OJD Week in Review: June 18 – 22

Welcome back for the weekly roundup.  There are a couple of new job opportunities added and approaching deadlines we’re highlighting, but in other news…

This week we’d like to give a shout-out to the N.C. Administrative Office of the Courts for the successful launch of their new website, nccourts.gov.  Replacing the original nccourts.org, this more user-focused, mobile-friendly counterpart is meant to enable easier searches for court dates and other information while providing better accessibility.

 

Also, please check out Austine Long’s post from the On the Civil Side blog in which she discusses the Juvenile Reentry Second Chance Project.  In the blog, Long talks about how the project was established and the services it offers to youth to reduce recidivism and promote positive outcomes for them.  Check it out here.

Training

The Office of the Juvenile Defender will be hosting a Juvenile Court Basics Training on next Friday,  June 29.  This training will be held at 320 Chestnut Street, Wilmington, N.C. 28401 in the 6th floor training room from 9 a.m. until noon.  Three general CLE credit hours have been approved.  Attorneys from all districts are invited to attend.  Space is limited, so please contact Alexis Perkins or Lyana Hunter to register in advance.  We hope to see you there!  Other Juvenile Court Basics trainings could be arranged at a district near you in the future!

The 2018 Defender Trial School, cosponsored by the School of Government and the North Carolina Office of Indigent Defense Services, will be held Monday, July 9, through Friday, July 13, at the School of Government on the UNC-Chapel Hill campus.  The online registration deadline will be at 5 p.m. on Monday, June 25, and interested parties may register here.  Defender Trial School participants will use their own cases to develop a cohesive theory of defense at trial and apply that theory through all stages of trial, including voir dire, opening and closing arguments, and direct and cross-examination.  The program will offer approximately 30 hours of general CLE credit and qualifies for NC State Bar criminal law specialization credit, but attendees must attend all sessions.  The Defender Trial School is open to public defenders and a limited number of private attorneys who perform a significant amount of appointed work.  The registration fee for privately assigned counsel will be $700, which includes materials, breaks, lunches and parking, however Valerie Pearce and Tucker Charns can provide info for those interested in fellowships.  For additional info, please check out the program webpage.

Save the Date!  The Bridging The Gap III Seminar will be in Winston-Salem September 20-21, 2018.  Participants in this seminar will be awarded 10.25 CLE credit hours, including 1.5 credit hours in ethics, professional responsibility and professionalism.  The registration fee is $115.00.  The focus of this seminar will be on client and family relations, and pretrial resolution.  Registration and hotel information will be published in early July.  A block of 40 rooms will be available once the registration is published.  For an attorney to attend he or she must have at least 7 years’ experience.  The “ gap” in Bridging The Gap describes lawyers who have never taken murder cases and are considering taking them on, and lawyers who have taken non-capital murder cases and are considering taking capital cases.  The seminar, hosted by the Office of the Capital Defender, focuses on issues relevant to both non-capital and capital murder cases.  If you have questions or need additional information, please contact Terry Alford.

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Please save the dates for the 2018 Parent Attorney and Juvenile Defender Conferences.  Parent Attorney Conference will be held Thursday, August 16 and Juvenile Defender Conference will be held Friday, August 17.  Both conferences, cosponsored by the School of Government and the Office of Indigent Defense Services, will be held at the School of Government on the UNC-Chapel Hill campus, offer approximately six hours of CLE credit, and feature speakers from across the state.  Registration will open in the next few weeks with a formal announcement and full details.

Job Opportunity

 

The Missouri State Public Defender is currently accepting applications for four positions for the Children’s Defense Team located in St. Louis city: a juvenile disposition specialist, an investigator, a legal assistant, and an assistant public defender.  The Juvenile Disposition Specialist is responsible for assisting counsel in preparing for and litigating cases in St. Louis City, County, and St. Charles.  The Investigator is responsible for assisting public defender attorneys by identifying, locating, and preserving case evidence necessary to the criminal defense of a client.  The Legal Assistant is responsible for assisting attorneys with client intake interviews and case preparations.  The Assistant Public Defender is responsible for providing representation to indigent clients in all juvenile proceedings including, but not limited to, detention hearings, adjudications, disposition hearings, and representing children who have been certified to adult court.  The application deadline is WednesdayJune 27.  For more info about these positions and how to apply, please check here.

The National Juvenile Defender Center (NJDC) is currently seeking a research manager.  The ideal candidate will have at least 5 years of experience, a commitment to advancing improvements in juvenile defense policy and practice, a love of research, writing, and critical thinking, and an eagerness to build a career at the intersection of youth justice and social change.  The selected candidate will be responsible for developing and executing research efforts to advance NJDC’s mission, and strengthening the empirical qualities and evaluating the impact of NJDC’s work on the community.  This position will remain open until filled, but applications received by July 6 will be given priority.  For more information please check here.

