OJD Week in Review: Jan. 7 – 11

Welcome!  We’re coming into another Friday with fresh tips, job, training, and podcast reminders.  We also have a summary of the first Juvenile Jurisdiction Advisory Committee meeting of 2019, which took place earlier this week.

Tip of the Week – No Cookie-Cutter Dispositions!

Remember – disposition MUST be tailored to your specific client (§7B-2500) – don’t be afraid to argue against “cookie cutter” plans.  For example – if your client has no known drug/alcohol history, why should s/he be subject to random drug screens as part of probation?  Ask your client if s/he hunts – depending on the charge your client was adjudicated for, consider requesting the prohibition against weapons be waived if s/he is hunting with a responsible adult.

Job Opportunities

Today is the last day to apply for the Juvenile Law Center‘s Staff Attorney.  The Staff Attorney 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.  .  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.

every-day-is-training-day

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.

First JJAC Meeting of 2019

On Tuesday, Jan. 8, at the N.C. Division of Adult Corrections and Juvenile Justice building, the Juvenile Jurisdiction Advisory Committee (JJAC) held their first meeting for 2019.   During the meeting, Committee members summarized the plans for the interim Juvenile Age Report, discussed funding recommendations, next steps in planning and new business.

The meeting began with a greeting and review of the minutes from the previous meeting from Committee co-chairs the Honorable Garry Frank and Bill D. Davis before Deputy Secretary for Juvenile Justice William Lassiter began the presentation on the Juvenile Age Report.  Lassiter stated that the future topics in JJAC would include age-appropriate programming in youth development centers and detention centers, hearing presentations from representatives from other states that have implemented Raise the Age legislation, training of stakeholders across the state, business analytics, videoconferencing, and communication planning.  Lassiter mentioned the Committee was currently working on a grant to aid in establishing videoconferencing capabilities statewide.

Lassiter said in multiple stakeholder forums, resources and legislative changes were the biggest concern brought up in each juvenile district.  In addition to the forums, JJAC is also working on establishing new juvenile facility designs, health services, and education, among other things.  There have already been 65 new positions approved for court services to assist with the expected increase in the juvenile justice system and new data collection software is already being utilized.

RTAThe Housing Transfer Subcommittee submitted several recommendations regarding transportation and pretrial custody of juveniles.  It was also pointed out that the recent federal Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act of 2018 reinforces the Housing Transfer Subcommittees’ recommendation to house all persons less than 18 years of age in an approved Juvenile Justice Section facility when ordered to be held in custody prior to trial or adjudication.  Part of the legislative recommendations from the subcommittees included defining what motor vehicle offenses would be excluded and including a “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard for gang suppression.

During the discussion on the legislative recommendations, concerns were raised about the legislative directive encouraging school-justice partnerships (SJP), agreements among local stakeholders to divert minor school disciplinary behavior from juvenile court.  Eddie Caldwell spoke on behalf of the Sheriff’s Association, stating the organization supports Raise the Age and believes that the juvenile system has more leverage to work with juveniles than the adult system, providing them with resources and services.  However, the consensus among its members is that SJP only keep kids out of the justice system, preventing them from receiving the services they need.  Caldwell said the greatest concern arises from the vagueness of the language and assumption it can be adopted by all local systems statewide.  Chief District Court Judge Jay Corpening, who piloted one of the first partnerships in New Hanover County, responded that while he appreciated Caldwell’s comments, the program was very successful in his jurisdiction, and that the partnership holds youth accountable by providing effective and appropriate responses without court involvement, and that the result was that schools reported as safer environments.  Members of the Committee invited Caldwell to join them in the SJP subcommittee meeting that followed immediately after the full JJAC meeting to further address concerns with the plan.

AOC Chief Business Officer Brad Fowler discussed AOC funding recommendations, pointing out the need for more district court judges, assistant district attorneys, deputy clerks and legal assistants.  OJD’s request for additional funding for a new assistant juvenile defender was also mentioned and Juvenile Defender Eric Zogry also had a chance to introduce OJD’s new Project Attorney to the Committee.

Director of the Conference of District Attorneys Peg Dorer and Juvenile Resource Prosecutor Rachel Larsen later presented on the funding recommendations for their organization, which included making the Juvenile Resource Prosecutor position permanent to aid in statewide training on juvenile court laws and developing new resources.

At the end of the meeting the Committee voted to accept the changes to the draft of the Juvenile Age report, which only included technical changes, such as grammatical and punctuation, but no substantive changes to the report were made.  Following the adjournment of the full Committee meeting, members broke out into subcommittees to discuss next steps in addressing implementation.

New Resources

Just to bring attention to this once more, we wanted to let everyone know that our latest podcast with forensic psychologist Dr. Cindy Cottle is live!  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.

facebook

That sums up this week!  Please join us over on Twitter and Facebook 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.