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Groundswell Of Minors Crossing U.S.-Mexican Border Slows; Courts Backlogged

October 30, 2014 07:54:30 am

This year’s groundswell of minors coming across the U.S.-Mexico border has begun to stabilize, says the Christian Science Monitor. Some 2,424 unaccompanied youths were apprehended in September, compared with more than 10,000 in June, says U.S. Customs and Border Protection. The summer surge is stretching an immigration court system that was already trying to cope with a huge backlog of deportation cases that often take years. As of August, there were 408,037 cases in the U.S. Justice Department’s immigration courts, up from 344,230 in 2013, says the nonpartisan Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University.

Under a White House directive, courts are sending minors to the front of the line as they focus on the more recent arrivals. Hearings are scheduled for the youths in a relatively short time. But the some of the same factors that result in lengthy, drawn-out cases for adults fighting deportation, including a shortage of judges, not enough pro-bono attorneys, case continuances, and transfers from one state to another, are slowing down proceedings for minors. With Congress unwilling to grant special funding to address the crush of underage immigrants, the Department of Justice has reallocated resources and courts have reassigned judges and adjusted juvenile dockets. Significant hurdles remain.

Campus Hire Outsiders To Investigate Sexual Assault, But Is It Enough?


October 30, 2014 07:43:40 am

As colleges scramble under federal pressure to overhaul how they handle cases of sexual assault, the list of schools under investigation for botching cases grows. NPR reports that a growing number of campuses, rather than training their provosts and professors to act like prosecutors, are outsourcing the job to real ones instead. Djuna Perkins is a former prosecutor who is now an investigator-for-hire focusing on sexual assault. Her office near Boston is lined with pennants from a growing list of schools that are her clients: Amherst, Brandeis, Bentley, Harvard, Tufts, Williams, Emerson and more. Hiring an outside professional like Perkins can help colleges address questions of bias

Law Prof. John Banzhaf of George Washington University says schools who use their own staff to decide cases always will be suspect. It’s only slightly better when cases are decided by outside investigators hired by schools. An even better idea, Banzhaf says, would be to create an independent consortium of professionals to investigate and judge cases. Then “there can be no thought that favoritism is being given because someone is a big athlete or that daddy’s a big donor, and the standards will be the same across the board.” he says. “To me it’s a win-win-win for everybody.” Or campus sex cases could be handled by courts. He’s one of many who question why schools are the ones investigating these crimes in the first place.

Experts Blast Federal Approach To Juvenile Crime


October 30, 2014 07:30:03 am

By Ted Gest

Photo via Flickr

The federal agency that deals with juvenile crime issues needs better leadership and more money, says an expert panel of the National Research Council (NRC), part of the National Academy of Sciences.

After suffering from years of declining appropriations from Congress, the committee says in a report issued this week that the Justice Department’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) is viewed as “being in a state of limited capacity and stature.”

It was not until President Barack Obama’s second term that his administration named a permanent administrator of the agency. Robert L. Listenbee, a former public defender for juveniles in Philadelphia, assumed the title in March 2013.

The national committee noted that Congress has not reauthorized the law that guides the agency since 2002, that its funding fell by half between 2003 and 2010, and that “the discretion that OJJDP has to use its funding has been sharply compromised.”

The report explained that both Congress and the Justice Department itself have put restrictions on the agency that have “undercut OJJDP’s ability to assist states and localities with juvenile justice system issues.”

In previous decades policymakers in states, which determine practices dealing with most juvenile crimes, have largely set punishments for offenders without regard to research findings on adolescent development.

The NRC panel says “OJJDP’s portfolio needs to be rebalanced” to take into account proven interventions for juveniles. The experts listed these as “accountability without criminalization, alternatives to justice system involvement, individualized response based on assessment of needs and risks, confinement only when necessary for public safety, a genuine commitment to fairness, sensitivity to disparate treatment, and family engagement.”

Historically, many states have depended on federal grants from OJJDP to fund innovations in their juvenile justice systems.