The Committee for Public Counsel Services (CPCS) in Massachusetts is currently accepting applications for a Deputy Chief Counsel of the Private Counsel Division, who is a member of the senior management team that develops and implements fiscal, operational, human resource, and legislative policies.  The Private Counsel Division is responsible for delivering legal services to indigent clients through assigned private attorneys in criminal defense trial and post-conviction cases as well as commitment and registration cases for persons convicted of sex offenses.  Applications will be accepted until filled but priority will be given to applications received by July 10, 2018.  For more info please check here..

The Southern Coalition for Social Justice still has an opening for an executive director.   The ideal candidate will have strong organizational, communication, and leadership skills, a demonstrated passion for social and racial justice, and experience in developing successful relationships in diverse communities.  For the full job description, please check the post here, and to apply please send all queries here.

SCSJ

 

From Around the Community

Standard registration for the 81st Annual National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges Conference is still available until July 2.  The event this year will take place at the Hyatt Regency Denver at the Colorado Convention Center from July 22 – 25.  The conference will offer presentations/training tracks on  topics such as family law, juvenile justice, child welfare, and family violence.  This conference is judicially-focused and open to all those interested in the improvement of juvenile and family justice.  For registration and further info, please visit the NCJFCJ website here.

81st Annual Conference

The National Juvenile Justice Network will be hosting its 2018 Forum in Durham, N.C. from July 16 – 18 at the Duke University School of Law (210 Science Dr, Durham, NC 27708).  This event, co-hosted by the Youth Justice Project of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice and Duke Children’s Law Clinic, is meant to be a fun networking and training setting for juvenile justice advocates.  July 16 and 17 will be open to NJJN members only, and the final day will be open to the public.  For details on travel assistance, the current agenda, and lodging, please visit their site here.

 

Thank you for reading through this week’s wrap-up.  There will be more to come in the near future, and please remember that we are always available to help you in anyway we can!

OJD Week in Review: Jan. 8-12

This week we are lighter on the usual training notifications, but there are some important updates to be shared.

Training, Job Opportunities, and Events

wvpviwDue to the winter weather and the holidays, the UNC School of Government has announced that the deadline to register for the 2018 Child Support Enforcement:  Representing Respondents seminar has now been extended until Jan. 15.  Registration and other information can be found here.

Registration is also now open for the School of Government’s Regional Training for Indigent Defense: Defending Sexual Offenses.  This event will offer 3.0 CLE credit hours and will have sessions covering cross-examining experts, physical evidence, and motions and legal issues in sexual offense cases.  The training will be held on Thursday, Feb. 8, in Room 103 of the Dennis A. Wicker Civic Center at 1801 Nash St. in Sanford, N.C.  The deadline to register is 5 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 29.  An $85 registration fee will be required which will cover materials, snacks, and CLE credits.  For registration, contact details and other info, please go here.

The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) will be supporting National Drug and Alcohol Facts week, sponsored by the National Institute on Drug Abuse and National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.  From Jan. 22-28, these organizations will be supporting community events nationwide and beyond that bring people together, from adolescents to experts, to discuss alcohol and drug abuse.  The National Institute on Drug Abuse will be providing free booklets about how to deal with drug abuse, in addition to other educational resources.

OJJDP will also be accepting nominations for their 2018 National Missing Children’s Day awards until Jan. 24.  They are seeking nominees for their Missing Children’s Citizen Award and Missing Children’s Child Protection Award.  These awards are meant to recognize private individuals who helped to recover a missing/abducted child and professionals, such as law enforcement officers and child protective service agents, who have worked to protect children from abuse and victimization.  For further details and to submit your nominations, please check here.

Finally, for those interested, there are four juvenile court counselor positions available in Iredell, Union, Cleveland and Forsyth counties that will be closing today.  Interested parties can view and apply to these jobs here.

Progression of Raise the Age

On Thursday, Jan. 11, the N.C. Juvenile Jurisdiction Advisory Committee (JJAC) met for its second meeting since the passage of the Juvenile Justice Reinvestment Act.  During the meeting, several presenters addressed the Committee with research data and considerations for the juvenile justice system prior to and after the changes to the law are implemented.

AOC Director Marion Warren and Brad Fowler, manager of the AOC Research, Policy, and Planning Division, shared AOC’s analysis of the possible workload increase and need for more staff.  Fowler emphasized the need to assess the resources going into the cases we have now to prepare the juvenile justice system for the arrival of more cases.  “The system to handle 16- and 17-year-olds will not drop out of the sky the day the law changes,” he said.  “Having [the pieces] in place before that time is the goal.”

William L Lassiter, deputy secretary of juvenile justice for the Department of Public Safety, went on to discuss considerations for fiscal year (FY) 2018-2019.  Lassiter pointed out the need for subcommittees within JJAC, the success of raising the age in other states, and the need for more staff, improved facilities and community programs to assist youth.  Lassiter said that when Raise the Age was implemented in other states, complaints and recidivism rates dropped significantly, especially for kids younger than 12, because more diversion programs were explored as more kids were brought into the juvenile justice system.  While discussing community programs, he praised the success of North Carolina’s own Teen Court program.  “Teen Court is much more consequential and has a higher level of accountability than regular court.  Kids don’t want their friends to get away with something they didn’t get away with,” he said jokingly, pointing out how juveniles had to admit their guilt for a crime in Teen Court and a jury of their peers would ensure that juveniles would receive a suitable punishment in the form of community service, in addition to a term on the Teen Court jury.  Lassiter stated that participants in the Teen Court program only had a 12 percent recidivism rate and he desired for every district to have their own program.  He gave JJAC a breakdown of potential costs for community programs, new transportation for juveniles, and hiring of additional staff over the next few years, up to FY 2020-2021, which included about 292 new positions.

