Katie's Blog

Thursday, May 20, 2021

California PROMYSE Act Passes Senate Public Safety Committee | SB 493

PROMYSE Act - SB 493

A critical piece of legislation that should drastically improve accountability of a state grant targeted toward juvenile justice crime prevention has won broad support in its first legislative committee. Senate Bill 493, the PROMYSE Act, has passed the Senate Public Safety Committee and now moves on to the Senate Appropriations Committee for review and approval. 


PROMYSE is the Promoting Youth Success and Empowerment Act. The bill was authored by Senator Steven Bradford and supported by Senators Nancy Skinner, Scott Wiener, and Sydney Kamlager as well as a Co-Sponsor Coalition made up of advocates, service providers, and youth justice experts. 

One main goal of the PROMYSE Act is to dramatically improve spending and accountability of an annual grant for the state of California called the Juvenile Justice Crime Prevention Act (JJCPA). The bill will also reinvest $100M+ in youth services in the state that are provided by schools, community-based organizations, and public health agencies.

Co-Sponsor Coalition

A group of youth advocates, justice experts, and service providers have co-sponsored SB 493, supporting Senator’s Bradford’s efforts. Among them is the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice (CJCJ). There have also been a number of individuals supporting the bill, especially those who have been directly impacted by the juvenile justice system in the state of California. Together they represent a network of constituents promoting the safety and wellness of diverse communities across the state.

The expertise of the coalition has been informed by direct experience with JJCPA decision-making as well as participation in programs funded by JJCPA. In addition, the group has conducted research that has led to alarming findings in regard to poor JJCPA administration. They have found unspent funds accruing, funds being misused, and a failure to comply with mandated processes.

Juvenile Justice Crime Prevention Act

The JJCPA was enacted in 2000 to support youth on a local level, in an effort to limit their involvement in the juvenile justice system. However, county spending has fallen short of the bill’s original goals for the past 20 years. Even though youth arrests have declined by over 80 percent, along with major drops in probation referrals, most counties spend the majority of their JJCPA funds on probation staffing. Little or none is invested in community-based organizations.

Some counties in the state have used JJCPA funds for probation programs that have resulted in what is known as net-widening. This can have a negative impact on youth participants and their families. In addition, the agencies and organizations providing services for youth in marginalized communities across the state have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. The PROMSYE Act bill will ensure stable funding for critical services operated by public health agencies, schools, and community-based organizations as they support at-promise and justice-involved youth.

Youth Development and Crime Prevention

Senator Bradford stated that, “Reforming JJCPA responds to rising calls for racial justice and addresses economic challenges heightened by the COVID-19 pandemic. This bill will provide for greater accountability, effectiveness, and equity in supporting our youth. The PROMYSE Act will ensure state funds are invested in youth development and crime prevention.” 

The Senators and the co-sponsors of SB 493 recognize that education, health, and community-based services are essential in preventing young people’s exposure to the justice system. The bill will be a critical step toward establishing a stronger foundation for the future of youth in California. As a result of the PROMSYE Act, community-based programs centered on positive youth development will be better able to serve youth and fulfill the original vision for JJCPA.

SB 493 Impact

When enacted, the legislation will:

  • Ensure equal community representation in the decision making process by requiring each county’s Juvenile Justice Coordinating Council, which decides how JJCPA funds are spent, to designate co-chairs and allocate 50 percent of its seats to community members.
  • Reinvest JJCPA dollars into communities by requiring counties to distribute at least 95 percent of allotted JJCPA funds to community-based organizations and/or public agencies that are non-law enforcement agencies.
  • Strengthen county reporting and evaluation processes by the Board of State and Community Corrections (BSCC) by including critical evidence regarding program effectiveness and youth served.

Orange County Juvenile Defense Attorney

Please contact the Law Offices of Katie Walsh if your son or daughter is in legal trouble or faces school expulsion. Attorney Walsh has the expertise to advocate for your loved one's well-being successfully. For a free consultation, call Katie Walsh at (714) 351-0178.

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Public Opinion Favors Rehabilitation for Juvenile Offenders

rehabilitation for juvenile offenders

Young people are better served when they receive treatment for the issues that led to their criminal acts than when they are simply incarcerated for their offenses. This opinion has been reinforced by research and is trending in approaches seen throughout the US. Recent surveys have shown that public opinion favors rehabilitation for juvenile offenders.

