Katie's Blog

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

SB 439: Keeping Children from Juvenile Justice

SB 439
Last summer, we discussed several bills being considered by the California State Senate, including Senate Bill 439 (SB-439). As is the case with most legislation we focus on, SB 439 centers on juvenile justice, explicitly keeping most youngsters under the age of 12 out of courtrooms and into alternative programs for discipline.

SB 439 made it through the Senate, and if the bill makes its way to the Governor’s desk, it would mean two significant changes for California counties with regard to the handling of children ages 11 and under. First, minors whose behavior and actions are cause for concern by authorities must be released to his or her parent, guardian, or caregiver; except, if the crime involves an act of murder or rape with force, violence, or threat of great bodily harm. Secondly, the bill requires counties to “develop a process for determining the least restrictive responses that may be used instead of, or in addition to, the release of the minor to his or her parent, guardian, or caregiver."

Researchers at UCLA analyzed California Department of Justice data and found that only a small number of kids under twelve find their way into the clutches of the juvenile justice system, according to Press-Telegram. The analysis showed that eighty-five percent of the 452 referrals of 11-year-olds to the courts were closed or diverted from the system at the beginning of the cases. However, for the slight number of kids that are not so fortunate, the juvenile justice system can mark the start of more problems in life.


Strong Opposition to SB 439


“The vast majority of young children in California who’ve been accused of an offense are exhibiting behaviors or minor behaviors that did not require any justice involvement,” said State Sen. Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles), the bill’s co-sponsor. “Involvement with the juvenile justice system can be harmful to a child’s health and development.”

Sen. Mitchell’s views are not shared by law enforcement organization throughout the state and are pushing back hard trying to encourage those who are considering the legislation to bar its moving forward, the article reports. Last month, The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office reached out to the committee stating that the juvenile justice system is the only way to rehabilitate children and keep the public safe. Tamar Tokat from the L.A. County District Attorney’s office says there is “no alternative” to serious criminal cases involving children. Most of the bill's opponents cite troubling cases involving the most extreme of offenses to make their point; the California District Attorneys Association, the California Police Chiefs Association, and the Chief Probation Officers of California are among those opposing SB 439’s passing.

We will continue to follow this story as it develops. As an aside, if you are on the lookout for some summer reading material, The Evolution of the Juvenile Court: Race, Politics, and the Criminalizing of Juvenile Justice by Barry C. Feld might be the book for you.

“As a juvenile court jurist of almost 20 years, a reformer for most of those years and an adjunct law professor, I can adamantly state that this book is not only a must read, but should be added to the reading lists of those studying juvenile justice, including law students,” writes Judge Steven Teske on the Juvenile Justice Information exchange.


Orange County Juvenile Defense Attorney


The Law Offices of Katie Walsh can help your son or daughter who is facing criminal charges or school expulsion. Our team of legal experts will advocate for your child and assist them in achieving the most favorable outcome in their case. Please contact us today.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

ACLU Addresses Youth Accountability Team

Youth Accountability Team Program
The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, Northern California, San Diego, and the National Center for Youth Law are suing over the unfair practices used by the Riverside County Youth Accountability Team Program (YAT). According to the ACLU, YAT was created in 2001 to target at-risk youths for intervention. On the surface, such a program appears to be relatively benign; however, the tactics deployed treat adolescents who have not been convicted of crimes as criminals. The idea is that teens who seem to be on the edge of engaging in nefarious deeds can be scared straight.

The organization points out that programs like YAT do not have the intended effect on young people, and often do more harm to a child than good. The program is not a diversion; it is a facet of the Riverside County’s probation department. Youngsters who act up or have low marks in class are singled out and forced into six-month terms of probation. The ACLU contends that YAT is unconstitutional; kids who have committed no misdeeds are made to waive their First and Fourth Amendment rights, and subject to “invasive probation conditions.” Sarah Hinger, Staff Attorney, ACLU Racial Justice Program and Sylvia Torres-GuillĂ©n, Director of Education Equity, ACLU Foundations of California, write that:

“Children and their families are not provided with specific information about the offense they are accused of committing, the terms of YAT probation, the possible consequences of going to court, or advisement of their legal rights.”

