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Sunday, February 28, 2010

Audio Of Teen Doing Adult Time

Teenagers Doing Time
December 1, 2009

A Conversation With Laurence Steinberg
Developmental Psychologist Says Teenagers Are Different


Laurence Steinberg, a developmental psychologist at Temple University in
Philadelphia, is one of the leading experts in the United States on
behavior and adolescent brain biology. Dr. Steinberg, 57, has won the $1
million Klaus J. Jacobs Research Prize, which will be awarded to him at a
ceremony in early December in Switzerland. Here is an edited version of two
conversations with Dr. Steinberg last month:


A. I’m not one of those people who labels adolescence as some sort of mental
illness. Teenagers are not crazy. They’re different.

When it comes to crime, they are less responsible for their behavior than
adults. And typically, in the law, we don’t punish people as much who are
responsible. We know from our lab that adolescents are more impulsive,
thrill-seeking, drawn to the rewards of a risky decision than adults. They
tend to not focus very much on costs. They are more easily coerced to do
things they know are wrong. These factors, under the law, make people less
responsible for criminal acts. The issue is: as a class, should we treat
adolescents differently?


A. It’s been coming up in cases. I went to Washington in November to watch
oral arguments in two related cases before the Supreme Court that ask:
someone who committed a crime as a teen be subjected to life imprisonment
without a chance for parole, ever?

With these cases, and another in 2005 where the high court threw out the
penalty for adolescents, I was scientific consultant to the American
Psychological Association on its amicus brief. What we said in the death
penalty case — and now — was that we have considerable evidence showing that
adolescents are different from adults in ways that mitigate their criminal
responsibility. But since 2005, there’s been a lot of new scientific
supporting this position.


A. In the last five years, as neuroscience has moved forward with functional
magnetic resonance imaging and with research on animals, there have been
dozens of new studies of adolescent brain development. These show that the
brain systems providing for impulse control are still maturing during
adolescence. Neuroscientists have shown that the part of the brain that
improves most during adolescence is the prefrontal cortex, which is involved
in complicated decision-making, thinking ahead, planning, comparing risks
rewards. And the neuroscientific research is showing that over the course of
adolescence and into the 20s, there is this continued maturation of this
of the brain. So now, we have brain evidence that supports behavioral

Moreover, we’re seeing that behavior can change once the brain more fully
matures. Take thrill-seeking, for instance. What happens is that when people
move out of adolescence, they become less interested in it. For example, I
can’t stand riding on a roller-coaster now. I liked it as a teenager. I can’t
stand driving fast now. I liked driving fast when I was a teenager. What has
changed? I’m not as driven today by this thrill-seeking sensation. And in
studies, we’ve shown that there is a kind of normative decline in
sensation-seeking after middle adolescence. A lot of adolescent crime is
driven by thrill-seeking.


lead to concluding that the courts shouldn’t sentence some adolescents to
in prison without parole?

A. Given the fact that we know that there will be a developmental change in
most people, the science says that we should give them a chance to mature
of it. No one is saying that kids who commit horrific crimes shouldn’t be
punished. But most in the scientific community think that we know that since
this person is likely to change, why not revisit this when he’s an adult and
see what he’s like?


A. We have a son, Ben, who is now 25 and who works at Random House. He did
something as a teenager that led me to a whole program of research. He and
some friends went to the window of a girl they knew and inadvertently set
a burglar alarm. When a police squad car came, they panicked and fled. When
found out, I said: “Do you realize that you were running from armed police
officers who thought they were interrupting a break-in. What were you
thinking?” He said: “Well, that’s the problem. I wasn’t.” I wondered: “What
goes on when kids are in a peer group that pushes them to make bad

Since then, we’ve had people of different ages come to the lab and bring two
friends with them. We give them computerized risk-taking tests while we
their brains. We compare brain activity when individuals are watched by
friends and when they are alone. For the adults, the presence of friends has
no effect. But for adolescents, just having friends nearby doubles the
of risks they take. We’ve found that a certain part of the brain is
by the presence of peers in adolescents, but not in adults.


A. Because he was 15 when he was captured in a safe house in Afghanistan,
where he’d been sent by his father, who was active in Al Qaeda. There was a
battle in 2002 to take this house where American troops died.

He was interrogated for many hours and admitted to having thrown a grenade
that killed an American soldier. He later recanted. I was asked by his
Department counsel to advise on whether what he said during interrogation
reliable and his degree of culpability, if he did do it.

