New Report: NC Juvenile Justice System Faces Major Challenges

Durham, N.C. — A report released today from the Youth Justice Project finds that the juvenile justice system is falling short for over 12,000 impacted children. Despite major policy advances like Raise the Age in 2017, North Carolina has a long way to go to ensure that all young people, especially youth of color, are treated fairly and equitably in our juvenile justice system.

The report highlights five major barriers facing North Carolina’s juvenile system and their solutions. These barriers include:

  • developmentally inappropriate limits on juvenile court jurisdiction,
  • demographic and geographic disparities,
  • inadequate representation in juvenile court,
  • lifelong collateral consequences stemming from juvenile court involvement, and
  • punitive school policies and practices that push students into the court system.

“While we are excited that North Carolina will soon end the practice of prosecuting all 16- and 17-year-olds as adults, we must continue to push for evidence-based policies that will help all kids,” said Peggy Nicholson, co-director of the Youth Justice Project. “For example, young people – particularly youth of color – are all too often referred to our court system for behaviors that historically have been left out of the courts and could be more effectively addressed through other means.”

North Carolina could dramatically improve its juvenile justice system by increasing the minimum age of juvenile court jurisdiction from six to ten years old. Furthermore, school systems can reduce school suspensions, court referrals, and the associated identity disparities through the implementation of restorative justice practices and racial equity trainings. Additionally, increases in funding and specialization of attorneys representing children would ensure young people have adequate representation across the state when they are court-involved.

“We can dramatically improve the juvenile justice system here in North Carolina through a series of common sense policy changes that give our kids the opportunities they need while keeping our communities safe. We strongly encourage policymakers to review and implement these recommendations in order to ensure our young people are receiving the care they need,” said Ricky Watson, co-director of the Youth Justice Project.

Link to the Full Report: http://youthjusticenc.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/FINAL-Putting-Justice-in-Juvenile-System-10.5.17.pdf

Link to the Fact Sheet: http://youthjusticenc.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/Handout-Juvenile-System-Report-Updates-10.26.17.pdf

SCSJ Launches Fair Chance Business Certification

Durham, N.C. — This week, the Southern Coalition for Social Justice launched the Fair Chance Business Certification. Similar to Living Wage certifications, this program celebrates businesses who are open to hiring people with criminal records. The major criteria for certification is “banning the box” — an approach of shifting questions about criminal records to later in the hiring process. This approach allows businesses to consider people for their qualifications first and not solely their history.

“The Fair Chance Business Certification is part of a major cultural shift that encourages businesses to view people for more than the sum of their worst mistakes. We envision a world where people are hired because they are simply the best person for the job,” said Kristen Powers, Advocacy Coordinator at the Southern Coalition for Social Justice. “There are plenty of lists out there already with companies that hire people with records. The goal of this certification, rather, is to create a community of businesses that are standing up for their employees and encouraging other businesses to do the same.”

All businesses are eligible for Fair Chance Business Certification. They can go to the Fair Chance Business webpage to fill out a demographic survey and submit a copy of their job applications to demonstrate that they have successfully removed initial questions about criminal records.

Upon certification, businesses will become part of a larger Fair Chance Business Community which will eventually include educational newsletters, lunch and learns, talking points, free promotional material, as well as connections to mentorships and best practices for advancing equitable hiring practices.

The inaugural group of certified business includes Ben & Jerry’s Chapel Hill, Principal Janitorial Services, and Bull City Olive Oil.

“We applied for certification because we wanted to show our commitment to the community. Many of these folks have already paid their debt to society. We should not shut them out of the workforce forever because of a past mistake. We are proud of our employees from all walks of life here. Their commitment to our mission is unmatched,” said Antonio Broom of Ben & Jerry’s Chapel Hill.

For more information on the certification, visit http://www.southerncoalition.org/program-areas/criminal-justice/fair-chance-business-certification/

SCSJ supports call to remove Confederate monuments, memorials, and flags at the courthouses in North Carolina

The Southern Coalition for Social Justice has signed onto a resolution drafted by the North Carolina Commission on Racial and Ethnic Disparities in the Criminal Justice System that calls for the immediate removal of all Confederate monuments, memorials, flags, and other symbols and markers of racism and white supremacy, from all public spaces inside or outside of courthouses in the state.

