Age of Criminal Responsibility in States

How ‘Raise the Age’ laws might reduce recidivism, By Teresa Wiltz, May 31, 2017, Stateline: “You have to be 18 to vote in a general election or join the military without your parents’ consent — and you’ve got to be 21 before you can belly up to the bar. But in some states, if you’re under 18 and you break the law, you’ll be treated as an adult, no matter how slight the crime — even if it’s just jumping a subway turnstile or shoplifting…”

Foster Care Shelters – California

Chronicle investigation spurs calls to close foster care shelters, By Karen de Sá, Joaquin Palomino, and Cynthia Dizikes, May 22, 2017, San Francisco Chronicle: “The state attorney general’s office is looking into hundreds of dubious arrests at California’s shelters for abused and neglected children that were detailed last week in a San Francisco Chronicle investigative report. The attorney general’s response comes amid calls from judges, state lawmakers and youth lawyers to consider shutting down shelters where children as young as 8 have been funneled into the criminal justice system for minor incidents…”

Court Fines and the Poor

Court costs entrap nonwhite, poor juvenile offenders, By Erik Eckholm, August 31, 2016, New York Times: “When Dequan Jackson had his only brush with the law, at 13, he tried to do everything right.  Charged with battery for banging into a teacher while horsing around in a hallway, he pleaded guilty with the promise that after one year of successful probation, the conviction would be reduced to a misdemeanor.  He worked 40 hours in a food bank. He met with an anger management counselor. He kept to an 8 p.m. curfew except when returning from football practice or church.  And he kept out of trouble. But Dequan and his mother, who is struggling to raise two sons here on wisps of income, were unable to meet one final condition: payment of $200 in court and public defender fees. For that reason alone, his probation was extended for what turned out to be 14 more months, until they pulled together the money at a time when they had trouble finding quarters for the laundromat…”

American Indian Girls in the Juvenile Justice System

American Indian girls often fall through the cracks, By Teresa Wiltz, March 4, 2016, Stateline: “They’re poor, more likely to be sexually abused, end up in foster care, drop out of school, become homeless. They’re often the prey of traffickers.  American Indian and Native Alaskan girls are a small fraction of the population, but they are over-represented in the juvenile justice system, whether they are living on or off the reservation. Native American girls have the highest rates of incarceration of any ethnic group. They are nearly five times more likely than white girls to be confined to a juvenile detention facility, according to the U.S. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention…”

Girls in the Juvenile Justice System

States grapple with girls in the juvenile justice system, By Teresa Wiltz, November 25, 2015, Stateline: “When she was 11, KiAmber was arrested for defacing school property—a misdemeanor the Tallahassee, Florida, girl insists she did not commit. That experience scared her.  By the time she turned 12, she was pregnant. School wasn’t safe—fights broke out all the time. So KiAmber asked to enroll in a program for at-risk girls, funded by the state, where she receives intensive counseling and tutoring. Now, the ninth-grader said, she’s matured and is looking forward to creating a stable life for herself and her 3-year-old daughter. Without early intervention, ‘I don’t know where I’d be,’ said KiAmber, who at 15 is still a juvenile and asked that her last name not be used.  Male juvenile offenders still greatly outnumber females. But while the arrest rate for juveniles has declined over the past two decades, it has not fallen as sharply for girls as it has for boys. And minority girls are twice as likely as white girls to be incarcerated…”

Juvenile Justice Reform – Nebraska

Gov. Heineman signs juvenile justice reform into law, By Paul Hammel and Martha Stoddard, May 30, 2013, Omaha World-Herald: “The state embarked on a new approach in dealing with troubled juveniles Wednesday. Gov. Dave Heineman signed into law a major reform bill that shifts the focus from incarceration to treatment for youthful offenders and puts state probation officers in charge of that rehabilitation work instead of state social workers…”

