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JULY 21, 2011: Peg's Blogs on Hiatus...

As many friends and regular readers know, I've been dealing with a lot in my personal life, lately, while my workload has continued to grow. Rest assured that I'm in the best of company, and getting by with a little help from my friends. Still, I need to take a break and focus on centering myself. That means this site will be neglected even more than it has been.

Until I'm able to get a grip on blogging regularly and thoughtfully again here (or until someone else steps in to anchor the site), I encourage people to check out Carl Toersbijns' blog (he's a former Deputy Warden for the AZ Department of Corrections, and while not an abolitionist, he's a strong advocate for the prisoners with mental illness, and for broad-based prison reform in AZ). You may also want to drop in on Middle Ground Prison Reform's site for news.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Bernini transfers troubled youth to juvenile system

Thank you, Judge Bernini. Her office is here, for those of you who want to contact her about this...

Arizona Superior Court in Pima County
110 W. Congress St., Tucson, AZ 85701
(520) 740-4200, TDD (520) 740-8887

Kim Smith at the AZ Daily Star, by the way, has done a extensive coverage of the Pima County courts these past few years.

----from the AZ Daily Star--

15-year-old won't be tried as an adult 

kim smith

arizona daily star (02/06/12)

A Tucson teenager originally charged as an adult with attempted murder of his adoptive father has been transferred into the juvenile system.

Pima County Superior Court Judge Deborah Bernini ruled Wednesday that the 15-year-old would be better off in the juvenile system because of mental-health services not available in the adult system.

The boy was 14 last October when Pima County sheriff's officials said he and his then-17-year-old girlfriend, Angela Swink, decided to run away together after killing his adoptive parents. Swink is scheduled to enter a plea agreement today. The adoptive parents were in the process of terminating their parental rights, and the teen was living in foster care.

Officials said the boy attacked the dad from behind, choked him and tried to cut his throat. The dad overcame the boy and called 911.

In her ruling, Bernini noted the father didn't require medical treatment and the mom wasn't home. The father grabbed the knife from the teen, put away his groceries and offered both teens ice cream, Bernini wrote. He called 911 from a convenience store and waited with the pair for deputies.

The boy was removed from his teenage mother while he was a baby and lived in seven foster homes before his adoptive parents took him in, Bernini noted.

The couple, who were 57 and 70 when they adopted the teen, home-schooled him until he was 12, and he failed his first year of public school.

The teen has been arrested for assaulting the mother, but "both incidents involve documented physical assaults committed against him by (the adoptive mother)," Bernini said.

"The records are replete with documented physical and mental abuse of the defendant at the hands of his adoptive parents," Bernini wrote. She also noted he'd been hospitalized twice for suicidal thoughts.

After the teen was placed back in foster care and a special-education class, "his behavior showed dramatic improvement," Bernini said. She said police records indicate Swink was the instigator.

By transferring the teen into the juvenile system, his dependency and criminal cases can be handled by the same judge.

On StarNet: Follow the news and events at Pima County's courthouses in Kim Smith's blog, At the Courthouse, at

Contact reporter Kim Smith at 573-4241 or

Dismantling California's Division of Juvenile Justice

Here's what they're doing with juvenile corrections in California - Governor Brewer has been wanting to dismantle the AZ Department of Juvenile Corrections and privatize more services, too. I'm all for abolishing the entire criminal justice system and staring anew, but I don't think we have the same motives or ultimate vision in mind. 

I think the worry that youth will be tried as adults more often - absent state prisons for children - is legitimate, but can be addressed with legislation restricting juvenile transfers. We already know that youth tried as adults are more, not less likely, to re-offend, and we have an idea of what types of evidence-based practice can reduce juvenile delinquency.

In any event, this is worth following. In the meantime, don't be surprised to hear more soon about the AZ Department of Juvenile Corrections downsizing, consolidating resources, increasing privatization of services, and ultimately being dissolved. I think that's precisely what Director Flanagan was hired to do.


Fight ahead over bold California move to close state-run youth prisons
Juvenile Justice Information Exchange
Susan Ferriss January 28, 2012

This story was originally published by the Center for Public Integrity
California, often a trendsetter, could make history if it approves Gov. Jerry Brown’s bid to close all state-run youth prisons and eliminate its state Division of Juvenile Justice.

Much depends, though, on whether the state’s politically influential prison guards, probation officers and district attorneys can be convinced — or forced by legislators — to agree to Brown’s proposal. That won’t be an easy sell, due to both public-safety arguments and sure-to-surface haggling over just who pays to house juvenile offenders.

Vowing to restructure government more efficiently, Brown, a Democrat, wants to close the last three of 11 youth prisons that have long been attacked by critics as “expensive failures.” If the state phases out the last three of its aging detention centers, all future young offenders would be held, schooled and treated by California’s 58 counties.

This is the second time since taking office last year that Brown has proposed closing the state juvenile division, which is part of its corrections system. The division’s responsibility has already been slashed dramatically from 10,000 wards in the mid-1990s to about 1,100 in state custody today. Their numbers may be few, but the cost for keeping those youth in state custody runs about $200,000-a-year for every ward.