JJAC

Juvenile Defender Eric Zogry offered a brief presentation on the history and structure of North Carolina’s juvenile indigent defense system and the Office of the Juvenile Defender’s plan in preparation for the implementation of the law.  Zogry emphasized the need for a dedicated juvenile defender system in our state while pointing out that the majority of N.C. counties lacked a designated juvenile defender.  Mary Stansell, Juvenile chief of the Wake County Public Defender’s Office and member of JJAC, backed Zogry’s point, citing examples from her own personal experience of working with lawyers who were not familiar with or just not committed to the specialized practice of juvenile defense.

The last presentation by the Honorable J. Corpening, chief district court judge of District 5, discussed several phases to develop the school-justice partnership program.  Corpening talked about establishing relationships with other judges at leadership training, the progression of the program so far for specific counties, and the need for a comprehensive toolkit, website, and other resources to assist counties in implementing their own school-justice partnership programs.

Finally, the Committee returned to Lassiter’s suggestion to establish subcommittees to assist in the planning and execution of the new initiatives they would have to address in the coming months.  Several members of JJAC and others in attendance were selected to serve on the subcommittees before the chairs called for the meeting to be adjourned.

That is all the news for this week.  To catch up on upcoming training seminars, please be sure to check out our past posts.  We will be providing further updates on training, the progress of the Raise the Age initiative, job opportunities and more each week, so be sure to subscribe to the blog, Facebook page, and Twitter for all the news we have going forward into 2018!

OJD Week in Review: Oct. 9-13

This week we would like to point out some new resources, upcoming deadlines, and available job opportunities.

Fellowships and Deadlines

Early this week, the North Carolina Judicial Fellowship, a new office within the N.C. Judicial Branch which provides legal support to district and superior court judges, opened applications for several positions.  Currently, the office is accepting  applications for two associate counsel positions and six fellowships for August 2018 to August 2020.  Applications for these positions will close next Friday, Oct. 20, and Nov. 3, respectively.  On Nov. 6, the office will begin accepting applications for two other fellowships serving from January 2018 to August 2019.  The deadline for applications to this fellowship will be Nov. 17.  For more information about any of the positions or to apply, please visit here.  Questions may be directed to Andrew Brown, Director of the N.C. Judicial Fellowship at 919-890-1671 or Andrew.Brown@nccourts.org.

The Northwestern Pritzker School of Law has also opened applications for a two-year clinical fellowship beginning on Jan. 8, 2018.  This will be an immigration law fellowship in the Bluhm Legal Clinic’s Children and Family Justice Center.  The fellow will participate in community outreach, represent youth and parents in immigration court proceedings, and assist in the supervision and teaching of clinical students.  The deadline for applications will be Nov. 15 and all application materials and questions can be submitted to Uzoamaka Emeka Nzelibe.  The full description and requirements for this position can be found here.

New Resources, Fresh Updates, and Media

The National Juvenile Justice Network released a new toolkit on Tuesday which offers suggestions for advocates of juvenile justice to change the narrative of how minority youth are portrayed in the media.  The toolkit discusses social media strategies, methods for establishing relationships with media outlets, and other resources to assist in the prevention of media that criminalizes youth of color.

Campaign for Youth Justice released its newest report this week titled Raising the Bar:  State Trends in Keeping Youth Out of Adult Courts (2015-2017),  which examines states that are creating solutions to prevent children from entering the adult criminal justice system.  The report suggests that since 2005, 36 states have implemented a significant number of laws to protect youth from being treated as adults, even referencing plans to raise the age in multiple states, including North Carolina.  The report highlights the strengths and weaknesses of reform efforts in specific states as well.

CFYJ State Trends

We would also like to bring attention to several videos on Suite 6 LLC’s Vimeo channel, produced in collaboration with Campaign for Youth Justice.  These videos showcase interviews with adults who were incarcerated as juveniles and the parents of children involved in the justice system.   The interviews offer a intriguing perspective of individuals affected by the juvenile justice system.

The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention has recently updated its Statistical Briefing Book to include a Data Snapshot series.  The one-page data sheets reveal stats on subjects such as characteristics/trends in delinquency cases involving Hispanic youth, the continued decline of the juvenile placement population, and frequently asked questions about commitments based on race and ethnicity.  There are also updates to several older resources.  The list for all of the new info can be accessed here.

do-dont-sign-300x296The Council of State Governments also has a great resource that was released last month titled “Do’s and Don’ts For Reducing Recidivism Among Young Adults in the Justice System“.  The document is a concrete and concise list outlining the best strategies for policymakers and leaders in juvenile justice to improve the outcomes for youth involved in the justice system.