Juvenile Incarceration in the US

  • Report finds youth incarceration on steep decline in Md., U.S., By Justin Fenton, February 27, 2013, Baltimore Sun: “The rate of youth confinement in Maryland declined by nearly half over a 13-year period, outpacing the national average amid a ‘sea change’ in the approach toward dealing with young people who break the law, according to a report released by a national youth advocacy group. From 1997 to 2010, the rate of youth incarceration dropped 37 percent, according to the Baltimore-based Annie E. Casey Foundation. The group noted that the United States leads the industrialized world in locking up young people, and said that the majority of incarcerated youths are held for nonviolent offenses such as truancy and low-level property crime…”
  • Tennessee leads in shrinking juvenile detention rate, By Bartholomew Sullivan, March 3, 2013, Knoxville News Sentinel: “The rate of juvenile detention has fallen to its lowest national level in 35 years, with Tennessee showing the biggest drop, a new analysis of federal statistics shows. ‘Reducing Youth Incarceration in the U.S.,’ released Wednesday by the private Annie E. Casey Foundation in Baltimore, shows a significant decline in confinement of people younger than 21. Lockups peaked in 1995, with 105,055 behind bars on a single day. By 2010, that number had fallen to 70,792 on a comparable day. Over that period, the detention rate dropped from 350 to 225 per 100,000 youths, according to data drawn from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Census of Juveniles in Residential Placement…”
  • La. juvenile incarceration rates fall, report says, By Mark Ballard, February 28, 2013, Baton Rouge Advocate: “Louisiana was among 44 states that saw decreases in their youth incarceration rates between 1997 and 2010, according to a report released Wednesday by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Louisiana’s 56 percent reduction in its youth incarceration rate was one of the most dramatic improvements in the country, the report states. Only Tennessee, Connecticut and Arizona experienced larger declines during the time period, according to the report that the Baltimore-based foundation called a ‘snapshot…'”

Drop in Juvenile Crime – Massachusetts

Local law enforcement officials see drop in juvenile crime, By Jim Morrison, January 2, 2013, Boston Globe: ” Are today’s youngsters more likely to stay out of trouble? From prosecutors to police officers on the street to the state Department of Youth Services, there is consensus that juvenile crime has declined in this region as well as the rest of the state.Overall, juvenile crime is down 37 percent in Massachusetts from 2009 to 2011, according to a recent report by Citizens for Juvenile Justice, a research and advocacy group in Boston. The drop corresponds with data in the FBI’s nationwide crime reports that show that crime is down in all categories across the country…”

Child Welfare Privatization – Nebraska

Foster care still reeling from privatization, By Martha Stoddard, December 1, 2012, Omaha World-Herald: “Nebraska’s child welfare system is still suffering from the instability caused by the state’s privatization experiment, according to a report released Friday. The Foster Care Review Office’s annual report on children in out-of-home care found concerning levels of caseworker turnover, missing documentation and a lack of complete case plans during 2011 and the first half of this year. All three problems worsened after the state attempted to turn over major responsibilities for managing child welfare and juvenile justice cases to private contractors…”

Juvenile Justice System – New Jersey

Number of minors in N.J. youth detention centers declined significantly, report shows, By Matt Friedman, October 24, 2012, Star-Ledger: “A new report shows that the number of minors in the counties’ youth detention centers has declined by more than half since New Jersey implemented a program to divert them to alternatives in 2004, saving the state an estimated $16 million. The report, issued today by Advocates for Children in New Jersey, studied the effect of the eight-year-old Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative. ‘New Jersey’s juvenile justice system is, by and large, smarter, safer and savings taxpayer dollars,’ according to the report, which noted that just 3 percent of youth re-offend while participating in the program. For children arrested but not deemed a threat to public safety, the program changes the focus from locking them up to alternative means of supervision, like electronic monitoring and home visits. It also provides them with job training, counseling services and other services…”

Juvenile Justice System – Arkansas

Study praises juvenile justice reforms, says more work needed, By Rob Moritz, March 14, 2012, Arkansas News: “A new study presented to lawmakers today praises recent reforms in Arkansas’ juvenile justice system and recommends additional strategies to save money. ‘There really has been remarkable work done to reform juvenile justice in this state,’ said Pat Arthur, the study’s co-author, a California-based consultant and former attorney at the National Center for Youth Law in San Francisco. ‘It’s truly been an amazing collaboration of stakeholders to behold over the last four years who have come together and collaboratively worked to change what was four years ago safe to say a sinking ship, the Division of Youth Services,’ Arthur told a joint meeting of the Senate Committee on Children and Youth and the House Committee on Aging, Children and Youth, Legislative and Military Affairs.
In 2008, following a series of problems within the juvenile justice system, including poor facilities, overcrowding and physical and emotion abuse of youths, a task force of judges, state officials, advocacy and community groups formed to find solutions…”

Juvenile Justice System – New York

New York courts revisit juvenile justice, By Maggie Clark, March 12, 2012, Stateline.org: “On a recent Thursday afternoon in the shadow of Yankee Stadium, in the South Bronx, five 16- and 17-year-old boys met outside the Bronx Criminal Court building to complete court-mandated community service. After appearing before a judge for nonviolent offenses such as shoplifting and graffiti, they’d been assigned to Bronx Community Solutions, an alternative sentencing organization attached to the criminal court, for an afternoon of cleaning up the sidewalks around a recreation center. Under New York law, most offenders at this age share community service duties with seasoned adult criminals, because at 16, they are automatically charged as adults. These boys were different because they were part of a judicial pilot program that separates 16-and-17-year-old offenders from the rest of the adult criminal population, and also from younger teens. They have been given the chance to do their community service in a custom-designed rehabilitative environment…”