A host of agendas

The drop in numbers of youths in state custody is due in part to a decline in juvenile crime in California, but also to state legislation in 2007 that blocked counties from sending nonviolent youth offenders to state-run detention centers.

It was a move driven, some argue, largely by California’s massive budget deficits and the desire to lower ballooning incarceration costs. But the decision also dovetailed with an emerging national philosophy favoring locally-based rehabilitation programs over state-run facilities that have been plagued with records of neglect, danger and sexual abuse.

Behind the policy debate: never-ending negotiations over money. The 2007 initiative included millions in state money to counties to devise and provide more effective treatment closer to wards’ home areas and families. Last year, after wrangling with Brown, legislators approved a deal requiring counties to begin paying $125,000 for each ward they sent to the state, if the state’s revenues didn’t improve.

Sure enough, revenues didn’t improve, and now the counties are balking at having to pay the $125,000 per ward they owe. And Brown isn’t collecting. Instead he has resurrected his idea to shut down the state facilities, and give counties even less than he offered before.

Many, but not all, juvenile justice reformers nationwide are cheering Brown’s announcement this month.
“The same phenomenon is happening on the two coasts,” said Bart Lubow, director of programs for high-risk youth at the Annie E. Casey Foundation. He noted that New York State, too, is shifting care for juveniles more to local custody for cost-control and quality reasons.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s budget proposal this year includes a deal for New York City to keep most of its offenders locally. Mayor Michael Bloomberg complained in 2010 that it cost New York City $62 million in 2009 to satisfy a requirement that it pay half the state’s costs for jailing, on daily average, fewer than 600 youth offenders from the city.

The state-run jails were far from New York City wards’ families, the mayor argued, and had dubious records, like California’s, with recidivism rates of about 80 percent.

Lubow of the Annie E. Casey Foundation said that if Brown is able to pull off the feat of closing all state facilities, other states will have a model to follow. “California is at the leading edge of a national trend,” he said, “to abandon centralized facilities that are scandal-prone and ineffective.”

What’s best for juvenile offenders?

As it was last year, Brown’s idea is embedded in his proposed 2012-13 state budget announced this month. It will be hashed over publicly and privately before legislators make a decision by a June 15 deadline.

Most legislators in California are Democrats, as Brown is, but they are always under pressure not to appear soft on crime. They are also mindful that California’s correctional workers’ union is a big player in state politics and a heavy donor to campaigns.

This time, given that only three state juvenile facilities remain, legislators are perhaps under more pressure not to overburden counties, which are already coping with fallout from last year’s budget deal.

That deal was considered historic because after years of waffling, legislators authorized a significant shift of certain low-level adult felons to county responsibility. The aim was to cut state costs and satisfy federal court orders to clear California’s overcrowded prisons.

Mark Varela, legislative chairman for the Chief Probation Officers of California, said his group continues to oppose closing the last three state juvenile detention centers, although, individually, there are some probation chiefs in California who favor it and say they are ready.

Varela said opponents’ “concern is that the youth in DJJ [the Division of Juvenile Justice] represent offenders with a high degree of sophistication,“ who could have a “negative impact” on lower-level offenders who might not easily be separated from them in local facilities.

By mixing the populations, Varela said, the more violent youths, some of them incarcerated for murder or sex offenses, could endanger or influence others and undermine their progress.

Hardball in Sacramento

District attorneys, too, are expected to fight Brown’s proposal; indeed, the California District Attorneys Association has already shown it can play hardball on the issue.

In hearings and official letters last year, the association argued that if California youth prisons were no longer on option, it was “inevitable” that for public safety, prosecutors would likely try many more juveniles as adults and send them to adult state prison. District attorneys also argued that if counties had to pay the state $125,000 per ward, more youths would also likely be prosecuted as adults.

Books Not Bars, a prison rights group that backs Brown’s proposal, is preparing to counter the prosecutors’ threat.

The group has crafted a draft bill designed to force counties to pay for minors they send to state prison, Jennifer Kim, a Books Not Bars leader, told the Center for Public Integrity. “We are currently shopping it around the Legislature,” Kim said.

Kim said the bill calls for counties to pay the state the going adult rate — about $52,500 a year — for each minor put in adult prison based on the discretion of a prosecutor.

That’s not as much as the $200,000 a year it costs the state for each ward in existing youth prisons, Kim said. But she said it could help dissuade counties from trying to avoid keeping young offenders by putting them in adult prison.

Kim said that while legislators might be vulnerable to soft-on-crime accusations, they also are under fire after years of chopping education severely, closing parks and stripping down other services. They need to justify, Kim said, spending millions on a system that fails to reform most of its wards, and has a record of documented abuses.

“California could be its own country,” Kim said. “It’s so big. And we can’t figure out how to handle about 1,000 kids? That’s smaller than the high school I went to.”

Like the district attorneys association, the California Correctional Peace Officers Association is also opposed to Brown’s idea.

“We’re very disappointed with the proposal. We feel it is an immense disservice to youth offenders,” JeVaughn Baker, spokesman for the correctional workers’ union, told the Center for Public Integrity.

