Frequent Marijuana Use Among Teens is Up

Heavy marijuana use among teens has increased drastically in recent years, with nearly one in 10 sparking up 20 times or more each month, according to a new survey of young Americans released this morning. The findings represent nearly an 80 percent increase in past-month heavy marijuana use among high school aged youth since 2008. Overall, the rate of marijuana use among teens has increased. Past month marijuana users, or teens that have used marijuana in the month prior to the survey, increased 42 percent, to 27 percent of teens, compared to 2008 findings. Past-year and lifetime use also increased, but not as drastically, at 26 percent and 21 percent respectively.

Poll Shows Young People Fear Country is on Wrong Track, But Still Support Obama by Wide Margin

Only one in five young people believe the United States is heading in the right direction, yet more are still likely to vote for President Barack Obama in the next election, according to a recent poll by Harvard’s Institute of Politics. The national poll of 3,096 millennials – the term sometimes used to refer to people between the ages of 18 and 29 – found that nearly twice as many young people thought the country is “on the wrong track” than those who said it is heading in the right direction, while 36 percent weren’t sure. But those figures don’t necessarily paint a positive picture for Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney. Obama’s approval ratings among those polled improved to 52 percent, up six points from a previous low in late 2011, bringing his lead over Romney to a strong 17 percentage points. “Over the last several months, we have seen more of the millennial vote begin to solidify around President Obama and Democrats in Congress,” Harvard Institute of Politics Director Trey Grayson said in a press release.

Westside Norteno 14 in Cobb County. Picture Confiscated during arrest, Sept. 20, 2003.

The Myth of Suburban Gangs: A Changing Demographic

When most people think of gangs and the criminal activity often associated with them problems of the inner-city may come to mind -– issues that are far from their manicured suburban lawns, something that could never touch their lives directly. But the demographic makeup and geographic location of gangs are changing, according to Rebecca Petersen, author of Understanding Contemporary Gangs in America and a Criminal Justice Professor at Kennesaw State University near Atlanta*. “We have seen this trend of gangs moving out of the city and into the suburbs for 20 years now,” Petersen said. “We don’t associate the suburbs with people being poor or homeless, but it’s one of the fastest growing populations [in the suburbs].”

While gangs are not exclusively comprised of low-income members, the correlation between harsh economic conditions and the proliferation of gang activity has been documented in communities around the country since at least the late 1980s. In the decade leading up to 2010, the suburban poor in major-metropolitan suburbs grew by 53 percent, compared to an increase of 23 percent within the cities, according to the Census Bureau.

Ohio Juvenile Sex Offender Ruling Spotlights National Policy

Juvenile sex offenders in Ohio will no longer be required to register as sex offenders for life, the state’s Supreme Court ruled last week. The 5-2 decision ruled the lifetime requirement is cruel and unusual punishment, reigniting a national debate on how young people convicted of certain sexual offenses should fare under the criminal justice system. The majority opinion found certain parts of the Ohio Adam Walsh Act enacted in 2008 unconstitutional. Many states expanded laws pertaining to juvenile sex offenders following federal legislation in 2006 that sought to standardize how young sex offenders were classified and registered across the nation. “Registration and notification requirements frustrate two of the fundamental elements of juvenile rehabilitation: confidentiality and the avoidance of stigma,” Ohio Justice Paul Pfiefer wrote in the court’s majority opinion.

Trayvon Martin Rally Atlanta March 26 2012. Clay Duda/JJIE

Zimmerman Charged with Second-Degree Murder in Shooting Death of Trayvon Martin

George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch volunteer who shot and killed Florida teen Trayvon Martin in February, turned himself into authorities late yesterday after prosecutors announced he would face second-degree murder charges in a case that has sparked protests around the nation. The announcement by state prosecutors came 46 days after local Sanford law enforcement decided not to charge Zimmerman in the shooting, citing Florida’s “stand your ground law.”

His attorney, Mark O’Mara, said Zimmerman would plead not guilty to the charge, the Washington Post reported. If convicted, Zimmerman could face a maximum sentence of life in prison under Florida law. Martin’s parents applauded the arrest. “We wanted nothing more, nothing less, we just wanted an arrest – and we got it,” Sybrina Fulton, Martin’s mother, said at a press conference on Wednesday.

KAWS installation of 27 circular paintings at the High Museum of Art, Atlanta. March, 2012.

From Graffiti to Fine Art: KAWS at the High

When a Jersey City teenager started tagging and defacing public advertisements back in the early 1990’s, he had no clue it would turn into a lucrative art career. But that’s the story of Brian Donnelly, better known as “KAWS,” that has led him to a multi-sight exhibition at Atlanta’s High Museum of Art. Perched on the top floor above the High’s Picasso to Warhol exhibit, KAWS’ installment “DOWN TIME” seems to bring the Modernism housed in the levels below into the modern times they helped create. His work is strange, yet strikingly familiar, and why wouldn’t it be? It’s essentially a commentary on pop-culture, drawn from pop culture and stamped on pop culture -– it has become pop culture.

Ed Risler

Outgoing Board Chairman Looks at Past, Present and Future of Georgia’s DJJ

After more than a decade of service, Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice Board Chairman Ed Risler stepped down from his post earlier this month following the expiration of his term in the summer.Risler outlasted many Ga. DJJ senior staff members, working with five commissioners over the years. He's seen the Department undergo a number of changes -- from federal mandates to the accreditation of the DJJ school system -- and remains optimistic about the future, despite budgetary constraints.A longtime professor at the University of Georgia, Risler is a licensed clinical social worker and marriage and family therapist. His research and teaching focuses on juvenile justice, poverty, international social work and a number of related areas.JJIE caught up with Risler last week to get his take on the past, present and future of the agency charged with overseeing and rehabilitating juveniles offenders throughout the state.  

JJIE: You’ve served on the DJJ Board for more than a decade.

Trayvon Martin Rally Atlanta March 26 2012

Students, Community Members Gather in Atlanta to Protest Trayvon Martin Shooting

ATLANTA -- Hundreds of Trayvon Martin supporters gathered to chants of “I am Trayvon” in Downtown Atlanta on Monday, exactly one month after the Florida teen was shot and killed by a neighborhood watch volunteer in an Orlando suburb. Bands of student demonstrators, mainly organized by student groups from nearby universities, joined activists, community members and a long list of organizers on the steps of the state capital to call for the arrest of George Zimmerman – the self-appointed neighborhood watch captain who claimed to have shot the 17-year-old in self-defense. “It’s a general issue of justice,” said Richard Hunter, 42, who attended the rally with his nine-year-old son, Matt. “I think we’ve seen that when we get involved things can change,” Hunter said about the importance of getting young people involved in justice issues. “A lot of people sit back and act like nothing is going to happen instead of showing up.

Commissioner Announces New Chairman to Head Georgia’s DJJ Board

Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice Commissioner Gale Buckner confirmed the Board’s election of Avery Niles to head the state’s DJJ Board. Niles fills the Chairman post formerly held by long-time Board member Ed Risler, who stepped down earlier this week following the expiration of his term last summer. Niles, a 23-year veteran of the Hall County Sheriff’s Department and current warden of the Hall County Correctional Institution, was appointed to the Board by Gov. Deal in July 2011. As Chairman, Niles will “help guide Board Members as they serve in their advisory capacity to DJJ, providing leadership and counsel to the Commissioner to help improve Georgia’s juvenile justice system,” according to a DJJ release. “I am honored to serve in this capacity,” Niles said.