Tuesday, July 28, 2009

From Time Out to Hard Time: Young Children in the Adult Criminal Justice System

The headline of this post is the title of a new study (pdf) by Michele Deitch and some of her students at the UT-Austin LBJ School about very young offenders (<13) published an editorial riffing off themes from the report. Here's how the op-ed opens:

The Supreme Court sent an important message when it ruled in Roper v. Simmons in 2005 that children under the age of 18 when their crimes were committed were not eligible for the death penalty. Justice Anthony Kennedy drew on compassion, common sense and the science of the youthful brain when he wrote that it was morally wrong to equate the offenses of emotionally undeveloped adolescents with the offenses of fully formed adults.

The states have followed this logic in death penalty cases. But they have continued to mete out barbaric treatment — including life sentences — to children whose cases should rightly be handled through the juvenile courts.

Congress can help to correct these practices by amending the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act of 1974, which is up for Congressional reauthorization this year. To get a share of delinquency prevention money, the law requires the states and localities to meet minimum federal protections for youths in the justice system. These protections are intended to keep as many youths as possible out of adult jails and prisons, and to segregate those that are sent to those places from the adult criminal population.

The case for tougher legislative action is laid out in an alarming new study of children 13 and under in the adult criminal justice system, the lead author of which is the juvenile justice scholar, Michele Deitch, of the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin. According to the study, every state allows juveniles to be tried as adults, and more than 20 states permit preadolescent children as young as 7 to be tried in adult courts.

This is terrible public policy. Children who are convicted and sentenced as adults are much more likely to become violent offenders — and to return to an adult jail later on — than children tried in the juvenile justice system.
Good job, to Michele and her collaborators. I'll look forward to reading the report.

UPDATE: I just received this email from Michele announcing publication of the study and giving some additional highlights:

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

I write to let you know about a new report entitled “From Time Out to Hard Time: Young Children in the Adult Criminal Justice System,” released today by the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas. The report provides the first-ever comprehensive look at how the nation treats pre-adolescent children (primarily those age 12 and under) who commit serious crimes. The report analyzes the available data with regard to the transfer of young children to adult criminal court, documents the extremely harsh and tragic consequences that follow when young children go into the adult criminal justice system, profiles practices in states with particularly severe outcomes for these young children, looks at international practices, and offers policy recommendations.

The report, which I co-authored with three of my students, finds that more than half the states permit children age 12 and under to be treated as adults for criminal justice purposes. In 22 states, plus the District of Columbia, children as young as 7 can be prosecuted and tried in adult court where they would be subject to harsh adult sanctions, including long prison terms, mandatory sentences, and placement in adult prisons.

This issue, of course, has gained national attention recently with the cases of the 8-year old in Arizona and the 11-year old in Pennsylvania, both charged with murder, and in the case of Christopher Pittman, who was unsuccessful in his efforts last year to get the United States Supreme Court to hear his challenge to his mandatory sentence of 30-years without possibility of parole for the killing of his grandparents when he was 12 years old.

The report shows that the practice of trying young children in adult court contradicts the consensus of the most up-to-date scientific research, and details the many ways in which the adult criminal justice system is a poor and dangerous fit for these young children.

Other key findings include:

· Every year, nearly 80 children age 13 and younger are judicially transferred to adult court. Between 1985 and 2004, 703 children age 12 and under, and 961 children age 13 were judicially transferred to adult court. The total number of young children in adult criminal court actually is much higher than this, as the data does not include the number of children sent to the adult system through automatic transfer laws or laws allowing prosecutors to file cases directly in adult court.

· Many of these young children are being treated as adults for relatively minor offenses. There are almost as many youth treated as adults for property crimes as for crimes against persons. Determinations about when and whether a young child will be treated as an adult are marked by extreme arbitrariness, unpredictability and racial disparities.

· Four states—Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina—stand out as providing the worst possible outcomes for pre-adolescent offenders, given the combination of transfer policies and adult sentencing laws and practices in those states.

· On a single day in 2008, 7,703 children under age 18 were held in adult local jails and 3,650 in adult state prisons. In these adult facilities, the youth face vastly higher risks of physical and sexual assault and suicide than they would face in juvenile facilities. The youngest children are at particular risk.

· The United States is severely out of step with international law and practice. Most countries—including those Western nations most similar to the United States, countries in the developing world, Islamic nations, and even countries often considered to be human rights violators—repudiate the practice of trying young children as adults and giving them long sentences.

The report calls on national and state policymakers to keep young children in the juvenile justice system, to disallow mandatory sentencing of young children in adult court, and to always provide parole opportunities for young children transferred to adult court. We also urge that young children in the adult criminal justice system be housed in juvenile facilities, both while awaiting trial and after conviction. ...

I hope this report will be helpful to you in your work, and I would be grateful if you could help disseminate it widely to your contacts in the field. Thanks are to due to so many of you who were incredible resources to us throughout our research for this report.

