Katie's Blog

Friday, September 18, 2020

Closing the Division of Juvenile Justice

juvenile justice
With the adjournment of the annual state legislative session, we thought we'd share with you some of the bills that made it to the governor's desk. We would also like to focus on a significant change to juvenile justice in California. 

Even though state lawmakers had to contend with conflicts relating to COVID-19, some interesting pieces of legislation made it to Governor Gavin Newsom. Such bills include but are not limited to legislation that would shorten probation terms (Assembly Bill-1950), enable parolees to earn a quicker end to supervision (Assembly Bill-2342), and create a state-level re-entry commission (Senate Bill-369). 

In May, Governor Newsom proposed closing the Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) and all its remaining state facilities in favor of local alternatives as part of the 2020-21 state budget. The announcement was met with sharp criticism; however, it looks like the novel plan may come to fruition. 

State lawmakers were able to get a trailer bill, AB-1868: Juvenile Justice Realignment, to Newsom's office in the session's final hours. An agreement was struck laying the groundwork for a new kind of juvenile justice, one that shifts the focus away from incarceration in favor of rehabilitation.

The Office of Youth and Community Restoration

In the place of the DJJ, the new Office of Youth and Community Restoration, a part of the state's Health and Human Services Agency, will "have critical responsibilities to oversee county juvenile justice systems, administer funding, and ensure local policies and practices reflect the state's priorities for children and families." Grants will be given to counties to provide custody and supervision.

"That kind of systemic transformation is exactly what I think we're learning needs to happen in this time when you've seen much tumult around how the criminal justice system operates and whether it's fair and equitable particularly as it relates to the treatment of kids of color," said Chet Hewitt, of the reform group California Alliance for Youth & Community Justice. 

There are currently four DJJ facilities that house about 775 youths, according to The Imprint. The majority are at three youth prisons, and 70 are at the Amador County fire camp, which trains youths in firefighting. Beginning next July, the state will no longer accept most youth offenders. The agreement made with the governor's office also raises the age to 25 for some youth to remain in the juvenile justice system. 

Next year, local governments will be tasked with detaining youth offenders in county detention centers. Those currently serving time in state-run juvenile detention centers will remain in state custody until their time is served or they reach age 25. The Amador fire camp will continue training youths under the new system.

Orange County Juvenile Defense Attorney

Please contact the Law Office of Katie Walsh if your son or daughter faces legal difficulties or school expulsion. Attorney Walsh has significant expertise in these matters and can advocate for your family. You can reach us at 714-351-0178 for a free consultation. 

Our thoughts and prayers go out to everyone affected by the many forest fires raging across the state. We hope that everyone finds themselves safe.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Contra Costa Officials to Change Juvenile Justice System

Contra Costa Juvenile Justice System Reform

At the beginning of this month, supervisors from Contra Costa County said that they intend to change the county’s juvenile justice system for the better. During a meeting which lasted nearly 12 hours and featured presentations from multiple agencies, supervisors said that they expect county officials to collaborate and decide whether to close either Juvenile Hall in Martinez or the Orin Allen Youth Rehabilitation Facility near Byron.

While officials remain divided on the path to resolution, they all agree that achieving the best outcomes for young people in Contra Costa County is their top priority, according to Bay City News. They say that their decision will be part of a larger dialogue seeking to reimagine youth justice in the area. Several of the supervisors stated that they expect Chief Probation Officer Esa Ehmen-Krause and District Attorney Diana Becton to work with others on a task force regarding this issue.

Alternatives to Juvenile Hall

Many members of the public have raised the idea of redirecting law enforcement funds to non-police mental health crisis response. Contra Costa supervisors praised this program, although they have not yet stated whether they intend to allocate funds from the sheriff’s budget to this end.

“The task force is more than about Juvenile Hall,” said Supervisor John Gioia. “It’s about the system.” Elected officials cite increased demand to redirect funding from law enforcement to instead support affordable housing, mental health, homeless outreach, and youth support services.

“I have stood for years and watched families wither in the face of the juvenile justice system,” stated Deputy Public Defender Nicole Eiland. “We want to keep our children out of trauma-inducing facilities like Juvenile Hall.”

