Week In Review: March 23-27

Welcome to Friday! OJD would again like to thank all of our public defenders who are continuing their work while a crisis sweeps through our state. This week we want to focus on some resources and news regarding the youth in secure custody. As stated earlier this week, courts around the country are limiting or altogether restricting visitation to juvenile detention to combat the spread of COVID-19. While at a base level these limitations are important to the safety and physical health of these youth, another issue has come from these sweeping changes: added mental health stress. We want to equip our defenders with as much information as we can to advocate for those currently in YDCs or detention centers.

Secure Custody Tip of the Week:

Use of Audio/Video Transmission for Secure Custody Hearings 

North Carolina law allows for the use of audio and video transmission for secure custody hearings.  Under 7B-1906(h), note specifically that “[I]f the juvenile has counsel, the juvenile may communicate fully and confidentially with the juvenile’s attorney during the proceeding.” 

Currently your court may not have the equipment needed to perform these hearings.  But if your court does have the equipment, here are a few tips to consider: 

  • When possible, collaborate with stakeholders on how to develop rules or protocols that will ensure clients’ rights are considered, especially confidential communications.
  • Having the ability to engage in confidential communications with your client is paramount, so be mindful of the type of technology used to converse with your client.  Also, there should be created a space where others cannot hear your or your client’s discussions.  For example, don’t use a phone without some kind of barrier prevent others from hearing your conversation. 
  • Check out the School of Government’s Professor Jacqui Greene’s recent article on secure custody.  

Courts may be considering other communication platforms as well, such as Facetime, Skype, Zoom or Microsoft Teams.  If any of these are utilized, try to maintain confidentiality as best possible by ensuring other participants are in closed rooms or otherwise out of sight and sound of others. 

Use your best judgement, and always feel free to contact our office with any questions. 

COVID-19 Resources

Throughout the week we have received numerous resources regarding court, secure custody and COVID-19. We wanted to round those up for you here.

FD.ORG COVID-19 Resources: The Defender Services Office and the Administrative Office of the United States Courts have collected information from around the country for defense council varying from appeals, compassionate release, and access to council.

Physicians for Criminal Justice Reform: A letter written by Physicians for Criminal Justice Reform urging governors, juvenile court systems, and state and local juvenile detention and correctional departments to address the health pandemic by swiftly implementing recommendations in juvenile facilities.

Due Process Challenges in a Time of Crisis Webinar: A webinar opportunity that may shed some light on the challenges the legal system is currently experiencing due to the Coronavirus. A little information can go a long way in times like this. 

ADA Letter Regarding COVID-19 & Diabetes: Shared by NACDL,  a letter the American Diabetes Association has created to help educate courts, detention center, and other officials on the unique challenges and risks for individuals with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. It can be used alongside bond/release motions or shared with local law enforcement.

ABA Non-CLE Webinar on NJ’s Rapid Release: On Sunday, March 22, 2020, the Chief Justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court entered an Order providing for the commutation or suspension of many county jail sentences. his webinar will feature many of the key players to discuss the actual terms of the Order, how they came to agreement and how this agreement might serve as a model for decreasing jail populations to limit the spread of COVID-19 in other states.

Resources for Private Council & Small Businesses: Provided by one of our contract attorneys, Donna Terrell, this is a great resource for staying engaged with clients and potential clients while running a private practice.

HAVE SAFE SOCIAL DISTANCING WEEKEND!

Juveniles & COVID-19

As you may know, courts around the country are limiting or altogether restricting visitation to juvenile detention to combat the spread of COVID-19. While at a base level, important to the safety and physical health of these youth, another issue has come from these sweeping changes: added mental health stress.

You can read this article from The Marshall Project. With the limits on visitation, youth are concerned for their loved ones, parents cannot see their child, and the implications of the restriction are taking an emotional toll on all.