The declining support from Congress has made it more difficult to reform the system, say the NRC experts. They say part of the problem is that Congress tends to require the agency to fund programs having nothing to do with the juvenile justice system, hampering opportunities to help states meaningfully. 

The expert panel singled out one part of OJJDP’s mission that “has not been effective”: reducing racial and ethnic disparities in the juvenile justice system. The committee called on OJJDP to “require each jurisdiction to identify specific decision points where disparities emerge or are magnified, assess the reasons for these disparities, develop a plan for modifying the policy or practice that appears to be producing the disparities, evaluate outcomes of the plan, and revise and improve the plan if necessary to reduce disparities.” 

The committee called on the American Bar Association to revise its national set of Juvenile Justice Standards, which has not been done in nearly 35 years.

NRC’s committee is chaired by Richard J. Bonnie of the Institute of Law, Psychiatry and Public Policy of the University of Virginia. Other members are:  

Sam J. Abed of the Maryland Department of Juvenile Services;  

Grace Bauer of Justice for Families;

Kevin J. Bethel of the Philadelphia Police Department;

Sandra A. Graham of the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies of the University of California at Los Angeles;

Maxwell Griffin Jr. of the Child Protection Division of Illinois’ Cook County Juvenile Court,

Patricia Lee of the San Francisco Office of the Public Defender;

Edward P. Mulvey of the Department of Psychiatry of the University of Pittsburgh;

Alex R. Piquero of the Program in Criminology at the School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences of the University of Texas at Dallas;

Vincent Schiraldi of the New York City Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice;

Cherie Townsend, a consultant from Idabel, OK; and

John A. Tuell of the Robert F. Kennedy National Resource Center for Juvenile Justice and the Robert F. Kennedy Children’s Action Corps.

Asked to comment on the NRC report, Marc Schindler of the Washington, D.C.-based Justice Policy Institute, a longtime juvenile justice reformer, said, “Since the end of the Clinton administration and essentially up until the appointment of Bob Listenbee, OJJDP had been a neglected agency that suffered from a lack of leadership.  Combined with significant cuts to its budget, the agency is struggling to provide the type of support the field needs during a time where there is great opportunity for reforms.”

This year, Schindler testified to the panel that, “If done well, OJJDP-supported research evaluating adolescent development practices and programs being utilized in the juvenile justice field can serve the same role that OJJDP did in the late 1990s and early 2000’s on issues related to transfer of youth to the adult criminal justice system, which helped inform the field and greatly impacted policy and practice.”

Ted Gest is president of Criminal Justice Journalists and Washington bureau chief of The Crime Report. He welcomes comments from readers.

Abduction Suspect Strikes Officer With Car Leading To Police Chase Through …


Abduction Suspect Strikes Officer With Car Leading To Police Chase Through
CBS Local
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Philadelphia Police opened fire Wednesday night after a suspect struck an officer then took off, leading to a chase throughout the Northeast. This began on the 7300 block of Ditman Street in Mayfair around 9:30 p.m. when police …

Ferguson officials: Reports of police dept. changes are false


Ferguson officials: Reports of police dept. changes are false
Despite new information claiming there are big changes coming to the Ferguson police department, local officials continue to deny any knowledge of those plans. Tuesday night, CNN reported Chief Thomas Jackson will soon resign, and city officials plan
Ferguson police chief expected to step down, officials say CNN
Police In Ferguson Stock Up On Riot Gear Ahead Of Grand Jury Decision Huffington Post
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Orlando man accused of killing roommate to appear in court today

Bryan Santana, the 20-year-old man who admitted to killing his roommate and sexually assaulting her body at their home, is scheduled to face an Orange County judge this morning.

He is being held in Orange County Jail, facing first-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder charges.

Santana was arrested Tuesday at a downtown Orlando barbershop hours after he stabbed his 23-year-old roommate, Shelby Fazio, to death in their three-bedroom home on John Street in west Orange County, officials say.

When a third roommate returned home from work about 9 a.m. Tuesday, Santana then attacked him with pepper spray and a knife. The roommate managed to run away unharmed, deputies said.

His first-appearance hearing will begin at 9 a.m.

twalden@tribune.com or 407-420-5620

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