California: Juvenile Hall by the Numbers

Over the past ten years, the number of children behind bars has decreased dramatically from the record high of the 1990s. This is partially due to a dismantling of the punitive approach to youth offenses. Instead, efforts have recently shifted to prevention in the form of social programming, early intervention, and outreach.

In Contra Costa County, the juvenile detention population has steadily decreased since 2002. This is a welcome deviation from the predicted “crime wave” officials threatened in the 1990s, a scare tactic which ultimately resulted in:
  • $750 million allocated to the construction of new juvenile facilities
  • California’s three-strikes law, which could send a person with three felonies away for life, and
  • A 2000 ballot initiative that made it easier for children to be tried as adults with harsher minimum sentences.

Fortunately, this crime wave never materialized. In fact, juvenile crime has decreased steadily since the mid ‘90s – a trend which seems poised to continue. Felonies, infractions, and misdemeanors fall year over year. Today, officials intend to allocate these heavy punitive budgets towards preventative efforts, including providing first-time youth offenders with anger management, substance abuse treatment, and connection with social services.

This is an important change, because evidence shows that sustained juvenile detention can have a negative impact on a child’s future, mental health, and quality of life.

The Effects of Youth Confinement

According to federal guidelines, “the purpose of juvenile detention is to confine only those youth who are serious, violent, or chronic offenders… pending legal action. Based on these criteria, it is not considered appropriate for status offenders and youth that commit technical violations of probation.” In spite of this, nearly 4,000 youth are held in juvenile detention centers for low-level offenses. National leaders in the field of juvenile justice support the prohibition of juvenile detention as a dispositional option.

Research shows that adult-style prisons – which many youth facilities are modeled after – lack the essentials required for healthy adolescent development. Young people require engaged adults focused on their development, a peer group which models prosocial behavior, activities which foster positive decision-making, and opportunities for academic success. They also may be exposed to further trauma as a result of incarceration, which can serve to reinforce poor choices and impulsive behavior. Experts say that instead of helping kids to get back on track, youth incarceration may result in the exacerbation of the negative behaviors which brought these children to the attention of the courts in the first place.

With change on the horizon for Contra Costa County, it is hoped that other California systems will seek to begin further juvenile justice reform efforts.

Orange County Juvenile Defense Attorney

If your child is facing legal difficulties, please contact the Law Offices of Katie Walsh. Attorney Walsh utilizes her years of experience as a former prosecutor to advocate for your child and achieve the best possible outcome.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Orange County Court User Portal

Court User Portal
In Orange County, California, at least 34,646 people have tested positive for COVID-19. Sadly, 566 of our residents have died from illnesses linked to the virus. Nearly 500,000 Californians have contracted the coronavirus, and 8,445 have succumbed statewide. At the Law Offices of Katie Walsh, we would like to express our condolences to everyone impacted by the pandemic.

We hope that you are taking preventive measures each day to safeguard your health during these challenging times.

Nearly every aspect of our day-to-day lives is different from before the outbreak. Tens of millions of Americans are out of work. According to the Brookings Institute, more than one in five households in the United States with children age 12 and under are food insecure. Financial hardship is leaving kids hungry; desperation is rampant throughout the country.

Spending most, if not all, of the day at home due to social distancing and “stay at home” orders is the new normal for a majority of the population. As a result, the way businesses, organizations, government systems, and the legal system operate is changing before our eyes.

It’s been nearly four months since an emergency order was issued, allowing courthouses across California to close to the public. An untold number of court cases are postponed as a result. While most Californians are unable to visit Orange County courts, it’s possible to handle pressing legal matters over the internet thanks to a new online portal.

Orange County Court User Portal

The Superior Court of California – County of Orange – has consolidated many of its website functions, allowing citizens to attend to traffic infractions and lower-level criminal cases, The Orange County Register reports. With the exception of jury trials, most low-level offense requirements can be handled online.

Orange County residents can turn to the Court User Portal to take care of payments or set up payment plans, submit electronic correspondence to the court, reserve a court date, or set up email or text reminders for future hearing or payment dates. You can also use the portal to search for cases or citations.

