No 2014 Detention Center Inspection Reports Yet

As we near the end of November 2014, the Indiana Department of Correction has yet to post any 2014 inspection reports for the detention centers around the state.  The 2013 inspection report are available here.

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U.N. Convention on the Rights of Children — Time for the U.S.

Twenty-five years ago, on November 20, 1989, the United Nations adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  To date, the only two nations that have not signed and ratified the document are Somalia and the United States.

The Convention addresses, in part:

  • “Every child deprived of his or her liberty shall have the right to prompt access to legal and other appropriate assistance…” (Article 37(d)),
  • If a child is accused of breaking the law, the child has the right “[t]o have the matter determined without delay by a competent, independent and impartial authority or judicial body in a fair hearing according to law, in the presence of legal or other appropriate assistance…” (Article 40(2)(b)(iii)),
  • “The establishment of a minimum age below which children shall be presumed not to have the capacity to infringe the penal law” (Article 40(3)(a)),
  • The right to be heard at hearings (Article 12(2)),
  • That capital punishment and life in prison without possibility of parole shall not be imposed on children under the age of eighteen (Article 37(a)),
  • Arrest, detention, and imprisonment of children shall conform with the law and be used “only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time” (Article 37(b)),
  • Children who are deprived of their liberty shall have the right to maintain contact with his or her family through correspondence and visits except in exceptional circumstances (Article 37(c)), and
  • Human trafficking (Article 11).

With the changes brought after Roper v. Simmons (eliminating death penalty for children), Graham v. Florida (eliminating life without parole for a non-homicide crime for children) and Miller v. Alabama (eliminating mandatory life without parole for children), many of the barriers to ratification have been removed.  However, across the country and in Indiana, there is still work to be done to ensure that every child has the assistance of counsel and to establish a minimum age of juvenile court jurisdiction.

For those interested in working towards the U.S. ratification of the Convention, see the Campaign for U.S. Ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

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Mass General Juvenile Justice Neuroscience Program

The Massachusetts General Hospital, Center for Law, Brain, and Behavior, has a number of programs, including one focused on juvenile justice.  “The long-range goals of the juvenile justice program are to promote neuroscientific research that may elucidate the adolescent brain, to establish the effective resource for the translation of new neuroscientific finding that may have implications for juvenile justice to the policy arena, and to realize changes in juvenile criminal law and treatment that accurately reflect the science.”  Other programs include Criminal Responsibility, Deception, Memory, and Elders.

The Center has a number of resources, including research papers, and will host a symposium on March 12, 2015 — Juvenile Justice & the Adolescent Brain: Is Healthy Neurodevelopment a Civil Right?  Registration information is available here.

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Parents Helping Parents in the System

So often, once a child is put into the juvenile system — whether as a CHINS or a juvenile delinquent — the parents are swept to the side as others make decisions about what is best for the child and ultimately the family.  The parents voice, if heard at all, is just one among many, which many include the judge, probation, the Department of Child Services, the prosecutor, the defense attorney on behalf of the child, the CASA/GAL, and service providers.

Several organizations have rallied parents who have previosly been in the system to reach back to help those who are currently on the journey.  While many are located outside Indiana, they offer lessons that can be adopted anywhere and a model for helping give the parents and the family a bigger voice about what the family needs to stand independently once again.

Justice for Families is a national alliance of local organizations that focuses on “ending the youth incarceration epidemic.”  The organization was “founded and [is] run by parents and families who have experienced the juvenile justice system with their children.”  The two primary goals of Justice for Families are: “(1) to transform how juvenile justice systems operate so that families have voice and power in both how and what decisions are made and (2) move resources away from youth incarceration toward direct investments in the youth, families, and communities most harmed by these policies.”

The Child Welfare Organizing Project (CWOP) is based in New York and works to “change/transform the quality of services provided to New York City families through the New York City child welfare system.”  “Most of [the] staff and board of directors are parents who have had children placed in foster care, succeeded in reuniting their own families, and now use this experience both to help other parents facing similar challenges, and to organize for system change.”  Two resources that stand out are:

  1. The Survival Guide to the NYC Child Welfare System: A Workbook for Parents by Parents, which gives very detailed information about what to expect when thrust into the child welfare system and advice on ways to avoid contact with the system.  A similar resource would be helpful to parents here in Indiana.
  2. The CWOP Child Safety Conferences, which pair a CWOP community representative with parents attending child safety conferences “to provide them with emotional support and resources, as well as information about their rights and responsibilities within the child welfare system.”  Given how many parents go unrepresented by counsel in CHINS cases in Indiana, these mentors could fill a role in aiding the parents until such time as the right to counsel is mandated in these cases.

The idea for this post came from Rise magazine, which “trains parents to write about their experiences with the child welfare system in order to support parents and parent advocacy and guide child welfare practitioners and policymakers in becoming more responsive to the families and communities they serve.”

Finally, Grace Bauer, who is co-director of Justice for Families, spoke at a conference this blogger attended and mentioned how much can be learned by having a neutral party debrief with parents at the close of cases and aggregate the data to see what worked and did not work from the parents’ perspective.  With this data, the court participants can work to develop new tools and processes that inform and empower the family to participate more fully and to help obtain services that lead to reunification and independence from the juvenile court system.

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NACDL Report on Discovery Violations

The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) released a report based on a study of discovery violations, “Material Indifference: How Courts are Impeding Fair Disclosure in Criminal Cases,” which was “produced jointly with the VERITAS Initiative at Santa Clara Law School.”  The report focuses on so-called “Brady violations” when the prosecution fails to disclose favorable information to the defense.  The U.S. Supreme Court declared this failure to be a constitutional violation when the information is material in Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963).

The report found:

  • “The materiality standard produces arbitrary results and overwhelmingly favors the prosecution…
  • Late disclosure of favorable information is almost never a Brady violation…
  • The prosecution almost always wins when it withholds favorable information
  • Withholding incentive or deal information is more likely to result in a Brady violation finding…
  • Courts ‘burden shift’ when they employ the due diligence ‘rule’ against the defendant…”

While the report focused on federal criminal cases, a similar discovery process applies to juvenile cases in Indiana, with the same potential disclosure issues.

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Welcoming the 500th Follower!

Today, we crossed a threshold as our 500th follower joined our little group.  I am grateful for each of you, and know that the count is artificially low, as it does not include those who read the blog on LinkedIn, Google+, RSS feed readers, etc.  It has been so fun to meet some of you at conferences, through email, comments, and other means.  Thank you for supporting this adventure and for your interest in my “kids!”

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School Pathways to the Juvenile Justice System Project

The National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges has published guides aimed at addressing “school pathways to the juvenile justice system,” which is also knows as the school-to-prison pipeline:

The School Pathways Practice Guide noted that “[t]he practices resulting from zero tolerance policies do not align with current research suggesting that school involvement is a protective factor against juvenile delinquency,…suspension and expulsion can lead to juvenile delinquency,…and early introduction to the juvenile justice system can increase the likelihood of later juvenile justice system involvement.”  “Zero tolerance policies contribute to higher drop-out rates, lower graduation rates, increased contact with the juvenile justice system, lower statewide test score outcomes, and lower ratings of the school environment….”

Sixteen demonstration sites were selected to participate in the School Pathways Project, including Tippecanoe County Superior Court in Lafayette, Indiana.  Each will receive assistance in identifying issues with school referrals to the court system and strategic planning to address those issues.

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