Richard Ross Brings Photographs, Message to NYC’s Vera Institute of Justice

NEW YORK – Photographer Richard Ross can’t pin down the moment he found his calling. It could have been on the concrete floor of the Harrison County Juvenile Detention Center in Biloxi, Miss., where he sat photographing a 12-year-old inmate in a yellow prison jumpsuit as he gazed at graffiti of spaceships and aliens scribbled on the wall of his tiny, decrepit cell. Maybe it was the young inmates trying to sleep on the floor of the intake room of a Los Padrinos Juvenile Hall in Los Angeles. Or the facility for young female offenders in California where the administrator told him all 88 residents were victims of sexual abuse. It could have been his visit with Ronald Franklin, who ran away from home at 13 after his mother tried to kill him, got involved in an armed carjacking and ended up in a Miami juvenile detention center where he waited four years without a trial.

What We’re Here For: The Role and Purpose of Juvenile Detention in the 21st Century

Across the nation, perspectives on juvenile detention are changing. Several experts share how they believe modern juvenile justice is implementing more rehabilitative models and what the ultimate dividends may be for both young people and U.S. society as a whole
Mike Rollins, executive director of Coosa Valley Youth Services (CVYS) in Anniston, Ala., has been at the facility for more than 30 years. His experiences, however, aren’t just limited to working there. At 17, Rollins walked into CVYS for the first time. “I was engaged in drug use,” Rollins said.

Juvenile Hall is Often No Place for Kids

DURHAM, N.C. — The local detention center where my juvenile clients are held while their cases are pending is called the “Youth Home.” The irony of the label is never lost on me, as the contrast between the name and the reality could hardly be starker. The rundown building is surrounded by barbed wire. Inside, kids sleep in narrow locked cells, no different from what you’d find in an adult jail. They are subjected to strip searches and attend an hour or two of “school” in a crowded room filled with a random selection of books. Juveniles are detained here for a variety of reasons.

JJIE Presents: The Juvenile Justice Documentary Project, in Partnership with Calamari Productions

Aaron, 18 years old and dressed in an oversized, light grey sweatshirt, sits blankly across from Intake Officer Clayton in an Indiana detention center while she asks him questions, his face betraying little emotion and his voice barely above a whisper. “I can’t hear you,” Clayton says, and Aaron repeats his answer, just loud enough for her to hear. As Clayton tells Aaron of an impending charge, shock flickers across his otherwise still face – this was the first he’d heard anything about it. Scenes such as this are common in the work of Calamari Productions. In an effort to continue bringing innovative, accurate insights on juvenile justice, The Juvenile Justice Information Exchange has formed a partnership with this award-winning production.

Juvenile Justice on Appeal: Making our System of Justice More Accountable

When a young person is sent to a detention facility away from his or her family, it is a drastic intervention and most would agree that our system of justice should approach it with great care. Even if the child is not removed from the community and sent to live in juvenile detention, a delinquency case can now follow the child throughout her life in an increasing number of ways, such as DNA registration, housing access, and sentencing enhancements, and sex offender registration. As a result, on paper, our system of justice purports to provide this child with most of the same procedural checks that we provide to adults and sometimes, in theory, even more. But in reality, our system falls short. Too often, this entire process is left to one overburdened judge with no jury, little public access, sometimes no defender, and, as it turns out, little appellate oversight.

Experts Say New Federal Rule Brings Hope for LGBTQ Youth in Custody

Given the high rate of torment suffered by LGBT youth in custody, activists applauded last week’s finalizing of a landmark law that took nine years to get from adoption to implementation. Last Monday, the federal Department of Justice finalized a set of guidelines under the Prison Rape Elimination Act that could help stem the risks of the already at-risk LGBT population that is incarcerated, including minors. “We were already working on this issue while PREA was being passed, but this raises awareness,” said Sarah Schriber, senior policy analyst with the Chicago-based Health and Medicine Policy Research group and community convener for the Illinois Court Involved LGBTQ Youth Task Force. According to Schriber, few juvenile detention center personnel even knew what the existing anti-harassment rules were. “A much harder part is making those policies meaningful on the ground,” she said.

The $1 Million TED Talk

Bryan Stevenson didn’t want to go to TED, the genre-defying annual conference full of big thinkers and big ideas. He brushed it off, claimed he was too busy and, besides, he didn’t know anything about it. He was preparing for a big case that was just days away – one that could result in a total ban on juveniles being sentenced to life without parole. Winning the case is a cornerstone goal of a litigation campaign by Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), the Alabama nonprofit Stevenson founded to fight discrimination and injustice in the legal system. “Well, I have to say I wasn’t really interested in going,” Stevenson said in a recent interview.

Alternatives to Youth Detention Conference Opens in Houston

Texas State Senator John Whitmire came to the podium last night at the opening of the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI) conference in Houston and got right to the core work of the JDAI. Five years ago, he said, 5,000 youth in Texas were incarcerated at any one time. Today the number is down to 1,500. It has happened, he said, without compromising public safety. The JDAI is an initiative backed by the Annie E. Casey Foundation and according to its press release, “In 2010, JDAI sites detained 42 percent fewer youth — approximately 2,400 — on an average day than they had prior to implementing approaches that include electronic monitoring, community monitoring, and day or evening reporting centers.”

For Once, Two Brothers Behind Bars Come Home For Christmas, Part One

No one is 100 percent sure what Christmas in the Dykes’ house will be like this year. But Zach Dykes, 17, a senior at metro Atlanta’s Hillgrove High School, is pretty sure it’ll be better than last year’s. It almost has to be. Zach was in the Cobb County Youth Detention Center on drug charges until Christmas Eve last year. His older brother, Robbie, 23, was in prison, serving an 18-month prison sentence on a drug conviction.