And that is all there is for this week!  Juvenile justice advocates are always welcome to lend their voices to our blog or podcast, and don’t be shy about leaving comments and questions for us on our social media pages as well.  We want to have conversations with you all!  We will continue to provide more updates to the news above and other events as they arise, so please be sure to check out our website, Facebook, and Twitter frequently.  And as always, thanks for all that you do!

“Mothers: What Do They Know? And More Importantly, What Don’t They Know?” by Dr. Antoinette Kavanaugh

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Forensic and clinical psychologist Dr. Antoinette Kavanaugh has recently published an interesting new review on her website.

In the post, Dr. Kavanaugh analyzes and breaks down the psychological study from Caitlin Cavanagh and Elizabeth Cauffman titled “What They Don’t Know Can Hurt Them:  Mother’s Legal Knowledge and Youth Re-Offending“.  In their paper, the researchers examined the correlation between the involvement of mothers in their sons’ legal processes, the knowledge of the mothers in such matters, and the rates of re-offending.

Dr. Kavanaugh offers a satisfying and concise review of the data presented in this report.  In one section Kavanaugh writes, “More than half of the mothers also did not understand the expungement process.  The lack of understanding related to court personnel and the court process is something that many parties in the court system ranging from attorneys, to judges, to probation officers should address more efficaciously.”

She later writes, “Attorneys who represent children often describe the lengths they go to in order to get parents to understand how the child is their client, the types of legal decisions the client has to make, and the limits of the parents’ role.  I think it is reasonable to assume the lawyers involved in the cases in this study did this…  Additionally, the level of the mothers’ legal knowledge was also directly related to their sons’ likelihood of reoffending.  The more legal knowledge a mother had, the less likely her son was to reoffend…  Since [the mothers’] lack of understanding impacts public safety because it is associated with youths’ increased recidivism, the judiciary, probation officers, prosecutors and public defenders should want to increase mothers’ legal knowledge and are advised to gauge their knowledge at different points in the legal process.”

You can view Dr. Kavanaugh’s full review on her website here.  Also, please subscribe on the site to receive future posts from Dr. Kavanaugh directly to your inbox!

OJD Big Week Wrap-Up: Gault, H280, and Training

It’s been an eventful week for our office and just to keep everyone in the loop on what’s been going on, we’ve prepared a quick summary of the excitement for you here!

Monday, May 15, was the 50th anniversary of In re Gault.  Our office hosted a successful Twitter Town Hall with the help of representatives from the Administrative Office of the Courts, the N.C. Advocates for Justice, ACLU, the Council for Children’s Rights, the N.C. Bar Association, the Office of the Appellate Defender and others.  During the event we GAULTat50_TwitterTownHall_1discussed what it means to fulfill the promise of Gault and the need to raise the age of juvenile jurisdiction in N.C.  Governor Roy Cooper also chimed in using our hashtag, #Gault50NC, and his tweets for  were listed several times on the top tweets in NC!

Prior to the Twitter event, our office also debuted our video discussing Gault and Raise the Age on social media.  The video stars Communications and Office Manager Marcus Thompson and was created in collaboration with Chris Mears of AOC.

Juvenile Defender Eric Zogry also attended the Gault at 50 Gala in Washington, D.C that evening.  During the gala, Eric met with many other leaders in juvenile defense from across the country.

The National Juvenile Defender Center also released its report titled Access Denied: A National Snapshot of States’ Failure to Protect Children’s Right to Counsel, highlighting the shortcomings of states across the country in fulfilling the promise of Gault.

Gault pamphlets.jpg

The Annual Spring Public Defenders and Investigator Conference was held in Charlotte from May 17-19.  This was the first year two juvenile tracks were offered,  with one covering protection from ICE and another on education advocacy.  Our own Assistant Juvenile Defender Kim Howes participated in the conference and also assisted in getting the two juvenile defense courses included this year.  (*applause* Great job, Kim!)

On Wednesday, House Bill 280, the Juvenile Justice Reinvestment Act, had its second hearing in the House.

Rep. Chuck McGrady, Rep Marcia Morey, and others stood to voice their support of the bill.  Arguments made in favor of the bill addressed the need to protect youth from physical assault in adult prisons, higher rates of recidivism among youth incarcerated with adults, the suffering of youth with disabilities in the justice system, and youth being imprisoned in the criminal system for crimes as simple as littering or performing harmless pranks.

Rep. Larry Pittman and others did stand to voice their concerns and opposition to the bill.  Pittman asked fellow representatives to forget that N.C. was standing alone in keeping 15 as the maximum age for juveniles, and “not to go easy on offenders based on age”, but to consider the victims of their crimes instead.  Some representatives only proposed that the bill be amended to include F-I felonies and other minor changes, but still voiced their support for raising the age.  Concerns about recurring gang activity among youth who are given too much leniency in juvenile court were also brought up.  The most common point of opposition seemed to be about the budget.