In my deposition, I said I don’t know whether he did it or not, but there
studies that say that adolescents are more likely than adults to give false
confessions. There’s the Central Park jogger case, where it turned out a
of teenagers gave false confessions. Five were convicted. Several years
an adult murderer and rapist confessed to the crime.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Cruel Punishment

Teen Sex Offender Issues in the United States
Dad, I'm really scared.
Scared that I will die in here.
-- Rodney Hulin, 16, writing to his father from an adult prison in Texas.
Every day in prisons across the United States, kids are fighting for their lives.
They're locked in mortal combat with adult criminals who are bigger, stronger, meaner and
much tougher. Some kids will survive,
and come out of prison with all the mean, tough survival skills that prison life teaches. Some
kids won't.
Rodney Hulin didn't.
Sixteen years old, Rodney Hulin was beaten and raped so often in a Texas adult prison that
he hung himself in his cell. He lay in a coma for four months, and finally died. Rodney Hulin is
not alone.
IF I GET OUT ALIVE is a one-hour radio documentary, which exposes the systematic abuse
and brutality faced by juveniles in the adult prison system. It is narrated by Academy
Award-winning actress and child advocate Diane Keaton. The program addresses first-hand
accounts from adolescents currently behind bars, rehabilitated youths who survived the system,
parents of children who died in adult prisons, legal experts, policy makers and correction
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Teen Sex Offender Issues in the United States
officers. The program also addresses the abysmal mental health conditions in prison and jails
faced by young people (fifty percent of whom, according to new research, are affected by a
serious mental illness) as well as examining alternative sentencing programs that are
successful in diverting young offenders from prison. Across the
United States, tens of thousands of children are locked up in with adults in prisons and jails
every year. This is not only immoral and unwise; it is a violation of the U.S. Constitution and of
United Nations standards. And the threat is growing. Currently, laws are pending in Congress
and in several states that would double or even triple the number of young people in adult
If I Get Out Alive is a one-hour radio documentary, which exposes the systematic abuse and
brutality faced by juveniles in the adult prison system. It is narrated by Academy Award-winning
actress and child advocate Diane Keaton. The program addresses first-hand accounts from
adolescents currently behind bars, rehabilitated youths who survived the system, parents of
children who died in adult prisons, legal experts, policy makers and correction officers. The
program also addresses the abysmal mental health conditions in prison and jails faced by
young people (fifty percent of whom, according to new research, are affected by a serious
mental illness) as well as examining alternative sentencing programs that are successful in
diverting young offenders from prison.
Featured People
The voices are from a broad range of perspectives on all sides of the juvenile justice debate. If
I Get Out Alive
will offer a fair and balanced presentation of important personal testimony and objective critical
analysis. Special effort will made to represent the disproportionate impact of these problems on
minority populations.
Among the voices we hear from in the program are:
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Teen Sex Offender Issues in the United States
- Rodney Hulin, father of 16-year-old Rodney Hulin, who was convicted of arson in 1995
and sentenced to eight years. Rodney hung himself after 75 days of being repeatedly
sodomized, raped and beaten in a particularly brutal adult prison in Texas.
- Donna Ratliff, a sexually abused 14-year-old who set fire to her home, killing her mother
and sister. Convicted as an adult for murder, she was sent to an adult women's prison, where
she was threatened and sexually harassed, and offered no rehabilitative services. More than 60
editorials in local and national newspapers resulted in Donna's transfer to a more appropriate
juvenile rehabilitation center, where she remains;
- and Mark Soler of the Youth Law Center who has been defending the rights of young
people for more than 20 years.
The tragedies and triumphs that define this issue are emotionally arresting. Previously, most
coverage has been limited to policy debates, ignoring the human and emotional dimensions of
the story. The in-depth interviews will allow subjects to fully express their opinions and thoughts
without being reduced to a sound bite. This program provides an opportunity for the public to
hear stories that often go untold.
For many people, criminals are faceless monsters that "deserve" whatever punishment they
receive.In reality, only a small percentage of adolescent arrests are for violent crimes (6% in
both 1992 and 1994, according to a U.S. Justice Department study). Most juvenile criminals are
misbehaving adolescents in desperate need of guidance and support. Many of them are
suffering from mental health problems that their schools or parents have been unable to cope
with. The hope is that these stories will encourage people to re-evaluate the criminal justice
system they help support with their tax dollars. Effective, alternative correctional programs do
exist and need media attention. Young criminals should be disciplined, but fairly and
appropriately. They should be taught, not tortured. The line between necessary discipline and
cruel and unusual punishment must be drawn.
A Critical Need
There is also a policy side to this issue. Legislation pending on Capitol Hill would dramatically
increase the number of children tried and jailed as adults. Charles Frazier, Donna Bishop and
Lonn Lanza-Kaduce of the University of Florida conducted a study of recidivism which
concluded that "juveniles sent to the adult system are significantly more likely to be re-arrested
than those kept in juvenile court, by almost 30%." Distribution and Marketing If I Get Out Alive
is being distributed over the National Public Radio Satellite System to more than 530 public
radio stations nationwide, with a total of 17 million regular listeners.
Call your local public radio station for the broadcast date and time in your area. If I Get Out
Alive , will also
be available on audio cassette for home use and educational outreach purposes. An
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Teen Sex Offender Issues in the United States
educational kit, as with our other radio programs, will be developed for use by public policy
makers, schools, universities and for distribution to local advocacy organizations.
The project is non-profit and all contributions are tax-deductible under the production's
501(c)(3) status through New York Foundation for the Arts. Underwriting for this program has
been provided by:
- The Center on Crime, Communities and Culture
- New York State Council on the Arts
- John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
- The Annie E. Casey Foundation
- The Butler Family Fund
- The Paul Robeson Fund for Independent Media
- The National Mental Health Association
- The George M. and Mabel H. Slocum Foundation
Information about the production team and advisory board is also available

