In Case You Missed It: The Week In Juvenile Justice

Our weekly review of juvenile justice news here and abroad.

ZACH TACK: “Juvenile gun offenders will take center stage in a new federal program to reduce gang membership in Chicago,” the Chicago Bureau reported Wednesday.

“U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois Zachary Fardon heralded a new youth outreach initiative Wednesday that will seek to educate and mentor young parolees through social service agencies upon their release from prison.

“The goal: to more effectively re-assimilate them into schools and communities.

“’We’re basically trying to give these kids alternatives to the gang route,’ Fardon said during an address at the City Club of Chicago.”

* Last month Fardon tinkered with a restructuring within his office to satisfy public (and politically popular) calls from local pols such as Mayor Rahm Emanuel for a more aggressive stance against gun violence, even though the feds here have long been involved in just such efforts.

PROTESTING PRISON PIPELINE: “Hundreds marched Monday night from Lawndale to the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center to call for an end to what they call the ‘school to prison pipeline,'” Chicagoist reported Tuesday.

“Activists began their march with a rally at Paderewski Elementary, a school that was among the more than 50 closed in 2013 down Ogden Avenue to the detention center.

“Members of nearly 30 different community activist groups said they wanted to see more investment in education alternative programs for youth, rather than in prisons.”

Separately, officials this week finished naming members to the new Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center advisory board.

KANGAROO COURT SETTLEMENT: “The state of Illinois has agreed to start providing lawyers for juvenile defendants who face parole revocation hearings as part of a settlement of a federal lawsuit that dubbed the process a ‘kangaroo court’ system that left youths languishing behind bars,” the Tribune reported Monday.

“The state conducts over 1,000 revocation proceedings each year against juvenile defendants, none of whom has an attorney unless they hire their own. A proposed class-action lawsuit brought by attorneys at Northwestern University School of Law’s MacArthur Justice Center in 2012 alleged that parole officers frequently persuaded juvenile offenders to waive their preliminary hearings by falsely telling them they will get home sooner.

“Those youths then remained behind bars – often for technical violations such as failing to meet curfew or attend classes – until a final revocation hearing that the lawsuit dubbed a “sham” because no witnesses could be called.”

(Key provisions to the settlement here.)

* It’s not just Illinois; see Why Are Kids Being Tried In Kangaroo Courts by Rolling Stone.

KEWANEE ASSAULTS: “Candice Jones, acting director of the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice, has released this statement in response to reports of an increased level of assaults on staff at the Illinois Youth Center-Kewanee.”

* Statements are non-responses in my book; why not call up a reporter there and submit oneself to an interview?

WISCONSIN BULLY: “What do you do when your five-year-old is being bullied and the school won’t do anything? A father in Wisconsin has just filed a restraining order against the pint-size bully who was harassing his daughter with incredibly violent threats and behavior,” Jezebel noted Saturday.

“Brian Metzger of Kenosha County states that his daughter was terrified of her classmate who, among other things, kicked Metzger’s daughter in the face and allegedly said ‘I want to slit your throat and watch you bleed’ to the girl.

“This kind of behavior is cause for alarm if it happens even once, but according to Metzger this is something that has been going on all year.

“In fact, according to the father, other children have reported being bullied as well. However, school officials have apparently done nothing, so Metzger had to take matters into his own hands after his daughter became terrified of going to school.”

* On Tuesday, a judge dismissed the restraining order on a technicality.

NORTH CAROLINA DEATH THREATS: “Calls threatening to kill students on a school bus earlier this month were made by three 10-year-old children, authorities determined,” the Statesville Record & Landmark reported Thursday.

“Iredell County Sheriff’s Office Maj. Darren Campbell, supervisor of the Criminal Investigation Division, said the three children – two boys and a girl – admitted to making the prank phone calls last week.

“Paperwork concerning the incident has been turned over to the Department of Juvenile Justice, which will determine if the three will face charges for misuse of 911.”

