On December 21, President Trump signed H.R.6964 – Juvenile Justice Reform Act of 2018. This law reauthorizes the Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) Reauthorization Act. First authorized in 1974, the act ensured certain minimum standards for the treatment of youth in the justice system, banning incarceration for status offenses (such as drinking, which is prohibited only based on the age of the accused) and adopting a requirement that youth incarcerated in adult facilities have sight and sound separation from adult inmates. Since 1974, reauthorizations of the law have included provisions that require states address racial and ethnic disparities in the justice system and incentives for states to use evidence-based interventions to reduce juvenile delinquent activity.
However, despite seeming longstanding federal commitment to the idea that all young people deserve a second chance, the JJDPA had languished, pending reauthorization, for more than ten years. So, when Trump signed the reauthorization act on the coattails of the much anticipated Second Chance Act, juvenile justice practitioners everywhere (myself included) were relieved and elated.
Continue reading “Modest Reform: How JJDPA matters and why it is still not enough”
How do you know whether the young person in front of you in court is likely to commit another crime? Historically the American justice system has looked at somewhat subjective factors like, “what crime did you commit?” or “have I seen you in court before?” In the past twenty years, the justice system has attempted to standardize the assessment of an individual’s likelihood of recidivism, reduce subjectivity, and target intentions at those who need them most. Continue reading “Validate Me!! In Defense of [Properly Utilized] Risk Assessments”
“The Road to Hell is paved with good intentions.” – Unknown
As I walked into my first (and only!) law class in grad school, there was a quote written on the whiteboard. Our professor looked at us and asked, “How does this apply to our case today?” The case in question was “In re Gault,” the landmark US Supreme Court case which established the right to counsel for juveniles in delinquency cases in 1967. That may have been my only law class, but I continue to grapple with the issues raised by this case through my work training and providing technical assistance to juvenile drug treatment courts. In the 51 years since Gault, we’ve come a long way to ensure justice for youth, but there are still steps we need to take, especially when it comes to the right to counsel.
Continue reading “In Re Gault – Progress or Regression”
The scene may be familiar: a family movie showing three young children, beginning a road trip to visit their mom who lives far away. The camera zooms in on one of the little girls and her uncle asks, “what do you tell people when they ask why Mommy is in Florida?” She responds, “I tell them that it’s something only the family needs to know about, and they seem okay with that.”
Continue reading “When we punish the family – a review of The Sentence”
Since a peak in the mid-nineties, the number of juveniles placed into secure detention has fallen dramatically, in part to due to a decrease in juvenile crime, and in part due to an increase in pre-trial diversion programs and post-adjudication alternatives to incarceration. These programs, such as the juvenile drug treatment courts (JDTCs) I work with, seek to bring about behavior change and ensure public safety, without the iatrogenic consequences of incarceration.
Continue reading “Unlocking Alternatives to Juvenile Detention”
Allow me to begin with a confession: I’m a researcher at heart, and I have an unhealthy obsession with data. This has its benefits (bear with me . . .): If you make an argument you can support with data, I will be on your side, all in. But it also has a downside: sometimes, while the data suggests a certain course of action, because “it will likely result in the best outcomes,” this actually doesn’t convince normal humans, and it certainly fails to quiet our conscience which asks, “is that really the best thing to do?”
Continue reading ““But the data says no” … In which a researcher learns compassion”