U.S. Senate Subcommittee Hears Testimony on School-to-Prison Pipeline

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Twenty-year-old Edward Ward, a sophomore on the honor roll at DePaul University, tried to describe to U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Al Franken (D-Minn.), the only senators left in the room by the time he spoke on Capitol Hill Wednesday, what it was like to grow up in his neighborhood on the west side of Chicago. “When I was 18, I witnessed a complete stranger's killing mere feet from me in a neighborhood restaurant," Ward said before the Senate subcommittee. "I was stopped by the police a few years ago. I saw them train their guns on me until I could show them the item in my hand was only a cell phone.”

Things didn’t get much better at high school, Ward said.

Foundation Strives to Create Legacy for Juvenile Justice Reform

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The nonprofit MacArthur Foundation has spent more than $100 million since 2004 on developing blueprints for reform within the juvenile justice systems of 16 states. Earlier this week, its reform initiative, Models for Change, brought together nearly 400 judges, advocates, probation officers and other juvenile justice professionals for two days of workshops in Washington, D.C.

It was the seventh such yearly gathering for Models for Change partners, and it came at a time when the foundation is beginning to wind down funding for new research into juvenile justice reforms and enter a new phase focused on defining, sustaining and disseminating to the rest of the country the reform models its state partners and networks have already developed. As the foundation moves toward solidifying the legacy of its blueprint initiative, its conference this year emphasized the power of storytelling and collaboration as a way to convey the impact of justice reforms to other states and to the public. The storytelling theme ran through several events over the two-day event. Public relations professionals held a plenary session to discuss how juvenile justice organizations could craft an effective public message.

Georgia Panel Vote on Key Juvenile Justice Reforms next Week

A blue-ribbon panel in Georgia is making the last tweaks to its recommendations for a statewide juvenile justice overhaul, ahead of a vote scheduled for Dec. 13. “There are ongoing meetings and discussions about a fiscal incentive model similar to Ohio,” said state Court of Appeals Judge Mike Boggs at a Dec. 4 meeting of the Georgia Special Council on Criminal Justice Reform in Forsyth, Ga. The so-called Ohio model, named for the state that pioneered it in the early 1990s, channels certain low-level offenders away from state custody and into locally-run diversion programs.  The Georgia Council may recommend some formula to give financial incentives to counties for treating or diverting kids who are guilty of certain misdemeanors or things that are only illegal because of their youth, such as truancy.

Foundation Honors Champions of Juvenile Justice Reform

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Arrested and convicted as a teenager, Starcia Marie Ague made a decision to escape her present and her troubled past by focusing on her education. She finished high school and began taking college courses while still incarcerated. Upon her release, she completed an associate’s degree at a community college in Spokane, Wash., and went on to graduate from Washington State University with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice in 2010. This afternoon, Ague, who once spent six years in secure juvenile facilities, became the youngest person honored as a Champion for Change by the John T. and Catherine D. MacArthur Foundation, an award reserved for people who have demonstrated a commitment to improving the way things work in the juvenile justice system and who have creatively used the resources provided by the MacArthur Foundation’s Models for Change initiative to push for system reform. Six other people received the awards, announced today at the 7th annual Models for Change national conference in Washington, D.C. They are Lisa M. Garry of the Maryland Department of Juvenile Services; Laura Cohen of the Rutgers School of Law-Newark; Gene Griffin of the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine; Arthur D. Bishop of the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice; Sharon Guy Hornsby of Northshore Technical Community College, Florida Parishes Campus; and George D. Mosee Jr. of the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office, Juvenile Division.

VIDEO: Voices of Advocates at the Models for Change Conference

The Juvenile Justice Information Exchange is at the 2012 annual Models for Change conference, a conference geared toward supporting a network of policy makers, government and court officials, advocates, educators, community leaders and families cooperating together in an effort to ensure that "kids who make mistakes are held accountable and treated fairly throughout the juvenile justice process." JJIE had the opportunity to catch up with several different officials from varying organizations about their goals and thoughts on the subject of juvenile justice. Continue checking in for ongoing updates. [Friday 12/7/12]

[4:19 p.m.]

Jessica Sandoval, Director of National Field Operations at the Campaign for Youth Justice, talks about how her organization got its start and where its going in the future.  [12:43 p.m.]

Rhonda McKitten, Director of Training and Senior Trial Attorney of the Juvenile Unit of the Defender Association of Philadelphia, shares a story about a teen who was positively impacted by one of her programs.

