Tamar Birckhead

Attorneys Need to Be Alert to Youth Who May Be Put in Solitary

One important aspect of the discussion of the solitary confinement of youth that has received little attention is the role of race and socioeconomic status. Research has demonstrated that young people of color — like Kalief Browder — are more likely to be placed in the juvenile and adult court systems, to remain in them longer and to experience more punitive sanctions than whites.

Tamar Birckhead

OP-ED: Juvenile Lifers: Reason for Hope?

The Court’s December 1 refusal to hear an appeal of an Illinois Supreme Court ruling allowing for retroactive application means that at least 80 of the 100 inmates serving juvenile life without parole in that state will now have an opportunity for resentencing.

Tamar Birckhead

OP-ED: ‘Kiddie Court’ Is No Joke to Juveniles

Although the media, members of the public and even some JPOs, prosecutors and judges colloquially refer to juvenile court as “kiddie court,” presuming it has few negative effects on children, research indicates that the impact of juvenile court processing is not benign.

OP-ED: When Reform Fails on the State Level, Turn to Local Advocates

North Carolina is the only state in the U.S. that treats all 16 and 17-year-olds as adults when they are charged with criminal offenses and then denies them the ability to appeal for return to the juvenile system. Although New York also ends juvenile court jurisdiction at 16, it has a law that allows judges, in certain circumstances, to seal the criminal conviction of a 16 or 17 year old and sentence her to probation. Only nine other states end juvenile court jurisdiction at age 17, with the vast majority prosecuting everyone under 18 in juvenile court. Despite the fact that child welfare advocates, scholars and some lawmakers in North Carolina have repeatedly backed legislative proposals to extend jurisdiction to ages 17 or 18, they have consistently been defeated on the state level. Why does the upper age of juvenile court jurisdiction matter? The main reason is that young people who are convicted of criminal offenses face significant barriers when attempting to secure jobs or gain access to higher education.