The Power Grab and Prison Sexual Abuse

It’s an optimistic headline: “Prison Rape: Obama’s Program to Stop It”. It leads into a comprehensive New York Review of Books article on three recently released Federal government publications.  Two of these documents examine sexual abuse in the nation’s detention centers while the other outlines the Department of Justice’s regulations for eliminating prison rape. All three aim to address the appalling number of people—young and old, female and male, citizen and those awaiting deportation— who  routinely suffer sexual violence while in lockup, an estimated 209,000 plus every year according to the Justice Department. So where’s the optimism?

National Academies Report Says Teen Neurology Should Shape Juvenile Justice Reform Efforts

A new report from the National Research Council suggests that juvenile justice reform efforts should be grounded in the emerging understanding of adolescent development. “Evidence of significant changes in brain structure and function during adolescence strongly suggests that these cognitive tendencies characteristic of adolescents are associated with biological immaturity of the brain and with an imbalance among developing brain systems,” the report says.

Sexual Trauma Marks Girls’ Path to Juvenile Justice System

When Crystal Contreras was seven and living in Los Angeles, her mother put her in the care of someone Contreras saw as a father figure. Instead, he pressured the little girl for sex. For the next three years, until she was 10, the man raped her regularly, often creeping into the house at night without her mother’s knowledge. “I never said nothing to my mom,” Contreras told JJIE.org during an interview in July. “I was scared he would kill her or hurt her or hurt the animals that I had.

Department of Justice Sues over ‘School-to-Prison Pipeline’ in Meridian, Miss.

The federal Department of Justice (DOJ) is suing the Mississippi county, city and judges who they say systematically ignore youthful defendants’ rights, resulting in a well-beaten path from school to incarceration. “The department is bringing this lawsuit to ensure that all children are treated fairly and receive the fullest protection of the law,” said Thomas E. Perez, assistant attorney general for the DOJ Civil Rights Division, in a written statement on Oct. 24. The suit is being brought against the city of Meridian, Lauderdale County, the two judges of the county Youth Court and the state of Mississippi.“It is in all of our best interests to ensure that children are not incarcerated for alleged minor infractions, and that police and courts meet their obligations to uphold children’s constitutional rights,” he wrote. The DOJ published preliminary accusations against the now-defendants some 10 weeks ago, threatening a lawsuit if the Mississippians did not cooperate.

Solitary for Youth: The Fight in Illinois

CHICAGO — Even as national organizations rallied this week to end solitary confinement for incarcerated juveniles across the country, the local branch of American Civil Liberties Union is working with prison officials and the federal court to focus on the issue here. The goal: settle a lawsuit on behalf of 2,217 incarcerated youth with the Illinois Department of Juvenile Corrections over the system’s inadequate services and often-hostile environment. A preliminary agreement calls for curbing the growing practice of solitary confinement in youth centers, which activists say constitutes “torture,” given its potential for causing long-lasting psychological harm. The proposed settlement, which is due for a fairness hearing in federal court in Chicago on December 6, would be the latest victory in a larger movement to end the punitive isolation of youth in custody. In June, Congress held its first hearing on the issue of solitary confinement within U.S. prisons, where roughly 80,000 inmates are in “restricted housing“ at any given time nationwide, according to a 2005 census of adult inmates by the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics.

DOJ Quiet on Mississippi Ultimatum to Respond to School-to-Jailhouse Pipeline Allegations

A key deadline has passed in the federal investigation of an alleged “school-to-prison” pipeline in Meridian, Miss., without the U.S. Department of Justice taking any visible action. The DOJ threatened a federal lawsuit “unless there are meaningful negotiations … within 60 days” of an Aug. 10 public letter. That letter accused the City of Meridian, Lauderdale County and state agencies of running a shoddy juvenile justice system. African-American students and students who have disabilities, according to the letter, are disproportionately caught in the net.

Tennessee County Researching Juvenile Justice Fixes

The juvenile justice system in Shelby County, Tenn. is entering its fourth year of federal inspection, now with a thick report about alleged problems.  A full remediation plan for the court could be drafted in the next three months. The Juvenile Court of Memphis and Shelby County denies due process to youth, according to an April, 2012 report by the federal Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division. The investigation finds probable cause to believe that some youth are not adequately notified of the charges against them, are not advised of their Miranda rights, do not enjoy timely probable cause hearings and are sent to adult court on only cursory inquiries. The look at 66,000 court records also, the DOJ argues, shows that black children are treated less leniently than white peers.

The Hidden Culture of Prison Violence

I don’t remember when I first heard of The Angolite, the only uncensored prison publication in the country. It was sometime during the late eighties. Since 1976, prisoners incarcerated at Louisiana’s notorious Angola Prison produced the magazine without censorship. The writers revealed the horrible conditions of the prison, shedding light on sexual slavery, murders and corruption. The story that I most remember was about the gladiatorial games organized by inmates and supported by guards.

Grant Works to Prevent Kids’ Exposure to Violence

The U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs and the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention is offering a grant for the Defending Childhood Technical Assistance program. This project provides support to prevent and reduce the effects of kid’s exposure to violence. The deadline for this grant is July 11, 2011 at 11:59 P.M. E.S.T.

 

Probation Domination

Probation was the most serious verdict in one-third of teen crime in the U.S. In 2007, 1.7 million delinquency cases were handled by courts with juvenile jurisdiction. This has increased 34% over the past three decades. Nearly 60% of the cases were ordered by the court while the remainder agreed to some form of voluntary probation. This is according to a report by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.