Tuesday, April 23, 2019

California SB 1391 Under Fire

SB 1391 Under Fire
Last year, we took time to cover a controversial piece of legislation relevant to Californians—Senate Bill 1391. The multifaceted bill is meant to shift the focus away from incarceration and to reduce overcrowding in the criminal justice system. Moreover, SB 1391 addresses the “cradle to prison pipeline:” Opponents of the measure claim that it puts the needs of criminals over public safety.

As we reported, Governor Brown signed SB 1391 in the twilight of his gubernatorial tenure. In justifying the decision to endorse the bill, Governor Brown wrote: “There is a fundamental principle at stake here: whether we want a society which at least attempts to reform the youngest offenders before consigning them to adult prisons where their likelihood of becoming a lifelong criminal is so much higher.”

The controversial bill expands on the mandate of another piece of legislation, Proposition 57, passed in 2016. Under SB 1391 a district attorney can no longer make a motion to “transfer a minor from juvenile court to a court of criminal jurisdiction in a case in which a minor is alleged to have committed a specified serious offense when he or she was 14 or 15 years of age.”

SB 1391 Under Fire


Despite the passing and signing of SB 1391, opponents continue to attack the bill, including local prosecutors. They argue that the legislation conflicts with what the voters approved when they decided to support Prop 57.

“Our position then, as now, is that 1391 is unconstitutional but (the legislature) passed it regardless,” said Yolo County District Attorney Jeff Reisig.

Even though prosecutors across the state continue to voice opposition to SB 1391’s mandate, more than 100 legal scholars from California universities signed a February white paper calling for SB 1391 to be upheld, according to The Sacramento Bee. The law experts hail from the University of Pacific McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento, University of California, San Francisco’s Hastings College of the Law, and Stanford and UC Berkeley’s law schools. In the letter, the scholars assert that “opponents of S.B. 1391 mischaracterize the law to manufacture a controversy that does not really exist.”

“I support reform. I’m OK with the science that juveniles’ brains aren’t fully formed and that they shouldn’t necessarily be sent to prison,” said Reisig. “But when you look at terrible, violent offenses – if somebody 15 years old can be released at 25, it makes no sense to me from the standpoint of public safety.”

Since January 1, 2019, Sacramento judges have had to consider at least four SB 1391 cases, according to the article. The same is true for judges in Kern, Riverside, Solano, and Yolo counties. The juvenile justice argument surrounding SB 1391 is sure to continue even as lawmakers propose even more reforms.

Assemblywoman Buffy Wicks, D-Oakland is proposing AB 1423. The bill, if passed, would allow minors whose felony cases were tried in adult court, then reduced to misdemeanors or dismissed, to file a petition to have their cases sent back to juvenile court.

California Juvenile Law Attorney


Attorney Katie Walsh has the experience to advocate for any family, no matter the crime, whose son or daughter is facing legal challenges. Please contact The Law Offices of Katie Walsh today to learn how she can mount a rigorous, committed legal defense for your loved one.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Studying Restorative Justice in School

restorative justice in school
The push for restorative justice in California schools is thought to be a step in the right direction. Actions emphasizing the importance of child well-being, at home and in school, are a far cry from the punitive approaches of the past.

Rather than suspend or expel a student, some children are finding support. The goal is to keep young people in the classroom and out of the school-to-prison pipeline. California is one state that is moving away from disciplining students for minor offenses; choosing instead to focus on conflict mediation. 

Lawmakers are working hard to end suspensions for “disruption and defiance” in all grades. We recently covered the topic of Senate Bill 419, a bill that would ban out-of-school suspensions for “defiant and disruptive behavior” in grades K-12.

While the future of SB-419 is uncertain, the Golden State has already made progress in reducing suspension rates. According to the California Department of Education, 710,000 suspensions were issued during the 2011-12 school year in California. During the 2017-18 school year, only 363,000 students received suspensions.

Many people believe that the move away from punitive actions for relatively minor offenses is good. However, there is not much data on how reforms are improving school climates, Lake County Record-Bee reports. A new study aims to shed some light on this subject.

