The role of local institutions in the criminal justice reform debate

The truth of the common quip “all politics is local” has seemingly eroded in the last several years. The modern method of consuming news means our collective attention is squarely aimed at the actors we can all recognize or the systems which we are all familiar. We are less informed and less engaged in the issues in our own community. But whether or not the public is engaged, the American political system hinges on decentralized power spread over millions of jurisdictions. This is especially true of the criminal justice system. woman writting on boardDespite what is taught in high school civics classes, the justice system is not a single body or multiple bodies under a clear hagiarchy. Police, prisons, jails, public defenders, prosecutors, the judiciary, and the various ancillary services all operate independently with virtually no meaningful oversight or coordinated direction from a higher body. Each, however, can affect what justice looks likes in a community. Continue reading “The role of local institutions in the criminal justice reform debate”

Validate Me!! In Defense of [Properly Utilized] Risk Assessments

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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”

In Re Gault – Progress or Regression

“The Road to Hell is paved with good intentions.” – Unknown

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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.

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Integrated Case Planning

The goal of juvenile justice interventions is to motivate adolescent behavior change—not an easy task, as any parent can attest. Teen behavior can be baffling; adolescents are impulsive, they love to take risks, their peers are essential to their self-image, and their emotions play a key role in their decision-making process. But there are strategies that have been proven to help adolescents, even the most at-risk youth, to live healthy lives.

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Friday News Roundup: August 17, 2018

Friday News Roundup

West Virginia’s House of Delegates votes to impeach all four Supreme Court justices, indigent families must pay for their child’s attorney in most states, Orleans Parish Juvenile Court becomes the first jurisdiction in the South to end the assessment and collection of discretionary juvenile fees, and L.A. County hasn’t had a public defender in two years and just appointed one.  These stories and much more below in the latest Friday News Roundup. 

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Unlocking Alternatives to Juvenile Detention

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 Picture of prison gate with barbed wirejuvenile drug treatment courts (JDTCs) I work with, seek to bring about behavior change and ensure public safety, without the iatrogenic consequences of incarceration.

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