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Monday, June 24, 2013

Youngest Person Sentenced to Death in Indiana

Paula Cooper, Youngest Person Sentenced to Death in Indiana, To Be Released From Prison Posted: June 17, 2013 Paula Cooper, who was 15 years old at the time of her crime, and the youngest person ever sentenced to death in Indiana, will be released from prison on June 17, twenty-seven years after her conviction for the murder of 78-year-old Ruth Pelke. Her case received international attention, sparking a campaign that led to the commutation of her death sentence to 60 years in prison. An appeal to the Indiana Supreme Court received over 2 million signatures from around the world. Pope John Paul II asked that Cooper's sentence be reduced. Bill Pelke, the grandson of Ruth Pelke, forgave and befriended Cooper and wrote a book, Journey of Hope...From Violence to Healing, about his experience with the case. Read more

Friday, June 21, 2013

(Prosecuted in Adult Criminal Court for offenses as Benign as Arriving Late For Class.)

NJJN Member Files Federal Complaint on Behalf of Youth in Dallas School System Three legal advocacy organizations, including NJJN member Texas Appleseed and NJJN partner, the National Center for Youth Law, have filed a civil rights complaint with the Department of Justice on behalf of students in the Dallas County school system. According to Pat Arthur, a youth justice strategist working with Texas Appleseed, students as young as 12 are being prosecuted in adult criminal court for offenses as benign as arriving late for class. And while the offenses may be minor, the consequences, says Arthur, are often huge. Youth in these cases suffer all the consequences of a criminal conviction, including being disadvantaged or barred from employment or getting loans, or joining the military. They've been handcuffed in classrooms and brought to truancy court. It's truly a travesty. These cases, says Arthur, frequently and disproportionately target poor students, students of color, and students with disabilities. It's truly a barbaric system of punishing kids for doing what we all did as kids skipping school or being late, Arthur said. And it's totally ineffective. It's contrary to all the best practices that we know about how to address truancy. I've never seen anything so outrageously wrongheaded. The complaint requests that the truancy system be revised to incorporate a flexible, transparent tardiness policy, greater accommodations for students with disabilities, and school-wide behavioral interventions and supports. schools? National Juvenile Justice Network | 1319 F St. NW | Suite 402 | Washington | DC | 20004

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Massachusetts House Approves Bill to "Raise the Age"

Massachusetts House Approves Bill to "Raise the Age" For First Time since 19th Century In Massachusetts, one could say that raising the age of the juvenile court's jurisdiction has been a long time coming. "We haven't changed the age of jurisdiction for hundreds of years," said Naoka Casey, executive director of Citizens for Juvenile Justice (CfJJ), an NJJN member. That may change soon, however, in light of the Massachusetts House of Representatives' unanimous passage of a bill that would expand juvenile jurisdiction (H. 1432) by moving 17-year-old youth from criminal court jurisdiction to juvenile court. CfJJ has been a driving force behind the bill since the beginning. The organization conducted its own research and outreach campaign, and partnered with system stakeholders most notably the local sheriff's association to gain widespread, bipartisan support for its efforts. "It's not done until it's done," Carey said. "We're close, and I'm going to keep knocking on wood." » Read the full story here.

Missouri Legislature Unanimously Expands Youth Services for Some Teens Tried as Adults

Missouri Legislature Unanimously Expands Youth Services for Some Teens Tried as Adults In the last weeks of May, the Missouri legislature voted unanimously in favor of S.B. 36, making changes in the state's program for youth subject to the dual jurisdiction of adult and juvenile courts. The program allows some youth who have been convicted or pled guilty in adult court to remain in the custody of Missouri's Department of Youth Services (DYS). That means they can be housed in a youth-oriented facility and receive a range of education and counseling services unavailable to adult offenders. The bill, also called "Jonathan's Law," was named for Jonathan McClard, a 17-year-old who was sentenced to 30 years in an adult facility. Tragically, McClard lost hope and took his own life. His mother, Tracy McClard, campaigned hard to get the bill passed. The bill awaits the governor's signature. » Read the full story here.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

The New York City Board of Correction voted on Monday to reject a petition to limit solitary confinement in New York City's jails

Board of Correction Votes Against Limiting Solitary Confinement in New York City Jails by Cat Guzman and Jean Casella The New York City Board of Correction (BOC) voted on Monday to reject a petition to limit solitary confinement in New York City's jails. The petition, developed by a grassroots advocacy group called the Jails Action Coalition (JAC), sought to bring sweeping reform to a jail system with one of the highest rates of prison isolation in the country. On Rikers Island, which holds more than 10,000 of the average 13,000 men, women, and children in the city's jails, approximately one in ten individuals is in "punitive segregation" at any given time. Many are placed there for nonviolent misbehavior, including drug use, foul language, and "horseplay." The jail complex includes special punitive isolation units for people as young as 16, and for those with mental and physical disabilities. "Solitary is torture, and its affecting people with mental illness and regular prisoners because it’s so extensive, so out of control, and so unmonitored, said Leah Gitter, a member of JAC who has a family member with mental illness on Rikers Island. Gitter, who was present at Monday's meeting, told Solitary Watch: "We have to have the rules changed in order to make sure that we stop this form of punishment.” The new rules outlined in JAC's petition, if adopted, would have directed the New York City Department of Corrections to end the use of isolated confinement except as a last resort to prevent violent behavior; increased daily out-of cell time for those placed in solitary: and banned altogether the isolation of children, young adults, and people with mental and physical disabilities. The BOC, which makes rules and provides oversight for the city's jails, debated the petition during its public meeting on Monday morning in front of a packed audience that included more than a dozen members of JAC, who held signs reading "We Can't Wait: End Solitary in New York." In the end, the Board elected not to proceed with "rulemaking" in response to the petition, but instead to appoint a committee to study the practice. BOC member Dr. Robert Cohen, a Manhattan physician and expert on prison health and mental health care, vocally supported JAC's petition. He called the use of solitary "dangerous," especially for people with mental illness and adolescents, who are confined in punitive segregation at particularly high rates. During the past three years, the percentage of prisoners languishing in solitary confinement has increased dramatically, without benefit in terms of decreased violence or increased safety on Rikers Island," either for corrections officers or the prisoners themselves. "I have regularly visited solitary confinement areas on Rikers Island," Cohen stated. On any given day, the vast majority of prisoners spend 24 hours a day in their cells, except for brief showers. In the Central Punitive Segregation Unit, the majority of prisoners spend their day lying on the beds, their heads covered by a blanket." Setting rules for the use of isolation, he said, was part of the BOC's statutory responsibility. Read more of this post