Court facilities are a prime example of where large groups of people gather. Avoiding large crowds is essential to reducing the spread of COVID-19.

“The portal will provide an essential channel for access to justice, especially during the challenging times of COIVD-19 when we must maintain social distancing,” said Orange County Superior Court Presiding Judge, Kirk Nakamura. 

In order to utilize the tool, you will have to create a My Court Portal account to access the dashboard. Please double-check everything you submit to the portal; the court is not liable for errors or omissions or any of the information provided.

Orange County Juvenile Defense Attorney

If your child is facing legal challenges, please contact the Law Offices of Katie Walsh. As a former prosecutor, Attorney Walsh has the expertise to advocate for your family and help bring about the best possible outcome. You will be pleased to know that the courts are permitting attorneys to appear by video or in-person for all or most misdemeanors amid the pandemic—sparing clients from exposure risks.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Police-Free Schools: Ending the School-to-Prison Pipeline

chool-to-prison pipeline
As the world remains fixated on seeing the global pandemic come to an end, the topic of police brutality in the United States is once again at the forefront of the public's attention. A recent swath of the killing of unarmed black civilians has caught international attention and led to protests across the nation.

The disproportionate shootings involving people of color has forced millions of Americans to set aside their worries over coronavirus and rethink policing in America. People of color – both teenagers and adults – are far more likely to have run-ins with law enforcement and the criminal justice system.

It's not just adults in an uproar about what is perceived as unfair treatment of blacks and Latinos. A large number of students have been affected by the role law enforcement plays in their day-to-day lives. The "school-to-prison pipeline" continues to be a subject of the utmost importance, and we must continue taking steps to end this phenomenon. Again, it's a trend that affects young minorities at significantly higher rates than their white peers.

In California, students have come together to demand this change in their school districts. In several major cities, students are imploring school boards to put a stop to the presence of police in their schools, EdSource reports. They would like to see fewer police and more counselors on campus. 

"Police feel like a threat to students, especially to black and brown students. Black and brown students are intimidated by police," said Ashantee Polk, a high school senior in Los Angeles and a member of Students Deserve Justice, a group of students across the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Police-Free Schools in California

Student resource officers are meant to make students feel safer. However, research shows that having police officers in schools can lead to unfortunate outcomes for black and Latino students.

Data shows that young blacks and Latinos are arrested and disciplined more often than their white peers, often for minor offenses such as willful defiance. In many cases, interactions with student resource officers is a teenager's first introduction to the criminal justice system—the school-to-prison pipeline. 

A more significant investment in student support services could provide young people with resources that will keep them on a path that steers them away from courtrooms and institutions. Pressure from both students and community groups could lead to significant changes in Los Angeles, Oakland, Sacramento, and San Francisco in the near future. That's not to say police-free campuses will be the future, but change could be on the horizon.

"We need to have standards for school resource officers," said California State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond. "Those standards mean that we should never, ever at any school, expect a police officer to be the dean of students or a disciplinarian who disciplines a student for doing things that students do. There should be no criminalization of students for engaging in student behavior."

Orange County Juvenile Lawyer

Remember, a young school aged child or teenager needs an advocate as soon as a serious issue comes up! Often times the school’s first priority is to protect the school and the school district, not the child. As a former prosecutor, Attorney Katie Walsh has the expertise to help young people who find themselves in trouble with the law. Please contact The Law Office of Katie Walsh today to learn more about how she can advocate for your family.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Low-Level Juvenile Offenders Remain In Custody

juvenile offenders
At the Law Offices of Katie Walsh, we’d like to share our deepest condolences to the families of the 74,188 Americans who have succumbed to COVID-19. We will continue to keep all the infected in the United States – some 1,232,470 – in our thoughts and prayers.

While some headway has been made in containing the coronavirus and flattening the curve through social distancing and sheltering in place, the numbers continue to increase each day exponentially. Nearly four million global citizens (3,784,563) have tested positive for the virus, and 265,294 people have died as of May 7 at 9:54 a.m.

