Weekly Notes: JJ & Haiti; Title V; Joyfields conference in New Orleans; and more

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***We’ll start this week by offering condolences and prayers to people in the JJ field whose lives were horrifically altered by the earthquake in Haiti this week. There are two groups in particular:

--The Haitian youths in the custody of the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice, and all of the Haitian staff working for the department. There are 45 Haitian youths in Florida’s detention centers, according to Florida DJJ spokeswoman Samadhi Jones, and more in custody at residential and secure confinement facilities around the state. 

Jones said DJJ is “offering any help we can” to assist juveniles in locating their family members back home. In detention centers, “mental health services are being provided as needed” and other facilities have been notified by DJJ leaders to “be aware these kids might need assistance.”

--The youths locked up at the Boys’ Detention Centre Delmas 33 in Port-Au-Prince. It is not a good situation at the center, based on this excellent story by Vancouver reporter Roberta Staley; lots of youth awaiting trials, orphans, children as young as 8, all in an overcrowded facility using plastic buckets for toilets.

JJ Today could find no information on what physically became of the center after the earthquake, and whether people escaped it. Staley told JJ Today that her unconfirmed information was that the youth detention center had collapsed but that there is no estimate on how many youths died. The adult prison, located in the same complex, also collapsed, and CBS News has reported that many of the 4,000 inmates there have escaped.

“It’s right where the worst of it happened,” Staley said of the center. “Delmas is the main road, the main artery through Port-au-Prince.”

You have to think that at the very least, there are a lot of youths in the detention center who have lost family. The worst case is even hard to think about.

No matter what crime these youths in Florida and Haiti committed, they are very much victims this week. Consider a donation to any of the charities doing much-needed relief work in Haiti.

***The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention put out the solicitation for its Title V Community Prevention Grants, which is really just a reminder of how absurd that program has become. State advisory groups (SAGs) are advised to use the projection of $33,486 per year in their applications. As state budgets for anything other than locked facilities for juveniles whither on the vine (more on that next week), it is a joke to ask SAGs even to complete applications for that amount of funds.

***We mentioned  D.C. juvenile justice boss Vincent Schiraldi’s emotional going-away bash in last week’s column. This week, Mayor Adrian Fenty announced that Marc Schindler, Schiraldi’s chief of staff, will be the interim director at the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services. He was expected to become the permanent successor, but it’s D.C., so who knows why the interim tag was used now. Before joining Schiraldi at DYRS, Schindler was an attorney for the national civil rights firm Youth Law Center. 

***Joyfields Institute is hosting a conference called Evidence & Strength Based Strategies for Working with Youth and Adolescents from March 24-26 in New Orleans. Looks like a pretty good itinerary, although the $1,295 registration fee is pretty steep in these economic times.

***Connecticut’s change of its juvenile age range is under way, reports CNN’s Stephanie Chen. If the adjustment to include 17-year-olds this year goes smoothly enough, the state will likely raise the age again to include 18-year-olds, which was the original plan before the budget crisis made such a large conversion too difficult. The big thing to watch will be local police departments, some of which have welcomed the change while others complain about finding space to separate the older teens from adult offenders.

***The ACLU of Southern California is suing Los Angeles County over conditions at its Challenger Memorial Youth Center in Lancaster. The center operates a school that serves 650 youth and is described as a “probation camp,” which has always confused us about California. Why do the county probation departments, the offices tasked with monitoring youth in lieu of incarceration, operate camps? The lawsuit names the county probation and education departments as defendants, and alleges that the educational program at the center is broken.