OJD Week in Review: Dec. 31 – Jan. 4

Happy New Year!  We’re starting the year off with a great new podcast, a couple of training and job opportunity reminders, a new free resource and a new tip for you (just because we know you’ve been missing them for the last few weeks).

tips memeTip of the Week – Before You Plea

Talk to your client about the impacts of an adjudication.  While not as public as adult criminal convictions, juvenile adjudications may impact the following: immigration status, educational placement, housing conditions, eligibility to play sports, placement on a sex offender registry (in N.C. or other states) and others.  Always consider the long-term consequences of what may first appear to be a short-term decision.

New Resources

Before the close of 2018, we had the pleasure of sitting down with forensic psychologist Dr. Cindy Cottle, to discuss juvenile psychological development on our podcast.  In this new segment, we talk about Roper v. Simmons, what juvenile defenders should know before contacting an evaluator, the impact that involvement in our current juvenile justice system can have on the mental health of youth, and much more.  You can listen to the podcast here.

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While not exactly a new resource, we wanted to make sure everyone was aware that the School of Government’s Legislative Reporting Service (LRS) is now FREE!  This site provides legislative summaries of everything coming out of the N.C. General Assembly including filed bills, committee substitutes and amendments, floor amendments, and conference reports.  The site also offers tools to assist you in organizing the bills and reports that most interest you.  You can check it out here.

Job Opportunities

Juvenile Law Center in Pennsylvania is currently accepting applications for a Staff Attorney, who will work in a highly collegial atmosphere with attorneys, communications, development, and operations staff, and in partnership with colleagues around the state and country.  The work will include litigation, policy advocacy, public education, media advocacy, legal and non-legal writing, training, technical assistance, coordinating state or national reform efforts including organizing and facilitating meetings, and other duties as assigned.  The Staff Attorney will think strategically about opportunities to advocate for child welfare and justice systems that are developmentally appropriate, racially equitable, and supportive of youth, families and communities.  Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis until Friday, Jan. 11.  To apply, please go here.

On Dec. 1, Indigent Defense Services (IDS) issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) in Caswell, Person, Alamance, Orange, and Chatham counties.  The current contracts for adult noncapital criminal cases at the trial level and per session court cases in those districts will expire on May 31, 2019 and renew on June 1, 2019.  The RFP (RFP #16-0002R) seeks services for adult noncapital criminal cases at the trial level, juvenile delinquency, abuse/neglect/dependency and termination of parental rights, and treatment courts.  Please note that the RFP will not seek offers for potentially capital cases at the trial level, direct appeals or post-conviction cases.  Also, the juvenile delinquency RFP will only include Caswell, Alamance, and Person counties.  The deadline for electronic offers is Feb. 15.  To access the RFP, please check here.

Training

The deadline for applications for the 2019 Juvenile Training Immersion Program (JTIP) Summer Academy is Sunday, Jan. 13.  The JTIP Summer Academy is an annual seven-day intensive training program comprised of sessions from the JTIP curriculum, developed by the National Juvenile Defender Center (NJDC) in conjunction with experts and practitioners from around the country.  It is intended for attorneys who currently defend youth in juvenile court proceedings.  The Academy is targeted at both new and experienced juvenile defenders.  New defenders will develop the skills they need to zealously represent their clients.  More experienced juvenile defenders will have the opportunity to refine their skills and enhance their effectiveness by employing defense strategies that incorporate the unique aspects of representing youth in delinquency cases.  The program is also designed to build community and equip juvenile defenders with skills they can share with colleagues in their home state.  The JTIP Summer Academy is co-hosted by the National Juvenile Defender Center (NJDC) and Georgetown Law’s Juvenile Justice Clinic & Initiative.  To apply, please find a PDF version of the application here.

Save the date!  The 2019 Regional Training for Indigent Defense: Special Issues in Complex Felony Cases will be held on March 21 at the East Carolina Heart Institute at East Carolina University in Greenville, N.C.  The training will focus on topics relevant to criminal law practitioners and is open to IDS contract attorneys and privately assigned counsel.  Participants will receive three general CLE credit hours.  Registration should open later this month.

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That is our wrap-up for the first Friday of 2019!  Please check us out on Twitter and join us on the OJD Facebook page for other news and updates throughout the week and we will have more to come soon.

