Justice Department Expands Youth Violence Prevention Program

WASHINGTON – U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced this week that the Justice Department will expand to 10 – from six – the number of cities participating in the National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention. The planned expansion comes as the original participants continue to struggle through breaking down walls among government agencies and with community-based groups. The National Forum, established 18 months ago, is designed to allow the cities involved to fashion their individual crime prevention programs that emphasize more comprehensive approaches across government agencies. An initial evaluation by Temple University and the John Jay College of Criminal Justice at the City University of New York found that all six cities showed some “positive indicators” of the initiative but there were no “profound perceptions” among local residents of a reduction in juvenile violence. Representatives of the six cities – Chicago, Boston, Detroit, Memphis and Salinas and San Jose, Calif.

June 3, 2011

“Defending Childhood” Public Service Announcement to Star Attorney General

Memo to Wile E. Coyote: Violence Won’t Make Kids Like You

One Man’s Journey Through Crime, Drugs, Schizophrenia and Rehabilitation

Hornberger Advice: Juvenile Offenders Need Alternatives to Prisons

Juvenile Justice Expert David Schmidt Discusses Juvenile Life Without Parole

“Defending Childhood” Public Service Announcement to Star Attorney General

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder’s  “Defending Childhood” initiative is taking a higher profile this week with the airing of a public service announcement promoting the effort. The attorney general launched the initiative in September to address what he called “a national crisis”: the exposure of the American children to violence as both victims and witnesses. A Department of Justice-funded study had concluded that most children have been “exposed to violence, crime, or abuse in their homes, schools, and communities. The consequences of this problem are significant and widespread. Children’s exposure to violence, whether as victims or witnesses, is often associated with long-term physical, psychological and emotional harm.

Attorney General Holder Asked to Ban Juveniles from Adult Prisons

The National Prison Rape Elimination Commission (NRPEC) is about to close a second 60-day public comment period on recommendations to Attorney General Eric Holder.  The Commission’s report addresses standards to prevent sexual abuse of prison inmates, including juveniles in both youth detention centers and adult prisons.  The Attorney General will make a final decision on the proposed standards. With the deadline for pubic comments fast approaching, the Campaign for Youth Justice is circulating a letter addressed to Attorney General Holder asking for additional signatures.  The letter calls on Holder to ban juveniles from adult prisons. “Adult facilities housing children and youth face a dangerous dilemma,” the letter said, “forced to choose between housing youth in the general adult population, where they are at substantial risk of both physical and sexual abuse, and housing youth in segregated settings which cause or exacerbate mental health problems.”

The Campaign for Youth Justice is trying to get 500 signatures by Friday morning.  You can read the letter here.

Eric Holder on Juvenile Justice

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said this week the Department of Justice would put a priority on improving the nation’s juvenile justice system. In a speech to the National Association of Counties Legislative Conference, Holder said the Department would place an emphasis on forming community partnerships and using evidence-based research in dealing with the issue. The attorney general also told the conference that it was time to answer some difficult questions concerning crime and race and the treatment of children. “Why,” Holder asked, “is it that, although African-American youth make up 16 percent of the overall youth population, they make up more than half of the juvenile population arrested for committing a violent crime? Why is it that abused and neglected children are 11 times more likely than their non-abused and non-neglected peers to be arrested for criminal behavior?

Justice Targets Child Sex Trade

Georgia’s child prostitution problem will get some new attention from the Justice Department. Attorney General Eric Holder spells out the first National Strategy for Child Exploitation Prevention in a 280 page report. The plan focuses on child prostitution, child pornography, sex tourism and child exploitation in Indian Country.  It’s a multi-agency effort that includes a national database to allow federal, state, local and international law enforcement to work together better and analyze trends.  The Justice Department is adding 38 new Assistant U. S. Attorneys devoted to child exploitation cases.  And the U.S. Marshals Service is targeting the top 500 most dangerous sex offenders in the nation. The extent of Georgia’s child sex trade came to light last spring, when a study done for A Future Not a Past revealed that an estimated 7,200 men are paying for sex with teenage girls every month in the Atlanta area.

Preventing Sex Abuse in Detention

The Justice Department is proposing new standards for preventing and detecting sexual abuse in prisons and youth detention centers.   One proposal would require that medical staffers question children about abusive sexual behavior and consensual sex inside detention.  Advocacy groups, including Children’s Defense Fund and Equity Project are warning that doctors and nurses should not be forced to investigate or question children about sex offenses because it could interfere with doctor-patient relationships.   Youth Today reports on a letter from seven national advocacy groups to Attorney General Eric Holder.