Youth Assessment & Screening Instrument (YASI)

Youth Assessment & Screening Instrument (YASI)

by Kim Howes, Assistant Juvenile Defender

The Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) is implementing a new screening tool (YASI) to replace the current risk and needs assessment. The stated purpose of this new assessment is to better measure the risk of recidivism and to help develop an appropriate case plan to best suit the needs of the youth who is placed on probation. You can access the presentation from DJJ here.

The assessment addresses nine domains: basic needs, physical health, school, family, aggression, peers, attitudes, free time, and adaptive skills. There is both a pre-screen assessment and a full assessment. The Department of Juvenile Justice provided an overview of the assessment in November and as a result we want to provide you with some of our concerns as well as provide you with issues you may need to be aware of to assist you with advocating for your client at disposition.

Most importantly, this assessment is designed to take place at intake or prior to adjudication. While statute §7B-2413 specifically provides that the risk and needs assessment shall not be submitted or considered by the court prior to disposition, we know that in some jurisdictions this isn’t the case and information is shared prior to adjudication. This is especially an area of concern given the new assessment. As an important reminder – §7B-2408 explicitly prohibits any statement made by the youth to a juvenile court counselor during intake to be admissible to the court prior to the dispositional hearing.

Issues to be aware of:

  • The child accumulates points for not only prior adjudications, but also referrals and petitions filed for probation violations, regardless of whether or not the violation was adjudicated.
  • Several sections (basic needs, free time, community involvement, school) have the potential to create disparity based on poverty and DSS involvement, not necessarily factors that are in our client’s control.
  • There are broad stroke assumptions about who may or may not be a positive influence and who may or may not be a gang member.
  • The sections addressing attitudes and aggression are areas of significant concern. These sections assume the youth is responsible and if the youth doesn’t admit there are points assessed for impact of behavior and willingness to make amends. There are several additional questions that address sex offenses that could possibly lead to additional petitions.

 These concerns are difficult to address because the majority of these assessments will be conducted prior to assignment of counsel. As a result, depending on your jurisdiction, you may need to proactively ensure that any information received is not provided to the ADA prior to adjudication, and if it is, consider objecting to the court and, if necessary, making a motion to suppress statements made to the court counselor. We have a sample motion here.

We hope by making you aware of this new assessment and its potential issues you will be better able to protect your client’s rights and help the court understand your client in a way that will help the court better address your client’s individual needs at disposition. Please reach out to OJD to let us know of any concerns you see as this is implemented.

You can access and review the pre-screen assessment here, and full assessment here.


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Your 2020 Year in Review

We have reached the Year in Review portion of our weekly reviews! How did we get here so fast?! While this year has been the most challenging, between Zoom & WebEx, crashing technology and “Can you hear me?” ten times a day, everyone has worked so hard to keep our support of #JuvenileJustice strong. So true to tradition we have put together a culmination of what OJD has done throughout the year and it feels like so much :D.

With the tremulous year of 2020 ending, The Office of the Juvenile Defender (OJD) would like to recap how the year unfolded through it all. We’ll review how OJD hired a new Assistant Juvenile Defender, hosted new trainings, managed the first year of Raise the Age (RTA), and produced several materials as required for the second year of the federal OJJDP grant. OJD has worked throughout the year to keep our defenders informed and supported, while working on new ways to serve the state, such as our Regionalization plan.

Activities and Initiatives Since COVID-19 

Since the beginning of the pandemic, OJD has held weekly check-ins to speak about current projects, ways to engage in the community without physical contact, and how to support defenders in the best way through the various projects listed in this report. OJD has been reaching out to defenders in the field, offering support and resources and gathering information to relay to the defender community.  Additionally, we have communicated with other court actors, especially juvenile justice administration, to stay updated with ongoing changes in policies and procedures. We began work on additional pocket guides like the RTA guide released in December. Each guide will highlight a specific area of juvenile delinquency law and provide defender strategies, such as secure custody and adjudication. We also began developing remote training capabilities and plan to pilot trainings during the court closure. Each one of these activities and initiatives will be discussed further below along with updates from the initiatives from 2019.