We encourage all Californians and every American to heed the recommendations of public health experts to prevent the spread of the virus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have proven effective: regular hand washing and sanitizing, the use of personal protective equipment like face masks, and self-quarantining if you fall ill.

As you are well aware, COVID-19 has altered the trajectory of every person’s life. During the “Great Recession” of 2008, in the worst month, 800,000 Americans lost their jobs. In April 2020, more than 20 million people lost their jobs.

In the last seven-weeks, 33.5 million people have filed for unemployment.

Employment, naturally, is only one of the myriad things that have changed since the coronavirus spread across the United States. Both the criminal justice and juvenile justice system have been impacted too.

Preventing the Spread in Juvenile Halls and Camps

In the criminal justice and juvenile justice system, inmates and detainees are at severe risk of contracting and spreading coronavirus. In the last week of April, at least 82 people housed in Orange County jails and three guards tested positive for COVID-19, according to Patch. As such, there has been a push to release low-level offenders on house arrests to reduce the population.

Zero-dollar bail has been instituted for people charged with misdemeanors and low-level felonies, again to keep the jail census low.

In Los Angeles County, a significant number of youth offenders were released from county-run juvenile halls and camps towards the end of last month, The Chronicle of Social Change reports. However, a significant number of youths remained locked up despite having committed minor infractions. L.A. County District Attorney Jackie Lacey reports that forty-four percent of juveniles who are still detained committed low-level and non-violent offenses—most awaiting a court hearing.

“The fact that we are detaining 44 percent of youth in the juvenile halls for something relatively minor is a misuse of our resources, a violation of the tenets of the juvenile justice system, and, I would argue, the Constitution, too,” said Patricia Soung, the director of youth justice policy with Children’s Defense Fund-California. 

The goal of releasing youths was to prevent disease transmission. However, there are fears that the move hasn’t gone far enough. Evidence shows that hundreds of teens charged with “non-serious or minor offenses” remain in custody. The D.A.’s office stated that:

“A juvenile court must decide that the home is a safer place for the minor than further detention.”

Southern California Juvenile Justice Attorney

The Law Offices of Katie Walsh can assist your child or loved one if they were arrested and charged with a crime. Attorney Walsh has the expertise to effectively advocate for your family and help you achieve a favorable outcome. Please reach out to us today for a consultation (714) 351-0178.

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Pandemic Leads to California Court Closures

orange county court
At the Law Offices of Katie Walsh, our thoughts and prayers go out to all the families impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. We understand that 10,030 Californians have tested positive for the deadly coronavirus that is sweeping across the United States and the entire planet. Thus far, 216 people have succumbed to the virus in California, and at least 51,485 individuals have died globally. Public health experts project that many more will fall ill, and an untold number will perish from the disease.

We hope that you are following every precaution to protect your health and safety. It's of the utmost importance that you heed the recommendations of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as well as local and state officials.

At this moment, New York has the most confirmed cases of COVID-19 and casualties. However, California Governor Gavin Newsom's team of public health experts warn that the Golden State could see the most significant number of confirmed cases in the end.

On March 18th, 2020, Gov. Newsom wrote The White House asking for aid, and shared the projections, CNN reports. In response, the U.S.N.S Mercy was sent to the coast of Los Angeles to support local hospitals. Mercy's sole purpose is medical in nature, and it can accommodate 1,000 hospital beds. The Mercy's mission is not to treat COVID-19 patients. They are treating patients with other health conditions or injuries, so the hospitals have more open beds for coronavirus patients. 

"We project that roughly 56 percent of our population -- 25.5 million people -- will be infected with the virus over an eight-week period," wrote Gov. Newsom.

We can only hope that Newsom's projections don't become a reality. Even still, life as we know it, is vastly different from just a few weeks ago, including in the criminal justice system.

Orange County Superior Courts Close

California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye issued an emergency order allowing courthouses across the state to close for the time being facilities to the public, KCAL 9 reports. In response, all Orange County Superior Court system courthouses closed last Monday.

