment
· “Zero tolerance” policing is designed to make streets “too hot” for people to engage in crime or carry weapons, but is not effective
o 0.1% of stop and frisks yield guns
o Large numbers of arrests are for low level marijuana offenses
o Marijuana use is not a predictor of or gateway to crime
§ 90% of people arrested for low level marijuana offenses are minorities, even though most marijuana users are white
§ 90% of people arrested for low level marijuana offenses are male
· Ideal would be to put schools only if necessary in an emergency to protect life and health of students
· Realistic goal is to overhaul relationship between educators and police
o Currently, school safety officers only report to NYPD, not principal
o Should change system to put educators in charge to supervise officers and provide officers with training in adolescent development
Brain Science and its Impact on Juvenile Justice Reforms (Simon G. Gonsoulin)
· Prefrontal cortex is last segment of brain to develop (from adolescence to adulthood)
o Controls executive functioning, reasoning, impulse control
· Dopamine (neurotransmitter) does not reach effective levels in brain until early 20s
o Lack of dopamine impairs memory, reasoning, decision-making
· Insurance companies, unlike the justice system, have used research on adolescent brain development to inform their practices
· In addition to brain development, must also consider risk factors, such as:
o Learning Disabilities
o Lack of role models
o Mental Illness
o Substance Abuse
· Successful Strategies for Reform
o Emphasize effective, community-based services
o Perform risk and needs assessments
o Retention of quality staff
§ Terminate members who have abused children
· Need to focus on education and youth to improve relationship between probation officers and schools
o Approx. 50% youth in justice system have learning disabilities
§ Target with credit recovery and accelerated learning programs
§ Set clear expectations
§ Challenge students
· 70% youth in justice system have mental health problems (including substance abuse)
o University Health Sciences Division provided services and support
Youth Services Under Judge Lippman’s Proposal (Ana Bermudez)
· Similar to current programs
o Intake interviews with offender, victim, and families used to assess risk of reoffending
o Restorative interview between offender and family
o Individualized plan based on needs, level of violence, etc.
· Goal of social service programs is to keep youth from entering the criminal justice system at all
Demographics of Offenders in Family Court (Hon. Edwina Richardson-Mendelson)
· Nearly all youth in NYC family court are black or Latino
o For youth, referred to as Disproportionate Minority Representation (DMR)
o For adults, referred to as Disproportionate Minority Contact (DMC)
· Juvenile justice system has not directly addressed racial disparities
o Exception is Judge Turbow, who organized a program on DMR to raise awareness
Demographics of Offenders in Adult Court (Nancy Ginsburg)
· Racial disparities similar to family court
o Must be addressed on streets, not in courts
· Youths in public housing or on streets are targeted because they are “easier” to arrest
o Large number of youth arrests also attributable to presence of police officers in schools
· Families often become involved in multiple systems (i.e. foster care, court, etc.) because governments are unwilling to pay for preventative care
o Too much emphasis on detention, rather than prevention
· Repeated studies show adolescents tend to desist from crime on their own
o Effects of peer pressure and adolescent development transcend race and class
· If many members of community have been involved in court system, decreases embarrassment or shame of contact with court
Societal Perceptions of Violence (Hon. Eduardo Padro)
· In recent years, society’s perceptions of violence have changed
o Violence and shooting preoccupy youth, many of whom don’t expect to live to age 25
· “Zero tolerance,” the purported “solution” to decrease violence merely creates more problems
o Police and youth view one another as enemies
· Despite increased diversity of police force, disproportionate arrests of minorities continue
Panel 2: Law Review Symposium
Supreme Court – Youth Part
· Mandate: let the punishment fit the crime
o Contrast w/family court, where the mandate is to consider the needs/protection of the child
· Most cases: Robbery. Rarely acting alone
· Take a plea – get a chance to earn YO
o Conditions: participate in a program, go to school, stay off drugs, comply w/curfew, stay out of trouble, remain open to mental health treatment, stay away from gangs
o Monitor for one year. If they follow the plan, they get YO + 5 yrs probation. Judge is amenable to terminating probation early if student gets into college, gets job out of state that requires no probation, or joins the army.
· What’s good about the youth part right now:
o Judges engaging defendants and their families in the process
o Having judges who believe in the program
· What needs work:
o Inability to place kids in residential facilities
o Lack of $ for quality mental health programs
o Family life problems – “home to jail” pipeline
o Judges need training
Alternative to Incarceration Programs
· Project Star: for teen prostitutes. Address physical health, criminal status, emotional health.
· Youth Court in Red Hook: Ctr for Community Initiatives – kids are judged by other kids
· Project Redirect: for gang members. 18 month program. Ankle bracelet, get matched with mentors, school help, curfew.