Raise the Age

              While RTA implementation has been slowed by the impact of COVID on the courts, OJD has been steadily reacting to the impact of the new law: 

  • General consulting on trial and appellate issues 
  • Focusing on specific issues, including indictment procedure and the intersection of bonds with youth in detention 
  • Challenging the “automatic” transfer provisions through motions practice 
  • Working with IDS General Counsel on the development of a comprehensive chart on the appointment/payment/recoupment of attorneys representing transferred juveniles 
  • Participation on the Juvenile Jurisdiction Advisory Committee, with a focus on discussing ongoing conforming changes to the law, as well as the minimum age of juvenile jurisdiction in NC (it is currently 6, the lowest stated age in the U.S.) 

Take a break, settle in and get comfy, and read our 2020 Year in Review here.

Week in Review: Dec 7-11

Hello from another Friday Readers! We’re inching closer and closer to a new year and even closer to cold weather. Hope you’re staying warm and cozy while you keep up the amazing work of juvenile defense or advocating for juvenile rights. And next week, we’ll be recapping what a year 2020 has been within OJD and the NC Court System. See you then!

Raise the Age Tip of The Week

How Do I Know the State Will be Seeking the Gang Enhancement Against My Juvenile?

Under current law, there is no process for notice to the juvenile and the juvenile’s attorney that the state is seeking the gang enhancement.  As the juvenile’s attorney, you should consider the following:

  • Get a copy of the gang assessment from DJJ prior to adjudication
  • Argue that the notice of gang enhancement be presented pre-adjudication
  • Develop a theory of defense against client’s involvement in gang activity
  • Prepare for a hearing on the issue
  • Request a hearing, similar to an adjudicatory hearing
  • Request the court make findings on the record and appeal where  appropriate

ncIMPACTFaceBook Live Event

LaToya Blackmon Powell will be participating in a live panel discussion about School Justice Partnerships, hosted by Anita Brown-Graham, Professor of Public Law and Government and Director of the ncIMPACT initiative at the School of Government. The discussion will be filmed by UNC-TV as a Facebook Live event from 12-1 PM this coming Monday, December 14.

We hope you are able to attend and participate in the virtual discussion and/or share the information with others who may be interested. This is a great opportunity to ask questions and engage in an interactive conversation.

Juvenile Defense Policy and Practice Resource Guide

The National Juvenile Defender Center (NJDC) is pleased to announce the release of their updated Juvenile Defense Policy and Practice Career Resource Guide.  Every year, NJDC updates this guide to provide students and others with valuable resources to jumpstart a career in juvenile defense. NDJC has created this electronic guide to raise the profile of juvenile defense as a career.  It is intended for law students interested in pursuing juvenile defense as a career and includes information on coursework and externships that will help strengthen a candidate’s application in the juvenile defense field; resources to guide in the search for juvenile defense jobs, fellowships, and funding opportunities; and a list of offices around the country that provide employment and internship opportunities specific to juvenile defense. Please feel free to use it as a resource and share with others who may be interested!

Now Seeking 2021 “From a Lawyer’s View”  Guest Bloggers

LaTobia is looking for guest bloggers to contribute to our new series, “From a Lawyer’s View”. Defenders and those in juvenile justice are welcome to write in on topics of their expertise: secure custody, mental health in juveniles, etc! We want to hear from you! We’ll take your tips and blog posts! Reach out to LaTobia here for more information.

Week in Review: Sept 28-Oct 2

New month, same Week in Review. Happy Friday readers! We have a brand new tip for you today, an important Fee App memo and then it’s off to the races! Enjoy!

Important Fee App Information

There has been an increase in fee apps that have had errors in filing and causing delay in payment. We have gathered some information and created a memo to both Public Defenders and PAC to ensure accurate and timely filing for your fee apps, including which forms to file per your title and what to double check. Please see this memo for further instructions and feel free to download and print for your reference.

Tip of the Week

Venue – by Assistant Juvenile Defender, Terri Johnson

7B-1800 provides that adjudication shall take place in the county where the offense was alleged to have occurred.  If the juvenile is in residential treatment or foster care in that district, disposition shall occur there as well unless the court finds that transfer would “serve the ends of justice or is in the best interests of the juvenile.” 

