Highlights from the week’s juvenile justice and justice related articles, videos and more that are worth your time.
Report: Provide Treatment, Not More Juvenile Prisons
A recent report from the Maryland Juvenile Justice Monitoring Unit forthrightly opposes building three new juvenile prisons for the state at $225 million. The proposed alternative? Invest that money in community-based programs, which studies show lead to lower recidivism rates. But they are not without opposition: the DJS still claims there is a dire need for 135 more beds in lockdown facilities for serious male offenders.
Before the Law
This great piece in the New Yorker details Kalief Browder’s stay at Riker’s without a trial—which totaled over three years. After being accused of stealing a backpack, Kalief thought thought he would be released to his parents and the case would be dropped. But after being sent through the Bronx County Criminal Court, he found himself on Rikers Island, enduring the brutal environment that defines the island and spending months in solitary confinement.
A First-Hand Look at Juvenile Justice Reform
Though there is still a daunting amount of work to be done before the JJ system serves all youth with justice, we really have come a long way since the mid 90’s, and even mid 00’s. In 2005 New Beginnings replaced D.C.’s outdated Oak Hill juvenile detention facility. Since then, not only is the building more conducive to treating youth, but the practices are too. Youth are referred to as ‘scholars’ by staff and officers, they can receive counseling and vocational training, or even participate in a fatherhood discussion group that prepares boys to step up into their parental roles upon release.
California Becomes First in the nation to Limit Suspensions for Willful Defiance
With AB 420 now written into law, California public schools will no longer be able to suspend or expel kindergarten through third-grade students for so-called “willful defiance”. And, according to the ACLU, “willful defiance” is the categorization of offense with the highest racial disparities. Here’s to hoping that AB 420 making a sizeable and exemplary dent in battling the school-to-prison pipeline.
For Profit Prison Bankers Prey On Inmates’ Families With Exorbitant Fees
Sending money to loved ones in prison used to cost nothing but the price of a money order and postage stamp. Now, companies like JPay act as a mandatory middleman between families and prisons that don’t want to wait weeks for traditional money orders to be processed. JPay is immediate, but $6.95 per transaction becomes swiftly exorbitant. And with 40% of prisons now using JPay or similar competitors, both the “bankers” and the prisons are now flush with considerable commissions. This accelerates the already active transfer of imprisonment costs from taxpayers to prisoners’ families. “They’re punishing the families, not the inmates.”
D.C. Adds a Social Worker to Library System to Work With Homeless Patrons
Jean Badalamenti is D.C. Public Library’s health and human services coordinator, a position so new that it’s only the second in the nation after San Francisco. “The library’s a great place to spend the day for anybody. You get access to computers, you can look for jobs, you can connect with your family and friends on Facebook and e-mail…and do lots of creative things.” Being part of a citywide and national discussion on homelessness is innate for such a gathering place.