Baker said that instead of a complete closure, the union favors trying to reduce costs per ward, and continuing improvements at the state-run juvenile prisons, which have been operating for a number of years under court decree to improve conditions.

However, Baker said, the union also is willing to talk about a compromise and “wants to be part of the solution.” A meeting is planned in mid-February among union representatives to discuss more steps toward continuing reforms to the state facilities, he said.

The correctional workers’ union contributed heavily to Brown’s election, and continues to have a seat at the table when it comes to prison reforms. But with California reeling from waves of budget cuts, it doesn’t have the clout it used to at the state Capitol and has had to accept changes that cut jobs, said Barry Krisberg, an expert on incarceration policy at the University of California at Berkeley School of Law.

Krisberg, who is also an appointed monitor reporting on improvements at state-run youth facilities, predicted a tough sell for Brown’s proposal at the Capitol. “I’m hearing there is not much enthusiasm in the Legislature for this,” he said.

Krisberg also has his own doubts that the state government should completely phase out its ability to take custody of minors.

He fears that some counties aren’t bluffing when they argue that they are not suited to handle high-level young offenders.

Krisberg said a total closure “would be the most radical juvenile justice reform in history.” He’d rather see the division shifted to the state’s Department of Education, possibly, and out of the prison system.

He also noted that county systems for youth offenders are not scandal-free. The Los Angeles County Probation Department is under federal order to rein in use of force, including pepper spray, as well as neglect of wards with mental health problems and suicidal tendencies.

In December, a federal report found that the Los Angeles probation department still fell short of improvements it was ordered to make.

Krisberg said that in the end, he’d prefer to see California keep a few hundred beds for juveniles at the state level and enact strong policies and provide adequate funding for monitoring and improving local treatment.
Because many high-level wards are adults by the time they’ve served their sentences, what they critically need, Krisberg said, is help from the state with post-incarceration re-entry to society, including housing, access to mental-health medication and job placement.

Dan Macallair, executive director of the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice, a nonpartisan group in San Francisco, is a friend of Krisberg, but differs with him on this issue, arguing for a shutdown of state facilities that he says are relics of a failed rehabilitation model.

Besides, Macallair said, the majority of the state’s wards come from only about a dozen counties, out of 58, that have grown reliant on the state, and need to be pushed to develop a better infrastructure locally for rehabilitation. His group’s research, Macallair said, shows that despite claims to the contrary, California’s counties have enough room and the ability to appropriately separate juveniles.

Meanwhile, he said, “you’ve got a state system that’s really hanging by a thumbnail.”

The Center for Public Integrity is a nonprofit organization focused on investigative journalism.

Old before they are young: DOJ report on youth in adult CJ systems.

This comes from the DOJ's National Institute of Corrections. Based on their own research and data analysis they argue that it's time to re-evaluate the utility and appropriateness of prosecuting youth in adult criminal courts and detaining them in adult correctional facilities...


You're an adult now: Youth in Adult Criminal Justice Systems.

US DOJ: National Institute of Corrections (December 2011)

Introduction (excerpt):

Since the world’s first juvenile court was founded in Chicago, our legal system has recognized a separate mandate to rehabilitate youth with an approach that is different than adults.1 Today, all 50 states and the District of Columbia and the federal government have two distinct systems for dealing with adults and juveniles, and corrections systems kept pace by developing different systems for dealing with the youth. While the majority of youth arrested for criminal acts are prosecuted in state juvenile justice systems, a significant proportion of youth are handled by adult criminal justice agencies.

It has been estimated that nearly 250,000 youth under age 18 end up in the adult criminal justice system every year.2 However, little attention has been directed to how adult corrections systems are managing the youth offenders that end up in jails, prisons and under community supervision. To address this information gap, the National Institute of Corrections (NIC) convened three dozen juvenile justice and adult corrections experts on June 18th, 2010, to consider some of the known issues, impacts and opportunities that face corrections systems as they work to safely and effectively rehabilitate thousands of youth offenders in the nations’ jails, prisons, probation and parole systems. This monograph presents the key findings identified during this convening of experts. Some of the most important findings for corrections officials, policymakers and the public include:

Youth transferred to the adult corrections system recidivate at a higher rate than those kept in the juvenile justice system; Pretrial, post-conviction, and community supervision corrections systems face challenges keeping youth safe, effectively providing for their services and supervision, and containing costs required to serve youth appropriately. Due to these and other challenges corrections systems face when managing these youth, the transfer of juveniles in adult institutions might run counter to correctional and rehabilitative goals; To overcome these challenges, a number of states and localities have developed innovative ways of managing youth when they have been charged, convicted and committed to the adult corrections system. These changes are helping improve public safety, contain costs, successfully rehabilitate youth and help them transition to adulthood.

By reviewing the issues, impacts and options facing corrections when they manage youth in the adult system, NIC hopes to raise awareness of these issues, and focus the field on finding the best ways to curb juvenile delinquency in correctional settings.

What is known about the issue of juveniles in the adult corrections system, and where are the gaps in data collection and information?

1) Approximately a quarter-million youth end up in the adult system each year, and most end up there due to age of jurisdiction laws.

