First Lady Rallies for Solutions to Crime During Chicago Visit

This story was produced by The Chicago Bureau

(UPDATE: Thursday marked a new development in the effort to provide the United States with comprehensive gun control reformwhen the Senate voted 68-31 to debate on President Barack Obama’s proposed measures to heighten gun control and reduce gun violence.)

First Lady Michelle Obama visited her hometown of Chicago Wednesday and made an emotional plea for  providing the city’s youth with opportunities in order to curb violence in their neighborhoods. (Watch the video here.)

At the Wednesday luncheon of business executives and community leaders held at The Hilton Chicago, she stated while all the city’s youth had enormous amounts of potential, a home address and the distance of a few blocks could determine the life chances and opportunities offered to children, thus changing their futures. Besides exposing business and community leaders to the issue of gun violence, the Wednesday luncheon also spotlighted Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s new Chicago Public Safety Action Community Fund, a city initiative introduced in February that will allocate $50 million to providing more community resources to at-risk youth to steer them away from violence. The initiative has already raised $33 million. Michelle Obama’s remarks came two days after President Barack Obama traveled to the University of Hartford, where he urged Congress to pass legislation that would tackle the issue of gun violence in the U.S.

In January, issued nearly two dozen executive orders and presented proposals for consideration by Congress to reduce gun violence. Some of these proposals included expanding background checks for gun purchases, increasing mental health resources and creating a more effective ban on assault weapons.

The Power of Poetry in Education

For me the keepers of convicts shoulder their combines and keep watch,

It is I let out in the morning and barr’d at night. Not a youngster is taken for larceny but I go up too, and am tried and sentenced. —Walt Whitman, Song of Myself

April is National Poetry Month. This year, thousands of students incarcerated in juvenile detention and correctional centers around the country are participating in a nationwide poetry initiative, “Words Unlocked,” sponsored by the Center for Educational Excellence in Alternative Settings. We should support the study of poetry in all of our nation’s schools, especially those located behind bars.

Promoting LGBT Adolescents’ Health and Well-Being

Health care providers and other professionals have many opportunities to support and encourage the healthy development of LGBT youth, who may be at greater risk for bullying and victimization, according to a new position paper. Although most LGBT youth are healthy and well-adjusted, lack of acceptance by others can cause them added stress and lead to risky behavior or mental health issues, according to a new statement by the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine issued this month in the Journal of Adolescent Health. The report calls on professionals in medicine, social work, law, nursing, public health and other fields, to better understand the needs of LGBT youth and how to care for them in different settings. The position paper further calls on professionals to advocate for policy changes to support youth at school, at home and in child welfare and juvenile justice settings. LGBT young people may be bullied or victimized more often than other adolescents, according to the position paper, which can lead to greater risk of depression or suicide. In one survey of LGBT students cited in the paper, 85 percent said they had been verbally harassed, 40 percent reported physical harassment and two thirds said they felt unsafe at school.

A Partnership for Sensible Juvenile Justice Reform in California

Brian Goldstein
California thrives because of a rich diversity of cultures and people. The state’s 58 counties are the fabric of this greater socioeconomic patchwork. Given this diversity, each county faces both unique challenges and varied resources. To be effective, state policymakers must craft policy tailored to these nuances. This proves especially true for the state’s juvenile justice system, where California’s counties serve increasingly as models of innovation.

Visualized: Who Says Yes to Marijuana Legalization?

This story was produced by The Chicago Bureau

A lot of political, medical and legal chatter is firing around the tricky issue of decriminalizing the possession of marijuana, regulating its sale or maintaining the status quo. From Washington state, where it’s now legal to use, to Denver where they’re debating putting the drug on par with alcohol regulations, to Washington, D.C., where federal legislation to do something – anything – to create a nationwide approach or guide, it seems all are weighing in. Take doctors: Some say it’s unhealthy – addictive, even deadly; other physicians say it saves lives or at least makes the dying or suffering get through pain. But despite a federal hard line against the drug, results from a recent poll show that the American public approves marijuana legalization 51 vs. 44 percent.

Opinion: Stop-And-Frisk, It’s Time For a Change

One afternoon, I was standing at a bus stop and I noticed an NYPD car driving slowly. As the officer approached, he slowed down. Bravely, he stared down each individual on the bus line. I caught his stare. He seemed just as suspicious of me as I was of him.

Reform Matters: A Reply to Jeffrey Butts

In a column posted on JJIE on March 7 and a data brief posted a few days earlier, Jeffrey Butts has provided an important caution to the juvenile justice reform community. Thrilled as we may be with the drop in youth incarceration over the past few years, we should not assume that it is the product of reform. As Jeff warned, “In claiming the recent trends as the effects of reform, we also risk complacency. If we think that we already ‘got this,’ we may miss a critical opportunity to lock down recent gains and create a permanently different way of thinking about youth justice.”

After issuing this timely warning, however, Jeff takes this argument a step further, positing that lower juvenile confinement rates are largely a function of falling juvenile arrests. “Incarceration numbers follow the crime rate,” he asserts – inviting readers to infer that incarceration rates would have declined irrespective of policy, practice and programmatic reforms that have taken root in many states and localities around the country.

The Crucial Role of Prosecutors in Juvenile Justice

Having spent my entire professional career involved in the criminal and juvenile justice systems, I have had the opportunity to see tremendous changes in the fields. I began working as an assistant district attorney in Manhattan in 1989, handling cases that ran the gamut from petit larceny all the way to murder. While I was never a prosecutor in juvenile court, I prosecuted hundreds of cases involving juvenile offenders. During my last three years in the DA’s office, I served as the deputy bureau Chief of the Family Violence Unit and supervised the investigation and prosecution of all child abuse cases in Manhattan. As such, I saw way too many young people move from the child welfare to the juvenile justice system. After leaving Manhattan I served as a senior attorney for the National Center for Prosecution of Child Abuse for the National District Attorney’s Association and then as the director of the National Juvenile Justice Prosecution Center.

A Struggle for the Nation’s Moral Center

Sharletta Evans of Denver says it was her faith that motivated her to forgive the teens who killed her three-year-old son, Casson, during a drive-by shooting. When she did, Evans says, she could feel the hate evaporate from her body. She has since developed a relationship with one of the young men, whom she hopes to see released from prison. Minnesota’s Mary Johnson drew on her faith for the strength to meet with and forgive Oshea Israel, who was 16 when he killed Johnson’s 20-year-old son, Laramiun Byrd. Mary now considers Oshea, who lives next door to her, her spiritual son.