Thomas is a 2011 Soros Justice Media Fellow and a former Rosalynn Carter Mental Health Journalism Fellow and Kiplinger Public Affairs Journalism Fellow. She is an award-winning multimedia journalist who has worked for Atlanta Magazine and Fox 5 News in Atlanta.
The Savannah Regional Youth Detention Center (RYDC) is busting at the seams with no relief in sight. The Savannah Morning News is reporting that the detention center can take 105 kids before juveniles start being routed to another facility. That happened eight times from July 1, 2010, to June 30, 2011. During that time period, the facility was at or over capacity for boys on 75 days, or 21 percent of the time, the newspaper said. For girls the facility was at or over capacity for 123 days, or 34 percent of the time.
It seems that identity thieves have set their sights on some new, more vulnerable victims – children. A study released earlier this year shows that children’s identities are being stolen at a rate 50 times greater than that of adults. A child could have his or her social security number stolen by a stranger at birth or shortly thereafter, from common places such as a school, hospital, or doctor’s office. Social Security numbers are issued using a system that is more or less easy to predict, making it possible for thieves to snag brand new numbers, or ones that are just a couple of years old. Most children don’t find out until later in life when applying for jobs or loans.
It remains a mystery whether Georgia met a critical deadline this week to comply with a federal ruling known as the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006. “We can’t say for sure at this point, we have packets arriving in droves,” said United States Department of Justice (DOJ) Spokeswoman Kara McCarthy. “It may take up to three months for us to go through all of the packets we have received.”
Wednesday was the deadline for the peach state and more than 30 others to implement the federal mandate that requires states to establish a sex offender registry for adults and juveniles that connects with a national registry. “To date, 14 states, nine tribes and one territory have substantially implemented Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA) requirements,” said Linda Baldwin, Director of DOJ’s Office of Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering, and Tracking (SMART) Office, which administers SORNA. “We are reviewing as quickly as possible the materials submitted.”
DOJ has confirmed that Alabama, Delaware, Florida, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, Ohio, South Carolina, South Dakota and Wyoming have substantially implemented SORNA, along with nine native American tribes and the U.S. territory of Guam.
Former Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice Commissioner Garland Hunt has a new gig. Two weeks ago he was named president of Prison Fellowship, a 35-year-old Landsdowne, Virginia-based non-profit that touts itself as the largest prison ministry for adult inmates in this country. The organization has a presence in 50 states and an international arm in more than 120 countries. Nothing much had been heard from Hunt, a lawyer, ordained minister and corrections industry veteran, since late last year when then Georgia Gov.-Elect Nathan Deal abruptly replaced him in the post after only seven months on the job. Hunt recently spoke to JJIE.org’s Chandra Thomas about his new position and his reflections on his days at the helm of the state agency charged with monitoring and caring for some 20,000 youngsters.
Juvenile justice system experts and reform advocates were among those who converged upon Miami last week for an annual conference hosted by the Open Society Institute (OSI). The, New York City-based private operating and grantmaking foundation focuses on criminal justice system reform. We asked a few of them “what single change would you make to the juvenile justice system?” Here’s what they had to say.
Tarsha Jackson, an organizer with the Texas Reconciliation Project, the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition and the Houston chapter of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now. “I think there needs to be more focus on prevention programs, but the biggest change I would make is to train all of the system stakeholders – the district attorneys, judges, court personnel – and train them on the definition of family involvement.
James Newton, 29, of Norcross, Ga., a suburban community near Atlanta, got a rude awakening into what it sometimes means to be a black man in America. Moments after officially getting his name changed from his female birth name at the county courthouse, he noticed a woman looking back at him in the parking lot. With every step he took toward his car, recalls Newton, the woman sped up, all the while frantically twisting her head in his direction. It took a moment for it to register, but he soon realized that she had incorrectly assumed that he was following her to her car. The incident, he says, in many ways marred an important milestone in his transgender transition into life as a male.
Just don’t use pronouns in public. That’s what C.G. usually tells his mother before they go out. Just call me by my nickname. G. is not obsessed with grammar, but being born a female now living as a male, makes common pronouns like “he” and “she” a complicated issue. The transgender distinction is one that even the most shunned of the gay and lesbian community will often agree has the hardest plight of the oft-embattled LGBT community.
The official application cycle has closed, but a Gwinnett County-based community organization that focuses primarily on education issues is seeking more male applicants for its upcoming community training program. The Gwinnett Parent Coalition to dismantle the school-to-prison-pipeline (aka Gwinnett STOPP) has received an overwhelming response from female applicants, but organizers say they’re holding out for more men to sign up this month. The school-to-prison-pipeline is a national trend wherein some advocates say children are funneled out of public schools and into the juvenile and criminal justice systems. JJIE.org’s Chandra R. Thomas spoke to co-chairwoman Marlyn Tillman about the Parent Leadership Institute, which officially kicks off next month. JJIE: What is Gwinnett STOPP? TILLMAN: We are a parent-led organization; we’re a volunteer organization that was formed in 2007.
[“Double Jeopardy: Lesbian Activist Says Fear of Parents’ Homophobia Inspires Secret Life” is part 2 of a 3 part series on LGBT issues. Bookmark this page for updates.]
Second Life is a virtual reality game wherein members create a customized “avatar” that serves as a digital representation of themselves. In this three-dimensional virtual community, the avatar assumes an identity, takes up residence and moves about in a world completely created by them, for them. Second Lifers buy property, start businesses, make friends, join clubs, attend classes or sometimes just hang out. Amber Holt* has never played this game, but in many respects, she feels like she lives it every day.
When my editor, John Fleming, informed me that I would be writing a series about LGBT (lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender) young people in metro Atlanta and the issues they often face, honestly I did not know what to expect. At the least, I knew it would be interesting. Ultimately the very personal accounts shared by Brian, Amber and Connor were far more than that. I found their accounts to be engaging, enlightening and, quite frankly, educational. Interviewing these dynamic individuals really offered me some insight into the real challenges many people face just trying to express who they feel they are deep inside.