The National Center on Juvenile Justice has compiled information for every state and jurisdiction on the three basic ways a youth can end up in the adult corrections system.

First, public safety systems can set age of jurisdiction laws: in some states, under some conditions, a youth is automatically under the jurisdiction of the adult court if they are of a certain age. In New York and North Carolina, for example, all 16 and 17-year-olds are considered adults in criminal proceedings. The largest group of juveniles who end up in the adult system arrive there through are in through jurisdictional age laws: approximately 247,000 youth under 18 ended up in adult court as a result of jurisdictional age laws in 2007.3

Second, most states have some kind of transfer law: by nature of a judicial decision, by the nature of the charge the prosecutor chooses to seek, or, by the nature of the offense, the youth’s case can be transferred to the adult system. Forty-six states have a judicial waiver provision, in 15 states, the transfer is through prosecutorial discretion, 29 states transfer is by categorical exclusion based on the offense. In some places, if a youth engages in a crime while involved in a gang or some other behavior, that makes the case eligible for transfer to the adult court. Juvenile courts transferred approximately 8,500 youth to the adult system in 2007 though judicial waiver statutes.

Finally, some states have a form of blended sentencing, where the juvenile courts are given power to impose a juvenile disposition, but if that youth does not succeed, they may then be transferred to the adult system on the same conviction.

Every public safety system draws the line between being a juvenile and being an adult differently.

Each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia and the federal government have different mechanisms that can transfer a youth to the adult court, and the “age of jurisdiction” of the juvenile justice system varies from place to place. According to the National Center on Juvenile Justice – a research entity representing juvenile and family court judges – 23 states and jurisdictions have no minimum age at which a youth can be transferred to adult court for certain offenses.4 While some states see juvenile court jurisdiction run through age 15, in others, you are not an adult for criminal justice purposes until age 18.

There are also various legal mechanisms a judge or prosecutor can choose to transfer a youth charged with a particular crime to the adult system. Similarly, the research on adolescent development that has driven so many recent changes to juvenile justice statutes also doesn’t provide a “bright line” for drawing when a 15, 16 or 17 youth may have the mixture of impulse control and reason to be considered an adult, with some researchers calling to include older youth in the their 20s in the juvenile justice system.5 In recent Supreme Court rulings on the juvenile death penalty and juvenile life without parole, the courts have made changes to the law that suggest, adulthood begins at age 18. Finally, different juvenile corrections systems have different maximum ages that they can have youth in custody: in California, Montana, Oregon and Wisconsin, a youth can be in the custody of the state juvenile justice system until age 25.

This monograph is focused on all youth under the age of 18. However, we acknowledge that the way the corrections system works, a youth who begins with corrections at 16 or 17 can remain under custody into their twenties: many of the issues and challenges systems face in serving these youth continue past their 18th birthday.

2) Youth transferred to the adult corrections system recidivate at a higher rate than those kept in the juvenile justice system.

The weight of the research reviewing the public safety impact of sending youth to the adult corrections system has found that youth tried as adults are more likely to reoffend, even when controlling for offense background and other characteristics, than comparable youth retained in the juvenile system. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Task Force on Community Preventive Services6 conducted a systematic review on the transfer of youth to the adult system. The Task Force found: Transferring juveniles to the adult justice system is counterproductive as a strategy for deterring subsequent violence: Youth who are transferred from the juvenile court system to the adult criminal system are approximately 34% more likely than youth retained in the juvenile court system to be re-arrested for a violent or other crimes. Insufficient evidence that transferring youth to the adult criminal system prevents youth crime: The Task Force found insufficient evidence to justify assertions that trying youth as adults acts as a deterrent to prevent youth from committing crime in the first place.

In June 2010, the Department of Justice’s OJJDP released a monograph, “Juvenile Transfer Laws: An Effective Deterrent to Delinquency?7“The research bulletin compiled by Professor Richard Redding found that, laws that make it easier to transfer youth to the adult court system have little or no general deterrent effect on youth, meaning they do not prevent youth from engaging in criminal behavior. The report also found that youth transferred to the adult system are more likely to be rearrested and to reoffend than youth who committed similar crimes, but were retained in the juvenile justice system.

3) Little is known about young’s people prior offense backgrounds, the court processes and decisions that impact them, and how corrections systems manage youth.

“There are no systems dedicated to collecting data on transfer today.”—Howard Snyder Bureau of Justice Statistics.8

The 51 states and jurisdictions and the federal government each have the authority to run their respective public safety systems, which usually includes a partnership between state, county and city courts and corrections. This reality means that our ability to have national understanding of what is happening to youth when they are transferred to the adult system is frustrated by the diverse ways juvenile and adult corrections operate.

While the public safety system is collecting and analyzing more data than ever before, there are significant gaps in how data and information are processed that obscure the national picture around juvenile transfer. As one national expert recently noted, “the whole pathway is missing”9 in terms of having national data sets that would allow one to know, how and why youth end going to the adult system, and what happens to youth and the systems that serve them, downstream.

Information compiled by national agencies like the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, the National Center on Juvenile justice (OJJDP), the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) and information compiled by state and local entities do sketch out the basics of how youth end up in the adult corrections system. However, the national picture one can document from national data has been described as fragmented and incomplete, with little ability to know exactly how pretrial, post-conviction and supervision systems are managing this population.

Among the biggest gaps in information why youth end up in the adult system, there is very little information that explains the “how’s and why’s “behind decisions to transfer youth to the adult system. Currently, only 13 states publicly report the total number of their transfers, and even fewer report offense profiles, demographic characteristics, or details regarding processing and sentencing.10

Critical information that currently is not collected or analyzed on juveniles who are transferred to the adult system on national basis includes:

How a youth’s case is resolved?: From the decision to prosecute the case in the adult system, to what charges youth are ultimately convicted of, and what their sentence is, little information on the court process are available. How many youth who start in the adult system return to the juvenile system?: There is no information on how many youth end up back in the juvenile system through blended sentencing, or if their charges are dropped, and recharged as a juvenile. When youth are transferred, what kind of services do they receive?: While we do know youth are required to receive certain kinds of educational services wherever they are incarcerated, there is no information on the kinds of services, interventions and programming youth may be receiving while in custody, or when they return to the community. How many youth are on adult probation and parole?: We do not know how many youth are on adult or juvenile probation and parole as result of an adult conviction, the nature of that supervision, and what kinds of services or interventions they might be receiving.

4) On any given day, there are 10,000 youth in adult prisons and adult jails. Most of these youth in adult custody were convicted of robbery and assault, and most and the vast majority will return to the community before age 21.

Data from the BJS that looks at the age of youth in adult prisons and jails has shown that, in 2009, there were 2,778 youth are in adult prisons, and approximately 7,220 in adult jails.11

Most youth who end up in the adult system were convicted of robbery or aggravated assault: these may be serious crimes, but these offenses generally do not carry the longest prison terms. A monograph reviewing the research on youth in the adult system for OJJDP, of those youth who end up in the custody of the adult system, 80 percent will be released from prison before their 21st birthday, and 95 percent will be released before their 25th birthday.12 However, there are also 2,589 people serving Life-Without Parole for a crime they were convicted of when they were a juvenile.13

5) Youth of color have been disproportionately represented among those youth transferred to the adult corrections system

As is the case in the juvenile justice system, youth of color are disproportionately impacted by the changes in statute that allow for their transfer to the adult system. African American youth make up 30% of those arrested while they only represent 17% of the overall youth population. At the other end of the system, African-American youth are 62% of the youth prosecuted in the adult criminal system and are nine times more likely than white youth to receive an adult prison sentence.14 While information is harder to obtain on the Hispanic population due to the challenges in compiling criminal justice data on this population, Hispanic youth have been found to be 43% more likely than white youth to be waived to the adult system and 40% more likely to be admitted to adult prison.15 Compared to white youth, Native American youth are 1.5 times more likely to receive out-of-home placement and are 1.5 times more likely to be waived to the adult criminal system. Nationwide, the average rate of new commitments to adult state prison for Native youth is 1.84 times that of white youth.16

6) Many youth end up in the adult system as a result of plea agreements, and are convicted of offenses in the adult court with reduced sentences.

While every state is different, research done on how juvenile transfer laws work in a number of states have found that most youth who face an adult charge are not convicted of that charge. Instead, the court process that sees a youth charged with an adult offense – an act that can move their case to the adult system – will also see these youth plead to a lesser included offense that carries a different penalty. In some cases and places, a judge may have an opportunity to return the case to the juvenile justice system for sentencing, but the youth may still be detained in pretrial as they await their disposition. One expert convened by NIC reported, as many as 75 percent of those transferred to adult court as a result of a charge are eventually convicted of a lesser offense.17 Plea agreements may result in a prison term, probation, or depending on the rules in a given state, transfer back to the juvenile justice system.


