Years after serving time as a youth offender, the photographer Brian L. Frank has devoted himself to documenting young men’s experiences with the criminal justice system. In “Out of Bounds: Coming of Age in Gang Territory,” he takes an intimate look at the effect of targeted policing on minority youth in the Central Valley of California, where the children of agricultural workers and former factory workers have few opportunities.
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“We used to send 3,800 kids to the state system. Now we send none,” said Vincent Schiraldi, senior research scientist and co-director of the Columbia University Justice Lab. Schiraldi said crime also went down.
Corrections and health and human services officials say the plan heralds a cultural change in the state’s approach to the youngest in the justice system, and creates opportunities to better bridge educational, mental health and social services to prepare minors for release.
Every day spent in an adult jail or prison facility not only puts youth at risk of physical harm, but also compromises any real hope of providing them with quality educational services and real opportunities for success upon release.
When Suzi Jensen went to see her mom in prison at the age of 12 she was only allowed to hug her twice, once at the beginning of the visit and once at the end. “They just had tables and you had to sit across the table from her,” said Jensen, now in her 30s. “At that age, being a 12-year-old girl, there were a lot of things happening, big changes and not being able to sit and cry and talk to her was terrible.”
Sheriff Steve Tompkins recently told a roomful of public officials and inmates that the PEACE unit—an acronym for “Positive Energy Always Creates Elevation”—is part of an effort to reshape the way people are treated behind bars.
A package of bills aimed at raising the age Michigan residents can be tried as adults passed out of a House committee Wednesday. Under current Michigan law, 17-year-olds are automatically tried as adults. The bill package would raise that age to 18 years of age.
Many young people who spent a chunk of their childhood on Rikers are left behind, reliving the trauma of teenage incarceration inside the same walls where they celebrated milestone birthdays, contended with puberty and took high school classes.
Summit County already has strong juvenile diversion programs in place. About 90 percent of eligible youth are sent through the programs after risk assessments which include severity of their crime, whether it was their first offense and other risk factors, such as if they’re still in school or not.
Though the Supreme Court ruled in 1967 that courts must provide lawyers to juvenile defendants, a stunning report from Juvenile Law Center found that 40 states have policies that require or permit courts to charge juvenile defendants—and in reality, their families—for “free” court-appointed lawyers, including public defenders.