Filtering by Tag: juvenile justice
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Danielle Reynolds, contributorProblems with due process, confidentiality, net-widening, and a lack of empirical demonstrations of effectiveness, make youth courts over-rated
Juvenile crimes account for a large portion of today’s criminal activity. In 2010, 1.6 million juvenile arrests were reported nationwide. Due to the high volume of cases and the limited ability to respond effectively to low-level offenses by first-time offenders, the youth court concept was constructed and implemented as an alternative method to handle juvenile delinquency through fair and restorative sentences. By March 2010, 1,050 youth courts were recorded nationwide, serving an estimated 110,000 to 125,000 youthful offenders annually.
Developed to promote the concepts of peer shaming, restorative justice and law-related education, youth courts are operated almost entirely by youths between ages 13 and 18, assuming the role of contributing actors in the courtroom process, under strict adult supervision. Youth courts hold juveniles accountable for their actions while helping them to understand the harm that his or her actions may have caused and to make restorations to society. Youth volunteers learn the facts of the case and determine an appropriate sanction based on the nature of the offense, the offender’s understanding of its effects as well his or her needs or talents. Sanctions are developed to repair the relationship between the respondent and his or her community as well as treating the underlying condition which may have led to the delinquent act.
Although the goals and concepts behind the youth court ideal appear promising, in practice, youth courts are not an effective alternative to the traditional juvenile adjudication process and therefore should be abandoned as its design leads to violations of individual and constitutional rights.
In Kent v. United States (1966), and upheld in In re Gault (1967), Supreme Court held that a juvenile must be afforded due process rights, including right to counsel and self-incrimination. Youth courts violate juveniles’ due process rights by the coercive nature in which they garner participation. Youth courts lack state sanction and are unable to determine guilt or innocence, therefore although youth court participation appears voluntary, offenders must waive their right to self-incrimination and admit guilt prior to participation into the court.
Although the justice system is based on the premise of innocent until proven guilty, “voluntary” participation deviates from this as it places both the guilty and innocent under the same pressure to plead guilty based on numerous unknowns including what incriminating evidence may have been uncovered and compiled by the prosecution, how strong the prosecution’s case may be and the possibilities of severe penalties if found guilty. Even if innocent, youth face enormous pressure by court room participants, eager to trim their caseloads, to participate in youth court by threatening them with formal prosecution and possible incarceration.
Further, the effectiveness of counsel in juvenile proceedings is essential and case law provides that a juvenile with counsel is not sufficient on its face, but that counsel must be effective, trained and professionally qualified to provide the legal advice necessary during court proceedings. Although youth offenders are provided an attorney, youth counselors are not legally qualified to provide adequate legal counsel necessary to proceed in a fair and just manner.
The prosecution has unlimited discretion to refuse to prosecute many of the types of offenses referred to youth court. Since the development and expansion of youth courts, approximately nine percent of juvenile arrests are diverted from formal juvenile adjudication process annually. Therefore, youth courts bring a wider range of offenders under social control by hearing minor offenses, which have traditionally been settled without invoking a court response.
Confidentiality is necessary to preserve youth accountability, therefore delinquency proceedings must be concealed from the public in order to prevent youth from experimenting stigmatization. Many youth courts waive confidentiality rights of the offender which fails to prohibit youth volunteers from discussing personal and family matters aired in youth court proceedings, contributing to embarrassment, stigmatization and alienation of youth offenders. Although some youth courts obligate each youth volunteer to sign an oath of confidentiality of all matters discussed during court proceedings, it cannot be guaranteed that youth, who have been deemed more immature than adults by the Supreme Court, will not discuss such sensitive and confidential matters outside of the courtroom. Public disclosure of youth court information may hinder the youth’s ability to obtain meaningful employment or attend the college long after the youth has been rehabilitated.
Equal protection under the law
Youth courts violate equal protection of juveniles through eligibility requirements to enter the program. Judges and prosecutors involved in the referral process are given a broad discretion on which juveniles may be offered the option to participate in youth court versus the traditional juvenile adjudication process. Freedom of discretion may lead to more serious issues as it is vulnerable to social, racial or ethnic discrimination.
Inconsistency of jury sentencing
Peer jury sentencing is ineffective and violates the restorative goals of sentencing as dispositions are of questionable constitutionality and merely acts of childish retribution with no restorative effect. The lack of
procedural regularity that comes with case-by-case discretion produces gross partiality and the legitimacy of the program.
Lack of research demonstrating empirical effectiveness
Few comprehensive evaluations of youth court programs currently exist to provide evidence of the plethora of benefits and successes that youth courts advocate. Although studies have demonstrated that compared to traditional adjudication, youth courts decrease recidivism while increasing the percentage of sentence completion, it must be noted that low recidivism may be attributed as much to the type of youth entering the program than to its actual effectiveness. The net widening effect produced by youth courts allows youth to enter the program who would traditionally be excused from participation in the criminal justice system.
Studies reporting success must be scrutinized as methodological limitations have led to inaccurate portrayals of success. Youth court successes are largely anecdotal and derived from favorable media coverage and the positive impression of parents, teachers, court staff and youth involved in the program.
Policymakers, the legislature and the public must determine if youth courts are worth the millions of dollars spent annually on its operations. Although arguments of its effectiveness have ensured its continued budget, there still remains a limited array of research to support this claim. Therefore, the lack of proven effectiveness of the program, along with its net widening effects and violations of individual rights as stated in the Constitution, indicates that the implementation of youth courts as an alternative sanctioning program for juveniles is not cost-effective and must be aborted.
Danielle Reynolds, Crimcast contributor, teaches Criminal Justice at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Danielle earned her Master’s degree in Criminal Justice in 2011 from John Jay College where she was awarded the Claude Hawley Medal and Graduate Scholarship. She currently lives in New York City.
SFC's Center for Crime & Popular Culture and Institute for Peace & Justice Events, Fall 2013 (Updated)
The Lineage Project is devoted to helping youth at risk for violence and incarceration through their yoga, meditation and other educational programs.
We take youth from the most challenging life circumstances and give them the tools to value themselves and become contributing members of their communities.
Through yoga, meditation and other powerful techniques, we go inside youths’ hearts and minds. We prevent young people at risk of incarceration from ending up there, and we help those already detained from having to return.
In support of the Lineage Project, the Laughing Lotus Yoga Center is hosting a raffle--all proceeds go to the Lineage Project.
To help support the Lineage Project in their efforts, check out their Summit Raffle here.
ACT NOW -- The Lineage Project reports that the raffle will be held June 12-14.
How it works: You may purchase as many $10 tickets as you wish at Laughing Lotus Yoga NY and in return for your kindness and generosity you could win a raffle bag containing myriad high-end goodies and services.
Dana Trixie-Flynn, owner of Laughing Lotus, talks about the raffle and the relationship between Laughing Lotus and the Lineage Project here.
CrimCast welcomes Carol Tilley, assistant professor at the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois. Professor Tilley recently published "Seducing the Innocent: Fredric Wertham and the Falsifications that Helped Condemn Comics" in Information & Culture: A Journal of History.You are one of the few scholars who have gained access to Frederic Wertham's papers and other personal archives, now housed at the Library of Congress. Can you tell us what prompted your interest in the project and how were you able to gain access to this vast amount of information?
For the past eight years or so, I’ve been studying how librarians and other reading guidance professionals responded to comics captivating influence on young readers during the 1940s and 1950s. