Opinion

Weekly Notes: Juvenile Court Stats; Profs for JJPDA Reauthorization…and more

NEWS

*** The Pittsburgh-based National Center for Juvenile Justice published its Juvenile Court Statistics 2006-2007 online last week, and also released four fact sheets on waivers to adult court, juvenile court cases, person offenses and probation caseloads. The research and compilation of this massive tome is funded by OJJDP.

These figures piqued the interest of JJ Today:

-Waivers to adult court are down markedly from their peak in 1994, and black juveniles now make up a smaller proportion of those being transferred. Forty-four percent of the 13,100 juveniles transferred in 1994 were black; 37 percent of the 8,500 juveniles waived to adult court in 2007 were black. Important to note, though, that waivers only count decisions by judges to move a juvenile to adult court. These statistics contain no information on the racial proportions of juveniles directly transferred by statute or prosecutorial discretion.

-From 2003 to 2007, juvenile arrests for robbery went up 35 percent. Juvenile court cases for robbery were up 45 percent in that time. Those statistics, and a 5 percent increase in criminal homicide cases, drove a 13 percent spike in violent crime cases involving juveniles during the same period.

-Simple assault cases declined 4 percent between 2003 and 2007, but the long-term increase in the use of that charge is staggering. In 1985 juvenile courts saw 3.8 cases of simple assault for every 1,000 youth between the ages 10 and 18. By 2007? The rate was 8.8 per 1,000.

***Congressional leaders received a letter from 122 professors last week, asking them to get going on reauthorization of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act of 1974.

Since the last substantial reauthorization of the bill, in 1992, “researchers and policymakers have learned a tremendous amount about what works to prevent and reduce juvenile delinquency,” the professors said in the letter. “From the growing body of research on child and youth development, the development of the adolescent brain, and effective programs and practices, we now know much more about what works in turning these young lives around.”

The letter was sent to: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.); Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.); Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.); House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio); Sens. Pat Leahy (D-Vt.) and Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) of the Senate Judiciary Committee; and Reps. George Miller (D-Calif.) and John Kline (R-Minn.) of the House Education and Labor Committee.

***An additional piece of information on the Adam Walsh Act and juvenile sex offenders, which we wrote about at length on Wednesday. JJ Today asked juvenile justice analyst Nicole Pittman what might be a fair arrangement that would register juvenile sex offenders but also treat them differently than adults. Her suggestion: place misdemeanor juvenile sex offenders on a registry for two years, felony offenders for five years, and provide them with therapy. When their term ends, the offender’s progress would be reviewed.

***Expect a study from Justice Policy Institute this month that shows between 75 percent to 93 percent of youth who enter the juvenile justice system annually in this country have experienced some degree of traumatic victimization. That’s all we’ll write about it until JJ Today can see the numbers and methodology, because that is an awfully high range. This would make Attorney General Eric Holder look like a genius for initiating a project at the Justice Department that focuses in on this very subject, children exposed to violence. Obama’s budget plan called for $37 million to be spent on Holder’s Initiative on Children Exposed to Violence.

MEDIA

***Jennings Garry, supervisor of the Nurse-Family Partnership for the Buncombe County Department of Health in North Carolina pitches via op-ed the idea of NFP as a deterrent of juvenile crime. Nurse-family partnerships, which pair nurses with young, low-income, first-time moms may be one of the few avenues of youth work that sees a serious infusion of cash over the next decade.

***Juvenile justice facilities around the country are on the chopping block as states and counties struggle to address huge budget gaps. That might be a good thing in some instances: San Bernardino County, Calif., will close one of its juvenile halls next year. The closure is slated to put 32 officers out of jobs. Numbers reported by Contra Costa Times writer James Rufus Koren suggest that the county can accommodate those juveniles in open beds at other facilities (or use alternatives to incarceration).

To the north, though, Sacramento will lose a boys ranch that provided equestrian therapy, academics and job training to older male teens. Now, those youths will be placed in juvenile hall. And in Seattle, everyone seems to agree that the Youth Services Center, King County’s secure facility, needs to be replaced. But a tenth of cent sales tax bump to replace it might be too much in these days and times.

***ABC’s Nightline story on the federal grants scandal at the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, which was uncovered by Youth Today Editor Patrick Boyle, is now available on YouTube with ABC’s permission. Click here for the link.

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