In closing, McGrady addressed the opposition, saying that there is a budget in place and pointing out that there were more people complaining about the costs than the law itself.  In the end, the bill was passed in a 104-8 vote!

We want to celebrate these successes and also look for more opportunities to improve the juvenile justice system in N.C.  There are still plenty of training events scheduled for the remainder of the year, more work to be done in the protection of children’s rights, and a lot of preparation for when N.C. finally raises the age.  Let’s continue gaining more successes and let us know your thoughts for what could be done going forward!

House Holds Hearing for House Bill 280, Governor Gives Proclamation for Gault

The anniversary is nigh, people, and Gov. Roy Cooper issued his proclamation last week commending May 15th as the 50th anniversary of In re Gault.  This proclamation will soon be added to the N.C. Gault page along with other content.  Check back over the next few days and be prepared to join us May 15 at noon for our Twitter Town Hall, sharing your thoughts and questions on Gault using #Gault50NC!

Gault50NC Twitter Town Hall

In other news, on Wednesday, the N.C. House of Representatives Committee held its first hearing for House Bill 280, the Juvenile Justice Reinvestment Act.  The Committee voted unanimously in favor of passing the bill on to the next phase.

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“Why would one put most juvenile offenders in the adult justice system when only a small percent need to be treated as adults?” asked Rep. Chuck McGrady, one of the primary representatives in support of the bill, acknowledging that only 3 percent of crimes committed by juveniles in N.C. are considered violent.  McGrady also stated that by raising the age of juvenile jurisdiction there would be much lower rates of recidivism for juveniles and lower costs for the state as a whole.

Rep. Allen McNeill suggested an amendment to the bill, citing sections of it that addressed gang activity among youth.  McNeill conveyed his concerns about youth continuing their involvement in gangs after release from juvenile detention, referring to his own experiences in law enforcement.  One other representative raised concerns for the need to include F-I felonies in the amendment as well, since current gang recruitment acts would fall into those categories  (the current bill only automatically sends juveniles to the criminal justice system for class A-E).  No amendments have been made yet.

Several other supporters of H280 stood to voice their thoughts on the need to raise the age including N.C. Child’s Adam Sotak, Youth Justice Project’s Ricky Watson, Jr., and Commissioner Brenda A. Howerton.  Howerton, who is president-elect of the North Carolina Association of Counties, pointed out the success of diversion programs for youth specifically in Durham County while emphasizing her support for raising the age.  One speaker likened a criminal record for a juvenile to a “scarlet letter” that prevents them from obtaining significant opportunities as adults, even for nonviolent offenses.  It was also stated by one prosecutor that the role of a prosecutor is not to just gain convictions, but to actually keep communities safe and uphold the constitutionality of the law.

RTA

“If we [raise the age of juvenile jurisdiction] the sky will not fall and we will see the benefits,” said Gwendolyn Chunn, former president of the American Correctional Association and former executive director of the Juvenile Justice Institute.  Chunn related the moment to a religious experience and she stated that N.C. is not a hotbed for crime, but a very progressive state that needed this change.

Karen Simon, director of Inmate Programs at the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office, said that youth in the adult system are at risk of being put into solitary confinement, which is shown to have detrimental effects on the mental health of prisoners, especially juveniles.  “Think not of a faceless group of 16- and 17-year-olds,” Simon said, “but think of your own kids.”

Rep. Marcia Morey, a former chief district court judge, said that not all felonies can be treated the same, and reduction in cases and adjustments are possible.

“We need to give every young person the opportunity to reach their full potential,” said Rep. Bob Steinburg.  “…with the current laws, we might as well hand them their death sentences.”

The bill was introduced to the House Appropriations Committee on Thursday morning, and while there was some opposition to it this time, it was passed in the Committee with a strong majority and is expected to be heard on the House floor later in May.  If it continues to pass into law, H280 will take full effect in 2019.

 

“The Improper Use of Electronic Monitors in Juvenile Court” by Guest Blogger Mitchell Feld

Mitch

You meet your new client for the first time for the first detention hearing as the child was detained on a low-level felony or misdemeanor.  The recommendation is for the child to be released on an electronic monitor.  Your client hears that and says that he/she is willing to get out of detention on an “ankle bracelet.”  The short-term victory is your client is happy because he/she got released and you look like the great lawyer who walked into court and got your client released.  However, did you truly do a service to your client and other children in juvenile court?

We have all been in the situation described above and accept the offered release conditions because it satisfies the wishes of your client.  However, how often do we ask if electronic monitoring is appropriate while still arguing for our client’s expressed interest to be released?  Electronic monitoring is a common release condition for adult court and by accepting it as a release condition for children in juvenile court in all situations mares the difference between juvenile and adult court.  What is amazing about the utilization of electronic monitoring in juvenile court is when it is used when it is not necessary and when it is not used when it is necessary.  There are a few situations that truly highlight these two types of scenarios and the rationale behind its appropriateness or lack thereof.

