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.

Monday, February 3, 2020

Raising the Adult Prosecution Age in California

juvenile justice
Neuroscientists say that the brain doesn't fully mature until age 25, which makes you wonder why teenagers are considered adults at the age of 18. What's more, in some cases, teens under 18 years of age are prosecuted as adults in the criminal justice system.

Researchers have long understood that adolescents are impulsive and reckless; they do not think before they act more times than not. The reason teens make rash decisions or break the law isn't that they are necessarily immoral. Instead, teenagers are impulsive because their prefrontal cortex — the region of the brain that helps stifle impulsive behavior — is not yet fully developed.

Consider that one has to be 21 years old to buy a beer, but can be prosecuted as an adult at the age of 17. In recent years, many states have even raised the age to buy cigarettes to 21; the reason for the change is to allow the prefrontal cortex more time to develop.

The three years added will hopefully enable young people to make more rational decisions regarding nicotine. What's more, in the twilight of 2019, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration officially changed the federal minimum age to purchase tobacco from 18 to 21.

So, if scientists agree that the brain isn't fully developed until the mid-twenties, then shouldn't lawmakers amend the age at which a teen can be tried as an adult. California Senator Nancy Skinner thinks so, and she has introduced legislation that would raise the age to 20 for adult prosecution.

Senate Bill 889

Last week, Sen. Skinner introduced Senate Bill 889 Juveniles, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. The measure lacks specifics and is currently a placeholder bill. Still, if it is approved and signed by Governor Gavin Newsom, the legislation would raise the age limit on California's youth justice system.

"We have 21 as the age for alcohol. We have 21 as the age for tobacco," said Sen. Skinner. "The research definitely shows that there's an age difference in things like impulse control." 

In November of 2019, the California Probation Officers Association (CPOA) proposed raising the state's adult prosecution age to 20, the article reports. Currently, 17-year-olds throughout the state are sent up to the adult court. The CPOAs plan would let people under the age of 20 get rehabilitative services provided by juvenile courts and detention centers. It would also offer more youths the opportunity to have their criminal records sealed.

The Chief Probation Officers of California (CPOC), the CPOAs lobbying group, cites research indicating that people as old as 25 share many of the same characteristics as teens, according to the SF Chronicle. The shared traits include peer pressure susceptibility and impulsive behavior.

In the coming months, Senator Skinner, D-Berkeley, will finalize the details of SB 889 by joining forces with juvenile justice reform advocates such as the CPOA and the Commonwealth Juvenile Justice Program.

"This is a reform whose time has come," said David Steinhart, director of the Commonweal Juvenile Justice Program. "It will improve public safety by putting thousands of California's youth back into education and on job tracks that are blocked when they are processed as adults."

Orange County Juvenile Defense Attorney

Juvenile defense attorney Katie Walsh has an extensive amount of experience advocating for youths and their families. As a former juvenile prosecutor at the Lamoreaux Justice Center in the City of Orange, Mrs. Walsh has a unique understanding of the juvenile justice system. Her knowledge and experience can make a significant difference in your child's future. Please contact us today for a free consultation to discuss the charges your loved one is facing and how Attorney Walsh can help.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Willful Defiance Suspensions Law Takes Effect

Willful Defiance Suspensions
At The Law Offices of Katie Walsh, we hope that everyone had a peaceful holiday season, and we would like to wish you a happy New Year. We felt it prudent to use the first post of 2020 to discuss some of the new legislation that went into effect this year, particularly laws that impact school children. 

There are many new California school laws to talk about; 12 in fact, and we will do our best to give you a summary of the changes in 2020. Naturally, we cannot cover each new law in great detail in one post; instead, we will focus on some of the most salient.

From legislation regarding willful defiance suspensions to an overhaul of the state’s charter school system, Governor Gavin Newsom signed some important laws last year that will affect millions of young people across the Golden State.

As CalMatters reports, the most significant set of changes involve Charter Schools: a school category that receives government funding but doesn’t operate within the established state school system. Such schools are typically established by teachers, parents, or community groups.

Three new laws – Assembly Bill 1505, Assembly Bill 1507, and Senate Bill 126 – deal specifically with California charter schools. Teachers at charter schools are now required to hold a state teaching credential, the Times of San Diego reports. Local school boards also have more significant discretion in approving or denying charter schools. What’s more, charters must follow the same open-meeting laws as school districts.

Willful Defiance Suspensions, Domestic Violence, and Sexual Harassment

We have covered Senate Bill 419: Pupil discipline: suspensions: willful defiance on multiple occasions. As we pointed out, Senator Nancy Skinner’s SB 419 would have banned out-of-school suspensions for “defiant and disruptive behavior” for grades K-12.

The final version of the bill, signed by Gov. Newsom in September, permanently bans California public schools from suspending students K-5 for willful defiance. The bill also includes a five-year temporary provision extending the ban to include students in sixth through eighth grade.

Studies indicate that willful defiance school suspensions and expulsions disproportionately impact black, LGBTQ, and disabled students. Sen. Skinner said:

“When you look at the data on who is suspended, you can’t help but see the stark reality. Boys of color, kids in special education, LGBTQ kids — kids who don’t fit all of our cultural norms — are targeted due to the implicit bias that we know is present in every institution we have.”

In October, SB 316 goes into effect; the law requires that high schools print the phone number for the national domestic violence hotline or a local domestic violence hotline on pupil identification cards. Assembly Bill 543 requires public high schools to “prominently and conspicuously display” a poster of a district’s sexual harassment policy in every high school restroom and locker room, according to the article. The sign must also include steps for reporting sexual harassment accusations.

Orange County Juvenile Defense and School Expulsion Attorney

If your son or daughter is facing expulsion in California, then it is vital for you to reach out for a qualified attorney who can advocate for your family. Navigating the school expulsion process is a daunting task; having an experienced defense attorney could lead to alternatives to expulsion. 

Attorney Katie Walsh understands what you are going through and will work tirelessly to safeguard your child’s rights. Please contact The Law Offices of Katie Walsh today for a free consultation. (714) 619-9355