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.