For our NC Defenders who has juveniles in secure custody please read below:

We wanted to pass on some information regarding youth in detention. We have spoken with DJJ and here is what they have relayed:

  • all legal visits to the detention centers for juvenile will continue
  • attorneys are asked to call the detention center before they visit
  • attorneys may be screened for COVID-19 (asked a couple questions) to ensure the safety of the youth and staff
  • due to the closure of courts and continuances as a result to Chief Justice Beasley’s Executive Order, DJJ is working to have tele-hearing equipment available by early next week. That equipment is being delivered to the facilities and districts today and may also be available to parents and attorneys to visit electronically with their child/clients in detention in a secure and confidential manner. DJJ said they would let our office know when this option is available.

We understand that some of the detention centers may be filling up, with a reduction in alternatives due to the pandemic.  We encourage you to remind the court of low contact options, such as house arrest or electronic monitoring.  Check out our website for materials and information about Detention Advocacy here, or call our office and we will get back with you!

OJD Week in Review: Oct. 15 – 19

Welcome to another Friday and another blog post!  This week there are some new job opportunities, a new resource and some training opportunities approaching quickly.

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Job Opportunities

The Citizens for Juvenile Justice (CFJJ) in Massachusetts will be accepting applications for a new executive director until Monday, Oct. 22.  The selected candidate will be responsible for fundraising, meeting with stakeholders, representing CFJJ to the public, managing overall operations and communicating with the Board.  For the full description please view here.

The Office of the Appellate Defender (OAD) is seeking an entry-level assistant appellate defender.  The ideal candidate will have the ability to analyze facts, accept advice and learn from assigned mentors, identify relevant law, apply facts and communicate complex legal concepts effectively, and treat clients with respect.  Applications for this position will be accepted until 5 p.m. on Nov. 4.  For the full job description and to apply, please visit here.

Training

On Oct. 30, from 2 – 5 p.m., OJD will be hosting a Juvenile Court Basics CLE at the Surry County Courthouse.  There are 3 CLE credit hours pending for this training.  There is no need to RSVP and all are welcome to attend.  Please contact our office if you have any questions.

On Nov. 16, the UNC School of Government will be hosting a Back to School CLE from 8:45 a.m. to 5 p.m.  The training offers 6.25 hours of CLE credit, including an hour of ethics and an optional hour of substance abuse credit.  Topics will include civil and criminal case law and legislative updates, the opioid epidemic, and a review and preview of the U.S. Supreme Court.  Registration will be $300 and the deadline to register will be Oct. 31.  Lunch will be provided.  To register please visit the UNC SOG site here.

New Resources

PEW Charitable Trusts has recently released Juveniles in Custody for Noncriminal Acts, an interactive data visualization tool that shows a state-by-state breakdown of youth who are detained due to probation violations and status offenses.  This interactive tool uses data on the confinement of youth in each state by percentage, number, and rate per 100,000 youth.  You can access the tool here.

That covers everything for this week.  Be sure to check out our Facebook page and follow us on Twitter for other content and N.C. juvenile defenders can contact us to be added to our listserv as well.  Have a great weekend!

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From NJDC: Probation Supervision Fees Trap Children and Families in Juvenile Court System

 

WASHINGTON, DC — Youth in 21 states can be charged fees for the cost of probation supervision, placing a tremendous burden on young people and their families, according to an issue brief and corresponding infographic released today by the National Juvenile Defender Center.

“These fees create a cycle of debt for families. Children are charged merely for being placed on probation, which exacerbates racial disparities and prolongs the length of time a young person is forced to stay in the system,” said Mary Ann Scali, executive director of the National Juvenile Defender Center.

The Cost of Juvenile Probation is based on interviews with juvenile defenders and probation officers in at least one jurisdiction in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Among the jurisdictions that reported charging fees, the costs vary from a flat fee of $10 to monthly fees that can add up to well above $2,000 — and that’s on top of numerous other fines and costs charged as a result of a delinquency case. If children or families do not have the means to pay the fees, the consequences can be devastating; among them, children are locked up, kept on probation indefinitely, or have civil judgments imposed on them and their families.