The resolution recognizes that “visible and systemic markers of racism and white supremacy, including those commemorating the Confederacy, were erected outside courthouses and centers of government power specifically to reclaim those public spaces for the unjust causes the markers and symbols represent.”

While there is currently a state law prohibiting the removal of divisive symbols of racism and injustice, the resolution calls upon the North Carolina General Assembly to repeal the 2015 statute.

You can read the full resolution here:

 

NCCRED Resolution by Dustin on Scribd

North Carolina is Poised to Raise the Age of Juvenile Jurisdiction

RALEIGH, NC — The state budget released yesterday by leaders in the North Carolina General Assembly contains policy language and funding provisions that will raise the age of juvenile jurisdiction in the state. Currently, North Carolina is the only state in the country to automatically charge all 16- and 17-year-olds as adults in the criminal justice system, regardless of the offense.

“If this budget becomes law, most North Carolina children will no longer be treated as adults by the criminal justice system,” said Peggy Nicholson, co-director of the Youth Justice Project, an initiative of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice. “Instead of saddling our kids with the consequences of a lifelong criminal record, we will provide more effective and rehabilitative services to those who desperately need it. Raising the age protects our kids from the harms of the adult criminal system, as well as our communities by reducing recidivism rates.”

Two-thirds of children in the criminal justice system have at least one disability. The juvenile justice system is a far more productive setting for these children than the adult criminal justice system because it offers needed services and support that can help youth with disabilities stay on track in the future. The adolescent brain is still developing and responds well to interventions. With support, young people can learn to make responsible choices and are likely to grow out of negative or delinquent behavior.

“It is astounding that it took us this long to stop prosecuting children as adults, but this is a big moment and we applaud those who worked hard to make it happen,” said Ricky Watson Jr., co-director of the Youth Justice Project. “Many advocates, family members, and legislators dedicated themselves to this issue for many years.  Now, we need to keep moving forward and think about how we continue to ensure that the children of North Carolina get the opportunities they deserve.”

Clean Slate

Clean Slate Clinic registration is open!

Pre-registration is currently open for our next Clean Slate clinic! Pre-registration is required if you want to meet with an attorney at this event. To pre-register, call 919-323-3380 ext. 152 before June 20, 2017. You must attend the clinic to receive free legal services. 

When: June 24, 2017, 9 am to 3 pm (doors open at 8:30 am)

Where: Fruit of Labor Cultural Center (4200 Lake Ridge Dr., Raleigh)

Learn more: cleanslatenc.org 

The Clean Slate Project works to address the collateral consequences of having a criminal record in North Carolina. We provide direct legal services, advocacy, and policy work, with the goal of supporting organizing efforts to ensure that people impacted by the criminal justice system are leading the movement for reform.

Clean Slate

Southern Coalition for Social Justice files brief in police shooting case, County of Los Angeles v. Mendez

The Southern Coalition for Social Justice has filed a Brief of Amici Curiae on behalf of the NAACP and Policy Council on Law Enforcement and the Mentally Ill (PCLEMI) in County of Los Angeles v. Mendez, currently before the U.S. Supreme Court.  Scheduled to be argued in March, the case involves important questions about the facts and circumstances courts should consider when evaluating the reasonableness of a police officer’s use of deadly force. The brief can be read at southerncoalition.org/mendez.

Angel Mendez and his wife Jennifer were laying on a futon in their home in June 2010 when two LA County Sheriff’s Deputies, searching for another person who had earlier been sighted nearby, made an unannounced, warrantless entry through the front door.  The deputies’ sudden entry prompted Angel Mendez to sit up.  Mendez’s movement caused a broken BB gun to shift and inadvertently face the front door, causing the deputies to perceive a threat and open fire.  The deputies fired 15 shots at Angel and Jennifer, who was 7 months pregnant.  The couple suffered severe, permanent injuries, and Angel’s leg had to be amputated.  By the deputies’ own admission, the Mendezes committed no wrongdoing.  There was nothing they could have done to avoid being shot, and they had no connection to the individual the deputies had been searching for.

The Mendezes filed suit and secured a judgment that held the deputies liable for excessive force both under a theory of officer provocation and traditional tort law principles.  The defendants and various law enforcement and municipal organizations have now asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn that judgment, arguing that that the presence of the BB gun made it reasonable for the deputies to perceive a threat warranting the use of deadly force.  They have asked the Court to hold that the deputies’ unlawful entry into the home is irrelevant for purposes of evaluating the reasonableness, and thus lawfulness, of their actions.  The United States has also filed a brief urging the Court to reverse the lower court decision.

