Posts filed under In The News

Former Judge Brought to Justice

By Zach Schalk
February 25, 2011 1:09 PM

The juvenile justice world garnered front-page headlines last week.  In a story that underscores just about everything that is wrong with our juvenile corrections system, former Pennsylvania judge Mark A. Ciavarela Jr. was convicted for his role in a $2.8 million dollar “cash for kids” scandal.  He faces over 150 years in prison after a jury found Ciavarela guilty on 12 counts, including charges that he accepted money from a developer who built two private detention centers for kids in Pennsylvania—though he was not found guilty of accepting bribes to specifically deliver juveniles to the facilities.  Michael T. Conahan, another former judge, already faces 20 years in prison after pleading guilty to racketeering charges in 2009 for his role in the affair.

Posted on February 25, 2011 and filed under In The News.

What the President's Budget Does for Juvenile Justice

By Zach Schalk
February 18, 2011 12:10 PM


This past Monday, President Obama released his proposed budget for the 2012 fiscal year, which begins October 1.  While the budget still has several months of Congressional debate ahead before becoming law—and keep in mind that no budget for 2011 has been adopted yet; the government is currently operating on a “continuing resolution” keeping government funding at 2010 levels until March 4—it introduces many interesting proposals that would affect our nation’s juvenile justice system.

Posted on February 18, 2011 and filed under In The News.

Where Spending is the Answer

By Zach Schalk
February 3, 2011 1:10 PM

Budget cuts have become a theme of sorts on this blog, with states nationwide looking towards their various corrections systems as fertile ground for slashing wasteful spending.  As Youth Today reports, the number of states with stand-alone juvenile justice agencies is shrinking—with states combining government offices and accounting for a decrease in locked up juvenile offenders since the 1990’s.  Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York is facing a tough political fight in his effort to reform the state’s sprawling corrections system, and it remains to be seen what his final plan for the future of New York lock ups will look like.  On the West Coast, Gov. Jerry Brown continues to pursue his plans to cede control of juvenile centers from the state to the county, as mentioned in our last blog post, despite some controversy over the matter. 


Posted on February 3, 2011 and filed under In The News.

Study Reveals Bias Against LGBT Youth in Schools and Courts

By Zach Schalk
December 8, 2010 11:22 AM

As anyone can tell you, kids can be cruel.  Bullying, teasing and just flat out mean behavior is a fact of life experienced by many children as they grow up.  With the advent of the internet, cyber bullying has added a new frontier to this problem, making it even harder for the picked on to escape the reach of their bullies.  Far too often, it’s young members of the LBGT community who bear the brunt of this nasty treatment.

Posted on December 8, 2010 and filed under In The News.

Second Chance Act Money Put to Good Use

By Zach Schalk
October 14, 2010 9:41 AM

The Second Chance Act was signed into law in 2008 and it is being put to good use.  The legislation was intended to make federal grants available to government agencies and non profits that would improve the chances for individuals to return successfully to their communities after incarceration.  According to the Reentry Policy Council, $25 million in grants were given out in 2009 and an impressive $100 million in Second Chance Act grants has been doled out in 2010—with an additional $14 million given to the Federal Bureau of Prisons for reentry programs.

Posted on October 14, 2010 and filed under In The News.

Suicides in State Lock-ups are Cause for Concern

By Zach Schalk
July 26, 2010 11:21 A.M EDT

The Boston Globe recently reported that an increased rate of suicides this year in Massachusetts state prisons is leading to a rush to fix its adult prison system:

With the discovery of an eighth inmate found hanging in his cell at Old Colony Correctional Center in Bridgewater yesterday morning, Massachusetts prisons have reached a suicide rate of about 71 per 100,000 inmates so far this year, more than quadruple the average annual national rate of 16 per 100,000 inmates reported by the US Bureau for Justice Statistics.

The same problem is brewing in some of our nation’s juvenile detention centers.

Posted on July 26, 2010 and filed under In The News.