1Second Chances: Juvenile Court Centennial Initiative (1999). Chicago, Illinois: the Children and Family Justice Center.
2 Patrick Griffin, National Center for Juvenile Justice, National Institute of Corrections Convening, June 18th, 2010.
3Patrick Griffin, National Center for Juvenile Justice, National Institute of Corrections Convening, June 18th, 2010.
4 Griffin, Patrick. 2008. “National Overviews.” State Juvenile Justice Profiles. Pittsburgh, PA: National Center for Juvenile Justice. Online. Available:
5Less Guilty by Reason of Adolescence. Issue Brief 3. (2007). Philadelphia, Pittsburgh: MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Adolescent Development and Juvenile Justice.
6 Center for Disease Control and Prevention (2007). Effects on Violence of Laws and Policies Facilitating the Transfer of Youth from the Juvenile to the Adult Justice System. A Report on Recommendations of the Task Force on Community Preventive Services. MMWR 2007; 56 (No. RR-9)
7 Redding, Richard E. Juvenile Transfer Laws: An Effective Deterrent to Delinquency. (2010). Washington, D.C. : U.S. Justice Department, Office of Justice Programs, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.
8Howard Snyder, National Institute of Corrections Convening, June 18th, 2010.
9Neelum Arya, National Institute of Corrections Convening, June 18th, 2010.
10Griffin, Patrick, et. al. Trying Juveniles as Adults: An Analysis of State Transfer Laws and Reporting (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention) (Sept. 2011).
11 Heather C. West et al., Bureau of Justice Statistics, Prison Inmates at Midyear 2009- Statistical Tables (June, 2010)].Todd D. Minton, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Jail Inmates at Midyear 2009 – Statistical Tables (June, 2010).
12 Richard E. Redding, Juvenile transfer laws: An effective deterrent to delinquency? (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention) (Aug. 2008).
14 Arya, N. & Augarten, I. Critical Condition: African-American Youth in the Justice System. (2008, September) Washington, DC: Campaign for Youth Justice.
15 Arya, N., Villarruel, F., Villanueva, C., & Augarten, I. America’s Invisible Children: Latino Youth and the Failure of Justice. (2009, May) Washington, DC: Campaign for Youth Justice.
16 Arya, N., & Rolnick, A. A Tangled Web of Justice: American Indian and Alaska Native Youth in Federal, State, and Tribal Justice Systems. (2008, May) Washington, DC: Campaign for Youth Justice.
17 Howard Snyder, Bureau of Justice Statistics, National Institute of Corrections Convening, June 18th, 2010. convening.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Juvenile Injustice: Abolish juvenile transfer laws.

Excellent editorial by a Tucson Attorney, as posted in the Nogales International. The process by which this happens across the country is complicated and fragmented, making it difficult to track the impact of such laws on crime, populations and communities. Nevertheless, the US Department of Justice has concluded that transferring juveniles to the adult criminal justice system has had no positive effect on reducing juvenile crime. In fact, recidivism tends to be worse when kids are placed in the adult criminal justice system. Arguably, we harm more people than we protect this way.


Juvenile transfer law should be repealed

By Veneranda Aguirre | Guest Editorial
Nogales International
Posted: Friday, February 3, 2012 8:44 am 
In election years, candidates want to look tough on crime. In 1997, as a Nogales High School senior, I wrote an opinion article for this paper about Arizona's attempt to pass a law permitting prosecutors to charge minors as adults for committing serious crimes. Laws like this are generally known as juvenile transfer laws.

In interviewing several officials in the juvenile justice system, I learned that the state had been providing vital services to criminal youths to assist them in reentering society, such as education, career guidance, and family therapy, which the adult system did not. I predicted that the law, if passed, would harm juvenile offenders and fail its intended effect.

After my article ran, then NHS principal Marcelino Varona pulled me out of class to lecture me on the need to be tough on crime and how wrong my op-ed was. Later that year, Arizona and 21 other states enacted similar laws. Currently, 45 states have juvenile transfer laws.

The intent behind these laws is to deter juveniles from offending and incarcerated juveniles from re-offending. But as an article in the Jan. 29 Arizona Daily Star ("Serious youth offenders faring poorly when put in adult system") points out, Arizona has failed to stem the tide of crime by prosecuting minors as adults.

Juvenile transfer laws have little impact on juveniles' initial decisions to break the law. Why? Most juveniles are unaware of these laws, or they wrongly believe that they will not be prosecuted as adults. Furthermore, juveniles are not deterred from committing serious crimes even when they know severity of a potential sentence.

As for those minors already in the adult system, six large-scale studies have found that these individuals are more likely to commit crimes than those tried in juvenile court. One study found that transferred juveniles in New York had a 100 percent re-arrest rate compared to 47 percent of juveniles treated as such in New Jersey. Researchers also found that juveniles put into "deep-end juvenile programs" received the most benefit largely because these programs provided inten sive, long-term job skills training and treatment and longer sentences, which gave them more time to consider their futures and the consequences of reoffending. Conversely, juveniles who were dumped into the adult system reported intent not to reoffend because the experience had been so horrible. Even then, 61 percent of those surveyed said that their prison sentences had no impact on whether they would reoffend. Some juveniles even admitted to learning more about criminal enterprise while in adult prison.

As one former inmate told the Star, "Prison is not a college to go to.... You learn the worst lessons there. It's a mean, vile place. When you're in the milieu of meanness, how else are you going to come out? There are no good values being taught in prison."

While proponents of the law point out that these transferred juveniles have been given many chances in the juvenile system before being transferred to the adult system, that fact only shows that Arizona is failing its youth and sealing their doom by not providing the necessary guidance and support systems juveniles need to become useful members of society. Instead, under the current law, we are merely churning out more criminals and more violent criminals.

The Arizona juvenile transfer law is broken. Being "tough on crime" does not prevent crime. It just makes it tougher to stop the cycle of criminal behavior. Repealing this law and investing in prevention, education, guidance and support are the only means of breaking this vicious cycle.

(Aguirre is a Nogales native and University of Arizona graduate who currently works as an attorney in Tucson.)

Thursday, February 2, 2012

The State of America's Children 2011: Children's Defense Fund.

The Children's Defense Fund "State of America's Children, 2011" report is below, 
with a section on Juvenile Justice.