Foster Care Youth – California

More resources urged for high-risk youths in foster care, By Garrett Therolf, November 9, 2011, Los Angeles Times: “As California implements a new law extending foster care benefits to youths until age 21, social workers and policymakers should focus their efforts particularly on the hardest cases, according to a major new study. The study found that substantial amounts of money are being spent on Los Angeles County’s so-called crossover youth – children who start out as foster kids and end up committing crimes that land them in the juvenile justice system. At least 10% of the 20,000 youths under probation supervision were foster children, the study found. Each crossover youth cost taxpayers $35,000 on average in just the first four years of adulthood – more than twice the amount spent on those who were in only the foster care system or the justice system…”

States and Juvenile Justice

Texas juvenile justice reforms working, group says, By Allan Turner, October 4, 2011, Houston Chronicle: “Reforms instituted in the wake of 2007 allegations of widespread sexual abuse of minors in Texas Youth Commission facilities have led to dramatic improvements in the way the state deals with young offenders, according to a national juvenile justice study released Tuesday. Authors of the Annie E. Casey Foundation study, No Place for Kids: The Case for Reducing Juvenile Incarceration, reported Texas’ number of incarcerated minors dropped from 4,800 in August 2006 to 1,800 in August 2010 – without an increase in the state’s crime rate or juvenile arrests…”

Kids Count Report – Tennessee

More of county’s youth in poverty, courts, By Mealand Ragland-Hudgins, August 9, 2011, Daily News Journal: “Rutherford County children fared better than their peers across the state on the 2010 Kids Count report, although increases were seen in the areas of local children living in poverty or being referred to juvenile court. Released today, the report is an analysis of issues that can affect children’s well-being in all 95 of Tennessee’s counties. Included in the report is data on high school dropouts, children on public assistance, medical care, safety and risky behaviors. Most data in the report is based on numbers compiled in 2008 or 2009, depending on what information was available. Individual rankings by county were not provided, and data was only broken down by city for Memphis and Nashville-Davidson County…”

Juvenile Justice System – New York

Why are more Monroe County kids in the juvenile justice system?, By Denise-Marie Santiago, May 2, 2010, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle: “With his handcuffs off and a guard trailing him, Calvin didn’t look at the judge when he first walked into Monroe County Family Court. The lanky 17-year-old made a beeline to his mother that morning in March to kiss her, before standing with his attorney to hear how much more time he would serve in a juvenile facility for being caught a second time in a stolen car a year earlier. In Buffalo, he might still be at home and serving probation for the misdemeanor charge of unauthorized use of a vehicle. Syracuse officials may have diverted Calvin’s case to a program that keeps him with his family while providing services to get him back on track. In Monroe County, though, judges have long sent away more juvenile delinquents and persons in need of supervision, or PINS, to secure and nonsecure facilities than Buffalo’s Erie County and Syracuse’s Onondaga County combined. Monroe County is also more likely to keep them for a time in a local detention facility, rather than release them to their families, before their cases come to court. And among the 10 counties that place the most juvenile delinquents in state custody, according to a study of New York’s juvenile justice system, Monroe leads in disproportionately placing African-Americans…”

Report: Juvenile Prison System – New York

New York finds extreme crisis in youth prisons, By Nicholas Confessore, December 13, 2009, New York Times: “New York’s system of juvenile prisons is broken, with young people battling mental illness or addiction held alongside violent offenders in abysmal facilities where they receive little counseling, can be physically abused and rarely get even a basic education, according to a report by a state panel. The problems are so acute that the state agency overseeing the prisons has asked New York’s Family Court judges not to send youths to any of them unless they are a significant risk to public safety, recommending alternatives, like therapeutic foster care. ‘New York State’s current approach fails the young people who are drawn into the system, the public whose safety it is intended to protect, and the principles of good governance that demand effective use of scarce state resources,’ said the confidential draft report, which was obtained by The New York Times…”

Juvenile Justice System and Mental Illness

Mentally ill offenders strain juvenile system, By Solomon Moore, August 9, 2009, New York Times: “The teenager in the padded smock sat in his solitary confinement cell here in this state’s most secure juvenile prison and screamed obscenities. The youth, Donald, a 16-year-old, his eyes glassy from lack of sleep and a daily regimen of mood stabilizers, was serving a minimum of six months for breaking and entering. Although he had received diagnoses for psychiatric illnesses, including bipolar disorder, a judge decided that Donald would get better care in the state correctional system than he could get anywhere in his county. That was two years ago. Donald’s confinement has been repeatedly extended because of his violent outbursts…”