All the best,



Charlie O said...

That's our "judeo-christian" ethics at work.

R. Shackleford said...

...SEVEN?! Good lord, who in their right mind could actually believe a seven year old child is sane enough to face adult punishments? That's it. I'm moving to Samoa. This is craziness.

Anonymous said...

Now consider how many of the thousands of children in adult prisons are mentally ill. My guess would be one third to one half.

Our society cannot possibly benefit from treating our children in this barbaric way.

Anonymous said...

One could say that in recent decades, our “enlightened” society and legislators have become more like our Puritan and Victorian ancestors with their vengeful public morality and private debauches.

“In colonial times, children over the age of five were treated either as small adults or property. A seven year old child could be sentenced in criminal courts. In 1648 in Massachusetts, a child who cursed his natural parents could be put to death. In 1825, the Society for the Prevention of Juvenile Delinquency advocated separating juvenile and adult offenders. Soon after, facilities for juveniles were established in most major cities. Although these facilities were established to reform delinquents through prayer, study and hard work, youth were still punished with whippings and leg irons.”

Along with the “War on Drugs”, the “War on Crime” and the “War on Poverty”, we have had a full blown War on Children run by government with the aid of legislators, the criminal justice system, CPS and all those wonderful laws that go as far as to make what was once exploration of a child's sexuality into a criminal offense that leaves children as young as 10 on the SO registry, possibly for life.

Do you suppose they'll allow one a last cigarette once they bring back burning at the stake? Opps! Sorry, forgot. We can try and imprison children as adults, but we can't allow them to smoke. Has Texas made that a felony yet?

Expatriation looks better and better every day.

Anonymous said...

Note to Anon 1:09 - no juveniles in Texas are subject to lifetime registration at the current moment. The Adam Walsh Act threatens that.

Currently in Texas, juveniles, who are ordered to publicly register (not all are), must keep up registration for 10 years after the adjudicated juvenile completed the terms of the disposition.

Anonymous said...

Want to know why the juvie system in Texas is so out of step with the rest of the world? For the same reason that Texas is in general out of step with the rest of the world...most critics list the swaggering Texas tough on crime outlook to be the culprit... I think it goes deeper than that... there are economic reasons. So rather than looking at the juvie problem in isolation, it helps to see it as an extension of the consequence of existing issues.

So what if the bursting-at-the-seams prison population is being somewhat whittled, if the alternative probationary structure is being used to vacumn out the resources of both probationers and their extended families, as well as to create a serf class as well as an ongoing excuse to expand the prison-industrial system further into the community under the guise of COPS programs and other so called community policing ( legalized gang stalking and torture) ,  all under the hidden rationale of the 13th Amendment???

The 13th Amendment:

Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude,

 except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted,

 shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

The 13th Amendment, which prohibits forced labor, contains a caveat...

 " except as a punishment for crime where of the party shall have been duly convicted ".

That clause has a history of being manipulated, according to Fordham Law Professor Robert Kaczorowski, who has written extensively on civil rights and the Constitution. Directly after the 13th Amendment was enacted, it began to be utilized to justify slavery-like practices, according to Kaczorowski. Throughout the South, former slaves were arrested for trivial crimes (vagrancy, for example), fined, and imprisoned when they could not pay their fines. Then, landowners could supply the fine in exchange for the prisoner's labor, essentially perpetuating slavery.

The reason the U.S. has the largest incarceration rates in the world, with an increasingly privatized prison system, is that this is our one constitutionally protected form of slavery, according to Harvard legal scholar Kaia Stern.

So, with the prisons overflowing, there is a temptation to use slavery in the form of forced serfdom as an alternate form of punishment. Perhaps this would be a new source of revenue for the federal and state governments. Once a person has been convicted, you might as well sell him to a day-labor construction company, since that is the designed outcome anyway.  After all, so many professions and licenses are forbidden to him, and so many employers will not hire him ( and if they do, that will quickly change after the probation officer sends someone to tAlk with his employer). Say! That brings our labor costs down! Maybe we could compete with all the other countries that use slave labor and make our country a manufacturing power again in the 21st Century way of doing business!

 Prison slavery is alive and well in the U.S., and it's thanks to the 13th Amendment. Check this out: http://www.lewrockwell.com/orig9/bacon1.html

See also the following article, which duscusses the results of an economic system of growth based on the notion that greed is good ( our form of capitalism ):


Slavery Today: A Clear and Present Danger
    Slavery never ended in the United States; it continues here and across the globe, facilitated by globalization, corruption and greed. There are more people enslaved today - controlled by violence and forced to work without pay - than at any time in human history.

Anonymous said...

Lot's of ground covered there, maybe should have gone into the role that privitazation has played in all of this, so here is a quote from the lewrockwell article...

