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Thursday, February 11, 2016

10,000 California youth under 18

Since 2003, over 10,000 California youth under 18 have been tried as adults; nearly 7,200 of them were directly filed in adult court with no oversight by a judge.

Charging youth as adults has serious, lifelong consequences for the youth involved."

Who Killed Gynnya McMillen ?

Last week, Gynnya McMillen’s brother asked you to join his family in demanding that Kentucky Juvenile Justice Commissioner Bob Hayter release the surveillance video and provide answers for his sister’s death. Those who knew Gynnya describe the sixteen-year-old as a “quiet, beautiful person”.1 Although, no one has been held accountable for her death, Reginald Windham, the detention staffer overseeing Gynnya, has since been placed on paid leave and his records indicate a history of negligence and use of excessive violence toward youth in the center.2 So, why is Gynnya barely receiving any press coverage?
It has been proven that violence toward Black girls and women receives significantly less mainstream media coverage3. Even the devastating death of Sandra Bland didn't initially receive the coverage it deserved. Gynnya’s case is very similar to that of Sandra Bland, who should have been celebrating her 29th birthday this past Sunday if profiteer-driven Waller County jail system hadn’t taken her life. It was the advocacy of our members and activist across the country, that pushed Sandra’s case to the forefront of mainstream media attention. We must do the same for young Gynnya.
Thursday will mark a month since Gynnya was found dead, and very little information has been given to the family. In the past, delays like this often result from a cover-up -like the extreme delay in releasing the video footage of seventeen-year-old LaQuan McDonald being unjustifiably shot to death in Chicago.4 Kentucky State Police have refused to release Gynnya’s surveillance tapes, and used this flawed, irrational reasoning:

We feel it would be irresponsible to release the video until we have a full conclusion of what happened. We need all of the information, not just part it
-Sergeant Michael Webb5
What Sergeant Webb fails to acknowledge is that the police already have all the information. They and the two state departments that are performing the investigation of Gynnya’s death, are the only one’s that have access to all the case documentation, including the video and audio recordings. Therefore, one must question what Sergeant Webb meant by saying they need all of the information and whether it is not the information they need, but more time to obscure the truth. Just a few weeks ago police claimed that no “foul play was involved”.4 However, with detention staffer Reginald Windham's violent work history and the police’s refusal to release pertinent information, we know that something isn’t right.
We need to know what happened to Gynnya now. We know that there’s surveillance video of Gynnya that might provide answers – will you stand with us and demand it’s release?

Peace and Thank you,

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Ballot Measure Would Reform Juvenile Justice

Ballot Measure Would Reform Juvenile Justice
Lets Judges, Not Prosecutors, Decide on Trying Youth as Adults

California Governor Jerry Brown announced a smart and humane ballot measure on January 27, 2016, that would dramatically reform both juvenile and criminal justice laws in the state, Human Rights Watch said today. If enough signatures are gathered, the measure would appear on the November ballot.

The proposed changes to California's juvenile law would give judges sole power to grant or deny prosecutors' requests to remove a youth from juvenile court to be tried as an adult in the criminal system. Current law allows prosecutors to directly charge youth as young as 14 in adult court, where they face the prospect of adult penalties, including lengthy prison terms.

"Governor Brown's proposed reform would affect the single most important decision the state makes about a child," said Elizabeth Calvin, senior children's rights advocate at Human Rights Watch. "A decision to try a youth as an adult is a decision to give up on that young person and deny them the education, treatment, and services the juvenile system provides to help turn their lives around."

California is one of just 15 states in the United States that allow a prosecutor instead of a judge to make the decision to file cases in adult court. Since 2003, over 10,000 California youth under 18 have been tried as adults; nearly 7,200 of them were directly filed in adult court with no oversight by a judge.

Charging youth as adults has serious, lifelong consequences for the youth involved; and multiple studies have shown that youth who are prosecuted in the adult system commit new offenses more quickly and go on to commit more serious crimes than those who are kept in the juvenile justice system for the same offenses.

"Youth who commit crimes should be held accountable, but the right place to do that is the juvenile justice system," Calvin said.

The US Supreme Court, in a series of five recent cases, has underscored that children are developmentally less mature than adults. Their punishment should take into account their diminished culpability and their capacity to change. Judgments about punishment are best made by the juvenile system, which takes these factors into account.

Under current California law, prosecutors typically have to make the decision whether to file in adult court within 48 hours of the crime. They do so without crucial information about the young person's life and ability to grow and change.

The ballot measure would also authorize adult parole consideration for nonviolent inmates who complete the full sentence for their primary offense and allow prisoners to earn credits for good behavior, education, and rehabilitative achievement.

"The proposed changes recognize everyone's dignity and potential," Calvin said. "If this proposal is passed, California would be taking an important step toward reducing its reliance on extremely long prison sentences."