Counseling, Instead of Probation



The ACLU states that YAT is the product of an outdated “incorrigibility” law; students are subject to prosecution for merely not complying with school faculty. Kids who may have learning disabilities or problems at home which impact their ability to do well in school are needlessly being funneled into the juvenile justice system. The organization says the practice disproportionately affects Black and Latino children throughout the county.

A report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation shows that youths are more responsive to positive incentives and supports than threats of punishment. Instead of putting guilt-free kids on probation, the ACLU would like to focus on supporting struggling children by way of counseling.

“The constitutional deficiencies of Riverside’s YAT Program are clear, and the program will continue to violate children’s rights until it is reformed. But reforming the program will not only protect their rights, it presents an opportunity to provide a model for bringing juvenile probation and diversion in line with contemporary research on adolescent development.”

Treating young people as criminals before they ever commit a crime increases the likelihood of problems developing down the road. There is already plenty of research to support diversion over detention for juveniles; so, it is not challenging to see how counseling would be more beneficial than probation for kids struggling in school. More times than not, the farther kids are from the juvenile justice system, the better!

Orange County Juvenile Criminal Defense Attorney


Please contact The Law Offices of Katie Walsh if your child is facing criminal charges or school expulsion. Attorney Walsh and her team of legal professionals can help you obtain the best possible outcome for your son or daughter.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Beyond Senate Bill 190: Financial Relief for All Families

Senate Bill 190
Just over a year ago we covered a subject that is of particular importance to adolescents caught in the juvenile justice system and their families, Senate Bill 190 (SB-190). At the time, the piece of legislation which, if passed, would prohibit the collection of fees in the juvenile-justice system across the state, was before the California state legislature. In the time since the bill was approved and signed by California Governor Jerry Brown.

Fines and court fees can add up quickly even when the offense in question is relatively minor. Given that most young people do not have a source of income sans what they get from their mother and/or father, the costs of young people breaking the law tend to become the burden of parents. What’s more, debt generated from the past transgressions in one’s youth, don’t disappear upon release; some families continue to chip away at debt long after their son or daughter earn his or her freedom.

Since January 1, 2018, counties across the state have put a stop to collecting juvenile court fees per SB-190; yet, families throughout California are still whittling away at debts accrued before the law came to fruition. San Mateo County Board Supervisor David Canepa, along with former juvenile offender Daniel Casillas, are tirelessly working to end the collection of any juvenile justice fees still owed to the county, The San Mateo Daily Journal reports. Daniel Casillas, who was released from detention just before he turned 18 about four years ago, now serves on the county’s Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Commission.


Beyond Senate Bill 190



The passing of Senate Bill 190 brought with it a massive relief for thousands of California families moving forward, yet it did not do much for those who already paid their physical debt to society but still owe financially. Since the age of 13, Casillas (21) was arrested more than 20 times for non-serious offenses and a series of probation violations. The arrests and detentions that followed generated incarceration and legal representation fees, according to the article. Years after his release, Daniel’s family are still paying the county.

“Their number one reason for moving here was to provide their kids a better opportunity,” Casillas said. “I think they’ve kind of had to delay their hopes and work extra hard because of financial burden, because of my own adolescence.” 

Supervisor Canepa introduced a juvenile court fee write-off for families like the Casillas. If the proposal is approved, it will afford relief to more than 6,000 families owing collectively around $12.6 million.

“When it comes to criminal justice, when you do the crime you have to pay the time,” said Canepa. “But when you pay the time, you shouldn’t be saddled as a juvenile with the debt for the rest of your life.”


