Our weekly review of juvenile justice news here and abroad.
TRIPLE TEEN SHOOTING: “A Cook County juvenile court judge on Wednesday ordered that a 13-year-old boy, accused of shooting three other teens, be held in a juvenile facility as he awaits trial,” the Sun-Times reported.
“The next hearing in the case was set for July 30. Typically 13-year-olds are not tried as adults in Cook County unless charged with first-degree murder.”
* The boy is charged with three counts of attempted first-degree murder, and three counts of aggravated battery with a firearm.
LAND OF LINCOLN A LAGGARD: “Eight states have made significant strides with recidivism reduction, according to a report released by the Council of State Governments Justice Center and the National Reentry Resource Center,” The Chicago Bureau reported last Friday.
“Illinois, with a 2011 recidivism rate of 51.7 percent (the national average at the time was 43.3 percent), was not one of those eight states.”
* The Elite Eight: Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina and Wisconsin.
AWAITING PSYCH EXAM: “Attorneys for a 14-year-old Mundelein girl charged with fatally stabbing her half-sister this January still have not submitted results of a psychological exam,” WLS-AM reported last Thursday.
“Prosecutors are waiting for the information before deciding if the girl will be charged as an adult or a minor,” the station said, citing a report in the suburban Pioneer Press newspapers.
* The victim was found stabbed more than 30 times at the girls’ home, according to police.
SOLITARY TEENS: “Solitary confinement … wreaks profound neurological and psychological damage, causing depression, hallucinations, panic attacks, cognitive deficits, obsessive thinking, paranoia, anxiety, and anger,” Laura Dimon wrote for the Atlantic on Monday.
“[S]olitary is particularly harmful to youth is that during adolescence, the brain undergoes major structural growth. Particularly important is the still-developing frontal lobe, the region of the brain responsible for cognitive processing such as planning, strategizing, and organizing thoughts or actions. One section of the frontal lobe, the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, continues to develop into a person’s mid-20s. It is linked to the inhibition of impulses and the consideration of consequences.
“Craig Haney, a professor of psychology at the University of California Santa Cruz, has been studying the psychological effects of solitary confinement for about 30 years. He explained that juveniles are vulnerable because they are still in crucial stages of development—socially, psychologically, and neurologically.
“The experience of isolation is especially frightening, traumatizing, and stressful for juveniles,” he said. “These traumatic experiences can interfere with and damage these essential developmental processes, and the damage may be irreparable.”
* The trend seems to be moving away from the practice, which the UN calls for prohibiting.
THE FLORIDA FILE: “A bill signed June 20 by Gov. Rick Scott makes needed reforms to the way the state treats children serving long prison terms for violent crimes,” Natalie Kato wrote for the Tallahassee Democrat on Monday.
“By requiring that most kids under 18 sentenced to 25 years or longer for murder receive a review of their sentences, the bill effectively halts one of the state of Florida’s ugliest criminal justice practices: the sentencing of children to spend the rest of their lives in prison with no hope of release. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that mandatory life sentences without parole for juveniles violate the Constitution’s ban against cruel and unusual punishment.
“Unfortunately, the bill does nothing to address a related and much broader problem: the fact that so many children end up in Florida’s adult criminal justice system in the first place, and suffer the consequences for the rest of their lives.”
* Kato is a Human Rights Watch advocate.
HAWAII DOUBLES DOWN: “Gov. Neil Abercrombie signed a pair of bills Wednesday aimed at juvenile offenders,” Stephens Media Hawaii reported Thursday.
“One, House Bill 2490, will focus space at the Hawaii Youth Correctional Facility on Oahu for the state’s most serious young offenders while strengthening probation practices to better manage those who have committed lower-level offenses.
“The other, House Bill 2116, eliminates the sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for juvenile offenders.”
* Both are certainly the trend.
CALIFORNIA KIDS: “Professionals and advocates from varied fields including pediatrics, juvenile justice and public health, are hoping California lawmakers pass a resolution acknowledging the harmful effects that ongoing trauma has on a child’s developing brain and body,” Brian Rinker writes for the Chronicle of Social Change.
“Assemblymember Raul Bocanegra (D) introduced the Assembly Concurrent Resolution 155 – Adverse Childhood Experiences and Toxic Stress, which cleared the Assembly Health Committee on June 17, and will head to the assembly floor for a full vote sometime in August after the summer recess.”
* It is hoped the resolution may spur legislation.
LIFE DURING WARTIME: “All parties implicated in a new United Nations’ report about abuses of children during armed conflict should call an immediate halt to these crimes,” Human Rights Watch said on Monday.
“The UN secretary-general’s annual report on children in armed conflict was released on July 1, 2014.
“The report lists parties to armed conflict that are documented to have committed serious violations of international humanitarian law against children. These include recruiting and using children in their operations, killing and maiming children, sexual violence against children, or attacks on schools or hospitals. Human Rights Watch cited inconsistencies in the UN monitoring and reporting, however, which may reduce the report’s effectiveness.”
GOOD FOR GHANA: “Youth Bridge Foundation launched an interactive voice response and SMS platform at a stakeholder’s forum in Accra on Tuesday,” the government announced.
“[T]hrough the project, the Children’s Act 506 and the Juvenile Justice Act 653 can be accessed on the mobile phone via text message and interactive voice response platform in Twi, Ga , Ewe and Dagbane on MTN short code 1578.
“Mrs. Comfort Asare, the Deputy Director of Social Welfare, lauded the project, adding that the lack of information on justice for the young people has made it difficult for them to stand for their right.”