Mississippi Joins 38 Other States, Raises Juvenile Age to Eighteen

An amended law that took effect July 1 made Mississippi the latest state to rethink how youth under the age of 18 are handled in criminal court. The new measure prevents most 17-year-old misdemeanor and nonviolent felony offenders from being tried as adults. Certain felonies including rape, murder and armed robbery may still warrant charges in the adult court system. Two other states, Connecticut and Illinois, passed similar reforms earlier this year bringing the national total to 39 states that view juveniles as any individual below the age of 18, according to a report issued last week by the Campaign for Youth Justice. “This is a good news report.” Liz Ryan, director of the Campaign for Youth Justice, — a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit focused on the issue — told USA Today.

California’s ‘Second Chance’ Bill Offers Hope for LWOP Sentenced Youth

A new proposal in California may provide a second chance for the roughly 227 inmates serving the sentence of life without parole for crimes committed before their 18th birthday. Under California’s Senate Bill 9, inmates sentenced to life without parole (LWOP) for crimes committed as a juvenile have the option to submit a petition for consideration of a new sentence after serving 15 years. If approved by the review court an LWOP sentence could be reduced to a stint of 25 years to life, a prison term that comes with the possibility of parole. “The neuroscience is clear – brain maturation continues well through adolescence and thus impulse control, planning, and critical thinking skills are not yet fully developed,” state Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco), a child psychologist and author of the bill, said through his office. “SB 9 reflects that science and provides the opportunity for compassion and rehabilitation that we should exercise with minors.

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California Teens Convicted of Rape go Home on Probation

Three teens convicted of raping a 13-year-old classmate were sentenced to probation by California juvenile officials after serving 120 days behind bars. The charges, forcible rape in concert and lewd acts with a child under 14 – both felony accounts – carried a maximum punishment of nine years in juvenile detention, The Press-Enterprise of Riverside, Calif. reported. Some members of the community said probation was too lenient of a punishment for something as serious as rape, but youth law experts contended the juvenile justice system was designed to give offenders the opportunity to reform. Juveniles convicted of rape in California do not have to register as sex offenders, said The Press-Enterprise.

Part Five: The Big Trouble With Oxy

Just joining us? This is part five of a five part series. Start from the beginning. Scott Merritt, a certified addictions counselor and licensed therapist in metro Atlanta, estimates that about 40 percent of kids in Cobb County high schools use illegal drugs, including alcohol. Though federal officials say the rates nationwide are lower, Merritt isn’t pulling that 40 percent out of thin air.

Part Five: A Day In Drug Court

Just joining us? This is part five of a five part series. Start from the beginning. Cobb County, Ga’s., Juvenile Court Judge Juanita Stedman’s office overflows every Wednesday at 4 p.m. For an hour, with therapists and probation officers filling every chair and – with several sitting on the floor – Stedman and her juvenile drug court team do a rundown of every kid currently in the program. One by one, Stedman calls out the name of each of 30 or so kids.

Part Four: Redemption and Temptation

Just joining us? This is part four of a five part series. Start from the beginning. Kyle is now only a little more than four and a half months clean. His last relapse came during the Thanksgiving break of 2010.

Part Three: A Friend and Reason for Hope

Just joining us? This is part three of a five part series. Start from the beginning. Kyle Boyer, 15-year-old prescription drug addict, duped his parents once again, faking a stomach ache to stay home from school. But instead of staying in bed, he went out to do what had become his norm – breaking into houses and stealing whatever the medicine cabinets within had to offer.

Part Two: The Sympathetic Judge

Just joining us? This is part two of a five part series. Start from the beginning. Juvenile Court Judge Juanita Stedman, who presides over Cobb County, Georgia’s Juvenile Drug Court has gotten to know Kyle quite well the past three years. Yes, he was one of the most dangerously addicted kids she’s seen.

Part One: Darkness Visible

Just joining us? This is part one of a five part series. See the whole series. When Suzanne and John Boyer left their upper-middle class home for work on the morning of May 20, 2008, their 15-year-old son, Kyle, had a stomachache and was still in bed. It wasn’t too bad, he told them.

Allison Ashe, Executive Director of Covenant House Georgia, and state Sen. Renee Unterman

Allison Ashe, Renee Unterman: House Needs to Pass Runaway Bill Now

Allison Ashe, Executive Director of Covenant House Georgia, and state Sen. Renee Unterman tell us what’s wrong with the current law on runaways and why the House needs to pass an updated version, H.B. 185, the Runaway Youth Safety Act, now. Four months after her 15th birthday Natalie ran away from home, fleeing the sexual advances of her mother’s new boyfriend.  A few days later, local law enforcement picked her up and returned her to her mother. The Division of Family and Children’s Services came to investigate. Upon finding no actual physical abuse, the mother and daughter were left to sort out a very complicated situation alone. Natalie ran again, and this time, fearing another visit from the state, her mother did not call for help.