SCSJ’s brief with the NAACP and PCLEMI urges the Court to do just the opposite and emphasizes the important role civil liability plays in deterring police misconduct.  The brief argues that when officers cause people to be subjected to deadly force in circumstances that are objectively unreasonable and of the officers’ own making, the Fourth Amendment holds them accountable.  This is particularly true in cases involving unannounced, warrantless entries into the home, which create a foreseeable danger of confrontation with a startled homeowner.  Courts rarely award anything more than nominal damages for an unlawful search.   The brief argues that if officers know they will not be held liable for the foreseeable consequences of unlawful searches, they are more likely to occur.

The brief also argues that the approach proposed by law enforcement organizations poses unique dangers to people of color, who have historically been subjected to disproportionate use of deadly force.  The brief highlights social science research about the danger of implicit bias, which poses its greatest threat when officers are faced with making split-second judgments about the use of deadly force in circumstances that are tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving.  A variety of studies are cited indicating that people of color are more likely to be perceived as deadly threats in such situations.  SCSJ and its partners argue the Court should account for the emerging literature on implicit bias when crafting rules affecting the lawful use of force.

The brief also argues that people suffering from mental illness will be acutely vulnerable to the impact of any decision that extends the principle of immunity for the proximate consequences of unannounced, forcible entries into a home. People with mental illness are more likely to have difficulty comprehending an unannounced entry, and many are likely to react in ways that will prompt officers to feel the need to employ deadly force.  The brief argues that it is important to the safety of people with mental illness that the constitutional framework for excessive force claims not retreat from a totality of the circumstances approach. If a court is focused solely on the moment force is used, with no regard for the preceding circumstances, then force used against such individuals will almost never be deemed unreasonable.

A decision in the case is expected this summer.

Ferguson

Statement on Police Violence

Statement from the Southern Coalition for Social Justice on Police Violence

The Southern Coalition for Social Justice is appalled and outraged by the killing of Keith Lamont Scott by a Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer. Unfortunately, the killing of Mr. Scott is not an isolated incident. The killing of African-Americans by police has been, and continues to be, all too common. Such killings continuously demonstrate that racism and systemic inequity are deeply rooted in our society. So far in 2016, there have been 217 documented killings of African-Americans by police officers in the United States[1], which is grossly disproportionate to police killings of any other race[2].

The Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees everyone equal protection under the law. It is not a suggestion. It is a right – one that is currently denied to many individuals and communities of color. When black and brown people are killed by police in circumstances where white people are not, it clearly demonstrates discrimination. We must do better. We must find ways to better achieve justice, fairness, and equality. We must hold police officers and departments accountable for acts of violence and discrimination.

We want justice and a society that gives people of color justice. SCSJ continues to stand in solidarity with all communities affected by such killings and remains dedicated to confronting and addressing injustice, inequality, and oppression. We recognize that lasting solutions will come from affected communities themselves, who live with the problems on a daily basis and have the most informed understanding of what works and what does not work.

We pledge to continue gathering and analyzing data that identifies discriminatory police practices and advocating for legal doctrines that protect the rights of people who have been the subject of such practices. We will continue providing legal services to communities that disproportionately encounter and interact with law enforcement. We will continue to support community leaders who strive to confront the systemic problems that have allowed these tragedies to persist. We will continue to demand justice.

 

###

 

[1]http://mappingpoliceviolence.org/

[2] – Lowery, Wesley. “Study Finds Police Fatally Shoot Unarmed Black Men at Disproportionate Rates.” The Washington Post 7 Apr. 2016. Accessed 30 Sept. 2016. https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/study-finds-police-fatally-shoot-unarmed-black-men-at-disproportionate-rates/2016/04/06/e494563e-fa74-11e5-80e4-c381214de1a3_story.html

First in Flight, Last in Youth Justice

by Austin Braxton

North Carolina is the only state that automatically processes every 16 and 17 year-old through its adult criminal justice system without an opportunity for the youth to appeal for a transfer to juvenile court.[1] In fact, juvenile court jurisdiction in 41 states and the District of Columbia extends to most persons under the age of 18.[2] The consequences of this policy outlier are harmful to North Carolina’s youth and place them at a severe disadvantage compared to their peers in other states.