California School Safety Study


A five-year, $5-million study led by the Washington D.C.-based American Institutes for Research (AIR) is in an 18-month planning period stage, according to the article. Researchers are determining three California school districts to focus on in the next three-and-a-half years. AIR is working in conjunction with Virginia Tech University’s Laboratory for the Study of Youth Inequality and Public Counsel, a Los Angeles-based public interest law firm. The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) is funding the study. 

“We still have a misunderstanding of school safety, which most think of as the physical safety of students,” said Patricia Campie, AIR’s principal researcher for the study. “But the more important and more difficult thing is understanding the social and emotional safety of children.” 

The research team will look at multiple factors and consider the impact policies have on one demographic to the next. They will also consider how the outcomes differ in various areas, including urban, suburban or rural settings. The main areas of focus in the research, according to the article, include:
  • School discipline policies and how they are enforced;
  • how classmates treat students from different backgrounds and orientations;
  • and, whether there are people and protocols for addressing the trauma students experience at home and the quality of parent and community engagement.
Lead researcher Campie hopes that the findings will break school officials and policymakers of the mentality that one approach can work in every school. The final report could be available as early as 2022.

Orange County Juvenile Justice Attorney


The Offices of Katie Walsh has the experience to advocate for families whose children are facing disciplinary action in school. Expulsion can significantly derail a young person’s life and create more problems.

We understand that a school’s priority is to protect the school and the district in expulsion cases. With that in mind, it is vital that a family has a juvenile law expert to protect their child. Please contact us today for a free consultation.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Closing Juvenile Hall in San Francisco

San Francisco juvenile hall
Youth incarceration is a significant topic of discussion in California from one end of the state to the other. The question of how to best serve young people who struggle is one that many individuals are trying to answer. A primary goal is to keep children out of detention centers and in the classroom. 

Across the United States, youth crime rates are falling. Last week, we discussed some of the reasons behind the unprecedented drop in serious crime committed by minors. After the San Francisco Chronicle published a report bringing the trend to light, lawmakers in Northern California are taking action.

In response to The Chronicle’s reporting, three San Francisco supervisors are aiming for the juvenile hall in the city, the S.F. Chronicle reports. Hillary Ronen, Shamann Walton, and Matt Haney are drafting legislation that would close the city’s detention center and all but end the practice of jailing youths. If the lawmaker's efforts prove successful, it will make San Francisco the only city in California without a juvenile hall.

Meredith Desautels, a staff attorney the Youth Law Center, tells The Chronicle the proposed move is in line with current research. Studies show that incarceration is harmful to young people. She said that closing juvenile hall “would provide the shock to the system that we need to change our thinking about how to approach youth who have gotten into trouble.”

San Francisco’s juvenile hall has 150 beds, according to the article. However, usually fewer than 50 youths are held inside at one time. The money spent on keeping the center open and housing youths could better be spent on innovative programs instead. Last year, the annual cost of housing a child reached $266,000.

“We’re done with jailing kids,” said Supervisor Ronen.

Meanwhile, In Los Angeles


While SF Supervisors have their sights on closing juvenile hall, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors have questions about unspent state funding intended to reduce juvenile delinquency, KNBC reports. Some $79 million sits in reserve, while valuable programs lack operating funds, says Supervisor Janice Hahn.

"It is unacceptable that nonprofits dedicated to supporting youth are underfunded while millions of dollars meant for them are going unused," said Hahn. "We need immediate clarity on these funds and a plan to get them out into the community as quickly as possible." 

A motion was put forth – co-authored by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas – to expedite a scheduled audit of the problem, according to the article. Supervisor Hahn also points out that the Probation Department's budget doesn’t show signs of making the necessary moves toward prevention and community-based interventions.

It seems that the Probation Department is at odds with the Juvenile Justice Coordinating Council (JJCC) which oversees state funding. The latter has a plan to dedicate more resources toward county services to community-based organizations, the article reports. The former’s budget plan does not match the JJCC’s.

Please take a moment to watch a short video on the subject:


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Southern California Juvenile Law Attorney


At the Law Offices of Katie Walsh, we specialize in juvenile defense. As a former prosecutor, Attorney Walsh has a unique set of skills that she can utilize when advocating for your family. If your son or daughter is charged with a crime or is facing a school expulsion hearing, we can help your family achieve the best possible outcome. Please contact us today. (714) 619-9355