Thursday, February 18, 2010

A Mother's Story And Plea For Her 17 Year Old Son

Ryan Newman's Story 17 year old Ryan Newman was sentenced on March 16, 2007 to 41 years of incarceration for robberies that were committed at the National Mall. Ryan had no court trial and was without appropriate legal representation. I, Tonya V. Cole, Ryan's mother,I am seeking justice for Ryan in an effort to get a court trial for Ryan where he can exercise his right to defend himself.
I am asking you in support of this effort to seek Justice for Ryan. Ryan was arrested on July 28, 2006. On July 29, 2006 when he appeared in court, he was charged with one count of Armed Robbery and he was ordered to be held without bond pending an August 8, 2006 detention hearing. The hearing was waived by his attorney. Ryan was rushed through this before we could review the evidence and without making sure Ryan understood everything. Ryan's attorney withheld information so Ryan didn't know what the evidence was against him. On August 29, 2006, Ryan, after being verbally coerced by his attorney, pled guilty to 6 counts of Robbery, 4 counts of Possession of a firearm during a crime of violence and 1 count of first degree sexual assault. Ryan was told by his attorney that his only choice was to plead guilty or face a life sentence without parole, and that a trial was NOT an option.
Therefore, out of fear, he pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 41 years without parole.This was Ryan's FIRST arrest. On several occasions Ryan asked the attorney about the plan of action to defend him. The attorney had no plan. Also, since Ryan was a minor, he shouldn't have been pushed to make decisions on his own. The attorney made decisions for Ryan without Ryan's understanding and consent, and without my understanding and consent. Ryan took responsibility for his part in the robbery, but due to coercion and dis-information, he pleaded guilty to charges for things that he did not do. In addition to charges for which he was denied trial, Ryan now has a sex offense charge against him, and DNA would've proven his innocence. The sentencing transcripts prove that he was innocent because the victim herself specifically and deliberately excluded him. Ryan was denied any rehabilitation and is being housed in a United States Penitentiary where he expects to spend the rest of his LIFE. This is a case of Injustice. Ryan's representation was totally inappropriate and any hope for justice for him was compromised. Due to the facts stated above, that I feel Ryan's rights have been profoundly violated. Ryan made a serious mistake and took responsibility for his actions, but let us not forget, HE IS STILL A MINOR and should have been given a FAIR CHANCE. I am asking for your help. You can help to bring this case to trial and to Justice. Thanks and God Bless. Today we recieve message that his appeal was DENIED

Teens Facing Life In Prison

Teens Face Life in Prison Before Having a Life of Their Own

By PNS Writers in Juvenile Hall

Date: 03-12-98
The much publicized assault on "youth crime" has taken a particularly harsh turn with laws that allow juveniles to be tried and sentenced as adults. This means that some very young offenders face life in prison. In this article, young people facing very long prison terms write about their lives and how the are coping with their futures behind bars. The following young people write for "The Beat Within," a weekly newsletter by and about incarcerated youth published by Pacific News Service. This is the second of two articles on the teenage gulag.