Agreement Across All Lines

A 2017 poll showed that there is agreement across racial and political lines that the juvenile justice system should place more emphasis on rehabilitating juvenile offenders and place far less emphasis on punishment and prison. The majority of survey participants said that these youth deserve a second chance and that society in general is also better off when the teens are helped rather than incarcerated.

The study was sponsored by the Youth First Initiative. Liz Ryan, CEO of the initiative, said that “the poll shows policymakers that they should be doing this. Young people should be given opportunities, not punishment. You can hold people accountable without incarceration.”

Education and Preventive Measures

More than three-fourths of the poll’s participants said they favored education and preventive measures over an approach of punishment. 90% of the respondents said that families should be involved in designing treatment and rehabilitation plans for youths charged with crimes, a slight increase over the previous year’s survey results.

In addition, 94% said that the most important job of the juvenile justice system is to make sure youth get their lives back on track and learn how to refrain from a continued life of crime. Marcy Mistrett, CEO of the Campaign for Youth Justice, commenting about those results, said, “I think the general public understands that locking up kids leads to more crime, not less. If you treat people with dignity and provide services you can actually help reduce crime.”

Rehabilitation Works

The survey results show that people in the US support youth criminal justice reform, particularly as they believe that rehabilitation works. They also believe that young people who have committed a delinquent act are capable of positive change. The survey respondents also say that rehabilitation can save taxpayer dollars over incarceration.

Among the poll respondents, 79% agreed with the statement that “When it comes to youth who have committed delinquent acts, the best thing for society is to rehabilitate them so they can become productive members of society.” Also, 78% agreed that “The youth justice system should provide youth with more opportunity to better themselves.”

Recidivism Rates

The rate of recidivism, or a return to jail for another crime after serving one sentence, is high among juveniles who are incarcerated. The numbers show that:

  • 66% of juveniles who have been arrested will become repeat offenders within 24 months. In fact, 49% of young people become repeat offenders within the first year.
  • The recidivism rates among males is 70% of offenders in the 24 months after being first arrested.
  • The recidivism rates among females is 43% of offenders in the 24 months after being first arrested.
  • 44% of repeat juvenile offenders are re-arrested for a felony.

Rehabilitation Efforts

Additional research studies have shown that there is a high rate of mental health problems among juvenile offenders, with one in five estimated to suffer from severe functional impairment as a result. There has also been a reported association between mental health problems and mortality in incarcerated juveniles, including an elevated suicide rate for male youth. These mental health problems must be a target in interventions for juvenile offenders as there is a clear need for effective interventions which address both the clinical and the criminal behavior needs of these individuals.

Relationships with their family and with their peers have also been recognized as key factors in the criminal behavior profile of juvenile offenders. Rehabilitation for these youth should involve a family-focused intervention focused on those characteristics related to anti-social behavior, including their family relationships and their associations with their peers. Evidence suggests that these are beneficial rehabilitation approaches.

As opposed to incarceration, behavior therapy has been associated with a significant reduction in the likelihood that the juvenile will re-offend. When the youth participate in these therapy sessions, they are significantly less likely to become involved in serious and violent offending.

Another aspect of rehabilitation includes education and skills-based training. An important aspect of successful rehabilitation, an improvement has been shown in areas including self-belief and protection against future criminal activities when youth are engaged in a positive way in meaningful activities that will improve their vocational and intellectual skills.

Orange County Juvenile Defense Attorney

Please contact the Law Offices of Katie Walsh if your son or daughter is in legal trouble or faces school expulsion. Attorney Walsh has the expertise to advocate for your loved one's well-being successfully. For a free consultation, call Katie Walsh at (714) 351-0178.

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Groundbreaking Settlements Seek to Protect Youth in the Juvenile Justice System

groundbreaking settlements

Over two years ago, the California Department of Justice (DOJ) began an investigation into the conditions of confinement at two juvenile halls. Based on the results of that investigation, a settlement has been reached that will improve the conditions and education services in Los Angeles County's juvenile halls. The groundbreaking settlements seek to protect youth in the juvenile justice system in the county.