My office has had numerous children who are detained on misdemeanors or low-level felonies, they comply with curfew and rules put in place by the parent/guardian, they attend school daily, and they have a social history that is absent any red flags.  Court counselors frequently ask for a child to be released on electronic monitoring due to the serious nature of a child having a felony charge.  While one can appreciate that a felony is a serious offense, we must inquire about the virtue of an electronic monitor and whether this child is truly a danger to property or persons as is one of the criteria under N.C.G.S 7B-1903(b)(1).  Merely being charged with a felony does not mean a child is a danger to property or persons and making an argument against continued detention or release on electronic monitoring is a necessary argument.  Children that are charged with possession of drugs that rise to a low-level felony, possession of stolen goods merely because the child was given property from a B&E, or assault-based offenses are not necessarily appropriate for a monitor due to the lack of correlation between the charge and the need for 24/7 supervision.  Possession of a drug or property, while serious and concerning, does not mean that the person needs to be supervised at all times without other factors present.  If someone is charged with assault (either physical or sexual), an electronic monitor serves no purpose to prevent a future attack.  All a monitor would do in an assault situation is provide confirmation that a person was present should another attack occur, but would not actually prevent an attack.  While these situations can be concerning to a victim, judge, or prosecutor, we still need to balance the purpose of a monitor with the juvenile court-to-prison pipeline that is created by imposing adult court conditions on children.

While those situations are ones that are self-explanatory for when a monitor is not necessary, there are also situations when a monitor is refused when it can be appropriate for a child to be released.  My favorite situation that arises in court is when a court counselor said that child was denied for electronic monitoring because he/she has an AWOL history.  At that point I want to turn to the court counselor and do my best Biff impression from Back to the Future and say, “Hello, McFly!  Think, McFly, think!”  I have made the argument to judges that if a monitor is only used for children who comply with a curfew and we know where they are at all times, then what is the purpose of the monitor?  If children have a history of going AWOL, not following a curfew, or leaving school without permission, then a monitor can serve a purpose to ensure the child thinks twice before making that negative decision knowing big brother is watching at all times.  No one wants to see a child with an electronic device strapped to his/her ankle at all times, but if it serves as a behavior modification technique, causes the child to think twice about a decision, and stops the prior behaviors that led them to juvenile court, then the use of the device is appropriate.

There is also the situation when court stakeholders believe that because your client committed one breaking and entering, he/she committed all of them.  I have had numerous clients that, to their credit and honesty, will gladly tell you which crimes they committed and which ones they did not.  The monitor has been useful to show a judge and prosecutor that just because there was enough evidence for one case, does not justify bringing charges for another because the child’s monitor did not show his/her presence at the scene of another crime.  As stated above, I do not like to see a child on a monitor but there are times when its presence can be utilized to demonstrate your client’s innocence.

While juvenile court has been around for a number of years, in light of where it has come in the past 50 years since In re Gault, there are still a number of practices that are not juvenile court practices, but rather applied adult court practices.  While it is easy to accept those practices as that may be all we have, we must be diligent to challenge their utilization and appropriateness when they are not right for children.  When you believe you have nothing else to argue, it is easy to go back to N.C.G.S. 7B-1500 and argue that rehabilitation and constitutional rights for children are always at the heart of what juvenile court is about.  Children may be focused on the short-term win, but we need to be thinking about the long-term effects.  The arguments we make today will become best practices in the years to come.

Mitchell Feld is the Director of Children’s Defense at the Council for Children’s Rights representing children in delinquency and mental health commitment matters.  Mr. Feld obtained his undergraduate degree from Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania in 2005 and his J.D. degree from the University of Miami School of Law in 2008.  Mr. Feld is a member of the North Carolina Bar and the Western District of North Carolina.  He has served as the Chair and Vice Chair of the Juvenile Law Section of the Mecklenburg County Bar and currently serves on the Mecklenburg County Bar Grievance Committee.  Mr. Feld has lectured at the local, state, and national level on juvenile case law, interviewing children, sex offenses and registration, motions practice, and delinquency advocacy.

NCCALJ Presents Final Report to the Chief Justice

On March 15th, the North Carolina Commission on the Administration of Law and Justice (NCCALJ) released its final report to Chief Justice Mark Martin during a ceremony at the Supreme Court of North Carolina.

Chieft Justice Receives Final Report

The NCCALJ was convened by Chief Justice Martin in September 2015, tasked with reviewing the N.C. Judicial System and making recommendations for improving the administration of justice.  The sixty-five members of the Commission were divided into five committees, with each committee presenting its own final assessment in one of five areas after conducting thorough research, consulting with experts, and engaging in collaborative discussions, as well as gathering input from the public.

This report includes the recommendation to raise the juvenile age to 18 for all crimes except violent felonies and traffic offenses.  You can review our previous summary of this recommendation for the juvenile reinvestment plan on our blog, or you can also view the Criminal Investigation and Adjudication Committee’s final report here.

In addition to the recommendation to raise the juvenile age, the Criminal Investigation and Adjudication Committee’s report includes recommendations for improving indigent defense services, pretrial justice and criminal case management.  The other committees cover Legal Professionalism, Public Trust and Confidence, Technology and Civil Justice.