OJD Spotlight: A Discussion on School-Justice Partnerships with LaToya Powell

As we observe and prepare for the full implementation of North Carolina’s plan to raise the age of juvenile jurisdiction, there are some elements of the new legislation that are worth highlighting, one of those being the mandate for school-justice partnerships.  The Office of the Juvenile Defender had the pleasure of sitting down with LaToya Powell to discuss the roll-out of the school-justice partnership project.

Office of the Juvenile Defender: Thank you for taking the time to be here with us today, LaToya.  Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your background in juvenile justice.

LaToya Powell: I have been working in the area of juvenile justice since I graduated law school in 2005.  First, as a prosecutor in Johnston County, then as an appellate attorney with the Attorney General’s Office where I handled juvenile delinquency appeals for the State.  After that, I worked as a law professor at the UNC School of Government, where I trained and advised North Carolina public officials, including juvenile court judges, prosecutors, juvenile defenders, and lawmakers.  Currently, I am with the Office of General Counsel at the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) where I work as the Assistant Legal Counsel responsible for addressing juvenile delinquency issues and policy changes like Raise the Age.

LaToya Powell headshotOJD:  What are school-justice partnerships?

LP:  A school-justice partnership is exactly what it says.  It’s a partnership between the schools and the courts and other community stakeholders, like law enforcement and juvenile justice, designed to reduce the school-to-prison pipeline.  The school-to-prison pipeline is what happens when schools rely heavily on exclusionary discipline, like suspensions, expulsions, and referring kids to court, to address minor misconduct in school.  We know from Juvenile Justice data that close to 50 percent of petitions are based on misconduct that happens at schools.  Ninety-four percent of those cases are minor misdemeanors, like simple assault, misdemeanor larceny, and disorderly conduct, such as a kid being disruptive in class or yelling at a teacher.  What we know from evidence is that when kids are referred to court, they are more likely to drop out of school, they are more likely to engage in future misconduct and they are more likely to be charged as an adult.  So not only does it produce negative outcomes for the students, but it also makes schools and communities less safe because it increases recidivism.

Rather than push kids out of school, school-justice partnerships keep kids in school where they have better outcomes.  And as a result of Raise the Age, we now have a directive from the Legislature to the Director of the AOC to create policies and procedures to expand school-justice partnerships throughout North Carolina.

OJD:  What results are you hoping to see from the expansion of school-justice partnerships?

LP:  What we would hope to see is a reduction in the number of school-based referrals that go to the court system, and as a result of that, better outcomes for students—greater academic achievement, lower dropout rates, increased graduation rates, safer schools—those are the main goals for this partnership.  Another thing that we hope to see is less disproportionality in the way that school discipline is administered because the school-to-prison pipeline has a disparate impact on certain groups of students, primarily students of color and disabled students.

OJD:  What questions or problems do you anticipate for these programs?

LP:  The biggest problem or obstacle that we anticipate is the lack of resources for schools that need to be able to address disruptive students without the need to suspend them or send them to court.  There are many counties in our state that have lots of programs, community-based and school-based, that support students who are misbehaving at school, but other counties are not so fortunate.  They don’t have as many resources or tools to help their teachers who have a classroom of 30 or more kids.  Often times, all they have is a school resource officer who they can ask “Can you help me with this kid who is disturbing my classroom?” So, we hope to see more funding to create additional programs that will serve this population of students.

We know that some of our counties have things like restorative justice programs, Teen Court programs, and other diversion programs that are very successful and produce really great results for children.  The Juvenile Jurisdiction Advisory Committee (JJAC), which is monitoring the implementation of Raise the Age, has requested additional resources from the Legislature to fund diversion programs for these school-justice partnerships.  Also, the AOC is creating a school-justice partnership toolkit that provides guidance on how to create and implement a school-justice partnership.

OJD:  How many counties in N.C. are currently implementing school-justice partnership programs and have there been any measurable levels of success?

