Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Longer Stays In Juvenile Detention

juvenile offenders
It is probably not hard for most people to understand why youth in juvenile detention facilities usually do better in the long run than young people serving time in prison. Once a person is caught up in the adult criminal justice system, the likelihood of recidivism is exceedingly high. With that in mind and citing research, California Governor Jerry Brown is asking for $3.8 million in his final budget proposal to fund allowing youth offenders longer stays in juvenile justice facilities, The Sacramento Bee reports. The plan underwent review by the Senate Budget Subcommittee on Corrections, Public Safety and the Judiciary during a hearing on March 22, 2018.

As it stands right now, juvenile offenders in California can remain in Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) facilities until their 23rd birthday, according to the report. If a person’s sentence hasn’t come to an end by that time, the remainder is to be served in an adult correctional facility. Brown’s budget proposal, among other things, aims to lengthen stay caps in DJJ housing facilities. So, let’s take a look at what the proposal would mean for young people in the juvenile justice system if approved.


Rehabilitation, Not Recidivism


First, a California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation (CDCR) report shows that 74.2 percent of youth released from a DJJ facility in 2011-12 were re-arrested within three years; even still, DJJ inmates had lower recidivism rates than youth prison inmates. More funding would cover the cost of keep youth offenders in DDJ housing until 25, mitigating the risk of a young person being transferred to adult correctional facilities, the article reports. The money would allow for juveniles, convicted in adult court, to serve their time in DJJ facilities if they can complete their sentence by their 25th birthday.

Lastly, Brown’s budget proposal would cover the cost of creating a young adult offender pilot program. The CDCR would be able to place 76 less dangerous youth offenders in two unique juvenile housing centers, rather than prison. The Legislative Analyst's Office (LAO) projects juvenile detention is far more costly than adult prison, $80,000 versus $30,000 each year. Two years from now, the 2020 budget proposal would require $9.2 million annually to cover the costs of extended stays in juvenile detention. It is worth noting that it may cost more to fund longer stays up front, but it will save money over time, according to the LAO.

Frankie Guzman, director of the National Center for Youth Law's California Youth Justice Initiative, supports Brown’s proposal; but, believes that community-based programs, instead of DDJ housing for less serious offenders, would be even more useful. Please take a moment to watch a short video on the subject:



If you are having trouble watching, please click here.

Juvenile Offense Attorney


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

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Los Angeles County Teen Court

teen court
Young people are not the best at thinking things through thoroughly before they act, and as a result, they sometimes learn valuable lessons. Even when minors understand the difference between “right” and “wrong,” they can still make unfortunate errors in judgment that can cost them significantly. While some offenses committed by minors are severe and should carry a commensurate punishment, most infractions are benign. However, getting caught up in the juvenile justice system for a minor offense often does more harm than good.

More than a decade ago, the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station started a diversion program, called “Teen Court.” Minors who commit minor offenses and meet specific criteria are eligible for Teen Court, excluding them from incarceration, formal probation, and a conviction on their record if they complete the requirements within a six-month period. The program can make all the difference for teenagers, potentially keeping them from becoming trapped in the criminal justice system.

L.A. County Teen Court


Teen Court is unique in several ways, notably in the fact that Juveniles who commit minor offenses plead guilty to a jury of their peers, meaning other teenagers in school. After which, teens in the diversion program must avoid getting into trouble during a six-month probationary period, according to KHTS. Juveniles taking part in the program have to do community service, write letters of apology and pay restitution to the victim or victims. Teen Court is only available to first-time offenders.

“We deal with juveniles that have committed misdemeanors and even felonies,” said Dan Finn, a detective with the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station. “The only limits are: we don’t take serious felony charges like gang-related crime, rape, murder (or) robbery.”

The goal of programs, like Teen Court, is to avoid recidivism. Data indicates that around half of teens who don’t take part in diversion programs end up going on to commit more crimes. Detective Finn points out that less than 15 percent of the juveniles who go through the Teen Court commit another offense. Owing to the success in Santa Clarita, Los Angeles County is following suit; a little over a year ago, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved a plan that would make diversion the focus of the county’s juvenile justice system. The Superior Court of California, County of Los Angeles, reports that there are 38 Teen Courts in operation at high schools throughout Los Angeles County and over 70 judicial officers preside over the program.

“We catch these kids early, and it’s making a difference,” Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge David S. Wesley, tells California Courts Newsroom. “We are incarcerating fewer kids, and saving millions of dollars keeping them out of the juvenile justice system.”

Juvenile Offense Attorney


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

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

SB 607: Suspending Students for Willful Defiance

SB 607
Adolescents are not the best at exercising sound judgment, and part of growing up is learning by your mistakes. Young people are instructed to always be on their best behavior, to act their age, so on and so forth. While most youths are pretty good at following the rules, especially in public settings like middle and high schools, there are some who like to push the envelope. Seeing just how much one can get away with is a fairly common trait among a number of students. However, choosing to not use one’s head before engaging in specific behaviors, i.e., disrupting class, getting into fights, and participating in illicit substance use, is often a slippery slope to detention, suspension, and even expulsion.

In many cases, teens who get into trouble with an authority figure in school are merely acting out. The reasons for doing things that will inevitably garner the ire of a teacher are usually rooted in some kind of issue a young person is having outside of school. Troubled teens, perhaps more times than not, are contending with problems at home. Such individuals could probably use guidance and support from the faculty members; instead, they get the opposite.

Punishing disruptive students may seem logical and making examples of students is likely to send a clear message to classmates about what kinds of behavior will not be tolerated. However, multiple day suspensions as a means of punishment might do more harm than good, serving only to cause teens to get behind in class which brings on more problems.


Senate Bill 607


Did you know that that there is a cut off age for when an adolescent can no longer get away with disrupting a classroom in California? It’s true, up until fourth grade, kids cannot face suspension for engaging in what is known as "willful defiance," that is disrupting class or defying teachers. What’s more, thanks to California Assembly Bill (AB) 420, expelling students for backtalk and not doing assignments is no longer permitted, CBS Sacramento reports. Citing concerns over the real impact of suspensions, some lawmakers would like to see AB 420-style protections for teenagers, as well.

“If you’re suspended out of school even once, that doubles the likelihood the student will drop out,” said Assemblyman Roger Dickinson in 2014.

California Senate Bill (SB) 607 would extend the protections of AB 420, protections which expire in July of this year. If passed, it would mean that schools couldn’t suspend students of any age for petty offenses. SB 607 provides “willful defiance” suspension protections to all students, Your Central Valley reports. The new legislation could significantly help minority and disabled students who are suspended at higher rates, according to ACLU data.

"When we look at the data, we see who it is used on," Senator Nancy Skinner said. "It's used on kids of color, it's used on LGBTQ kids, it's used on kids with disabilities."

It’s worth pointing out that SB 607 wouldn’t protect students who make threats, commit acts of violence, or steal. Strict penalties will still apply to such offenses; the new law is meant to keep kids in class even when they make poor decisions. There is opposition to the legislation, critics worry that it might scare teachers away in a state already dealing with shortages.

"If you're not going to allow us to have the right to take someone who is defiant to authority out of the situation, so they don't infect everyone else in class, nobody learns," said Former Fresno County Superintendent of Schools Larry Powell. "The teacher is disheartened and wants to get out of the profession." Please take a moment to watch a short video on the subject:


If you are having trouble watching, please click here.


Juvenile Offense Attorney


At the Law Offices of Katie Walsh, we specialize in navigating the school disciplinary process and juvenile law. If your son or daughter is facing expulsion, Attorney Walsh can assist you and your family in many ways. Please contact our office for a free consultation.