Teen unemployment has never been worse. This year with only 1 in 6 high school kids have been able to find and hold a job. Black and Asian teens have had the hardest time getting jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is bad news for teens who may decide not to go to college or who need to support themselves while getting a higher education. Youth Today writes about the problem, urging state and national workforce development agencies to pay special attention to the teen unemployment problem.
States have until July to pass legislation that requires juveniles to be included on the sex offender registry database. The Sex Offender Registry Notification Act (SORNA), part of the Adam Walsh Act, requires states to register kids and teens, but gives states control on how many and which juveniles are included, according to Youth Today. So far, Florida, Ohio, South Dakota and Delaware are the only states currently in compliance with SORNA. If the other 46 do not comply, they will lose a portion of the Justice Department’s Byrne Grant, which supplies criminal justice systems with millions of dollars. Attorney General Eric Holder has pushed the deadline back twice now, causing frustration among supporters of SORNA.
A new study is underway that focuses on a group of kids we don’t know much about: kids who are arrested and transferred from juvenile court to adult criminal court. The Bureau of Justice Statistics has awarded a grant of $500,000 to Westat Inc., a research organization, to conduct the Survey of Juveniles Charged in Adult Criminal Courts. According to Youth Today, Westat will partner with the National Center for Juvenile Justice to survey states on the number of kids transferred, their demographics and the charges they faced. This may be hard because each state’s juvenile justice system is different and some states do not have data related to kids transferred into adult court.
Kids behind bars in American juvenile facilities are getting anti-psychotic drugs intended for bipolar or schizophrenic patients, even when they haven’t been diagnosed with either disorder, according to a year-long investigation by Youth Today. Even in cases when diagnoses are made for such disorders, some experts believe those diagnoses are rooted in convenience rather than the medical evidence. “Critics believe most of these diagnoses are simply a cover for the fact that prisons now use drugs as a substitute for banned physical restraints that once were used on juveniles who aggressively acted out,” Youth Today points out. The findings come from state juvenile systems that provided in-depth information on their use of the drugs. Only 16 states responded to a nationwide survey by Youth Today.
The federal government expects the states to do more to prevent delinquency but is offering up less money to help with the problem. That’s a formula for tension, which became apparent this week as a 15-member federal committee heard state officials’ complaints about the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, according to Youth Today. The committee, which is charged with assessing juvenile justice reform, heard plenty at its second meeting about the OJJDP from Joe Vignati of the Georgia Governor’s Office for Children and Families, among others. Vignati and two others spoke about OJJDP compliance monitoring and funding issues. The three state officials agreed that OJJDP’s training and technical assistant is exemplary, but argued that the lack of funding is hindering efforts to support programs.
Twenty states now receive only a minimum allocation of $600,000 through the OJJDP. Funds for alternatives to imprisonment, such as emergency foster care and shelters, “have dried up,” said Nancy Gannon Hornberger of the Coalition for Juvenile Justice in Washington, D.C.
Among the concerns Vignati raised:
Data on juvenile justice and delinquency is inconsistent between the states.
The Boy Scouts of America appear to be taking child molestation more seriously after settling a $20 million lawsuit, according to Youth Today. In the 1980s, former Assistant Scoutmaster Timur Dykes was convicted in Oregon of abusing Boy Scouts, including former Scout Kerry Lewis. Lewis filed suit against the BSA for failing to act on “the perversion files,” confidential files that red-flagged potential molesters in Scouting. Five other victims of Dykes have also filed lawsuits against the BSA. Lewis, the first to be awarded, received $1.4 million for negligence and $18.5 million in punitive damages in April.
Under new rules from the Justice Department, juvenile sex offenders may not have to appear on the public sex offender registry. States now have options to shield juveniles, according to Youth Today. This shift in policy loosens up requirements of The Adam Walsh Act, which creates a national sex offender database. Originally the government mandated that all teens 14 or older, convicted of aggravated sexual assault, must appear on the registry. In May, the Justice Department gave states the choice to exempt children whose cases are handled in juvenile court. Georgia did not put juveniles on the sex offender registry before the Walsh Act. And now the new state sex offender law enacted May 29th says “conduct which is adjudicated in juvenile court shall not be considered a criminal offense against a victim who is a minor.” Georgia is one of 47 states that have not officially complied with the Walsh Act.
A growing number of unmarried teenagers say they would be pleased if they got pregnant, or got a partner pregnant. 14% of girls and 18% of boys share this point of view, according to a study from the National Center for Health Statistics. 64% of U.S. teens now believe “it is OK for an unmarried female to have a child.”
Read the entire study here, or the summary in Youth Today. (pictures courtesty rahego’s photostream)