“When young people are charged supervision fees, families often must confront the impossible dilemma of covering the cost of their child’s freedom or affording household necessities, which only serves to perpetuate the criminalization of poverty,” said Scali. “In general, no formal process exists for a family to demonstrate they are unable to afford these fees and seek relief.”

The findings reveal an absence of uniform standards across or within states that determines how fees are assessed or whether they’re enforced, resulting in unequal access to justice. The issue brief urges state legislatures and juvenile courts to eliminate the use of supervision fees for juvenile probation. Recommendations also compel juvenile defenders to actively push for waiver of fees based on their incompatibility with the goal of youth success.

“Probation is the most common sentence young people receive in juvenile court, and yet by assessing supervision fees, courts distract from any genuine progress children make,” said Scali. “The fees also create unnecessary stress among family members, particularly when young people need the most support. It’s long past time to drop the use of supervision fees and focus on supporting children’s strengths.”

The National Juvenile Defender Center is dedicated to promoting justice for all children by ensuring excellence in juvenile defense. Through community building, training, and policy reform, we provide national leadership on juvenile defense issues with a focus on the deprivation of young people’s rights in the court system. For more information, please visit our website at www.njdc.info.

Case Summaries Update: In re D.E.P.

Please see the latest update to our “Case Summaries” list on the “Materials for Defenders” page.  The latest entry to the list, located in the”Dispositions: Appeals” and “Dispositions: Sentencing” sections, is the published opinion In re D.E.P. which established that:

The trial court is not required by G.S. 7B-2512 to make findings of fact that address each of the G.S. 7B-2501(c) factors and did not abuse its discretion in ordering a Level 3 commitment based on the juvenile’s repeated violations of probation.

Dec. 7th Defender Call: Just in Case You Missed It

 

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Just in case you missed it, during the last statewide juvenile defender call for 2016, Eric Zogry addressed recent updates with the Raise the Age bill, our new ideas for improving communications statewide, and alternatives to probation.

In regards to Raise the Age, the Chief Justice’s Commission on the Administration of Law and Justice had their final meeting.  One of the key recommendations was to raise of the age of juvenile jurisdiction for 16 and 17 year olds, and Chief Justice Mark Martin stated that this initiative would be a priority for the 2017 legislative session.  The N.C. Sheriff’s Association, a former major opponent to the bill, is now in support of the RTA legislation after some changes were made in the proposal and some strong efforts to communicate the impact of the bill by commission and subcommittee members.

With the growing effort to improve communications with juvenile defenders, Marcus Thompson, the new communications and office manager, was brought on board to the OJD team.  Marcus introduced himself and briefly discussed building a regular presence for the office on Twitter, maintenance of the OJD website, and his plans to distribute a survey in January to gather more information about what juvenile defenders statewide think should be done about communications from our office.  He also extended an invitation for defenders to offer ideas about the blog.

Finally, Eric opened the discussion to gather defenders’ thoughts about alternatives to probation.  Suggestions about informal deferrals, moving to bring in mitigation experts, referring cases back to intake court counselors, and scrutiny of risk and needs assessment were all brought up.

A Brief Word on the Harms of Juvenile Detention and Juvenile Probation Order Reform

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What’s the harm in putting a child in a detention center?  While it might be argued that juvenile detention is in the best interest of the child prior to trial, statistical data proves otherwise.  The detrimental affects on youth and their families for even brief periods of containment in juvenile detention are detailed here.

Probation orders are also a common problem, and probation just happens to be the most common disposition given to juveniles adjudicated delinquent.  The rules of probation are difficult to understand and follow for most juveniles, and if not tailored appropriately to the child, the rules can be easily violated and lead to long-term repercussions on them.  In order for probation to yield the intended positive effects for youth, change is greatly needed.  You can learn more here.

Both articles above were recently published by the National Juvenile Defender Center.