“The Commission’s recommendations create a framework for dramatic, systemic improvement in the administration of justice in North Carolina,” said Chief Justice Martin.  “The work of this blue-ribbon Commission will help ensure that North Carolina’s Judicial Branch meets the needs and expectations that the people of North Carolina have for fair, modern and impartial courts.”

The N.C. Administrative Office of the Courts, along with other components of the Judicial Branch, will implement the Commission’s recommendations.

For more information, you can find the final report and the appendices here.  For inquiries from the media, please contact Sharon Gladwell at sharon.e.gladwell@nccourts.org or 919-890-1394.

#RaisetheAgeNC is Becoming a Reality with Introduction of New Bill

Since 2007, seven states have changed their laws to include youth 16 and 17 years of age in the juvenile justice system, cutting the number of youth in the criminal justice system in half nationwide and without any detrimental effects on the wallets of taxpayers.  North Carolina and New York still remain the only two states that treat 16- and 17-year-olds as adults.

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Today, House Bill 280, the Juvenile Justice Reinvestment Act, which raises the age to include juveniles 16 and 17 years of age in the North Carolina juvenile justice system, was introduced to the legislator and announced during a press conference.  Representative Chuck McGrady stated that “besides being the right thing to do, this bill was also fiscally the right thing to do” because it would save the state money in the long term.

“They did what they did, and parents would come to court and plead their children guilty every day because it was the right thing to do to take responsibility for their actions, and they have no inclination because they have no training and they assume that juvenile jurisdiction ends at 18, but they have no idea that they are putting a permanent mark that is an economic disincentive to the youth of our state,” said Judge Marion Warren, Director of the Administrative Office of the Courts and a former district court judge who presided over hundreds of juvenile cases.  Judge Warren shared the statistic that 96.7 percent of crimes committed by 16- and 17-year-old offenders were for misdemeanors and nonviolent crimes. “This process brought the people together to see exactly what it was doing to our state.  North Carolina cannot be last…  North Carolina always finds itself as a leader on the position for self-improvement, introspection, and thought.  Now is the time to raise the juvenile age.  It is time to support House Bill 280.”

Representative Duane Hall, who noted his support of the issue the past decade, said that the bill had tremendous bipartisan support.  Representative Hall said that before he was a member of the Legislature, he worked as an attorney representing children for small, first-time offenses.  He stated that he had teenagers who came to him in tears because they would not have the opportunity to pursue their desired careers in military or obtain financial aid because of the permanent consequences that followed them for the smallest offenses.

Representative Kelly Alexander said that he and his colleagues of the Legislative Black Caucus on both the Senate and House sides have had an interest in juvenile justice for a long time and they supported the change 100 percent.

William Lassiter, Deputy Commissioner of the Division of Juvenile Justice, said that the cost savings estimated for N.C. as a result of the bill could be in the range of $7 million to $50 million, depending on the economic contribution of each juvenile that would be effected in the justice system based on their ability to obtain a diploma, college degree, and be taxpaying citizens.  He said that just by keeping kids in the juvenile justice system there are lower rates of recidivism, which is the major factor in cost reduction for the state.  He mentioned that for nine years in a row now there has been a 30 percent decline in juvenile crime rates.  There has been a reduction in 16 and 17 year olds on probation from about 8,000 to less than 2,000 in the past decade under adult supervision because of improvements in the juvenile justice system every day.

When asked what improvements in the bill gained the support of law enforcement, Judge Warren said that he believed that the two most significant changes were the ability to transfer A-E felonies to criminal court, which would be more to the benefit of the community than to the juvenile, and a prepetition diversion, which allowed other stakeholders to get involved in putting a child on the right path.

According to the latest report from the Justice Policy Institute released on March 7th, despite concerns that the intake of these youth into the juvenile justice system would ultimately overwhelm the states that raised the age and significantly increase the costs to taxpayers, it was proven that by applying better practices these issues could be easily alleviated.  Programs to assist youth in getting past delinquency and reducing recidivism for them in turn reduced the need for confinement and increased public safety.  Fewer prisons are needed as a result of youth being taken out of the criminal justice system and juveniles are also safer when they are not being incarcerated with adults, which would put them at risk of being sexually assaulted.

In the past decade, North Carolina has halved the number of youth admitted to detention centers.  The North Carolina Commission on the Administration of Law and Justice Committee on Criminal Investigation and Adjudication reported that, because the Division of Juvenile Justice has shifted to more effective youth justice practices, they have already produced millions of dollars in cost savings to help implement raise the age.

Contact OJD for more information about H280 and juvenile jurisdiction.

A Summary of the NCCALJ Committee on Criminal Investigation and Adjudication’s Juvenile Reinvestment Report

The N.C. Commission on the Administration of Law and Justice’s Committee on Criminal Investigation and Adjudication is recommending that North Carolina raise the age of juvenile jurisdiction to include all youth under the age of 18 for all crimes.  Juveniles aged 16 and 17 charged with the most serious felonies may be transferred to the adult system after a finding of probable cause or indictment.  Other recommendations include reducing school-based recommendations to the juvenile justice system and regular training for law enforcement in handling juveniles.  This proposal also recommends more information be provided for law enforcement officers who may interact with juveniles and that information on juvenile records should be more accessible to prosecutors.