Juvenile Defense Attorney


The Law Offices of Katie Walsh specialize in juvenile law. If your son or daughter is facing criminal charges or school expulsion, Attorney Walsh can advocate for you and your family in several ways. Please contact our office for a free consultation.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Keeping Foster Kids Out of the Juvenile Justice System

juvenile justice
The new California state budget allocates $4 million toward preventing the unnecessary arrests of foster children, The San Francisco Chronicle reports. The move from lawmakers came about after the newspaper exposed a severe issue regarding the handling foster kids who act up.

Historically, when foster children staying in one of the many California shelters caused a ruckus, supervisors would call the authorities. A minor infraction could quickly land a child in a juvenile detention facility for assault and vandalism; the practice starts a vicious cycle of young people going in-and-out of the juvenile justice system, and then the adult criminal justice system later in life.

It is vital to remember that the majority of youngsters in foster care have had complicated lives. Such youngsters have been witness to all-the-wrong-things from a very young age; ostensibly, they are not equipped to handle challenging situations in a healthy manner. One could argue that acting up is expected among young people whose early life is comprised of one traumatic event after another. Fortunately, there are ways of disciplining children that don't involve detention; utilizing such methods could teach adolescents valuable life lessons and coping skills.

De-Escalation and Adolescent Development Training


The $4 million will be used for:
  • Foster youth support services,
  • De-escalation training, and
  • Adolescent development training for law enforcement and staff at residential facilities.
This week, legislation is expected to pass that would order California children’s shelters and group homes to only call law enforcement in an emergency, according to the article. Such facilities should rely on other forms of intervention before turning to the police as a means of disciplining a child. Maria Ramiu, a senior staff attorney with the Youth Law Center in San Francisco, says the new law encouraging shelters and group homes to rely on law enforcement less, would be a significant “change in philosophy.”

Assembly Bill (AB) 2043, introduced by state Assemblyman Joaquin Arambula (D), curbs over-reliance on law enforcement to solve foster care behavioral concerns, The Chronicle of Social Change reports. The bill also helps foster kids reach out for help when they find themselves in unsafe situations in foster homes by creating a statewide hotline for foster youth and their caregivers to contact a mobile crisis-team at any time.

“We want [foster youth and caregivers] to feel supported, to have access to immediate support in their homes,” said Diana Boyer, senior policy analyst for the County Welfare Directors Association of California. “We’re bringing the services to them, as opposed to them going to services.” 

A mobile crisis team with training in how to address the concerns of young people, many of which have mental health problems, could significantly reduce the need to rely on law enforcement. Mental health, and young people acting out because of such conditions, is not a problem that can be arrested away.

Juvenile Defense Attorney


The Law Offices of Katie Walsh specialize in juvenile law. If your son or daughter is facing criminal charges or school expulsion, Attorney Walsh can advocate for you and your family in several ways. Please contact our office for a free consultation.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

School-to-Prison Pipelines, Classroom Management, and Restorative Justice

restorative justice
Supervising children is not an easy task; managing a classroom of more than 30 adolescents is a monumental feat. It should go without saying that teaching is a profession that is at times both rewarding and thankless. Those who choose to go into the field do so because of a desire to help young people achieve their highest potential even though the classroom is usually the last place students want to be for more than 200 hundred days of the year. Those of us without the task of overseeing youngsters find it challenging to understand how teachers do it; we were all children once, so we know firsthand the patience-trying nature of teenagers.

Most adults can remember the handful of troublemakers they had to share classrooms with, those who made it a point to disrupt lesson plans day-in-and-day-out. It seems like the sole mission of some kids was to be the bane of the faculty's existence. Although, it is likely that few of us could grasp, at the time, why certain classmates acted out; we could not know that forces outside the classroom may have driven some youngsters to rebel.