Extensive Investigation into Confinement Conditions

The investigation into the conditions of confinement began in October 2018. DOJ launched the investigation to determine whether the conditions for youth at Barry J. Nidorf Juvenile Hall and Central Juvenile Hall complied with state and federal laws. The Attorney General’s Office interviewed over 80 witnesses, conducted a number of site visits, and reviewed thousands of pages of documentation.

Confirming the allegations, DOJ found that the county did not provide sufficient services and, in fact, endangered youth safety. The investigation focused on the policies and incidents of use-of force, room and solitary confinement practices, access to grievance procedures, staff training, as well as rehabilitative programming, recreation, education, religious services, and mental and medical healthcare.

They found, among other issues, that the juvenile halls relied on inappropriate, excessive physical and chemical use of force. In an online news conference, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said that the investigation focused, in particular on the unnecessary use of pepper spray and on unreasonable periods of cell confinement that kept youths from receiving adequate educational services and medical care.

Groundbreaking Settlements

The settlements, announced in January 2021, were reached between Attorney General Becerra, Los Angeles County, and the Los Angeles County of Education. As a result of the DOJ investigation, the settlements focus on improving the conditions and education services in the county’s juvenile halls.

The Los Angeles County Office of Education and the County of Los Angeles, including its Probation Department, Department of Mental Health, and Department of Health Services have agreed on a wide range of corrective actions, to be overseen by an independent monitor and subject matter experts. These corrective actions are aimed at securing positive outcomes for youth involved in the justice system and at ensuring systemic improvements to the county’s juvenile halls.

Los Angeles County Superintendent of Schools Debra Duardo, reflecting on the groundbreaking settlements, said, “We at the Los Angeles County Office of Education are passionate about our work and firm in our belief in the power of education to transform the lives of at-promise students in our juvenile hall schools. For the past year, we have cooperated closely with DOJ officials. The findings of their investigation demand that we all do better for the young people in our care. We welcome the opportunity to strengthen systems of collaboration and accountability so we can more effectively deliver the high-quality services our youth deserve."

A Four-Year Plan for Corrective Action

The most significant outcomes of the DOJ’s investigation and the resulting settlements are extensive four-year plans to protect youth in the juvenile justice system. These plans include corrective actions in a number of important areas, including:

  • Limiting the use of force and requiring de-escalation as well as outside oversight and review of incidents.
  • Enhancing holistic efforts to support youth through trauma-informed and positive behavior approaches.
  • Improving confinement safeguards and practices to ensure youth are not unlawfully confined to their rooms.
  • Providing necessities of basic living needs, including bedding, hygiene items, and appropriate access to the bathroom.
  • Ensuring that youths are housed in a homelike environment.
  • Ensuring that youth have timely and appropriate mental health and medical care.
  • Providing appropriate time for education and improving the process for youth who are transitioning back to school in the community.
  • Providing a trustworthy and secure method for youth in the juvenile justice system to have their problems properly addressed.
  • Facilitating the collection of data and the analysis necessary to demonstrate compliance with the settlements, allowing for adequate ongoing internal review.
  • Requiring sufficient training for staff and appropriate staffing for the juvenile halls to be able to comply with the settlements.

Regarding the investigation and the resulting groundbreaking settlements, Attorney General Becerra said, “One of our core duties as a society is to lay the foundation for our children to build a better future. That has to be at the center of what we do as government when youth are entrusted to our care.” Becerra added, “I applaud the county for working with us to correct the wrongs uncovered by our investigation and committing to help these youth get the resources they need.”

Orange County Juvenile Defense Attorney

Please contact the Law Offices of Katie Walsh if your son or daughter is in legal trouble or faces school expulsion. Attorney Walsh has the expertise to advocate for your loved one's well-being successfully. For a free consultation, call Katie Walsh at (714) 351-0178.

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Senate Bill 889: All People Under 21 To Be Tried as Minors

people under 21 to be tried as minors

A bill was introduced at the California state Capitol in January 2020 in hopes of changing the way young people were treated in the state’s justice system. Senate Bill 889 was introduced in an effort to have all people under 21 to be tried as minors. There were a number of arguments for and against the measure, including an emphasis on the scientific reasons young people may not be fully developed mentally or emotionally and, as such, not fully responsible for their actions.