Subsection (b) provides that the court may transfer disposition to the juvenile’s county of residence.  If the Court does not transfer disposition, it must notify the chief district court judge in the district where the juvenile resides and shall transfer the matter if the chief district court judge requests it.  If the court does not exercise its discretion to transfer a matter to the juvenile’s county of residence under 7B-1800(b)(1) or (b)(2), the court shall advise the juvenile of his/her right to transfer under 7B-1803(b)(3)If the juvenile requests transfer to his/her county of residence, the court shall transfer the matter to district where the juvenile resides for disposition.

Defenders should be aware of 7B-1800 and utilize venue where appropriate for both adjudication and disposition.  Utilize motions to dismiss for improper venue prior to or during adjudication hearings.  Additionally, the statute may be utilized for disposition to benefit a juvenile.  Remember different counties may have different policies and transfer or retention of disposition should be considered by counsel carefully.

Counsel with cases where venue may be an issue may contact OJD for assistance connecting with attorneys in other counties to collaborate on those matters.

SAVE THE DATE!

Our October CLE will be October 29, 2020 from 2:30-3:30. The topic is Probation Violations & Post Supervision and will be presented by Mary Stansell, Juvenile Chief, Wake County Public Defender Office. Be on the look out for your official registration link. As always, this CLE will be free to the first 35 registrants. CLE is currently pending. Hope to see you there!

And lastly…

THANK YOU TO EVERYONE WHO ATTENDED OUR SEPTEMBER CLE “DEFENDING CHILDREN FROM ICE”!

We hope to see you face to face soon with trainings and CLEs and appreciate your constant support and registration every month!

From a Lawyer’s View: Resolution of complaints against Guilford and Vance County school systems

Resolution of complaints against Guilford and Vance County school systems means better services for incarcerated students with disabilities

By Tessa Hale, Staff Attorney at Legal Aid of North Carolina’s statewide education justice project, Advocates for Children’s Services.

The first time I visited my client at Vance County Jail, an adult facility, I asked him what he did to fill his time.  He told me that he did push-ups.  He was just 17 years old at that time.  As his education attorney, I knew that as a student who had long ago been identified as needing special education, he was entitled to an education provided by the local school district.  His mother had alerted us to the fact that as he sat in jail, he had not been receiving any educational services whatsoever.  At that time, this client’s case was one of three in our office in which the client had received no educational services while incarcerated in adult jail.  The other two had been incarcerated in Guilford County.  Our education team at Legal Aid decided to file two systemic state complaints on May 29, 2020 with the Department of Public Instruction.

We are proud to announce that the systemic state complaints Legal Aid of North Carolina filed against Guilford County Schools and Vance County Schools have recently been resolved.  The Guilford County Schools complaint was resolved via confidential agreement. The Vance County complaint was resolved following an investigation by the N.C. Department of Public Instruction. More information, including links to documents, follows. 

Guilford County

Legal Aid was pleased with the opportunity to work with Guilford County Schools (GCS) to advance policies and procedures, some of which were already underway by the district, that will enable GCS to improve services for incarcerated students with disabilities by:

  • Reviewing and revising current procedures to require that all GCS students with disabilities incarcerated in any Guilford County jail receive appropriate special educational services;
  • Designating an employee to be responsible for ensuring legally compliant special educational services for students incarcerated in local jails for more than ten school days as well as continuity of educational services when the students exit from local jails;
  • Training special education staff regarding appropriate special educational services for incarcerated students; and
  • Conducting an internal audit for the 2019-2020 school year to determine whether special education services and related safeguards were properly afforded to GCS students with disabilities who were incarcerated in local jails for more than 10 school days and had an Individualized Education Program (IEP) during incarceration.

Learn more

Vance County

The N.C. Department of Public Instruction’s investigation into our complaint uncovered widespread violations of the rights of incarcerated students with disabilities in Vance County Schools (VCS). The department has mandated VCS to follow a corrective action plan, which includes:

  • Various trainings for staff, not only regarding incarcerated students but also concerning other general procedural requirements for students with disabilities;
  • Development of procedures to serve students incarcerated in the local jail;
  • Compensatory education for the named student in the complaint; and
  • Identification of eligible students who were incarcerated with the named complainant and did not receive appropriate services, for the purposes of providing them with compensatory education.