· Back on Track: school help
· Choices and Consequences: for 16-18 yr olds, program re: drunk driving.
· Re-Entry Program: for all ppl <25yrs old, coming out of jail/juvenile facilities. Connect with them before they’re out, engage with the family.
· In 2005, there were 9,000 filings in family court, including violations. In 2012, 6,000 filings. Fewer arrests, corporation counsel, diverting cases.
· Fewer children in OCFS facilities: 1500 in 2005, 500 in 2012.
· “Close to Home” program
o The idea is to keep kids in their homes, if possible. If not, then at least place them close to home
o Probation-driven alternatives to placement programs
· Risk Assessment
o Structured decision-making; balance children’s needs w/societal interests
o Graduated sanctions, from ACD to out of home placement
· Criminalization of school discipline. There are 5,200 police officers in NYC public schools, and only 3,000 guidance counselors.
· Kids are getting arrested & summonsed in school, for minor offenses
o Overwhelmingly “disorderly conduct”, which usually just means talking back to the cops, cursing.
o Disproportionately black males
· Suspensions are off the chart
· Street tactics are being used in the schools
o Only .1% of stop & frisk yield guns/weapons
o Marijuana offenses: 90% of ppl arrested are black, despite study that majority of marijuana users are white
· Police should only be in school for emergencies/protecting the students
o But, this is unrealistic
o In the alternative: school cops should be answerable to the principal/school admin! Right now they answer only to the police chief.
· Adolescent brains are underdeveloped in cerebral cortex
o This controls reason, decision-making
· Dopamine levels are unstable
· Even insurance companies recognize this! That’s why you pay higher insurance for teen drivers
· Juvenile Justice Facilities
o Fired 101 staffers who were abusing the kids
o 50% of the kids in the facility have learning/educational disabilities
o need to provide more social skills training programs
· New diversion programs
o “Restorative Interview” for everyone who gets into the system. Talk through how/why they got there, how to stay out of trouble in the future.
· DMR: disproportionate Minority Representation
o There aren’t enough programs addressing this issue head-on
· Funding issues
o Maybe we should reallocate funding from detention/cops and into more programming that keeps kids out of the system in the first place – preventative programs
o Kids do stupid things. We need to keep them out of the system; address their problems before they get to court.
· Zero Tolerance
o This leads to things like prosecution for using a train pass on president’s day. Creates a hard line between the kid and the police, brews hatred, puts kids needlessly into the system which leads to missing school, more problems.
How can we effect real, systemic change for all youths, rather than focusing on individual cases?
· Raising the age of criminal responsibility will change culture from punitive to therapeutic
o If the law requires youths to be treated as youths, rather than adults, judges will look to see if attorneys follow this standard
· To change society, must change “school to prison pipelines” and “zero tolerance” policies
Why is Youthful Offender (YO) Status Discretionary?
· Information about adolescent brain not available when statute was passed
o When passed in 1940s, YO statute was intended as “safety valve” for 16-18 yr. olds
· YO status is automatic for 1st misdemeanor, discretionary for felonies
· Decision to grant YO status is appealable by prosecutor
o Requiring youth to “earn” YO status (discussed earlier) is one way to reduce likelihood status will be overturned
· Youth who commit crimes are seen as dangerous to society
o Justice system believes danger should be recognized by society, not discounted as YO
· Judge Lippman’s proposal would eliminate need for YO status for non-violent offenses
What are the real obstacles to youth justice reform?
· Conferences and discussions are limited to the “converted,” need to reach elected officials and “political power brokers”
· Money is often seen as an obstacle, but reform would save money in the long run by reducing recidivism
· Efforts to reduce crime shouldn’t be restricted to “high crime” areas
o Reasons why crime statistics may not accurately reflect crime:
§ Police manipulate statistics
§ Youth don’t want to be seen as “snitches”
§ Victims don’t cooperate with police
· Must hold NYPD and schools accountable for implementing changes
· Justice system treats youthful offenders similarly when their circumstances are different
o Turnstile jumpers are different from murderers
§ Less than 10% of youth offenders are charged with “seriously violent” offenses
§ Other 90% are “like every other kid you know”
· High levels of crime in certain neighborhoods are due to a variety of causes
o Problems must be systemically analyzed and basic needs must be met
§ Consider youths’ life circumstances
If reforms have been adopted, when are there still large numbers of youths in court for low level offenses and low risk youths who are inappropriately treated as high risk youths?
· Changing bureaucracy takes time
o Some changes have been in place for less than a year
o Some judges won’t agree to “adjust” a case
- See more at: https://cardozo.yu.edu/clinics-professional-skills/clinics/youth-justice...
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