Considerations of Senate Bill 889

Senator Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) introduced Senate Bill 889 in January 2020, in an effort to have California lawmakers expand the reach of the juvenile system to include people under 21 who would be automatically tried as minors. There was a significant amount of support for the bill, including among some state probation officers who believed that teenagers are not mature enough to be held responsible for their actions as adults.

Skinner stated that she proposed Senate Bill 889 in “recognition that people under 21 still need guidance.” She pointed out that other laws in the state, including restrictions on purchasing alcohol, tobacco, or cannabis, require an individual to be at least 21 years old which is indicated as the “adult or responsible age.”

Minors and the Juvenile Justice System

In 2018 in the state of California, 17,200 minors under the age of 17 were arrested for felonies. More than half of those were Black and 36% were Latino. Also in 2018, about 14,400 individuals aged 18 and 19 were arrested for felonies. The Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice (CJCJ), based in San Francisco, estimated that, by trying individuals aged 20 and younger in juvenile courts, the juvenile facilities would see thousands of new inmates.

There were concerns on both sides of the proposed bill. Some worried that by raising the age for someone to be considered a juvenile, that individual might end up spending more time in a juvenile facility than they would if they were sent to an adult facility to serve their time. In addition, the director of the CJCJ, Daniel Macallair, feared that some may have backed the bill as a way to project jobs in the juvenile system. He pointed out that juvenile arrests have decreased steadily in the past few years and that a number of juvenile halls have few inmates or are in danger of closing.

Juvenile Justice Reform in California

Senate Bill 889 builds on a long history of juvenile justice reform in the state of California, starting with efforts by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2004. The governor, responding to criticisms over harsh conditions in juvenile facilities, overhauled the California Youth Authority, which held approximately 3600 minors at the time.

Further reform was seen in 2007, with Governor Jerry Brown who gave more control to county probation departments, followed by the efforts of Governor Gavin Newsom in his first year in office. Governor Newsome suggested that control of state juvenile inmates should be moved away from corrections and placed under the purview of government health and human services officials.

The Science of Young Minds

The efforts of Senator Skinner and others to have people under 21 treated as minors in the justice system is partially based on science. In fact, many landmark cases in the US Supreme Court have changed the legal responses to juvenile offending. These cases have abolished the death penalty for adolescents, found that the mandatory sentences of life without parole for murder violate the 8th Amendment, and eliminated sentences of life without parole sentences for crimes less than murder.

The adolescent brain is still developing. Scientific research has found that young people are highly subject to the influences of reward and of their peers. Neuroscience, in particular, has found that adolescents mature at significantly different rates. This has also helped improved the general understanding of juvenile offenders.

Research has clarified that teenagers’ heightened vulnerability to reward drives their risky behavior. This vulnerability can continue into an individual’s early 20s, depending on the person’s specific rate of development. Young people can often recognize the risks but given the still incomplete development of their brain mechanisms related to modulating their impulsive behavior, their tendency to heed those risks is often reduced.

Orange County Juvenile Defense Attorney

Please contact the Law Offices of Katie Walsh if your son or daughter is in legal trouble or faces school expulsion. Attorney Walsh has the expertise to advocate for your loved one's well-being successfully. For a free consultation, call Katie Walsh at (714) 351-0178.

Thursday, January 28, 2021

California Appeals Court: New Hearing for Teen Sentenced to 90 Years

California Appeals Court New Hearing for Teen Sentenced to 90 Years

A young man who was convicted of a 2009 murder, and who has since initiated a series of appeals and petitions for review, will have a new hearing to determine whether he was properly tried as an adult, rather than as a juvenile. The California Appeals Court has determined that the man sentenced to 90 years in prison when he was a teen is now entitled to a new hearing.

The Story

In June 2009, Harquan Johnson, who was 17 at the time, and his friend, KeAndre Windfield, then 18 years old, were involved in a series of arguments that turned into a violent dispute. After much back and forth between various individuals, Johnson and Windfield shot two people, one of which was Montoyea Smith, who died from his gunshot wounds. 

