In Case You Missed It: The Week In Juvenile Justice

Our weekly review of juvenile justice news here and abroad.
SCHOOL CODE REVISED – AGAIN: “The Chicago Public School Board of Education passed yet another proposed revision of the Student Code of Conduct Wednesday, aiming to soften the disciplinary policy and curb the suspension and expulsion rates,” The Chicago Bureau reported this week.

“Some of the changes seek to spare students from pre-K to second grade from suspension, drastically reduce police involvement in school disciplinary actions, and reduce the number of offenses that could lead to suspension.

“This is the second revision of the SCC in response to public concern of unusually high suspension rates in CPS since the 2012 revision put forth by the then-CEO Jean-Claude Brizard.”

The Chicago Teachers Union responded thusly:

“The reduction of suspensions and expulsions by the district is a step in the right direction, but Chicago Public Schools needs to make a full commitment to a positive climate that includes social workers, counselors, conflict resolution and restorative justice practices. Each school needs a safe space for students to go within the school, and each school needs fully trained personnel to address any issues that students may have.

“All school personnel should be fully informed about restorative justice theory and practices, and there should be a restorative justice or school climate coordinator in every school and network. These personnel should not be part of a third party vendor program or grant – they should be part of the permanent school staff.

“Teaching civil, social and professional behavior is part of the educational process, and CPS must get serious and put resources and personnel behind its stated commitment to building a positive learning climate in our schools.”

See also: WBEZ: CPS Softens Strict Discipline Policies.

GRAFFITI CRACKDOWN: “Mayor Rahm Emanuel is moving to crack the whip on graffiti vandals, but not enough to satisfy a Southwest Side alderman who proposed an even tougher crackdown two years ago in response to a spike in gang graffiti and a slowdown in city removal of it,” the Sun-Times reported Monday.

“Ald. Mike Zalewski (23rd) said Emanuel’s plan to more than double the fines against graffiti vandals – from $750 currently to $1,500 to $2,500 – is not enough because fines are seldom levied and rarely collected.

“Instead, Zalewski wants to join forces with the mayor on the ordinance he introduced in 2012, two days after vandals with red spray paint defaced a memorial to fallen Chicago Police officers near Soldier Field.

“It would take graffiti cases out of the hands of city hearing officers and return them to the courts, where judges may be more inclined to throw the book at offenders.”

DNAinfo Chicago, however, reported Thursday that “Graffiti artists and business owners may be natural adversaries in this city, but they seem to agree on at least one thing: Some on both sides say they think increasing fines is the wrong way to stop unwanted graffiti.”

And the Tribune reports that “It’s unclear, however, whether people scrawling gang signs or tags on garages and walls with spray paint or markers would think twice because the potential cost went up. Chicago police reported making 528 arrests last year for ‘criminal defacement of property with paint,’ according to department spokesman Martin Maloney. City officials did not respond to requests for the amount of money that was actually paid by those arrested for such violations.”

Even more to the point, the Trib notes that “Emanuel has changed his stance on graffiti since taking office. He initially targeted the city’s graffiti removal program, a favorite of predecessor Richard M. Daley, for a budget reduction as part of his 2012 city spending plan. But Emanuel backed off that stance when aldermen complained.”

* Bear in mind that Emanuel is searching high and low for revenue to avoid raising property taxes in an election year.

DIXMOOR FIVE FALLOUT: “What you have here in Cook County is an epidemic. An epidemic of false confessions of juveniles, primarily people of color,” Innocence Project lawyer Peter Nuefeld said after a record settlement was reached with five men falsely imprisoned for a double-murder.

“The five were teens when they were arrested for the November 1991 murder of Cateresa Matthews and were given lengthy prison sentences,” the Tribune reported Wednesday.

NRI SCANDAL: “Thousands of state anti-violence grant dollars from Gov. Pat Quinn’s scandal-tainted Neighborhood Recovery Initiative went to a south suburban nonprofit to help re-integrate freed teen and young adult prison inmates back into society,” the Sun-Times reported Wednesday.

“It was a noble idea except for one thing: The nonprofit that the state paid with anti-violence grant money to handle re-entry services in Thornton Township actually was operating out of a day care center in south suburban Dixmoor.

“On top of that, it was later learned, there was really no re-entry program at all – nor any proof that the organization, Project Hope, Inc., did anything for the $15,770 it received from Quinn’s administration to perform re-entry services, state records show.”

* Expect the drip-drip from the NRI saga to continue through Quinn’s re-election bid.

THE UPSIDE-DOWN PRESIDENCY: “Obama pledged to limit the practice of detaining minors,” Human Rights Watch said Wednesday. “What happened?”

SUPREMISH COURT: “Two years after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that 28 states cannot automatically sentence juveniles to life in prison for murder without the chance of parole, a decision that affected mostly imprisoned black boys, only 13 states have changed their laws to comply with the ruling; 15 states have not passed any statutory reforms, according to a study by The Sentencing Project, which works for a fair and effective U.S. criminal justice system,” North Star News reported Tuesday.

SAFELY HOME: “Tonight, 70,000 youth will sleep in a locked facility, separated from their families,” says a new study released this week from Youth Advocate Programs. “Many of them are there because their communities lack programs that could keep them safely home.

Safely Home describes how communities and systems can safely support high-need youth in their homes and communities, focusing on the elements of effective community-based alternatives for high and complex need youth in the juvenile justice system.

“These youth are not lost causes. With the right supports, they can live safely at home with their families and in their communities, not in isolation.”

TRENDING: Via NPR: New Approaches To Discipline Strive To Keep Kids Out Of Jail.

HOT READ: Via The New York Times: Seeing Sons’ Violent Potential, But Finding Little Help Or Hope.

BACKGROUNDER: Via ProPublica: The Best Reporting On Children With Post-Traumatic Stress.

TEENS IN THE BOX: After a year of reporting the Center for Investigative Reporting on Thursday released the documentary Alone.

“This follows stories we’ve done in print, for broadcast on the PBS NewsHour, as part of CIR’s new Reveal radio show, and in an animation (The Box) and graphic novel,” the center notes.

Here it is:

CHILDREN BEHIND BARS: “The countries of the EU are, in many respects, leaders on children’s rights around the globe,” Human Rights Watch said this week. “Yet Europe is failing to meet migrant children’s needs.

“Fortunately, the EU can resolve these issues. On 26-27 June, the leaders of Europe will come together in Brussels to adopt priorities for migration and asylum policies for the coming years.”

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