INTRODUCTION: In California, people under the age of 18 who are charged with certain serious crimes can be tried as adults if the court finds the individual charged "is not a fit and proper subject to be dealt with under the juvenile court law."

The question is argued before a juvenile court judge in a "707 hearing" (named for the relevant section of the state Welfare and Institutions code). The law stipulates five criteria, which call for judgments about the minor (his or her "degree of criminal sophistication," for example) and the particular alleged offense. In general, the law applies to people over 16 and under 18, but with some charges of murder juveniles as young as 14 can be considered fit (or unfit) for trial as adults.

The short essays that follow are all by teens facing the possibility of life in jail -- some awaiting 707 hearings; others tried (or soon to be tried) as adults.

I am 16 years old. I'm in juvenile hall for one count of murder and two counts of attempted murder.

It is very, very hard for me, knowing I'm going to spend the rest of my life in prison. I'm still a kid, and kids make mistakes. We can learn from our mistakes. But nowadays, all people want to do is send a kid to prison and throw away the key.

When I'm in this room thinking about my freedom, family and girlfriend, all that, I start getting sad, then I start crying until I fall asleep. I've been reading a lot of books about prison life. It's really bad in there. They say a lot of people get killed. I'm starting to worry and think I might not make it. I know the Lord has my back though.

I wonder if I'm ever going to be with my family. I wonder if I'll be caught in the funk because I'm Asian and there aren't a lot of Asians in there -- and I'm a small one. I wonder if my friends and girlfriend will forget about me.

I've been here for six months, and I'll be here for another year and a half. It's hard knowing I'm going to prison for the rest of my life. I count off every day I'm here, every month. Everything is the same, every day the same. Wake up, go to school, rec for an hour, shower, then go to bed -- that's every day. That's what my life is going to be infinitely. -- S.S.

The way this system that I'm confined in operates there's no such thing as rehabilitation.

I'm seeing more and more precious young lives being set up for failure, and believe me, it's a sad sight. I sit in the maximum security unit, still awaiting my 707 trial, and look at seven other young men in this unit who are going through or have already been through the same thing.

Instead of making new programs, it's more prisons being built. You see, if you send someone somewhere where there's a good chance they'll rehabilitate themselves, there's more of a chance they won't return, and that will mean less money for the system. But if you send someone somewhere where they will most likely become even sicker, then the odds are they will return. That means more money.

That brings up the saying-"If it don't make dollars, it don't make sense." The incarcerated people are the dollars so I guess the system figures that what they're doing makes sense. -- D.R.

I'm facing life in prison for something I was charged with when I was 17. It is scary to think about it.

My father came to see me and we looked face to face and I asked him a serious question. "Can I survive in prison?" He told me I can. He has spent time in prison himself, so it took a lot of stress off my mind when he told me that.

A lot of young men in here that are going to camp or a group home tell me they feel what I'm going through. This makes me mad and sad, because they don't know what people who face life are going through.

I think nobody in this system can really comprehend us, the minors facing life in the adult system. Because the adults can take advantage of us and probably rape us. Those things run through my mind and they scare the hell out of me. -- G.S.

If I'm convicted, I may never get to breathe fresh air or see the outside for the rest of my life. It feels like someone is just all of a sudden taking my life. Everything that I know and love they're trying to take from me. They want to make me a part of the system permanently, taking orders from people I don't know, and would not care to know.

The worst part about my situation is that I can't be with my family anymore and it eats me up inside. I have a young brother and sister that I am missing right now and I may never get to see them again, or help my mother raise them.

If I get sentenced to life I don't know what I'll do, but I do know I don't want the opportunity to find out. It can be very easy for someone to say, "Maintain, keep your head up, stay strong," but they're on the outside looking in and don't have a clue about how this situation feels. It can change a person's whole personality or mentality.

I pray to God every night and ask him to make me strong inside and out I am stressing myself out with the burden of facing serious time. Because right now juvenile is like Disneyland, but the Pen could be something that can just mentally kill you, if you have to spend the rest of your life there. -- T.M.

To be honest, I really try very hard not to have any feelings about looking at a life sentence. I do not have any, but they come in like the days. I guess you can say that I don't want to deal with any of them. But when I'm alone at night I go crazy, because I know that I'm going to do some kind of time. But how long, and if I go, would I come out?

That runs through my head every day and I can't really deal with it. I just try and find a way to work with it. I just live my days as if they were my last. I try to go through it getting all I can, and appreciating everything I get. -- T.S.
-------------------------- Serving Life in Prison Before Having A Life Of Their Own