Learn more

The resolution of these complaints comes at a time when the population of youth incarcerated in adult jails has shrunk significantly. As a result of a new state law that went into effect on August 1, 2020, no more minors will be held in adult jail. Still, because the right to special education continues for students who are 18 to 21 and have not yet graduated, the developments in both the GCS and VCS resolutions will help ensure that eligible incarcerated students at all stages receive the special education services they are entitled to. Further, some students who may be identified through audits and who were improperly served before the law was passed will now be entitled to remedies.

Week in Review: Sept 14-18

Readers! Have we been the only ones looking forward to Friday? We can’t be. So let’s get your weekend started with a fresh blog and a couple slices of information pizza (yeah….we’d rather have a large NY Pepperoni too!)

Heads Up!

OJD is working from home and voicemail’s are checked every other day. For the fastest reply and communication, please send us an email. Email’s can be found HERE on our contact page, if you need. THANKS!

TIP OF THE WEEK – Brought to you by Raise the Age

Where Can I Find the Law on RTA?

If you want to see the Session Laws which include the Raise the Age changes, see:

Senate Bill 413: 2019 Session Amendments to the RTA Bill (Juvenile Justice Reinvestment Act)

Senate Bill 257: The final bill budget for Session Law 2017; info pertaining to the Juvenile Justice Reinvestment Act can be found on pages 309-325

You can also check out the NC General Assembly website.  Look under “Bills and Laws,” then “General Statutes.”  You can search by citation or test, or you can look at Chapter 7B under the Table of Contents, and see the most recent changes to statute text on the right side of the statute.

HAVE YOU REGISTERED YET?

Friday September 25, 2020, 2:30-3:30 PM OJD is hosting “Defend Children From ICE.” Presented by Helen Parsonage, Board Certified Immigration Specialist and FREE to the first 35 DEFENDERS who register. Discussing the topic of children and immigration, strategies in your defense and other great information, You DON’T want to miss this training. Register herePLEASE PUT YOUR BAR NUMBER IN THE JOB FIELD BOX.

Symposium: The Roles of Prosecutor and Public Defender in Criminal Justice Reform

October 2, 2020 from 10:00AM-3:00PM (EST). This will be a virtual symposium presented by the North Carolina Commission on Racial and Ethnic Disparities (NC CRED) in collaboration with the National Consortium on Racial and Ethnic Fairness in the Courts. The Keynote Speaker is Jonathan Rapping, Founder and President, Gideon’s Promise, Atlanta and will also feature presentations from prosecutors and defenders from across the country and of course, North Carolina. You can see a list of speakers and topics, by clicking HERE. To register, click HERE. Thank you!

A Bit of Information Pizza…

The School of Government has issued a new bulletin on Indigent Defense practice during COVID-19. The principal author Ian Mance, is the COVID-19 Resource Attorney in the public defense education group at UNC. Here is the link: https://www.sog.unc.edu/publications/bulletins/indigent-defense-attorneys-and-covid-19-faqs-about-practicing-during-pandemic

Click HERE for a link to an earlier bulletin by Ian about possible grounds for securing release of inmates during COVID-19

For additional resources, please see the COVID-19 Tool Kit on the School of Government Public Defense Education website.

As always, thanks for all that you do for our youth, communities and neighbors. Have a safe, socially distanced weekend, enjoy the upcoming Fall and we will see you next week.

Week in Review: Mar 30-Apr 3


Happy Friday Readers & Welcome to a brand new month. We know it may not feel like it, but it goes without saying how we appreciate our essential workers, in both private and public sectors. You are the heroes.

TIP OF THE WEEK!

This week’s tip of the week is highlighting a juvenile delinquency case that defenders need to be aware of when your client wants to testify. In re J.B. was decided in 2018. The State appealed the original Court of Appeals decision, but the N.C. Supreme Court denied a hearing. 

Briefly, the facts showed the juvenile chose to testify on his own behalf and incriminated himself (he admitted that he committed an assault on his teacher). The trial court did not inquire as to whether the juvenile understood his right against self-incrimination before he testified. The trial court asked the juvenile if he understood his rights after he testified, and the Court of Appeals determined that was not sufficient to satisfy the requirements under N.C.G.S. §7B-2405 and the error was not harmless.

