Florida’s prison system is the third largest in the nation with approximately 95,000 inmates and nearly 164,000 offenders on probation. It’s clear that Florida does a tremendous job of incarceration but we have neglected rehabilitation for far too long. The one question we must ask ourselves when considering how to make long-term improvements to our criminal justice system is, “Are we fostering an environment for Floridians to leave prison better than when they entered?”
After the loss of key federal funding and the end of a stopgap measure, state lawmakers in Utah are cutting the budgets of agencies providing crucial services to juvenile services. After a federal decision to suspend funding of non-medical expenditures associated with residential care was made two years ago, Utah legislators provided its state agencies – such as Juvenile Justice Services (JJS) and Division of Child and Family Services (DFCS) – with emergency stopgap funds. This legislative session, however, stopgap funding for juvenile services programs ceased, with state legislators issuing an additional $3.2 million in budget cuts. The impact of the federal decision on Utah was severe, costing the state an estimated $27 million in Medicaid funding. In the process, Utah’s JJS ended up losing an estimated $9 million per year, with the state DFCS agency losing an estimated $18 million annually.
A proposed overhaul of Georgia’s juvenile code remains alive at the State Capitol, but bills addressing school attendance and over-medicating foster children died this week as the Legislature completed its 30th day. Or, if not legally dead, the bills are on life-support. The General Assembly designates Day 30 of each year’s session as “Crossover Day,” the deadline by which the state House or Senate must pass a bill and send it over to the other chamber. Bills that don’t make it are dead, but can be revived by tacking the language onto another measure that remains under consideration. The Senate’s version of the juvenile-code rewrite — a mammoth, five-year, 243-page reorganization and update of laws dealing with delinquent, unruly and neglected children — died Wednesday without a vote by the full chamber.
The Washington State Legislature has failed to meet its constitutional responsibility to fund public education for the last three decades, according to a ruling by the state’s Supreme Court. “By the Legislature’s own terms, it has not met its duty to make ample provision for ‘basic education,’” wrote Justice Debra Stephens in an 85-page opinion. “This court cannot idly stand by as the Legislature makes unfulfilled promises for reform.”
In 2009, the Legislature passed a bill meant to reform funding formulas, HB2261, and update the 1977 Basic Education Act by 2018. In Justice Stephens’ opinion, the high court reaffirmed its jurisdiction to oversee the Legislature’s timely implementation of those changes. “Ultimately, it is our responsibility to hold the State accountable to meet its constitutional duty,” Justice Stephens writes in the opinion.
Monday marks the first day of the 2012 session of the Georgia General Assembly and while many bills will be considered and debated on the floor of the state Capitol, for those interested in juvenile justice, one piece of legislation gets all of the attention. The juvenile code rewrite, in the form of two separate bills, SB 127 in the state Senate and HB 641 in the House, was reintroduced last year, working its way through various committees and stakeholder meetings. This year, advocates are guardedly optimistic the code rewrite, officially known as the Child Protection and Public Safety Act, will pass the Legislature and land on Gov. Nathan Deal’s desk for a signature. “That’s our objective,” said Voices for Georgia’s Children Executive Director Pat Willis. “We have great support from the sponsors and committees where the tough work gets done.”
But, there is still work to be done, says Julia Neighbors, JUSTGeorgia Project Manager at Voices for Georgia’s Children and a lead on the code rewrite.
MONTGOMERY, Alabama — Your mother is not able to care for herself anymore. She is often confused and has difficulty walking. As you consider the best options for her, your family begins to investigate various nursing homes in the area. Which one will you choose? Will you select the nursing home that is licensed and professionally inspected for safety and other health standards?
Lorena Padron, 18, and Maria Calderon, 19, were all smiles this afternoon as they flanked Governor Nathan Deal in his office. With a stroke of a pen, the governor signed HB 373 into law, giving both of them and thousands of others with a track record of good behavior and academic success in Georgia’s Regional Youth Detention Centers (RYDCs) and Youth Development Centers (YDCs) a chance to substantially reduce their time in custody. Known as the “Good Behavior bill,” the measure passed in the 2011 legislative session that ended last month also gives juvenile court judges more discretion. “I feel very good, I’m very happy,” said Padron, after the signing ceremony at the state capitol. “I feel like I can begin my life again, like I’ll be able to go home and help my family.
House Bill 373, also known as the “Good Behavior bill,” which pushes for more discretion among juvenile court judges, has cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee (SJC). The measure seems to have a track record of advancing just in the nick of time. Last Monday – just two days before the critical Crossover Day deadline – it got pushed through to the Senate. Yesterday Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) Commissioner Amy Howell had about 20 minutes to drive to the State Capitol to testify on it after it was unexpectedly added to the SJC agenda. “I don’t know what happened I had just left the capitol; I was told that it wasn’t on the schedule and then all of a sudden I get this call from [committee chairman Bill] Hamrick’s legal assistant that I needed to turn around and come back,” says DJJ spokeswoman Scheree Moore.