Johnson and Windfield were convicted of one count of murder and one count of attempted murder each, in addition to assault with a semi-automatic firearm. There were also gun discharge and gang enhancement allegations involved in the murder and attempted murder counts. Johnson and Windfield were each sentenced to 90 years to life as a result of their convictions.

A New Hearing

The Court of Appeal of the state of California held, in a ruling filed on January 4, that Johnson is entitled to a hearing to determine whether he should have been tried as an adult or as a juvenile, since he was 17 when he committed the crime. The court referenced Proposition 57, passed in 2016, which decided that the judge and not the prosecutor is required to determine whether juveniles charged with certain crimes should be tried in juvenile or adult court.

Additionally, and particularly important in Johnson’s case, the court ruled that the law can be applied retroactively. The appeals court also stated that courts can conduct hearings to determine whether past transfers of juveniles to adult court were proper. 

Proposition 57

Known as the “Public Safety and Rehabilitation Act of 2016,” Proposition 57 made changes to the State Constitution to increase the number of inmates eligible for parole consideration and authorized California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) to award sentencing credits to inmates. 

The measure also made changes to state law to require that youths have a hearing in juvenile court before they can be transferred to adult court. The measure stated that juvenile court judges shall make determination, upon prosecutor motion, whether juveniles age 14 and older should be prosecuted and sentenced as adults for specified offenses.

The Court’s Discussion

In the court’s ruling granting Johnson a new hearing, they said that in their original opinion, they had commented that there was no sentencing memorandum submitted by counsel for Johnson, the probation report contained scant information about Johnson personally, and neither counsel for Johnson nor the sentencing court addressed this topic of youth factors during sentencing. 

The Appeals Court concluded that, having been charged in adult court as a juvenile, Johnson is entitled to an opportunity to make a record of mitigating evidence tied to his youth. The court’s decision also stated that, in conducting the transfer hearing, the juvenile court shall treat the matter as though the prosecutor had originally filed a juvenile petition in juvenile court and had then moved to transfer Johnson’s cause to a court of criminal jurisdiction. 

If the new hearing determines that Johnson is “not a fit and proper subject to be dealt with under the juvenile court law,” then Johnson’s convictions and sentence are to be reinstated. However, if the juvenile court finds that it would not have transferred Johnson to adult court, it shall treat his convictions as juvenile adjudications and impose an appropriate “disposition” within its discretion.

The Appeals Court ordered, in the event Johnson is unfit for treatment in juvenile court, a limited remand of Johnson’s sentence to provide an opportunity to present evidence of mitigation due to his youth. As to Johnson’s co-defendant Windfield, also listed in the appeals decision, the sentence was affirmed, since he was 18 when he committed the crimes. 

Orange County Juvenile Defense Attorney

Please contact the Law Offices of Katie Walsh if your son or daughter is in legal trouble or faces school expulsion. Attorney Walsh has the expertise to advocate for your loved one's well-being successfully. For a free consultation, call Katie Walsh at (714) 351-0178.


Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Trying Juveniles as Adults in Los Angeles County

juvenile justice
This year has been exceedingly challenging for students in California owing to the COVID-19 pandemic. School closures and financial hardships have created a climate of despair for millions of young people. Mental health services are needed now more than ever in order to prevent school suspensions and expulsions. Mental illness often plays a role in the school-to-prison pipeline. 

Juvenile justice is a topic of utmost importance at the Law Offices of Katie Walsh. We are pleased to announce some significant changes in Los Angeles County proposed by the new district attorney—George Gascón. 

Last week, the District Attorney for Los Angeles County announced his plans to shake up criminal prosecutions, The Los Angeles Times reports. Taking a page out of the book he helped write as the District Attorney of San Francisco from 2011 to 2019, Gascón plans to stop the practice of cash bail; he also wants to place a ban on prosecutors seeking enhanced prison sentences. 

What’s more, he plans a review of thousands of old cases to see if less harsh sentences are warranted. Gascón office will also determine if prisoner releases should be meted out. 

“I recognize for many this is a new path … whether you are a protester, a police officer or a prosecutor, I ask you to walk with me. I ask you to join me on this journey,” said Gascón during his swearing-in ceremony. “We can break the multigenerational cycles of violence, trauma and arrest and recidivism that has led America to incarcerate more people than any other nation.”