The courts were to remain closed until March 30th; however, the closure was extended. Now, all court facilities in the county are closed to the PUBLIC until at least April 24th, 2020, according to One Legal. The same is true in other counties as well; all civil and criminal trials are suspended through April 16th at all 38 courthouses in Los Angeles County.

On March 27th, Superior Court of California County of Orange issued a press release which stated:

"The Orange County Superior Court is closed to the public, with minimal exceptions for time sensitive matters, or matters pertaining to the safety and security of the community." 

Given the growing number of confirmed cases throughout the state, it's highly plausible that the criminal justice system will essentially remain at a standstill for much longer. Hopefully, if Californians follow the public health protocols, we will be able to flatten the curve of new cases and save countless lives.

Orange County Juvenile Defense Attorney

We hope everyone stays healthy and safe across the state and beyond. Please contact the Law Offices of Katie Walsh if your son or daughter is encountering legal troubles. Attorney Walsh has the experience to advocate for your family and help bring about a favorable outcome. Should you have any questions about a pending case, please visit our COVID-19 page.

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Warrantless Electronic Device Searches and DJJ Spending

Warrantless Electronic Device Searches
In the age of the Internet, the topic of electronic privacy comes up regularly in legal discussions. Smartphones are ubiquitous in today's world; most adolescents and adults have one at all times. In recent years, legal experts have been debating the electronic privacy for criminal offenders. The question is whether or not the attorneys general and prosecutors can impose warrantless device searches?

Last month, California's First District Court of Appeals blocked the attorney general's attempt to impose a warrantless device search on a teenage girl convicted of felony assault, The Recorder reports. However, the justices did not weigh in on the constitutionality of such measures when reading their decision.

When Amber K. was asked to hand over her electronic devices to ensure she is complying with all the terms of her probation, her attorney fought back. The State's goal was to ascertain if Amber was digitally communicating with the girl she assaulted. Her attorney contended that the probation condition was unconstitutional.

State prosecutors argued that they had cause for searching her devices because the crime was filmed and disseminated on social media. The court ruled that the Attorney General's Office request for electronic searches did not meet the standard created by the 1975 People v. Lent decision, requiring probation conditions to relate to the crime at hand, criminal behavior, and future criminality.

Since there isn't any evidence that Amber K. arranged for the fight to be filmed or shared on social media, the probation condition fell short of the People v. Lent standard. Associate Justice Marla Miller wrote:

"We agree with Amber that the record does not show a relationship between her use of electronic devices and the offending conduct sufficient to justify the electronic search condition under the first prong of Lent. "Although the record suggests that the assault resulted from hostility between Amber and B. [the victim] that had played out in part over social media, we are not persuaded by the attorney general's contention that 'substantial evidence in the record connects appellant's use of electronic devices and social media to the assault.'"

Spending on California’s Youth Correctional System

There is an update on the transfer of control of California's Juvenile Justice Division to the Health and Human Services Agency (HHS). In January of 2019, we wrote about a novel proposal from the Office of Governor.

Since many teens in juvenile detention centers have mental and behavioral health disorders, Governor Gavin Newsom believed the HHS is better suited for preparing young people for release through a combination of educational, mental health, and social services.

While the move puts California in line with 40 other states, the transition will be costly, according to the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice. Reorganization of California's Youth Correctional System will lead to a dramatic rise in spending on the Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ).

A new facts sheet shows that the Governor's office proposes a DJJ budget of nearly $300 million, costing approximately $336,000 per youth during the 2020-21 fiscal year. The DJJ budget would rise by almost $100 million. The report shows that counties pay just 7 percent of the actual cost of DJJ, with the remainder falling on the state.

Some of the funding will go towards DJJ staff increases, according to the article. There will be more than 1,400 hundred DJJ workforce positions for the fiscal year 2020-21, a 31 percent increase over 2018-19.

Orange County Juvenile Defense Attorney

Please contact The Law Offices Of Katie Walsh if your child is facing legal problems. Attorney Walsh has an extensive amount of experience working in the California juvenile justice system. She is fully equipped to advocate for your family and help you achieve a favorable outcome for your son or daughter.