Youth processed through the adult criminal justice system are more likely to be physically or sexually abused and more likely to commit suicide than youth adjudicated through the juvenile justice system.[3] Furthermore, studies have shown that youth are more likely to receive rehabilitation through the juvenile justice system and that recidivism rates are higher for youth transferred to the criminal justice system.[4] In addition, North Carolina youth face the harsh collateral consequences associated with criminal justice involvement at a much younger age, creating obstacles to obtaining gainful employment, financial aid for higher education, and even government housing—all because of adolescent mistakes. In these ways and more, North Carolina disadvantages its youth through its policy that is a departure from the national trend.

The results of North Carolina’s regressive youth justice policy clearly show that change is needed. A very small number of offenders may require the incapacitation that the criminal justice system provides, but there is no need to prosecute all youth as adults by default, especially since North Carolina already employs a robust transfer process to remove youth offenders of certain crimes to the criminal justice system.[5] North Carolina’s juvenile justice jurisdiction would have expanded if House Bill 399, the Young Offenders Rehabilitation Act, had been enacted last summer.[6] Instead, North Carolina’s youth languish as the bill lies with the House Committee on the Judiciary II.[7]

A primary concern of North Carolina lawmakers with expanding the jurisdiction of the juvenile justice system is funding.[8] Quite simply, North Carolina’s juvenile justice system is already under-resourced, so an expansion of its jurisdiction represents an up-front cost to its taxpayers. Fortunately, morality is not the only incentive for raising the age of juvenile jurisdiction. In 2011, the Vera Institute compiled a report that provided a cost-benefit analysis of enacting this change in policy, finding that a net benefit of $52.3 million annually for raising the age.[9]

The caveat to this net benefit is that the offsetting benefits of raising the age of juvenile jurisdiction do not directly return to the state. Although taxpayers would experience some savings as a result of shrinking the jurisdiction of the adult criminal justice system, the vast majority of the benefits are experienced by the youth that are spared an adult criminal conviction. These youth can expect to have higher salaries and contribute more to North Carolina’s economy long-term. Unfortunately, the short-term costs of raising the age has hindered legislation thus far. Though lack of funding is a legitimate concern for raising the age, an inspiring case study for the budgetary impact of this policy change can be found in the state of Connecticut.

Connecticut raised the age of juvenile justice jurisdiction gradually to allay a budget crisis and opposition from law enforcement.[10] Prior to 2010, Connecticut’s juvenile justice system was comparable to those in North Carolina and New York, but youth in Connecticut now experience among the highest levels of protection in the country.[11] Connecticut enacted its raise the age legislation anticipating an increase of $84 million in higher operating costs and $81 million in new construction costs,[12] which is roughly comparable to the estimates submitted by the Vera Institute for North Carolina. However, Connecticut never increased its spending on juvenile justice.[13] The large drop in total arrests for youth in this age bracket precipitated this unprecedented outcome and led to only marginal increases in population size in the state’s detention centers.[14] Furthermore, since the change in policy, Connecticut has experienced lower re-arrest rates for 16-year-olds than for youth 15 and younger,[15] demonstrating the effectiveness of keeping youth out of the adult criminal justice system.

North Carolina also has the opportunity to reap the rewards of juvenile justice reform. Like in Connecticut, arrests of youth in the 16 and 17 year-old age bracket have steadily declined since 2005 in North Carolina.[16] Specifically, total arrests in this age group declined by 36% from 2005 to 2014.[17] Therefore, the costs estimated by the Vera Institute report are likely overstated. North Carolina should seize this opportunity to emulate Connecticut’s success with juvenile justice reform and raise the age of juvenile jurisdiction to protect their youth. In so doing, this state would follow the lead of 7 other states that have recently raised the age of jurisdiction for their juvenile justice systems: Connecticut,[18] Illinois,[19] Mississippi,[20]Massachusetts,[21] New Hampshire,[22] Utah,[23] and Nebraska.[24]

