In Case You Missed It: The Week In Juvenile Justice

Our weekly review of juvenile justice news here and abroad.

TEEN IN ANTI-VIOLENCE PROGRAM CHARGED: “Tevin Lee seemed to be a West Side teen headed in the right direction, graduating from high school and working this summer at a church in a job designed to help prevent community violence,” the Tribune reported Thursday.

“Charles Norman, who worked with Lee in the anti-violence program, described him as a very humble kid who was eager to learn.

“He was seeking out something more, something bigger than him that he wanted to be a part of,” Norman said. “He wanted to belong, and he cared. He has a big heart.”

“Norman was stunned to learn Thursday morning that Lee had been charged in the latest shooting to rock Chicago – the killing of 11-year-old Shamiya Adams as she sat on the floor of a West Side apartment playing with friends on a sleepover. A stray bullet traveled through about a 1 1/2-inch opening in a window and struck her in the head.”

* Lee turns 19 next week.

RAHM BAM: “The Chicago Public Schools will expand a sports-based mentoring program for troubled teens to 2,000 students at 37 schools and add ‘math tutoring on steroids’ to three more schools,” the Sun-Times reported Monday.

“The expansion will be made possible by a $10 million infusion of federal funds authorized by President Barack Obama that couldn’t come at a more opportune time. It follows another violent summer weekend, during which nearly two dozen people were shot over a 12-hour period.

“Eleven-year-old Shamiya Adams was among the innocent victims. She was shot in the head during a sleepover when a stray bullet tore through a friend’s home in West Garfield Park.

“The $10 million from Obama’s ‘My Brother’s Keeper’ initiative allows CPS to expand two programs for at-risk youths that have grabbed the White House’s attention: the Becoming a Man sports mentoring and ‘cognitive behavioral therapy’ program and Match Education, which uses intensive, one-on-one tutoring to dramatically improve math skills.”

UNLOCKED AUNT MARTHA: “A state-funded facility meant to keep troubled youth safe is allowing kids to leave the facility all hours of the night, and the state says there is nothing it can do about it, NBC 5 Investigates has found,” NBC Chicago reported Monday.

“It’s happening at Aunt Martha’s short-term shelter in [the Chicago neighborhood of] Bronzeville.”

Neighbors are complaining of problems spilling onto the streets. But the facility is merely following the law.

“[T]he shelter can’t lock the kids inside the facility, even though they are wards of the state. That’s only allowed in state psychiatric facilities and jails. Kids who live in short-term shelter are not supposed to walk out, but state rules say if a child demands to leave, and they’re not considered dangerous to themselves, no one can stop them.

“In fact, NBC 5 Investigates has found police have been called to the facility 27 times in the last 12 months.”

* Officials from the state and Aunt Martha’s responded to the story by saying they have reached out to the community but they are in compliance with Illinois law.

IOWA CAUCUS: “The Iowa Supreme Court ruled [last] Friday that juveniles cannot be given mandatory minimum sentences, making it the first state to interpret federal court directives that broadly,” AP reported.

“More than 100 prisoners who as juvenile offenders were tried as adults and received mandatory minimum sentences before 2013 must be re-sentenced, the court ruled, 4 to 3.

“The state law mandating that juvenile offenders who received a sentence with no chance for parole until a minimum time is served is unconstitutional, the court ruled.”

JUDGE DREAD IN DETROIT: “A young man who participated in a mob attack on a Detroit-area motorist needed a father to ‘beat the hell’ out of him as a kid to discourage him from committing such a crime, a judge said [last] Thursday,” AP reported.

“The stunning remarks by Wayne County Judge James Callahan came as he sentenced Latrez Cummings to six months in jail.”

* Despite the judge’s harsh tone, the prosecution was disappointed in what it described as a “light” sentence.

* NASHVILLE MINDS THE GAP: “Numbers tell a story in Nashville that’s in urban school districts across nation — a pattern of vastly more suspensions and expulsions among students of color, particularly black boys, than among their peers,” the Tennessean reported Wednesday.

“Educators call it a ‘discipline gap,’ and the disparity has continued to challenge the nation’s biggest cities 60 years after Brown v. Board of Education upended a public school system that subscribed to ‘separate but equal.’

“Now, convinced that solving that gap is fundamental to ever bridge the gulf between academic outcomes, Metro school officials have begun creating a plan to tackle a problem that’s proven unbending year after year.”

* The plan is still in flux, but the district has already “committed to several strategies identified by the Obama administration, including expanding prekindergarten access, installing earlier warning signs to prevent grade retention, boosting access to rigorous coursework such as Advanced Placement and reducing suspensions and expulsions.”

SOUTH DAKOTA BOARDS THE TRAIN: “A group of lawmakers hopes to find ways to reduce the number of children in Department of Corrections custody in South Dakota,” the Argus Leader reported Thursday.

“Jim Seward, general counsel for Gov. Dennis Daugaard, said the group is tasked with finding ways to divert youth away from commitments at the state’s juvenile facilities in Custer, Plankinton and Sioux Falls.”

* Plenty of states to copy from!

INDIA GOES AGAINST THE GRAIN: “Should children be tried as adults over sex crimes?” Meenakshi Ganguly wrote for Human Rights Watch on Thursday.

“In India, following some recent cases where juveniles were found guilty of rape and against a backdrop of growing public outrage over sexual violence, the answer from politicians appears to be yes.

“India’s new minister of women and child welfare has proposed amending the Juvenile Justice Act to open the way for children under 18 accused of rape, murder, and other serious crimes to be prosecuted in regular criminal courts.”

* HRW is against.

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