----------from the Children's Defense Fund-----

July 18, 2011
For More Information Contact:
Patti Hassler
Vice President of Communications and Outreach
202-662-3554 office

The State of America’s Children® 2011 Finds Children in Jeopardy

Washington, D.C. (July 18, 2011) – America’s children have fallen further behind in the last year in a range of leading indicators according to The State of America’s Children 2011, a new report from the Children’s Defense Fund. With unemployment, housing foreclosures, and hunger at historically high levels, children’s well-being is in jeopardy. In the United States one in five children is poor and children are our poorest age group. In 2009, millions of children fell into poverty due to the economic downturn, an increase of almost 10 percent, the largest single year rise since 1960. Today, 15.5 million children are adrift in a sea of poverty and every 32 seconds another child is born poor. Two-thirds of poor children live in families in which at least one family member works. The gap between rich and poor families has continued to grow. Income gains for the bottom 90 percent were completely wiped out by the recession, leaving the average income for the bottom 90 percent at its lowest level in more than a decade.

This report also shows continuing and increasing inequality in our country. Particularly striking is the fact that children of color, who are now 44 percent of America’s children, will be the majority of children in 2019 – just eight years from now. In nine states and the District of Columbia, this is already the case. Millions of poor children of color are at increased risk of dying before their first birthday, living in poverty and extreme poverty, being uninsured and in poor health, lagging behind in early childhood development, lacking a quality education, dropping out of school and being excluded by zero tolerance school discipline policies, being stuck in foster care without permanent families, ending up in the juvenile and criminal justice systems, being caught in the high school and college completion gap, being unemployed or being killed by guns. A Cradle to Prison Pipeline haunts them from birth to adulthood.

“Black children are facing one of the worst crises since slavery, and in many areas, Hispanic and American Indian children are not far behind. The alarm bells should be ringing across our country. If we compare just Black child well-being to child well-being in other nations, 70 nations have a lower infant mortality rate including Thailand, Costa Rica, Lebanon and Serbia, ” said Marian Wright Edelman, president of the Children’s Defense Fund. “This report should be a wake-up call to our political leaders and every citizen. We need to get our priorities straight. We must not cut funding for programs benefiting children including education and other survival investments for poor children while protecting massive federal subsidies for corporations and individuals?”

The best hope children have of lifting themselves out of poverty is a quality education with a good job at the end of the line. The State of America’s Children 2011 details how our schools are failing our children. American education, once the envy of the world, is in dire straits. More than 60 percent of fourth, eighth and 12th grade public school students are reading or doing math below grade level. For Black and Hispanic students in these grades, it is nearly 80 percent or more. Our children are losing rather than gaining ground.

The State of America’s Children 2011 is a comprehensive annual report produced by the Children’s Defense Fund using the latest data available. The report includes a foreword by Marian Wright Edelman, “Moments in America”—a snapshot of children each day in America, and 11 chapters on the well-being of children in America.

# # #

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Charged as an adult: Forrest Day, 19. Suicide.

UPDATED 2/2/2012:  

The answers to those of my questions below which can be derived from criminal and court records are in this new article by the Arizona Republic. I'm choosing not to re-print it here because the article positions Forrest's behavior problems in a way that seems to justify her being sent to prison in the first she was just a "bad girl". I don't accept that premise. She acted out the way children do when troubled...and troubled children, in my book, do not belong in adult prison.

So, if you plan to contact either the judge or prosecutor in this case, do check out the AZ Republic article linked to above to see just the surface of what they were looking at, through the eyes of the criminal justice system. Before you make up your mind what to write, though, read the note below from this friend of Forrest's family as well...


  Forrest Day, at 16.

UPDATED 9/31/12: 

At the age of 16, despite being too young to be trusted to drink, drive, smoke, vote, or even get away with skipping school, Forrest Day was prosecuted as an adult for the death of her 8 month old baby. As recounted in the article below, she put her son in the bathtub then got distracted elsewhere in the house by writing poetry - behavior characteristic of a child. It's not even as if she went out partying and left him home alone, beat or shook him, or even filled up the tub.

It doesn't appear that Forrest was even accused of intending to hurt her child. You don't have to will a person harm in order to be charged with negligent homicide, of course, though I suspect they hit her so hard to begin with in order to coerce her into a plea deal on the felony child abuse charge - which I also think was a stretch in this circumstance. 

This case may not be entirely a matter of Andrew Thomas' office overreaching again, though. It looks like the state law requires prosecutors to file charges in adult court when certain felonies and violent crimes are involved - when that happens, though, it appears as if that court then has discretion over where the case is heard.

In any event, Forrest's prosecutor was Suzanne E. Cohen. Her office with the Maricopa County Attorney is at: 301 W. Jefferson St., Phoenix, AZ 85003. She's just applied to be nominated as a judge, so this would be a good time to write to her about her take on charging children like Forrest as adults (according to the DOJ's research, it doesn't reduce juvenile crime). Cohen just helped prosecute the Baseline Killer and got a few death sentences, so there's a good chance she could end up on the Superior Court bench in the next couple of years. 