So – if your client wants to testify, the court must inform the juvenile of his/her constitutional and statutory right against self-incrimination before s/he testifies!

In re J.B., 820 S.E.2d 369 (2018).

OUR NEW ASSISTANT JUVENILE DEFENDER TERRI JOHNSON!

Terri is a lifelong resident of Iredell County, North Carolina.  She graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Duke University in 2000.   She received her Juris Doctor degree from UNC Chapel Hill School of Law in 2003, and was admitted to the North Carolina Bar in 2003.  Since 2003, she has been in private practice as an associate and partner in small firms and then as a solo practitioner.  Her practice areas included criminal law, family law and juvenile law and has focused on juvenile law as a contract attorney in delinquency court in both Iredell and Alexander counties.  She will continue to represent juveniles in Iredell and Alexander county as she joins the Juvenile Defender’s Office as an assistant defender for the Western District of North Carolina.

She currently resides in Statesville, North Carolina and enjoys spending time with her family, reading and photography.

WELCOME TERRI!

Resources

  • Yesterday, NJDC issued a statement on COVID-19 and the urgent need for the juvenile legal system to act. The statement is available on the Defender App. NJDC also released a new resource: Guidance to Juvenile Courts on Conducting Remote Hearings During the COVID-19 Pandemic. The resource is attached to this email and also available on NJDC’s website here
  • Save the Date! NJDC’s Juvenile Defender Leadership Summit will be in Kansas City, Missouri October 16-18, 2020.
  • NCCAY created a brief survey to share your current challenges and creative solutions with the DPS Juvenile Services Division and, in turn, contact you with what we have learned that may help you in your work. You can take the survey here.
  • JCPC has had to make the difficult decision to cancel our legislative conference this year.  Those that have already paid their registration will receive a refund. Please be sure to cancel your hotel reservations as well. 

HAVE A SAFE WEEKEND!

Week in Review: March 2-6

What a week for OJD! Started off smooth sailing and then 2 days at the UNC School of Government for the Intensive Juvenile Defender Training. But we’ll get to that later, first substance!

Appeals Tip of the Week: Courtesy of David Andrews, Office of the Appellate Defender

If the trial attorney does not file any motion to suppress, (or make an oral motion as allowed by §7B-2408.5(e)), the juvenile cannot raise a suppression issue on appeal. State v. Miller, 2018 N.C. LEXIS 425. If the juvenile made a confession or was subject to a search or seizure, you should strongly consider filing and litigating a suppression motion.

NEW COA OPINIONS!

There has been a new Court of Appeals opinion and we have that available to you on our website under Materials for Defenders > Case Summaries. Remember this page has many different summaries that can help you in your defense. Here’s a link to In The Matter of H.D.H. the most recent update.

2020 Juvenile Justice & Children’s Rights Section Annual Meeting

The NCBA Juvenile Justice & Children’s Rights Section are having their annual meeting and CLE on Thursday, May 4, 2020 at the NC Bar Center in Cary. The topic discuss Raise the Age in different aspects, such as: The Juvenile Court Counselors View, School to Prision Pipeline and will also have a Juvenile Justice Panel. Check-in begins at 8:30 AM and the CLE will end at 12:15. If you are interested, you can reach out to Eric for more information.

UPCOMING TRAINING!

Last but not least! Training Recap: 2020 Intensive Juvenile Defender Training at UNC SOG.

2 full days of learning at the UNC School of Government did not go unappreciated. Defenders learned topics ranging from Adolescent Behavior to Disposition Advocacy. Packed with workshops and discussions on how to advocate for our youth, UNC and OJD did a great job of bringing defenders out and lifting them up in the defense community. Take a look at some photos below.

OJD Week in Review: Mar. 26 – 30

Even though this is a short week, we’ve got some new updates to share that could be useful to the juvenile defense community in the coming months.

From Around the Community

On Mar. 16, Campbell Law School hosted a Raise the Age luncheon featuring Rep. Marcia Morey and a diverse panel of voices from around the juvenile defense community which included Juvenile Defender Eric ZogryGeneral Counsel and Policy Advisor of the Office of the Lt. Governor Steven WalkerNCGA Legislative Analysis Division Staff Attorney Tawanda Foster, and others.  For anyone interested, there is now video available for the 2-hour event.  Check it out below.

