Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Eliminate Life Without Parole Sentences for Children in Nebraska Video

Did you know 24 people are serving life without parole in Nebraska for crimes they committed when they were under the age of 18?

In the rest of the world, outside of the United States, there are zero.

Support LB 843 and eliminate the possibility of a sentence of life without parole for minors.

Video created out of the kindness and generosity of Root Down Creative in Lincoln, Nebraska. For more info email

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Survey Shows Michigan Willing to Give Youths Second Chance

By Marilyn King

Michigan residents believe juvenile offenders deserve second chances such as rehabilitation or parole, according to surveys conducted over two years by MSU associate professor of social work Sheryl Kubiak.

The survey also shows most residents oppose sending young offenders to adult prisons while they are still under 18 years old, Kubiak said.

“What was very clear was that a vast majority of people thought that, even if young people should serve long sentences, they shouldn’t serve them in an adult facility,” she said.

Out of 1,390 residents surveyed, 5 percent believed youths should be sent to an adult prison for life without parole for a serious crime, such as homicide. About 66.5 percent of respondents said youths should serve an intermediate sentence until they are 18, where they can be sent to an adult prison with the opportunity of parole.

Michigan is one of 19 states that allow children of any age to be tried and punished as adults. Kubiak, who became involved in surveys pertaining to juvenile offenders during her time at Wayne State University, said residents support second chances because of the possibility of rehabilitation.

Ingham County Circuit Court Judge Richard Garcia said the juvenile system is a treatment, not punishment-based, system. Most juvenile offenders first go through programs to help prevent high-risk behaviors before taking further action.

For sentencing, the court also examines factors such as involvement in the crime, past offenses and any previous rehabilitation program, Garcia said.

“It just depends on if there’s any hope yet to redirect that young person and make sure that they won’t offend again,” Garcia said. “The public still deserves to be protected.”

A hearing held by a family court judge then determines whether it is in the best interest of the community for the juvenile to be tried as an adult.

Other factors could help determine whether or not a juvenile offender deserves a second chance, said MSU alumna Erin Gantz.

“If you’re 17 or 18 (years old) and you’re committing a violent crime, then you should know better,” Gantz said. “But it would depend on the crime and where the person came from.”

Youth younger than the age of 17 years old who break the law may be tried before the Family Division of the Ingham County Circuit Court. Kubiak said since releasing the results, other researchers across the nation have inquired about conducting a similar survey in their area.

Kubiak said only three countries have a policy allowing juveniles to be sentenced to life in prison without parole, including the United States.

“I definitely think this is information that our legislators can use to think about and realign the policies to what the public is thinking,” Kubiak said.

Published on Sunday, June 15, 2008

Monday, June 16, 2008

Report Finds Racial Disparities in the Severity of Punishment

Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, June 13, 2008; Page B02

The nation's juvenile justice system metes out harsher punishment to black and Latino youths, locks up thousands of children for relatively minor offenses and ultimately makes them more dangerous, according to a national study released yesterday.

"We are generating more violence and criminality in our effort to interrupt it," said Douglas W. Nelson, president and chief executive of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, which conducted the study, during a news conference yesterday. "We routinely fail to recognize that children are different than adults. We need to alter the context in which we serve kids."

Nelson's remarks came with the release of the foundation's annual Kids Count report, which measures the well-being of America's children in 10 categories. The report shows reductions in the rates of child deaths, teenage births, high school dropouts and teens who are not in school or working. Four areas increased: low-birthweight infants, children in single-parent homes, children in poverty and children in families in which no parent works full time.

The percentage of newborns weighing less than 5.5 pounds, who are at greater risk of dying in infancy or having long-term problems, is the highest in 40 years. It was the only category in which Maryland worsened from 2000 to 2005, when the percentage of low-birthweight babies in the state rose from 8.6 to 9.1.

Nationally, infant mortality remained steady during the period.

Maryland tied New Hampshire, at 10 percent, for the lowest rate of children living in poverty. The national rate was 11 percent for white children, 36 percent for blacks and American Indians and 28 percent for Hispanics.

Virginia improved in all but three categories: low-birthweight babies, infant mortality and children in single-parent homes.

The District lost ground in half of the 10 categories: infant mortality, teen deaths, teen births, children living with no parents working full time and children in poverty.

But the primary focus of this year's report was the fate of the 400,000 youths who cycle through the juvenile justice system each year. During a two-hour news conference yesterday at the Cannon House Office Building, a panel of experts said the problem has largely been fueled by fear and racism that often lead police to take young white offenders home and minorities to jail.

In 2006, for example, three youths of color were in custody for every one white youth, the report said. Two thirds of all youths in custody were incarcerated for a nonviolent offense.

In the 1990s, 49 states made it easier to try youths as adults. On any given night, 100,000 minors are in jails, prisons, boot camps or residential facilities. A succession of speakers yesterday said these places often cause more problems than they solve. Grace Bauer of Lake Charles, La., said her son, who had been sent to a boot camp for being "ungovernable," was raped when he was 13.

Bauer said her son, now 21, carries the scars. She later learned that the program had a 95 percent failure rate. "On my first visit to see him, he had welts on his face," she said.

Rep. Robert C. Scott (D-Virginia) said many "get tough" crime measures are "nonsense that does not reduce crime."

"It helps [politicians] get elected," he said. "If you can get it to rhyme, even better."

Vincent Schiraldi, director of the District's Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services, said it would be more rational to lock up only the most violent offenders and use less restrictive options for the others, particularly those without long criminal records.

Reginald Dwayne Betts, now in his mid-20s, said he should not have been sent to adult jail when he was arrested at 16 for carjacking in Fairfax County. He had no previous criminal record and was an honor roll student.

But instead of being sent to a juvenile jail, he was placed with adults and served eight years in prison. He never received any mental health treatment.

After he was released, Betts attended Prince George's Community College. He now goes to the University of Maryland on a poetry scholarship.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Annie E. Casey Foundation Releases Important Juvenile Reports

2008 KIDS COUNT Data Book Released
The Annie E. Casey Foundation’s 19th annual KIDS COUNT Data Book, released on June 12, 2008, is a national and state-by-state profile of the well-being of America’s children that ranks states on 10 key measures and provides data on the economic, health, education, and social conditions of America’s children and families.

A Roadmap for Juvenile Justice Reform
This year's Data Book essay outlines key action steps and model programs with the potential to change the reality and prospects for the nearly 100,000 youth confined in U.S. juvenile facilities on any given night. Casey's Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative has worked to is a movement to reduce to strengthen juvenile justice systems, make communities safer, help youth, and save tax dollars since 1992.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Abolish Juvenile Life WIthout Parole Sentences in the USA - Facebook Group

The Abolish Juvenile Life Without Parole Sentences in the USA - Facebook Group has reached 700 members as of Sunday, June 9, 2008. This is a significant development. It is a reflection that our message is growing across the nation.

For those of you who do not know, Facebook is the fastest growing social networking site in the world. Millions of users access their Facebook accounts daily and share information with people in their networks. Supporters of the movement to abolish juvenile life without parole sentences in the USA are encouraged to create a Facebook account, join the group, and invite others to join as well.

We can send messages to the entire group and ask them to help us mobilize into action when necessary. We can also ask group members to do other things to further our efforts as well. Let's continue harnessing the enormous power of the Internet and using every available resource to advance this cause.

Abolish Juvenile Life Without Parole Sentences in the USA - Facebook Group