Forrest was sentenced to probation, and then to prison, by Michael Kemp, a judge from Juvenile Court. I can't tell from the records who actually made the decision to let the state prosecute her as an adult, though. If you have questions about why he did what he did and what he thinks about charging children like her as adults - kids with no criminal record or intent - direct them to him. He can be reached at:
Northwest Regional Center (NW)
14264 W. Tierra Buena Lane
Surprise, AZ. 85374
(602) 372-9400

Within less than 6 months of being charged, facing decades in prison if convicted on both counts, Forrest pled guilty to class 3 felony child abuse. Here's the news article on her plea. In return, the state dropped the homicide charges and she was sentenced to 7 years of probation; upon entering her plea she was sent home with her parents and essentially ordered, ironically, to resume the life of a "normal" teenager. 

For those of you who have never been on probation or parole, it's not as easy as you may think to abide by. Forrest violated hers within a year, just before her 18th birthday. I don't know what she did to get into trouble with the court - she apparently wasn't charged with a new crime. She did get pregnant again, though, and wanted to keep her unborn daughter - forbidden by the judge. She was only allowed to see her at the hospital once she was born.

Forrest was committed to the custody of the AZ Department of Corrections on November 10, 2010, soon after having her second child. For breaking her probation, Kemp gave her 3 1/2 years in state prison on the original child abuse conviction. For neglecting her child at the age of 16, the rest of us condemned her to live - and die - with the guilt and stigma of killing her son as if she had intended to. We just can't seem to dole out enough punishment in Arizona to satisfy the electorate here, and it looks like we're letting the legislature get away with refusing to address sentencing reform again this session, so we do share some responsibility here...

Sadly, Forrest committed suicide on January 27, 2012 at Perryville Prison on the maximum security yard, Lumley. She was only 19 years old. Hers was one of three prison suicides last week, in fact; she was the youngest. Our condolences go out to Forrest's parents and other loved ones. I can't think of anything more devastating than surviving the loss of one's child.

This weekend a friend of Forrest's family left a comment at the bottom of another post, speaking to the beautiful soul she knew her to be, that is better placed here: 

-------------from Arizona Prison Watch--------------

Tina Schwindt has left a new comment on your post "Criminal Damage and Deaths in Custody: Letter to t...":

"I am a close personal friend of the Day family and I want to thank you for trying to bring this tragedy to the people's attention. Forrest wasn't a bad person, she had a lapse in judgement, just like millions of other 16 year old kids do every day. She was funny, kind, loving, artistic and so much more. I believe that the state wanted to use her as an example to other young mothers and it backfired horribly. This young girl never should have been put behind bars in an adult prison with the women who actually committed murder freely and willingly. She did not take her babies life intentionally, it was just a horrible accident. 
Accidents happen every day to a multitude of people, for instance the mother whose 2 year old baby got out of the house 4 years ago and tumble onto Thomas road and was hit and killed by a car. The mother had several children and didn't notice the baby gone until it was too late, but she never got charged for any crime. 
I want people everywhere to know that Forrest was an amazing young woman who wanted to go to culinary school to make her life better, but she will never get that opportunity now. I also wanted to say that Forrest gave birth to a beautiful baby girl right before she was incarcerated and the baby is the spitting image of her mommy. The family has custody of the baby, and I can only imagine that they feel very blessed by this wonder born from tragedy. Thank you so much for letting me speak my mind. You are doing a wonderful thing here!"

----------from the Arizona Republic archives (2009)--------

Police: Teen mom was writing poem when baby drowned

A 16-year-old Avondale girl facing felony child abuse and negligent homicide charges was distracted by writing poetry while her 8-month-old son drowned in the bathtub, according to a police report.

Forrest Day, pleaded not guilty at her arraignment Wednesday, following her indictment on April 23. Day will be tried as an adult and is due back in court June 18.


Day's son, Elijah James Day, drowned about 3:30 p.m. Feb. 21 after she set him down in the bathtub, turned the water on with the drain unplugged and left the room, according to the Avondale police report.

Day told investigators she was looking for a towel but got sidetracked with poems she was writing, the report states. After checking on Elijah after about five minutes, she said she went into her bedroom, saw her poetry book and started reading some old poems. She said she was gone for about 20 minutes this time.

Day said she went from her room to the living room, to her sister's room, and then outside on the back porch trying to find a quiet place to write. She eventually went into her parents' bedroom and closed the door behind her, according to police documents.

Day's 9-year-old brother and his friend were playing video games in the living room when the friend heard the water running in the bathroom and told her brother. Her brother went to the bathroom and found Elijah floating face down in the water.

He pulled him out of the water and yelled for his sister, the report says. Day tried CPR but when it didn't work, she took him across the street to a neighbor's house. The neighbor called police and administered CPR until police arrived.

Elijah was unresponsive to attempts to revive him, according to the report. He was airlifted to St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix, where he was pronounced dead at 4:36 p.m.

Day was "hysterical and crying," the report states. She told police she gave Elijah a bath almost daily but this was the first time she left him alone in the bathtub.

She faces one count of Class 2 felony child abuse, a dangerous crime against children; and one count of negligent homicide, a Class 4 felony.