Since 1919, North Carolina has been the only state to treat youth ages 16 and 17 years old as adults in the justice system without exception.  However, substantial evidence supports that keeping individuals under the age of 18 in the juvenile justice system rather than the criminal justice system would have a significant beneficial impact on everyone involved, including benefiting the justice system economically.

Statistical data indicates that 96.7 percent of convictions for youth are usually for nonviolent felonies and misdemeanors, with misdemeanors making up 80.4 percent of these crimes.  Scientific studies suggest that because of the maturity level of the brain, for teens the ability to reason and control impulsive behaviors is very limited.  Reports from the John Locke Foundation also support that youth convicted in the criminal court system are actually more likely to be repeat offenders due to light sentencing for petty crimes, less support, and immaturity of the brain to consider the consequences of their actions.  Several United States Supreme Court cases have also held that the treatment of juveniles as adults in certain circumstances violates their Eighth Amendment right.

Research also shows a lower rate of recidivism for youth kept in the juvenile justice system rather than the criminal justice system, because those placed in the juvenile justice system are more likely to rehabilitate and are less likely to commit crimes as adults, resulting in less crime and safer communities.  By reducing recidivism rates the government’s costs of maintaining youth who would become part of the adult system would also be reduced, and the increased lifetime earnings of youth kept out of the adult system, given the chance for better education and better employment, would also benefit the economy.

Adults from North Carolina who possess a criminal record due to an incident that occurred in their youth are placed at a competitive disadvantage with those who may have been adjudicated delinquent in other states when it comes to job opportunities.  When youth go to trial in criminal court, whether they are found guilty or not, all information becomes available on the public record, which may negatively affect youth for the rest of their lives in many areas, including obtaining employment, education, and public housing.  In contrast, youthful offenders adjudicated as juveniles have a greater chance to be rehabilitated through other alternatives and their record remains confidential.  Even though expunction is an option, it rarely happens, the legal fees may be problematic for some, and it does nothing to erase information about arrests and convictions presented in the media.

The juvenile justice system also allows more parental and community involvement to assist in the rehabilitation process, which includes mental health, education, and social services participation to encourage a greater social contribution, future societal contributions, and less chance of recidivism.  While some fear that raising the age will allow gang-affiliated youth more time to recruit for illegal activities, statistics show that roughly 8 percent of juveniles are associated with gang-related activity.  Those youth with gang connections are also more likely to perform better if they remain in the juvenile justice system because they are exposed to gang awareness and substance abuse programs, but those placed in the adult system do not have access to the same programming.

Because of high rates of juveniles being referred to the court system by schools for minor behavioral issues, new methods to remedy this problem have also been developed.  School-justice partnership programs have proved to be an effective method for reduction of juveniles entering into the criminal justice system and increased graduation rates.  Wilmington is one of the first cities in N.C. to adopt proposals for mediation and school conflict training programs that have gained approval since their introduction in other states.

It has been argued that raising the age could negatively affect public safety, overcrowd detention facilities, increase caseloads in the juvenile justice system, and result in unmanageable fiscal costs.  However, as demonstrated by states such as Illinois and Connecticut, raising the age of jurisdiction proved far more beneficial as opposed to the practice of lowering the age, which Rhode Island attempted in 2007, only to rescind the law shortly after due to poor results.  Illinois and Connecticut both reported that the juvenile justice system maintained caseloads at a lower rate than expected, spending on the state budget was reduced, public safety did not suffer, and the need for juvenile detention and incarceration facilities actually declined as a result of raising the age.

In North Carolina, due to already declining numbers in the delinquency rate, the reduction in pretrial detentions and commitments to youth development centers, and closures of detention facilities, the Division of Adult Corrections and Juvenile Justice has already saved more than $44 million from the 2008-2009 fiscal year to the present.  The money that the state has already saved as a result of these factors can contribute greatly to the estimated cost for the state to raise the age of juvenile jurisdiction.

Two fairly recent studies on raise the age legislation commissioned by the N.C. General Assembly (performed by the Legislative Research Commission and the Youth Accountability Task Force) affirm that N.C. should join the majority of states and raise the age of juvenile jurisdiction.  The proposal to raise the age has already received tremendous support from juvenile justice stakeholders, members of law enforcement, the public, and bipartisan lawmakers.  In fact, in the public hearings held and comments received in August of this year, 96 percent of the comments supported raising the age.  Several groups, including the American Legislative Exchange Council, the Conservatives for Criminal Justice Reform,  the N.C. Sheriff’s Association, the N.C. Association of Chiefs of Police and the N.C. Division of the Police Benevolent Association, have also issued statements in support of this proposal.

Given the high level of support both statewide and nationwide, the statistical data and scientific studies presented, and in consideration of the future of our youth, it stands to reason that raising the age of juvenile jurisdiction is a critical step forward for North Carolina.

For more information please find the original report here.