Some people can probably remember instances of their school throwing in the towel with specific students, deciding that the best thing to be done was to suspend or expel a student; if asked, the school would justify removing a problem child as being a service to the rest of the class and the teacher. Dismissing a student might lessen distractions in classrooms, but it probably did nothing to help the student in question and potentially was a jumping off point to more severe problems. Those who are expelled from high school are far more likely to face the juvenile justice system.

While people most often associate violence and drugs with suspension and expulsion, up until not too long ago faculties could adduce “willful defiance” — virtually anything that disrupts a class — as a reason to expel or suspend students. Then, in 2014, Gov. Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 420, eliminating willful defiance as a cause for expulsion. Since that time, California school districts have had to focus on what was behind a student’s behavior, address the problem, and help a child change their ways.

Classroom Management


If a classroom is a ship of enlightenment, the teacher is the captain, which make the students the crew. Those teens who pay attention and do their work may one day grow up to oversee a team of employees, or maybe even become teachers him or herself. As with any voyage, the captain must be both stern and fair; and, perhaps more than anything else protect the mission from mutiny. One could argue that students prone to disrupting the class are, in a sense, mutineers; on the high seas the captain might throw the offender overboard, but in the California classroom of today that frankly isn’t an option anymore. It seems the only course of action is to ensure that the "classroom captain” can manage their students effectively.

With that in mind, you may find it hard to believe that very little of a teacher’s education involves taking courses on how to manage a classroom effectively. It’s one thing to tell a teacher that a disruptive student is going to be around whether they like it or not, it’s another thing altogether to say that to an educator who lacks to the necessary skill set to manage the future generations.

“Classroom management is extraordinarily absent in teaching certification programs,” Mike Lombardo, director of prevention supports and services for the Placer County Office of Education, tells EdSource

In fact, a survey shows that when it comes to classroom management, more than 40 percent of new teachers reported feeling either “not at all prepared” or “only somewhat prepared.” The California Commission on Teacher Credentialing is responsible for establishing best practices in teaching; last year, the commission made a requirement that new teachers have an excellent understanding of non-punitive methods of discipline, EdSource reports. Restorative justice is one such method, a technique that involves relationship building and making amends. Instead of permanently removing kids from a classroom — a practice that can have a lasting effect (i.e., run-ins with the juvenile justice system, otherwise known as the "school-to-prison pipeline") on a student who likely is only acting out because he or she needs more support — teachers work to better understand the misbehaving student's social and emotional needs.

“[Beginning teachers should] promote students’ social-emotional growth, development and individual responsibility using positive interventions and supports, restorative justice and conflict resolution practices to foster a caring community where each student is treated fairly and respectfully by adults and peers,” according to the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing's new performance expectations.

Juvenile Defense Attorney


The Law Offices of Katie Walsh specialize in juvenile law. If your son or daughter is facing criminal charges or school expulsion, Attorney Walsh can advocate for you and your family in several ways. Please contact our office for a free consultation.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

California Youth Reinvestment Fund

California Assemblymember Reginald Jones-Sawyer, Sr. is requesting $100 million to assist young people who find themselves on the wrong side of the Law. The money will support the Youth Reinvestment Fund, a proposal that would specifically help vulnerable youth populations, including minorities, children with disabilities, girls, LGBTQ youth, and foster children, according to a press release. Assemblymember Jones-Sawyer points to research indicating that diversion and mentoring programs produced $3.36 of benefits for every dollar spent, reducing crime and saving taxpayers money.

"Research has shown that non-detention alternatives, particularly for low-level offenses, are more appropriate responses to curb delinquent behavior, avoiding pushing youth deeper into the juvenile justice system, writes Assemblymember Jones-Sawyer. “Most importantly, communities that have intentional diversion programs show improved outcomes for youth and public safety.”

The proposal relies on trauma-informed, community and health-based interventions, instead of incarceration. Last week, Youth Reinvestment Fund advocates joined forces in Sacramento to lobby for the funds which they believe will help thousands of at-risk youths avoid detention, The Chronicles for Social Change reports. Supporters hope for a different outcome than last year when a similar version fell short.


