Two Cities, Two Approaches to Gun Control

By Yunjiao Amy Li and Eric Ferkenhoff
Headlines from Dallas and Chicago over the past few days seem to underscore that the debate over gun rights, following the Trayvon Martin killing, is far from settled. In Dallas, there was this: A gun range in nearby Lewisville is prepping a program to host children’s parties for those as young as 8 to enjoy cake, ice cream and some shooting. It’s a very “Texas” thing to do, they say, and Eagle Gun Range is just an example of the state’s proud stance on gun rights. According to Jame Kunke, the tourism director for city of Lewisville, a tiny town west of Dallas, locals have largely endorsed the opening of Eagle Gun Range. “Maybe it’s because this is Texas, but the idea of gun ownership goes back a long time and there’s a high demand,” said Kunke, 45.

Maryland’s High Court Turns Fate of State’s DREAM Act Over to Voters

The highest court in the state of Maryland has cleared the way for voters this fall to determine the fate of a 2011 law allowing certain children of undocumented immigrants to pay in-state tuition at Maryland universities. Maryland is among a dozen states to have passed such a law, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. In a brief order  released Wednesday, the state Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, upheld a ruling by a lower court judge that a voter referendum on the law be allowed to appear on the November ballot. The law remains suspended until the public votes on the measure. Lawyers for the immigrant rights organization CASA de Maryland had unsuccessfully tried to convince the state supreme court’s seven-judge panel that the law was an appropriations bill as it dealt with tuition rates.

More Health Insurance Providers Back Coverage for Adult Children

WASHINGTON – Three major health insurance companies have announced they will continue to provide coverage to dependent children on family plans until the age of 26 — a popular part of the federal health care reform law of 2010 — regardless of how the U.S. Supreme Court rules on the law’s constitutionality later this month. The announcements by United Healthcare, Aetna and Humana have put competitive pressure on other large insurance providers such as the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, WellPoint and CIGNA, which have yet to follow suit. “The speculation is that many customers have come to expect certain measures in their policies and it’ll be hard to take those back,” Devon Harrick, a senior economist at the National Center for Policy Analysis, told Youth Today. But it remains to be seen how long insurance companies keep those provisions as part of their plans, especially if the U.S. Supreme Court strikes down the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (informally called “Obamacare”) or if competitors begin to offer less expensive, stripped-down policies some months down the line, Harrick cautioned. Adults between the ages of 18 and 24 experienced the greatest gains in health coverage of any age group since the passage of the law.

The Heavy Price Society Pays for the No-Daddy Factor

Lennie came to me about 18 months ago, with an attitude. He was a gangbanger and liked to rob people — by force. Not a very nice kid. His mother cried in court as Lennie looked on with emotion — the kind where the eyes roll and he is thinking, “Whatever!” So back during that bad time: Lennie is making straight “F’s,” doesn’t come home some nights, curses his mother, and Daddy is not around.

The Quiet Power and Effectiveness of Restorative Justice

What does restorative justice look like? We hear and read a lot about it, and its popularity is on the rise, but when I ask people to tell me what it means to them I often get vague answers. The truth is that restorative justice is taking forms undreamed of by those that started the movement decades ago. Their basic principles are intact: responsibility, care for all stakeholders, putting those harmed in the center of the process, repair instead of retribution, etc. The manifestations continue to multiply though.

Powerful Tool Shines Light on Secrecy in Juvenile System

Traditionally, juvenile courts have protected children from lasting stigma and emotional trauma through aggressive secrecy, in contrast to their adult counterparts. But the anonymity provided by the juvenile system is a direct impediment to journalists and others charged with delivering information to the public. But a powerful new tool, published this month by the Reporters’ Committee for Freedom of the Press (RCFP), provides a state-by-state breakdown of access to juvenile courts. The report, funded by a grant from the McCormick Foundation, appears in the Spring 2012 issue of RCFP’s quarterly publication, The News Media & The Law. Each state is profiled in detail, describing which juvenile proceedings and records are available to the public and which require special permission.

Fake Pot Once Again for Sale in Georgia Despite Ban

Packages of synthetic marijuana are once again available for sale legally, despite a law passed in March banning the drug, because manufacturers found a way around the ban, WSAV-TV in Savannah reports. As The Juvenile Justice Information Exchange reported last spring, synthetic marijuana, often known by the brand names K-2 or Spice, is created by spraying dried plant matter with a synthetic cannabanoid, a chemical that mimics the effects of THC, the psychoactive chemical that gives marijuana users their high. Lawmakers believed the legislation banning the drug—which made illegal the base chemical formula and any alterations of that formula—would close a loophole manufacturers of fake pot had used to skirt previous bans. “We identified the base formula,” state Senator Buddy Carter told WSAV-TV. “We said any deviation, any alteration of the base formula, would be illegal.

New Report Finds Effectiveness of Drug Courts

New federal research is giving momentum to the call for reduced penalties and more rehabilitation for drug offenders – including juveniles – across the nation. A study funded by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) found that alternatives to handling drug cases, such as specialized courts that usher more people into rehab, can sharply drop recidivism rates, scale back on overall crime and produce deep cost cuts in an overwhelmed criminal justice system. The report comes as the nation is in somewhat of a split over how best to handle many criminal cases, including drug offenses. As Massachusetts considers a crackdown on repeat violent offenders, the position by many lawmakers has been to ease drug penalties. In Missouri, legislators passed a bill to create more parity in sentencing for powdered and crack cocaine offenses.

U.S. Supreme Court Questions If Juvenile Killers Should be Given Second Chance

The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments today in the cases of two offenders, sentenced at a young age to die in prison, and may choose to further limit such sentences for minors. Kuntrell Jackson of Arkansas and Evan Miller of Alabama were both 14 years old when they were convicted of a homicide, and both were sentenced to life sentences without the possibility of parole (LWOP). For more on the background of their cases, click here. A juvenile’s “deficits in maturity and judgment and decision-making are not crime specific,” said Bryan Stevenson, who represented both offenders. “All children are encumbered by the same barriers.” Stevenson argued that this was the inevitable conclusion to be drawn from the court’s other two recent cases on juvenile sentencing, Roper v Simmons and Graham v Florida.

Juveniles Convicted of Homicides: Will The U.S. Supreme Court Take the Next Logical Step?

WASHINGTON, D.C. —  “Why is life without parole categorically different? How about 50, 60, 70 years?  As close to death as possible? How are we to know where to draw those lines?”  Justice Antonin Scalia was first out of the box to fire questions at defendant’s attorney Bryan Stevenson. However, on the first day of Spring in the city of cherry blossoms, all eyes and ears within the U.S. Supreme Court were focused on Justice Anthony Kennedy. Would he repeat the message of hope for young people when he so eloquently wrote for the majority two years earlier in Graham v. Florida: “Life in prison without the possibility of parole gives no chance for fulfillment outside prison walls, no chance for reconciliation with society, no hope.” (Before Graham, the Court’s decision in Roper v. Simmons had ruled the death penalty for juveniles unconstitutional.)

Relying upon scientific evidence that kids are different from adults because their brains hadn’t fully developed and thus lacked impulse control and judgment, the Graham decision held life without parole sentences for juveniles convicted of crimes other than homicides to be cruel and unusual punishment, thus unconstitutional.