Currently, the Subcommittee on Juvenile Jurisdiction for the Chief Justice’s Commission on the Administration of Law and Justice in North Carolina is drafting a report with recommendations for legislation on raising the age of juvenile jurisdiction. The subcommittee recommends raising the age of juvenile jurisdiction to include 16 and 17 year-olds, with exceptions for youth accused of Class A-E felonies.[25] This recommendation is contingent, however, upon the receipt of funding to implement the change.[26] Stakeholders adamantly maintain that raising the age without full funding would be “detrimental” to North Carolina’s court system.[27] Furthermore, the Subcommittee reemphasized[28] the predicted net benefit of the Vera Institute’s analysis and itemized the spending necessary to expand juvenile court jurisdiction.[29] Hopefully, this work will lead to new legislation that will raise the age of juvenile jurisdiction in North Carolina, or at least a revitalization of House Bill 399. Although North Carolina stands alone in its outdated youth justice policies, some of its lawmakers continue the fight to keep youth out of the adult criminal justice system.

Austin Braxton is a rising 2L law student at UNC-Chapel Hill and a summer legal intern with the Youth Justice Project of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice.

**This blog post was originally posted on the Youth Justice Project website on June 9, 2016. The original post can be found here.**

[2] http://www.ojjdp.gov/ojstatbb/structure_process/qa04101.asp.
[3] http://www.johnlocke.org/acrobat/spotlights/YoungOffenders.pdf.
[4] Id.
[5] http://www.ojjdp.gov/pubs/tryingjuvasadult/states/nc.html.
[6] http://www.ncleg.net/Sessions/2015/Bills/House/PDF/H399v1.pdf.
[7]http://www.ncleg.net/gascripts/BillLookUp/BillLookUp.pl?Session=2015&BillID=H399.
[8] http://nccalj.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/Minutes-12.11.2015.pdf, page 6.
[9] http://www.vera.org/sites/default/files/resources/downloads/CBA-of-Raising-Age-Juvenile-Jurisdiction-NC-final.pdf, page 11.
[10]http://www.justicepolicy.org/uploads/justicepolicy/documents/jpi_juvenile_justice_reform_in_ct.pdf, page 16.
[11] Id.
[12] Id. at 15.
[13] http://www.raisetheagect.org/results-cost.html.
[14]http://www.justicepolicy.org/uploads/justicepolicy/documents/jpi_juvenile_justice_reform_in_ct.pdf, page 16.
[15] Id. at 17.
[16] http://crimereporting.ncsbi.gov/Reports.aspx.
[17] Id.
[18]http://www.justicepolicy.org/uploads/justicepolicy/documents/jpi_juvenile_justice_reform_in_ct.pdf, page 16.
[19] http://cfyj.org/news/blog/item/raise-the-age-bills-flourish-in-2016.
[20] Id.
[21] Id.
[22] http://www.ncsl.org/research/civil-and-criminal-justice/2014-juvenile-justice-state-legislation.aspx.
[23] http://www.campaignforyouthjustice.org/news/blog/item/2015-state-legislative-sessions-an-update-on-nationwide-juvenile-justice-reforms-to-protect-youth-from-the-adult-criminal-justice-system.
[24] http://www.ncsl.org/research/civil-and-criminal-justice/2014-juvenile-justice-state-legislation.aspx.
[25] http://nccalj.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/May-2016-Juvenile-Committee-Meeting-POSTING.pdf, page 43.
[26] Id. at 49.
[27] Id.
[28] Id. at 37.
[29] http://nccalj.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/IA1509-21_H399R0.pdf.
Adrienne

Adrienne’s Story

Meet Adrienne. All she wanted was a job. She hated being on public assistance and wanted a chance to work hard and support her kids. But a first-time nonviolent offense on her record was holding her back.

That’s where supporters like you saved Adrienne – and her children – from a life of poverty.

Through the Southern Coalition for Social Justice’s donor-supported Clean Slate program, Adrienne was able to get a Certificate of Relief. This legal document helped her move past her criminal record and find stable housing, education opportunities, and best of all, a job.

That job helped Adrienne fully provide for her children for the first time in many years.

“My Certificate of Relief gave employers the confidence to give me a second chance. For the first time in a long time I feel like my family and I have a promising future.”

When you support SCSJ’s Clean Slate program, you’re not just giving someone like Adrienne a second chance. You’re giving an entire family a better future. And thanks to a generous donor, your gift can help twice as many families if you give today.

Please take a moment to fill out the form below and change twice as many lives by making your gift today.