The N.C. Bar Association has posted a new blog discussing our state’s new expunction laws.  This article, written by Tarrah Callahan, executive director of Conservatives for Criminal Justice Reform, and Daniel Bowes, staff attorney at Workers’ Rights Project/ Second Chance Initiative, touches on the difficulty of obtaining expunctions in the past and breaks down the recent changes to the law.  You can read their full article here.

Training

Registration is now open for N.C. Bar Association’s annual meeting, this year titled “The Future of Law”.   This event will be hosted at the Wilmington Convention Center from June 21 – 24.  For those who register before May 1, a President’s Luncheon ticket and 6.0 CLE credit hours will be included with the registration price.  Topics covered will include artificial intelligence, virtual reality, design thinking in the law, and the future of legal service delivery.  For further info and to register please check out the NCBA website and the event brochure.

On May 10, the N.C. Bar Association will be hosting “Raise the Age: A New Era for Juvenile Justice in North Carolina” at the N.C. Bar Center in Cary, from 8:25 a.m. to 3 p.m.  This seminar promises to expand attendees’ understanding of the Juvenile Justice Reinvestment Act and its practical and ethical implications.  Attendees will receive 5.5 CLE credits total, with 1.0 CLE credit in Ethics/Professional Responsibility and 4.5 General CLE credits.  For further details about this event, please check the website here.

Disability Rights North Carolina will be hosting its 2018 Disability Advocacy Conference on Apr. 19.  The conference offers 5.0 CLE credits for lawyers, which includes 1.0 credit hour for substance abuse/mental health awareness.  Sessions include parental rights, restrictive interventions in public schools, guardianship reforms, and a session exclusively tailored to attorneys titled “Recognizing and Responding to a Lawyer with a Mental Health Disorder”, just to name a few.  To learn more about this event and register please visit their web page here.

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Job Opportunities

The National Juvenile Defender Center (NJDC) is currently hiring a strategic communications manager.  The individual in this position will be responsible for crafting organizational messaging, overseeing editorial excellence, and working with leadership to implement a communications strategy that is creative, forward-thinking, and reflective of NJDC’s vision.  This position will remain opened until filled.  To find further info about the position and how to apply, please go here.

The National Center for Youth Law (NCYL) is seeking a mid-level policy attorney to handle youth justice issues in Santa Clara County.  Applications will be accepted through Apr. 15.  For further details and to apply please check here.

The UNC School of Government is seeking a tenure-track full-time permanent assistant professor of juvenile justice and criminal law.  The selected candidate for this position will be expected “to write for, advise, plan courses for, and teach” public officials, including judges, magistrates, law enforcement, prosecutors and defenders.  Applications will remain open until the position is filled.  The expected starting date for the new hire will be July 1.  Please find the full details for the position and how to apply here.

The National Juvenile Justice Network (NJJN) is still accepting applications for its 2018-19 Youth Justice Leadership Institute.  This is an annual year-long fellowship program that selects 10 people of color working as professionals in the juvenile justice field to participate in a curriculum to develop their leadership and advocacy skills.  The fellowship can be completed with the fellows’ current employment, so those selected will not have to leave their jobs to participate in the Institute.  The fellowship will include two fully financed retreats, mentoring and frequent distance learning opportunities.  NJJN will host an informational webinar on Apr. 2 that you can register for here.  Applications for the Institute (found here) must be submitted by Apr. 23.

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This wraps up our short week in review and we just want to wish everyone a safe and happy Easter weekend (or vacation week if we don’t catch you next week)!  Be sure to check back on here again soon!

Governor Cooper Acknowledges Raise the Age at the Capitol

Today in the Old House Chamber of the Capitol, Governor Roy Cooper acknowledged the passing of the Raise the Age Bill and signed the Expungement Process Modifications Bill.  In a short but sweet ceremony, the governor thanked several representatives and others who worked to champion both bills and briefly spoke about extending second chances to adults and the importance of improving the juvenile justice system as well.

“North Carolina may be the last [state to raise the age], but we will not be the least,” Gov. Cooper said to the applause of the audience prior to signing the bills.

Please find a full video of the occasion on the N.C. Department of Public Safety’s Facebook page here.