"The problem with prison privatization is that Corporate-owned prisons need a steady flow of inmates to maintain profits. To protect their profit margins, prison companies exert political influence by contributing thousands of dollars to state political campaigns. Lobbyists for private prisons support tough-on-crime legislation that ensures the continued need for prison space, including mandatory minimum sentences, life terms for "three strikes," and sentencing juveniles as adults."

Anonymous said...

Good string.
But give me one Constitutional Convention and we can do away with that pesky Bill of Rights and make this a perfect society. Depending on who you are. Anyone been to a good stoning lately.


Anonymous said...

Really excellent work by Prof. Deitch and her students.


Anonymous said...

You don't have to do away with what you refer to as "the pesky Bill of Rights", but it would help to do away with the exception clause of the 13th amendment. In other words, do away with all forms of involuntary servitude, period.
This would be a new twist on something already done, i.e. The case where the XXI amendment corrected the mistake of the XVIII th amendment. In this case, however, we would not want to abolish the 13th amendment, we would simply revise it to do away with the exception clause, and then create a new amendment stating that all forms of involuntary servitude as punishment for a crime are now

Anonymous said...

No need to fix the 13th, instead we just make sure that justice is color-blind! Criminal-slaves of whatever age will be watched by prison gaurds and probation officers of a different race than themselves so that minorities feel that they have been brought into the power-structure. It's either that , or G-d forbid, we actually do away with all slavery and involuntary servitude, on which our economy depends, and make our society truly color- blind and in accord with human-rights.

Anonymous said...

Ah, the prison-industrial complex - what a job provider!
As long as it's multi-ethnic , leave it alone. And since it's color-blind, why not make it age-blind as well? Kids cheating on homework? Lock 'em up, and don't mess with Texas, baby!

RAS said...

Do you people think the guards are carrying whips to make the workers stay busy?? My ex-brother-in-law worked at Lovelady and said if an inmate said he had a headache they had to take him back to the unit right then. As for certifying juvies as adults- we used to put them on BMPs or send them to AMP, but that was declared too cruel so now the ones that our system can't control (from assaulting youth and staff) are sent to TDCJ.

Anonymous said...

Good ol tyc was child slave labor prior to the 80's. Just ask any stateboy about the slave labor. Hell we laid the ground work to build the 36 bipass. As a mater of fact Coryell county Texas owes its very economic growth over the last 120 years to the slave labor of state boys and the prision industry. Coryell county and the state of Texas will never let anyone excavte anywhere on that propery for fear of digiing up something they dont want dug up. The treatment of children in the state of Texas by tyc and its other alisis over the years is an abomination.
If you can save one Texas child from the effects of tyc its as if you save the world.
Sheldon tyc#47333 II c/s

Anonymous said...

Crime Rates and Youth Incarceration in Texas and California Compared:
Public Safety or Public Waste?
By Mike Males PhD, Christina Stahlkopf PhD, and Daniel Macallair MPA


"From 1995 to 2006, Texas increased the number of youth that were
incarcerated under the age of 18 by 48%. This was done through harsh sentencing practices that
targeted non-violent, property and drug offenders."

admin said...

Nice posting and great job Ngobrol Seputar Bisnis Online Belajar SEO Blogspot Mbah Gendeng Toko Butik Online

mrbgo said...

Nice article, keep posting...

mobile phones gadget sale

Tutorial SEO said...

thank for new info for me, i will try this.

Robin Benedict Weblogs - SEO Blog Tips, Tech News, Computer and Gadgets, Softwares and Internet Tips
Bambang Oke Tutorial SEO, Templates, Blogger Wordpress, Tips Komputer, Bisnis Online
Business TechnologyDownload Counter Strike 1.6 Full VersionMiyabi Maria OzawaTemplates, SEO For Blogger Download MP3 4shared Bisnis dan Duit Online Cara Install, Program Ubuntu OffLine Windows 7: Writing Your Application to Shine on Modern Graphics Hardware

BambangOke said...

thank for new info for me, i will try this.

Robin Benedict Weblogs - SEO Blog Tips, Tech News, Computer and Gadgets, Softwares and Internet Tips
Bambang Oke Tutorial SEO, Templates, Blogger Wordpress, Tips Komputer, Bisnis Online
Business Technology
Download Counter Strike 1.6 Full Version
Miyabi Maria Ozawa
Templates, SEO For Blogger
Download MP3 4shared
Bisnis dan Duit Online
Cara Install, Program Ubuntu OffLine
Windows 7: Writing Your Application to Shine on Modern Graphics Hardware

ghenbiu said...

thanks for this info

indonesia java international destination said...

I see thatlaw system must be protecting the children and the punish me be reasonable!

indonesia java international destination

indonesia java international destination said...

This so good stuff keep up the good work. I read a lot of blogs on a daily basis and for the most part just wanted to make a quick comment to say I’m glad I found your blog.

koleksi gambar said...

Thanks for sharing such a useful information! This is a great post, thanks