Weekly Notes: LWOP in Iowa; JJ leadership institute; and more

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Quick one today, we’re busy finishing up the February issue of Youth Today. Check that issue for the following, by the way: a front-pager by Dick Mendel looking at some intriguing findings from a Canadian JJ study; analysis of the 2010 juvenile justice budget and earmarks; and more on the sexual victimization survey released by the Justice Department this month.

***The Iowa Supreme Court heard oral arguments this week in the case of Ruthann Veal, who was sentenced to life without parole (LWOP)  at the age of 14 for killing Catherine Hayes in 1993. Veal is defended by Bryan Stevenson, the attorney who last year argued before the U.S. Supreme Court that LWOP sentences should be banned for any youth under the age of 14.

But Veal’s case is exactly why the justices appeared wary of drawing a deep line in the sand on LWOP, whether it was to ban the sentence for certain age groups or for juveniles receiving certain sentences. Are they going to ban it for youth under 13, then have to hear arguments the next year on 14-year-olds? That was clearly on the minds of a few justices during the oral arguments.

***The National Juvenile Justice Network, which is led by Sarah Bryer, is accepting applications for its Juvenile Justice Leadership Development Institute. The institute’s mission is “to create the foundation for a more effective juvenile justice reform movement by developing a strong base of well prepared and well trained advocates.” Click here to apply.

***The effort to reform juvenile justice in New York centers on two things: improving the quality of treatment and programming within the detention centers and post-adjudication facilities, and keeping youths who do not need lock-up out of those buildings.

Obviously, the two are intertwined, because crowded facilities don’t lend themselves to massive quality control improvements. Also, if New York ever considers moving out of the dark ages and raising the juvenile age above 16, it would help to have facilities with the space to accommodate such a move.

Lowering the number of confined juveniles coming out of New York City is paramount, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg took a big step toward making that happen this week. Bloomberg announced he will move the city’s juvenile justice system into the Administration for Children’s Services, the child welfare agency for the city.

The purpose of the move is clear: deal with low-level offenders in the community, save locked facilities for public safety threats only. Now it will be up to ACS Commissioner John Mattingly and the new guy at the city probation department – Vincent Schiraldi – to make sure the community alternatives work.

***Luzerne Update! Lawyers for the private detention centers involved in the lawsuit want Judge Richard Caputo to prevent the destruction of documents that might aid in the defense of facility leaders named in the lawsuit. They believe some documents set to be destroyed could help them make the case that a number of youth adjudicated by Judge Mark Ciavarella would have been detained regardless of any illicit payment.

***Good headline on this article, Somerville Journal. You really captured the essence of the story. And with that, have a great weekend!