Trying Juveniles as Adults

The shift in policy regarding bail will certainly be a hot-button topic. However, starting January 1, prosecutors in Gascón’s office will ask judges to release plaintiffs, except in homicide or other violent felony cases. 

“How much money you have in your bank account is a terrible proxy for how dangerous you are,” Gascón said. “Today there are hundreds of people languishing in jails, not because they represent a danger to our community but because they can’t afford to purchase their freedom.” 

Prisoners who’ve served 20 years or more might be granted parole if the new district attorney has his way. Moreover, Gascón has vowed that his office will never seek the death penalty. Gascón’s plans also extend to juveniles. He promises to end the practice of trying juveniles as adults. 

Jerod Gunsberg, a Los Angeles juvenile criminal defense attorney, praised Gascón for his goal of no longer trying minors as adults, according to the article. He points out that the practice has had “deep, negative effects on accused teenagers and society as a whole.” 

“I’ve been doing this for a long time. I’ve never seen a kid go into a juvenile probation camp and come out better. Ever,” said Gunsberg. “I’ve never seen a kid have a strike filed on them, at 16 years old and it improve their life or enhance public safety in any way.”


Juvenile Defense Attorney

Please contact the Law Offices of Katie Walsh if your son or daughter faces legal difficulties or school expulsion. Attorney Walsh has the experience to advocate for your family and achieve a favorable outcome. She has handled thousands of juvenile cases, and as a former prosecutor, she knows the ins and outs of the juvenile court system.

Friday, November 13, 2020

New Report On School Suspensions

school suspensions
Each time a student is removed from the classroom in the name of discipline, it can do more harm than good. Students barred from attending class due to punitive measures are more likely to get into more trouble, and they are at risk of getting behind with schoolwork because of lost instructional time. What's more, study after study shows racial disparities with both suspensions and expulsions. 

Last month, the San Diego Unified School Board unanimously approved a new discipline policy, one that is a step away from punitive discipline for students. The new policy emphasizes alternative-to-suspension programs for students who get in trouble, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports. Schools will be required to utilize "restorative" interventions before opting to suspend a student. 

The new policy also addresses grading practices throughout the district. Teachers will separate non-academic factors from academic grades and give students the opportunity to re-do assignments. 

While California already bans suspensions for "willful defiance" for elementary and middle grades, the San Diego Unified School Board plans to negotiate with teachers to do away with such suspensions across all grades. Those in favor of the move point out that banning willful defiance suspensions will help address racial disparities, particularly in the disciplining of Black and Latino students. 

Discriminatory discipline is a severe problem in the United States, according to a national analysis of school suspension data by the UCLA Civil Rights Project.

Lost Opportunities

The Center for Civil Rights Remedies and Learning Policy Institute found "disturbing disparities" among racial groups regarding school suspensions, Patch reports. Their study titled "Lost Opportunities: How Disparate School Discipline Continues to Drive Differences in the Opportunity to Learn" looked at the impact of out-of-school suspensions on instructional time. 

There were 11,392,474 days of instruction lost in America due to out-of-school suspension during the 2015-16 school year. The researchers say that is the equivalent of 62,596 years of instruction lost. What's more, the difference in suspension rates between Black and white students was stark. The report shows:
  • Black students lost 103 days per 100 students enrolled, 82 more days than the 21 days their white peers lost due to out-of-school suspensions.
  • Black boys lost 132 days per 100 students enrolled.
  • Black girls had the second-highest rate, at 77 days per 100 students enrolled, which was seven times the rate of lost instruction experienced by white girls at the secondary level.
"These stark disparities in lost instruction explain why we cannot close the achievement gap if we do not close the discipline gap," said Dan Losen, director of the Center for Civil Rights Remedies and the lead researcher on the report. "With all the instructional loss students have had due to COVID-19, educators should have to provide very sound justification for each additional day they prohibit access to instruction."

Orange County Juvenile Defense Attorney

Please contact the Law Offices of Katie Walsh if your son or daughter faces school expulsion or another legal matter. Call now for a free, confidential consultation, (714) 351-0178. Attorney Walsh will work with your family to help you achieve the best possible outcome.