LGBT Youth

By Zach Schalk
July 16, 2010 3:10 P.M. EDT

It is not a novel concept that minority groups are disproportionately represented in juvenile centers across the country.  However, one group that is often overlooked when discussing demographics of locked up at-risk youth is the LGBT community.  A recent article in The Nation by Daniel Redman shed light on their uphill fight for fair treatment.  While LGBT young people face many obstacles once they enter the juvenile corrections system, most of the problems start much earlier:

An LGBT youth's problems with the law frequently begin at home.  “LGBT youth are more likely to be arrested than straight youth because they're more likely to be pushed out of their homes," says Dr. Beyer. And "family rejection is a direct pipeline to the juvenile justice system," says San Francisco State University researcher Caitlin Ryan of the Family Acceptance Project.

Posted on July 16, 2010 and filed under In The News.

Juvenile Court Statistics from 2006-7 Released

By Zach Schalk
July 06, 2010 12:05 p.m. EDT

The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention released the National Center for Juvenile Justice’s report  analyzing Juvenile Court Statistics from 2006-7, along with four fact sheets compiled by the OJJDP.  John Kelly of Youth Today points out a few interesting findings:

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.

Posted on July 6, 2010 and filed under In The News.

The Issues: Juvenile Life Without Parole

By Chip Warren 
July 05, 2010 3:25 p.m. CDT

The issue of juveniles serving life without parole is one that we have been following closely at Calamari.  Advocates often say that the practice is reserved for "the worst of the worst" among juvenile offenders.  A closer look at the individuals who are serving life sentences for crimes committed as a juveniles turns up stories that defy that rhetoric.

Frontline did a great piece that demonstrates the complicated realities surrounding the issue, and how certain idiosyncrasies in state law can land a child in prison for life under very questionable circumstances.  You can watch it online here.

Recently the Supreme Court ruled that a juvenile cannot be sentenced to life without parole unless he or she committed murder.  To hear an in-depth discussion of the Supreme Court decision, you can listen to this recent episode of the NPR program, Talk of The Nation.

Posted on July 5, 2010 and filed under In The News, The Issues.

Juvenile Detention Centers Closing Nationwide

By Zach Schalk

Across the country, states are closing juvenile corrections and detention centers—taking advantage of the decline in youth offenders to save much needed cash in the current climate of budgetary austerity.  Todd Richmond of the AP successfully provides the national scope of this trend:

During the early 1990s, though, tough-on-crime legislators turned to the juvenile system. Nearly every state lowered the minimum age for kids to be tried as adults or increased the kind of crimes that land kids in the adult system.

But juvenile arrest rates dropped, falling 33 percent between 1997 and 2008, according to the latest U.S. Justice Department data.

While the article points out the savings that have been made in many states, it is unclear if the steps are being taken for the right reasons or simply to benefit the bottom line. 

"We're locking up the right kids," said Bart Lubow, program director for the Annie E. Casey Foundation, which helps fund such juvenile offender programs.  "It's about making smarter decisions."

As a result, the number of juveniles in state institutions has dropped. According to the Justice Department, the number of juvenile offenders declined 26 percent between 2000 and 2008, from about 109,000 to 80,000.

 Ultimately, juvenile justice policies should be judged by their effect on the kids and families who are forced to live the results.  Are the decisions being made the right ones?  You decide.

Posted on June 30, 2010 and filed under In The News.

Juvenile Justice Slipping Through the Cracks?

By Zach Schalk & Chip Warren
June 30, 2010
 1:31 p.m. CDT

The Obama administration has had many triumphs in the past year and a half.  In her piece in the Huffington Post, Jacqueline Caster points out that the administration must be careful to not let juvenile justice policy slip through the cracks:

It's time to see some true White House leadership for these at risk youth who, without proper support and guidance, are not only failing to receive the help they need, but simultaneously and unnecessarily putting our communities at risk from both a public safety and a fiscal perspective.

Obviously, Obama has had a full plate of crises ever since stepping into office.  But the societal costs of our nation’s juvenile justice status quo—either monetary or otherwise—are too great to ignore.  

We at Calamari are big proponents of front end investment among at-risk populations as a preventative, but changing governmental and social institutions is no easy matter.  We'd love to hear your thoughts: how do we begin to shift our attention at the legislative and policy level to the front-end, where issues such as sound parenting, maternal health, and early childhood development can be addressed before kids become prey to developmental deficits?  Share your thoughts or examples of success in the comments section. 

Posted on June 30, 2010 and filed under In The News.