ALASKA LOCKDOWN: “Police said a 17-year-old student brought a handgun to Thunder Mountain High School on Thursday in an attempt to sell it, an incident that prompted the school to go into lockdown mode and the boy to be arrested for possessing a firearm on school grounds,” the Juneau Empire reported.

“The 17-year-old was charged with misconduct involving weapons in the fourth degree, a misdemeanor offense for possessing a weapon on school grounds. The maximum possible punishment the juvenile could face in court if convicted is a year in jail and a $10,000 fine.”

CONNECTICUT’S KIDS: “Child advocates would rather see kids in foster families than in group homes [May 18, Page 1, ‘Sudden Shift For DCF On Youths’],” the executive director of the Connecticut Juvenile Justice Alliance wrote to the Hartford Courant on Thursday.

“We are in agreement with the Department of Children and Families’ leadership there. But there’s a caveat: We’d rather see kids in group homes than in prisons.”

From the article that elicited the letter:

“The state’s child-protection agency is ratcheting up its efforts to radically cut the number of young people in institutions, even as advocates raise concerns over whether the state’s foster care system is ready to handle the influx of children.

“The Department of Children and Families’ goal is to reduce institutionalization from 21 percent of cases involving children in its care to 10, an emerging national benchmark. Toward that end, DCF Commissioner Joette Katz issued an edict to case workers saying she must approve every residential placement of a child.

“Katz, who was a judge but is not a clinician, acknowledged this was an unusual step. But she has done it before, blocking most out-of-state transfers of DCF children, and accomplished a steep reduction there.

“Katz’s move, which she explained to her workers in two memos obtained by The Courant, means the state will rely more than ever on foster care — a system that has been improving, but is still flawed.”

CALIFORNIA CALLING: “First-time violent juvenile offenders sentenced to probation camps are more than twice as likely to be involved in future criminal behavior than youths sentenced to in-home probation, according to a new study co-authored by Laura Abrams professor of social welfare in the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs,” the Sierra Sun Times reported Tuesday.

“Overall, the likelihood of recidivism was slightly more than twice as great for youths assigned to probation camps and more than 1.25 times greater for youths assigned to group homes, the results showed. These outcomes can be useful when thinking about how to keep youth from re-offending, Abrams said.”

NYC BRAIN INJURIES: “About half of all 16- to 18-year-olds coming into New York City’s jails say they had a traumatic brain injury before being incarcerated, most caused by assaults, according to a new study that’s the latest in a growing body of research documenting head trauma among young offenders,” AP reported last Friday.

“A growing body of research shows that inmates whose brains have been jolted by trauma are linked to higher rates of breaking jailhouse rules, substance abuse and greater difficulty re-entering society after detention, said John D. Corrigan, a professor in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Ohio State University and a national expert on head injuries.”

* “Juvenile justice centers in Texas and Virginia have started to study rates of traumatic brain injury and its impact on young offenders, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

“And in the United Kingdom, a national campaign on the issue has resulted in a commission that found almost two-thirds of young inmates suffered from head trauma, which University of Exeter researchers found in 2010 is associated with earlier, repeated and more time spent in custody.”

CANADA COAT FIRE: “A Vancouver teenager accused of burning down Crestline Elementary School in 2013 faced a judge for the first time Thursday,” reported today.

“Charged with one count of second-degree arson, the 17-year-old teen was booked into the juvenile justice system and released to his parents.”

* “According to court documents obtained by KGW, the boy admitted to setting coats on fire near Crestline Elementary School in Southeast Vancouver in the early morning hours of February 3, 2013.”

INDIA INTERPRETERS: “Children’s welfare committees in different districts of Uttarakhand are practically defunct, with some having members whose terms have ended, while others sans interpreters for child victims, leading to the accused in such crimes walking scot-free,” the Times of India reported today.

“Chairman of state commission for protection of child rights Ajay Setia criticized the state government for its apathy towards children.”

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