Young, Pregnant, and Incarcerated

Posted by MST Services

pregnant juvenile
Involvement in the juvenile justice system is often a confusing and upsetting experience for teenagers across the United States—but adding the additional concern of being pregnant while incarcerated makes for an even more complicated situation. National figures on the number of incarcerated teenagers are scarce, but a recent survey on the matter in Los Angeles County gives us a glimpse into the matter. According to a report released last June, in 2018 a total of 1,039 girls were booked into L.A. County juvenile detention facilities; fifty had a positive pregnancy test upon arrest, and one gave birth while incarcerated. Fifty doesn’t sound like many, but that number accounts for just shy of five percent of the total juvenile female arrests in the county for the year. And for these youth, having to deal with pregnancy within the system leads to several different negative consequences.

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Topics: Juvenile Justice Reform

Youth Suicide in Detention Centers

Posted by MST Services

youth suicide rates
On January 1st of 2019, a teenage girl at a detention center in Oklahoma went in to the facility’s bathroom; 25 minutes later, she was found hanging from a vent in the ceiling with a makeshift noose around her neck. The girl was on suicide watch, requiring staffers to check on her every five minutes, and yet the facility’s records show that 25 minutes passed before another resident entered the bathroom and found her. None of the staffers were surprised by her action; the girl, along with another resident, had recently come forward to report sexual abuse by a male staffer. That very morning, a fellow resident told the staffers that the girl had been alluding to committing suicide, and yet the staff failed to check on the girl at the required five-minute intervals. The most distressing part about this story is the fact that it isn’t uncommon. Every day across the U.S., scores of juveniles in detention are under suicide watch, and even so, many of them still manage to take their own lives.

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Topics: Juvenile Justice Reform

When Incarcerated Youth Lose Medicaid

Posted by MST Services

medicaid
Imagine that you get a call from your child’s school one afternoon. The principal tells you that your son broke his arm after tripping down some stairs, and he’s been transported to the local hospital. When you get to the emergency room, doctors have already done an x-ray and have begun fitting him for a cast. You’re relieved he’s feeling okay, but then you look at the hospital bill: $2,500. Without health insurance, a broken arm can become the cost of several months’ rent, and put a family into financial jeopardy. Now imagine that your son is struggling with a mental or behavioral health issue. This isn’t uncommon—according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, over 20% of teenagers experience a mental health condition, and half of all lifelong cases of mental illness begin by age 14. But visiting a therapist and purchasing medication can be even more expensive than a broken arm. Several youth have mental and behavioral health issues, but left untreated, these problems could become a catalyst to involvement in the juvenile justice system.

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Topics: Juvenile Justice Reform

Juvenile Justice and Tribal Youth

Posted by MST Services

native am girl

Within the United States, American Indians and Alaskan Natives (AI/AN) represent roughly 1.7% of the total population, of which about 928,000 are under the age of eighteen. Despite representing such a small portion of the total US population, a recent study by the Government Accountability Office found that tribal youth comprised 18% of all federal juvenile arrests between 2010 and 2016. Once these young people have offended, they face a complex and oftentimes unfairly skewed justice system, complicated by jurisdiction issues and insensitivity to the influence of their heritage.

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Topics: Juvenile Justice Reform

LGBTQ Youth and Juvenile Detention

Posted by MST Services

AdobeStock_207280112According to the US Department of Justice, 856,130 juveniles were arrested across the country during 2016, 45,567 of which were held in 1,772 juvenile facilities. Of those 45,567 juveniles, an average of fifteen to eighteen percent identified as LGBTQ--that’s twice the rate at which LGBTQ are represented within the general US population. In a recent survey conducted in selected juvenile detention facilities across the US, forty percent of the total female population identified as LGBTQ, and out of all the LGBTQ respondents, eighty-five percent were youths of color. In recent years, juvenile justice advocates have begun to ask a new question: why is the LGBTQ population so overrepresented within the juvenile justice system? 

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Topics: Juvenile Justice Reform

Juvenile Justice: A Year in Review

Posted by MST Services

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With a government shutdown and an incoming change in House leadership, the first few days of January have many wondering what will top this new Congress’ agenda in 2019. For those in the child welfare and criminal justice space, 2018 saw many welcome state-level reforms— this year, North Carolina and New York will no longer prosecute youth under age 18 in adult courts, and California won’t try juveniles under age 12. But 2018 was also a promising one on the national stage— following recent bipartisan support for the First Step Act and increases in federal juvenile justice funding, there are signs that our incoming government will continue to champion criminal justice reform this year. But before we explore where 2019 may take us, let’s look back on the major changes in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems that 2018 brought.

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Topics: Juvenile Justice Reform

Youth Crime Rates Drop, But Progress is Still Needed

Posted by MST Services

AdobeStock_149652378Over the last twenty years, the United States has seen a steady drop in crime rates, including in juvenile crime. From the peak offense era of the 1990s to today, juvenile crime arrests have dropped across the board in leaps and bounds. Robbery and aggravated assault rates have both dropped by 70% since the 1990s, simple assaults are down by 49%, and murder rates have fallen a staggering 82%. The continuously falling crime rates are not necessarily attributable to any one particular action or policy, however, which leads to some debate among activists and lawmakers over which policies are making the biggest differences to help with this issue. There are a few contributing factors, however, that do show significant impact upon juvenile crime rate reduction.

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Topics: Juvenile Justice Reform

Shortages Affect a Juvenile's Right to Counsel

Posted by MST Services

AdobeStock_112275718At a Georgia Walmart in the fall of 2013, 17-year-old W.M. did something not entirely unusual for someone his age: he shoplifted a $2.97 set of Halloween vampire fangs. Unlike most shoplifters, however, W.M. was caught and arrested. He appeared in juvenile court just a few weeks later, but at the time no public defenders were available to represent him. The judge gave W.M. a choice: he could waive his right to counsel and move forward to finish the case, or he could come back at a later date when a public defender might be available.

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Topics: Juvenile Justice Reform

Trends in Juvenile Crime

Posted by MST Services

active-activity-board-1246961In the early 1990s, rising national crime rates provoked a change in the general public’s opinion of the people committing the crimes. Juvenile offenders in particular were represented as “vicious superpredators”, fueling the perception of juveniles as increasingly unpredictable, and of the juvenile penal system as being inadequate.

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Topics: Juvenile Justice Reform

What's the Average Juvenile Offender Like?

Posted by MST Services

recidivism

Over the course of the last twenty or so years, there has been much discussion focused on the causes of juvenile crime. Studies have been conducted, people have been surveyed, facilities have been inspected, and it has all lead to at least one solid conclusion: there is no one condition that leads a juvenile to committing a crime. Instead, researchers have found that a myriad risk factors increase a juvenile’s likelihood of offending. When a juvenile possesses several of these risk factors, they interact to multiply the chances of a juvenile committing a crime. The risk factors identified by years of research can all fall under the umbrella of a few generalized labels: individual characteristics, family characteristics, school influences, peer influences and neighborhood environments.

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Topics: Juvenile Justice Reform