N.J. Supreme Court Revamps Life Sentences for Juveniles

TRENTON, N.J. (CN) – Juveniles should not be sentenced to life in prison without parole for non-homicide crimes, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled, and ordered resentencing of two men who committed their crimes when they were 17.

Ricky Zuber was sentenced to 110 years in prison for two gang rapes in which he participated in 1981. He was not eligible for parole for 55 years, and the sentence was affirmed on appeals.

Judge John M. Jacobsen remembered for his courtroom courteousness, compassion

OKLAHOMA CITY -- There was often a festive atmosphere in Judge John M. Jacobsen’s courtroom on Friday mornings in the Oklahoma County Juvenile Justice Center.

Jacobsen was a juvenile court judge in Oklahoma County, and for most of the weeks his dockets dealt with young people who had been had been found to be deprived of the family support children need, but on Friday he presided over adoptions for some of those children.

THE LONG-TERM COSTS OF FINING JUVENILE OFFENDERS

Over the past several years, there has been a great deal of research detailing how fines and fees in the adult criminal-justice system drive already impoverished people into debt, increase rates of recidivism, and lead to the incarceration of people simply because they can’t pay their court bills. In March, 2016, lawyers within the civil-rights division of the Department of Justice wrote a scathing letter to their colleagues detailing how monetary punishments caused thousands of people to “face repeated, unnecessary incarceration for nonpayment despite posing no danger to the community.” This past spring, the Vera Institute of Justice launched a new initiative that will examine how fines and fees lead to an “overreliance on local incarceration that exacts significant unnecessary costs on individuals.”

LAST-MINUTE JUSTICE POLICY CHANGES AS 2016 COMES TO AN END

With the 2015-2016 Michigan Legislative Season coming to a close, there is a lot of good—and bad—news about what made it through to Gov. Snyder’s desk during the last few weeks of session. Major changes include:

  • Erasure of the antiquated zero-tolerance policy in schools;
  • Limited use of seclusion and restraint in schools;
  • Decriminalization of youthful behavior for those charged with a minor in possession;
  • Compensation and reentry services for the wrongfully imprisoned;
  • A prohibition on vetoing parole by a successor judge and;
  • Support and decriminalization of human trafficking victims charged with prostitution.

New Report Questions New Jersey’s Juvenile Justice System

“Youth prisons are failing our children in this state, but particularly our children of color,” explained Andrea McChristian from the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice.

If you take a look inside New Jersey’s juvenile justice system you’ll see the racial disparities laid bare. Seventy-five percent of incarcerated kids are black. That gap among races is the third-highest in the country.

Understanding Research and Practice Gaps in Juvenile Justice Early Insights

Most juvenile justice practitioners are aware of the value of research and evidence-based practices, but few resources exist to help them apply research-informed practices in ways that respect the identities and developmental needs of youth. These and other findings are highlighted in this brief, which documents themes from interviews with key juvenile justice stakeholders. Interview findings reveal the most pressing research and practice gaps in the field, the barriers practitioners face in accessing and implementing research, and the audiences that could benefit most from research translation tools and products.

OJJDP Releases Research-Based Guidelines For Juvenile Drug Treatment Courts

WASHINGTON, Dec. 20, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Office of Justice Programs' (OJP) Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) today released the research-based Juvenile Drug Treatment Court Guidelines to support judges, professional court staff, and families in responding to the needs of youth with substance use disorders.

Guest Post: Some juvenile defendants still denied justice through lack of counsel

A sometimes overlooked part of the justice system is the one which deals with defendants under the age of 18: juvenile justice. And though the United States has made great progress in how we treat errant teenagers, there are still problems, particularly with providing young defendants with adequate — or any — counsel. On the 50th anniversary of the case which enshrined a juvenile’s right to counsel, top Justice Department officials Karol Mason and Lisa Foster write about the work still to be done.

Girls in juvenile justice: Treating the victim as a criminal

Too often, girls end up in Maryland's juvenile justice system not because they are a danger to society but because society is a danger to them. The are far more likely to have suffered physical, sexual or emotional abuse than boys who are committed to juvenile facilities, yet they tend to receive harsher punishments for lesser offenses — and get fewer chances for rehabilitation and education. When they act out in anger, fear or frustration at circumstances they did not create and cannot control, they are too often treated as criminals, not victims, a self-fulfilling prophecy that puts them at even greater risk.

Utah Juvenile Justice Working Group Releases Recommendations to Improve Juvenile Justice System and Promote Better Public Safety Outcomes

The Utah Juvenile Justice Working Group submitted to state leaders a comprehensive set of data-driven policy recommendations designed to increase public safety, effectively hold juvenile offenders accountable, and focus juvenile justice system resources on youth who pose the greatest risk to public safety.

The group’s recommendations will be used as the foundation for statutory, budgetary, and administrative changes during the 2017 legislative session.

Facing problems, Missouri revamped juvenile justice

In Missouri, large institutions were replaced with small facilities, closer to offenders' homes. Teens live in pods of 10 with two counselors. They wear their own clothes, sleep in dorm-style rooms and address the staff by first names.

Mark Steward, retired Director of the Missouri Division of Youth Services and founder Missouri Youth Services Institute. (Photo: Missouri Youth Services Institute)

The doors are locked for the high-risk offenders, but no matter the setting, the focus is on therapy instead of controlling the youth, said Mark Steward, one of the architects of the Missouri system. They are reporting a much higher success rate than Wisconsin

Beyond Bars: Keeping Young People Safe At Home And Out Of Youth Prisons

The National Collaboration for Youth, which represents national youth serving organizations around the country such as YMCA’s, Girls and Boys Clubs, Generations United and my organization, Youth Advocate Programs, recently released the report, Beyond Bars: Keeping Young People Safe at Home and Out of Youth Prisons. The report promotes a new community-solutions oriented approach for justice-involved young people, and makes the case that systems and communities should close youth prisons and develop an array of strong community supports for young people in conflict with the law.