[Thursday 12/6/12] 

[2:14 p.m.]

Nancy Gannon Hornberger, Executive Director of the Coalition for Juvenile Justice, shares an anecdote about a young person whose circumstances led to her being harshly charged in criminal court.

Georgia DJJ Audit of YDC Found Numerous Violations Months Before Detainee Escape

In October, five young detainees escaped from Georgia’s Augusta Youth Development Campus (YDC). Just a few days later, the facility’s then-Director, Ronald Brawner, resigned. An internal audit released last month by the state’s Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) indicates that the facility had numerous departmental policy violations prior to the escape, with an interview conducted earlier in the year revealing that Brawner’s staff failed to maintain proper documentation or develop an emergency plan for the YDC, according to The Augusta Chronicle. Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice Commissioner Avery Niles stated last month that the DJJ told administrators and personnel at the YDC to improve facility safety and make departmental improvements. A late-August DJJ evaluation verified that the facility did not have cooperative agreements in place with emergency officials, such as local police.  Additionally, an auditor determined the YDC was both constructed unsafely and staffed by an “excessive” number of uncertified security personnel.

International Group Hails Florida Juvenile Justice Reformer

The woman driving the Florida Juvenile Justice Department toward a goal of “system excellence” is a 2012 winner of an international award that recognizes commitment to children’s justice. “We’re trying to do a complete paradigm shift,” said Wansley Walters, Secretary of the Florida DJJ and one of eight recipients of the 2012 Juvenile Justice Without Borders International Award, presented by the International Juvenile Justice Observatory, a Belgium-based international organization that works in conjunction with the United Nations, the European Union and other groups. “We’re trying to be proactive, not reactive,” she said. Walters came to the DJJ nearly two years ago from the Miami-Dade County Juvenile Services Department. There she pushed to keep most kids in treatment or diversion programs, leaving secure beds and police records only for the most serious, risky offenders.

In Georgia: New Boss Takes over Department of Juvenile Justice

The third commissioner within a little more than a year holds his first regular Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice Board meeting, conducting workaday business on bonds and education, while a recruitment drive starts up. “I thank the governor [Nathan Deal] and the DJJ Board for their confidence and I will work diligently to maintain their trust,” said Avery Niles upon his swearing-in. “We look forward to making real changes in the lives of our young offenders.” Niles, commissioner since Nov. 2, had been board chair and leaves his job as Hall County Correctional Institution warden to take over DJJ. Audrey Armistad, associate superintendent of the DJJ school system announced that a pilot education program pushed by Deal will soon start up in south Georgia’s Eastman Regional Youth Detention Center.  That facility holds older youth on long-term sentences, some of whom have already graduated high school or gotten a GED.

Mississippi may Reform Juvenile Detention

In a state regularly beset by lawsuits about conditions at some of its juvenile detention centers, an official Mississippi task force is starting work on diversion and setting higher standards. “This lack of sufficient staff has caused the facility to practice imminent and deliberate harm to youth … the facility is forced to place the kids on lockdown most of the day; not because they want to, but because it’s the only way to maintain any type of control,” reads a court-appointed inspector’s report on the Henley-Young Juvenile Justice Center in Hinds County, Mississippi.  “This lack of appropriate staffing dictates the level of violence that is experienced in the facility.”

The lockup for up to 84 youth is unclean and “has a dungeon-like feeling.” Two juveniles admitted to the facility were allowed no phone call or shower.  While there’s some limited recreational programming for boys, there’s none apparent for girls. That July 2012 report is a recent, but not unique, verdict on some of Mississippi’s juvenile detention centers.

Connecticut Mulls Outlawing Juvenile Life Without Parole

Connecticut’s Sentencing Commission is currently evaluating a proposal that would outlaw juvenile sentences of 10 years or greater without parole opportunities, The CT Mirror reports. The proposal, if enacted, would affect every juvenile in the state currently sentenced to 10 or more years. Offenders sentenced to 60 years or less would have parole hearings after serving half of their sentences, while offenders sentenced to 60 or more years under the proposal would have parole eligibility after serving 30 years. Under the sentence modifications, young people sentenced to 20 years would become eligible for parole by the time they were 24, while 17-year-olds sentenced to 60 or more years would have parole opportunities when they turned 47. The proposal includes an additional plan that would seek to develop “Certificate of Rehabilitation“ programs, which are “aimed at reducing barriers faced by individuals with convictions and encouraging reintegration into communities.”

A public hearing on the proposal will be held on Nov.