OJD Week in Review: Oct. 16-20

This week we’ve got a few new resources for you, a panel discussion, and a declaration from the governor’s office we had to include.

Quick Reminder

Firstly, we’d like to remind everyone of the approaching deadlines for a couple of job opportunities we’ve previously mentioned.  Applications for the NJDC Gault Fellowship are due Monday, Oct. 30.  Also, applications for North Carolina Judicial Fellowship‘s two associate counsel positions are due by 5 p.m. today, and applications for the six (6) two-year fellowships starting August 2018 will close on Nov. 3.  Hurry and spread the word or apply if you are interested!

The National Juvenile Justice Network has also posted an opening for a 2018 Fall internship.  The full details for this unpaid internship can be found here.

And moving on to this week’s news…

On last Friday, N.C. Governor Roy Cooper declared Oct. 15-21 “Juvenile Justice Week” (among other things).  In his proclamation (which can be read here), Governor Cooper acknowledges the milestones achieved by the Juvenile Justice Section of the Division of Adult Corrections and Juvenile Justice, including the decline of the juvenile crime rate and passing of Raise the Age.

AtlanticOn Tuesday, Juvenile Defender Eric Zogry joined Ricky Watson, Jr., co-director of the Youth Justice Project, and District Court Judge Louis Trosch, Jr., co-chair of Race Matters of Juvenile Justice and judge for the 26th judicial circuit, on a live panel with The Atlantic‘s Assistant Editor (now to promoted Managing Editor as of this post) Adrienne Green to discuss juvenile justice reform and racial disparities.  In the video, the panel touches on school-justice partnerships, acknowledging implicit biases, and expectations for Raise the Age.  You can view the video here.

From the On the Civil Side blog, Professor LaToya Powell offers some insights on capacity.  In the latest post, titled “Incapacity to Proceed and Juveniles“, Powell breaks down the requirements for a juvenile to be determined capable of proceeding.

The Sentencing Project has also released two new fact sheets, “Native Disparities in Youth Incarceration” and “Latino Disparities in Youth Incarceration“, which offer quick statistics on the disparities between juvenile placements of youth of these ethnic groups and their Caucasian peers.  These fact sheets can be paired with the “Black Disparities in Youth Incarceration” fact sheet released back in September.

NJJN image

You should also check out the National Juvenile Justice Network’s latest newsletter when you find the time.  NJJN has several new articles, including one discussing Texas’ plans for juvenile justice reform, ways to participate in Youth Justice Action Month, and recognizing implicit bias, just to name a few.  The toolkit for changing harmful media narratives about youth of color that we mentioned last week can also be found in their newsletter.

That is all for this week, folks.  We hope that it has been a great Juvenile Justice Week for everyone.  If there is anything you would like to share about your experience during Youth Justice Action Month, please let the N.C. Juvenile Defender community know on Facebook or here on our blog!

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.