A session at the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges’ annual conference, held here this week, was billed as a chance for attendees to ask questions of Caren Harp, the new head of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP).
A Mississippi woman who was jailed for seven days for owing $1,000-plus in court fees had custody of her baby given to her mother. Fearing she would be jailed again, she didn’t return to court to get back custody and believed she couldn’t have contact with her infant.
After 14 months, she found legal help that returned her child to her. The city shut down the court of the judge who had issued the original order.
I am on a plane heading home from Reno. I spent a day at the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges teaching relatively new judges on the topic of juvenile detention alternatives. I was impressed with the group of judges and their favorable disposition to detention reform. In fact, in all my travels to present or deliver technical assistance, I have yet to meet a judge who doesn’t already understand, appreciate, and or have the desire to apply detention alternative tools and practices. The key to developing strategies to reduce unnecessary detention is collaboration — bringing police, schools, social services, mental health, and other stakeholders to the table to understand the principles and law underlying alternatives to detention and more importantly identify resources and best strategies.
The second season of “Beyond Scared Straight” begins Thursday night and with it come renewed questions about its effectiveness. The reality program follows at-risk teens as they are threatened, screamed at, and harassed by prison inmates in an attempt to get them to change their ways. The show was A&E Network’s most watched debut in its history with 3.7 million viewers. As JJIE reported at the time of the show’s debut in January, juvenile justice experts are concerned the show may be sending the wrong message. They point to studies that say scared straight-style programs are not only ineffective, but also counter-productive.
Angelo Speziale may be the most infamous graduate of Scared Straight! As a scrawny 16-year-old, he appeared in the original Scared Straight! documentary filmed at New Jersey’s Rahway State Prison in 1978. Now he’s back–serving 25-to-life in Rahway for the 1982 rape and murder of a teenage girl who lived next door to him. Proponents of “Scared Straight” claim the program literally scares kids away from a life of crime. In a follow-up show called Scared Straight: 20 Years Later, Speziale echoed this, claiming the experience changed him. Apparently not enough. He was arrested for shoplifting in 2005 and a DNA sample linked him to the 30-year-old cold case murder for which he was convicted in 2010. A New Jersey law enforcement source confirms Angelo Speziale is the same person who appeared in both documentaries.
LaGrange—Judge Michael Key is a hometown boy, a son of the cotton mill village where he played rhythm guitar in a rock-and-roll band on Saturday nights and went to a Southern Baptist Church on Sundays. He was headed off to Emory University’s law school before he ever met a lawyer. “Back then people just didn’t go from the mill village to being a lawyer,” he says. For 31 years, Key (LaGrange High School, class of ’68) has been back home practicing law. For 21 of those years, he’s also been a part-time juvenile court judge.
“I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office to which I have been elected, and will, to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and promulgate the ideals and philosophy of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges.” With that solemn oath, Judge Michael Key of Troup County, GA became the new President of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges. Supreme Court of Georgia Justice P. Harris Hines administered the oath July 20 in San Diego at the organization’s 73rd annual conference. In accepting his new responsibilities, Judge Key spoke about the implications of the new federal law that permits young people to remain in foster care longer, until they reach 21 years. At the same time, the new law has increased the requirements for keeping siblings together.
Judge Michael Key of Troup County, Georgia was sworn in Tuesday as the new president of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges at their annual conference in San Diego. Key has been a juvenile court judge since 1989, and is past president of the Georgia Council of Juvenile Court Judges. He has been honored twice with the President’s Award, and was named Child Advocate of the Year by the Young Lawyer Division of the Georgia State Bar Association. Judge Key sits on the bench part time, and is a partner in the law firm of Key and Gordy, in LaGrange. The National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges has 2,000 members and is based at the University of Nevada in Reno. Read the full news release here.