Youth Reinvestment Fund


Jones-Sawyer, who represents South Los Angeles, Florence-Firestone, Walnut Park, and a portion of Huntington Park, is confident that funding community organizations to work with at-risk youth will pay off immensely in the long run. If the budget proposal is approved, the assemblymember says it will keep 10,000 young people from arrest, detention, and incarceration each year.

“When we incarcerate young people, that’s about $200,000 to $300,000 per year, per kid,” said Jones-Sawyer. “With this $100 million, I could save the taxpayers maybe $8 to 10 billion.” 

The Youth Reinvestment Fund would apportion:
  • $10 million for Tribal Diversion Programs for Native American youth.
  • $15 million for social workers to assist minors in juvenile or criminal court, within the public defenders office.
  • $75 million would fund local diversion programs and community-based services for at-risk youth over a 3-year grant period.
One of the critical components of the Youth Reinvestment Fund is hiring more social workers to help out in public defenders' offices. As it stands right now, only three counties (Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Contra Costa) have social workers on site in public defender's offices. Even still, Jones-Sawyer notes that there are not enough social workers to participate in every case, according to the article. Brendon Woods, head of the Alameda County Public Defender’s office, says that when young people have the help of social workers, it reduces recidivism rates.

“The ones that do have social workers have tremendous success in terms of advocating for their youth, finding alternatives to incarceration, getting them into community-based programs,” Woods said. “It is almost night and day compared to the services that are provided to youth when social workers are involved as opposed to when they are not.”


Juvenile Defense Attorney


The Law Offices of Katie Walsh specialize in juvenile law. If your son or daughter is facing criminal charges, Attorney Walsh can assist you and your family in several ways. Please contact our office for a free consultation.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Probation Department Watchdog for Juvenile Justice

At first glance, Campus Kilpatrick in idyllic Malibu, CA, may not be what you might expect, a juvenile detention facility. That is because the center is following a somewhat different outline for the rehabilitation of youngsters with past troubles. Those sent to Kilpatrick are subject to a 16-week rehabilitation program focusing less on punishment and more on education, counseling, and vocational training. Instead of correctional officers running the show, teachers and counselors take center stage—guided by a trauma-informed and child-centered approach.


If you are having trouble watching, please click here.

Juvenile Justice Watchdog


L.A. Model
With a model more similar to a boarding/military school than a detention facility, the first class of residents arrived on campus July 3, 2017, and “graduated” just before the turn of the year. While the program is widely hailed as a success, it will take years before we can know for certain how effective the program is compared to previous approaches. A group of independent researchers is following the youths who complete the Campus Kilpatrick, The Los Angeles Times reports. It is likely that it will take a great length of time to determine the efficacy of the "L.A. Model" of juvenile rehabilitation. 

The L.A. Model is one of many changes when it comes to juvenile justice in California. Last week, a new watchdog agency to oversee the Los Angeles County Probation Department was approved by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. Juvenile abuse, sexual assault, and the practice of solitary confinement at detention camps for young people are among the chief concerns.

There are “profound and deep-seated” problems, Chief Probation Officer Terri McDonald tells NBC Los Angeles. McDonald is tasked with reforming the department, and she supports the oversight commission. She also wants to point out recent successes, such as Campus Kilpatrick and the closing of three probation camps.

"I believe profoundly in oversight," McDonald said. "I believe in community engagement and transparency in the work that we do." 

The commission's job will be traveling to and observing juvenile halls and camps throughout the state, according to the article. The watchdog is also responsible for tracking the recent criminal justice reforms in California and report directly to McDonald and the parole board. Eventually, the commission will oversee adult probationers, as well.

Juvenile Defense Attorney


The Law Offices of Katie Walsh specialize in juvenile law. If your son or daughter is facing criminal charges, Attorney Walsh can assist you and your family in several ways. Please contact our office for a free consultation.