LP:  To my knowledge there are at least six counties that currently have school-justice partnerships and several others are in the process of creating them.  New Hanover County established its school-justice partnership about two years ago under the leadership of Chief District Court Judge J. Corpening and under its model, schools use graduated responses to address minor misconduct.  A graduated response model is a tiered system of sanctions that essentially gives the child a second chance to get it right.  So, instead of a student immediately being arrested and charged the first time he or she gets into a fight, the school will first try to address the misconduct without resorting to exclusionary discipline.  For example, a teacher might reprimand the student or require the student to do an assignment that relates to the behavior.  And then the next time the student misbehaves, the school might refer the student to a program or a behavioral specialist at the school.  Under the graduated response model, a child would have to receive at least two graduated responses before a referral to court can be made.  As a result of this school-justice partnership, New Hanover County has reduced school-based referrals by 47 percent.

OJD:  What other solutions would you propose to derail the school-to-prison pipeline?

LP:  I think this project is going to help lots of children in North Carolina avoid contact with the juvenile justice system.  And that is really important, not just for our kids but also for our schools and our communities.  By reducing the population of students who are being referred to court for minor misconduct that happens at school, it will increase the capacity of the juvenile court system to serve the older population of juveniles, 16- and 17-year-olds, who will soon become a part of that system.  The successful implementation of Raise the Age is an important step in reducing the school to prison pipeline.

OJD:  How can people learn more about school-justice partnerships in North Carolina?

LP:  For more information about School Justice Partnership North Carolina, please visit SJP.nccourts.gov.

Reflections & Foresight on N.C.’s Journey for Juvenile Justice at Raise the Age Victory Celebration

On Thursday afternoon, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., advocates for Raise the Age from across the state of North Carolina (and probably beyond) assembled at Trophy Brewing in Downtown Raleigh for a victory party hosted by the Raise the Age Coalition to celebrate the passing of the new law extending the age of juvenile jurisdiction.  RTA Vic Party crowd

Representatives from many organizations, from Disability Rights N.C. to the state Legislature, were in attendance to celebrate the monumental occasion.  After struggling for more than a decade to make this necessary change to the juvenile justice system, the festivities were well-deserved.  Everyone present seemed to be in good spirits after finally seeing their diligence pay off, but the people who have supported this effort for so long understand that there is still more to be done.

“I believe this is a step in the right direction,” said Tyler Ford, research assistant to Senator Paul Lowe.  “The state can now focus on guiding juveniles in the right direction, but we definitely have a long way to go.”

In the middle of the event, Susanna Birdsong, state policy counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, called on multiple speakers to share their thoughts and words of encouragement with the crowd.

Brandy Bynum Dawson, associate director for Rural Forward NC, was the first of the speakers, addressing all of the long years of advocacy to make this moment possible in her speech.  “This win is for North Carolina’s youth!” Dawson said.  “Congratulations on never giving up!”

Dawson was followed by Sens. Marcia Morey and Duane Hall, who each spoke briefly about their work in the judicial system before coming to the Legislature.

“This is why I left the bench to go to the Legislature,” Sen. Morey said.  “This is about the kids.  This is about the thousands of kids I would have sentenced as a judge.”

The final speaker for the event, Ricky Watson, co-director of the Youth Justice Project, stated that until the law is fully implemented, the goal would be to increase diversion programs and try to keep kids out of the justice system in the first place, continuing to advance justice for youth in North Carolina.

RTA Vic party

Following the presentations from the selected speakers a few others present were kind enough share their thoughts on the new legislation and what it means going forward.

“This is a smart juvenile justice reform that is going to help a lot of kids in North Carolina,” said LaToya Powell, assistant professor of public law and government at the UNC School of Government.

Deana Fleming, assistant legal counsel for the North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts, stated, “I’m just happy to be able to put North Carolina youth on equal footing with the rest of the states.”

“This is only the beginning, there is still work to be done,” said David Andrews, assistant public defender for the N.C. Office of the Appellate Defender.

And while the work to improve the juvenile justice system continues, so do the celebrations for what has been achieved so far.  On Wednesday, August 2, the North Carolina Chamber will be holding its own reception in the Reynolds American Boardroom at 701 Corporate Center Drive, Suite 400 in Raleigh.  The reception will last from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m.  Guests will need to RSVP with Kristy Kappel at kkappel@ncchamber.net.

 

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.

celebrate

“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.

 

#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.

Image result for raise the age map

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.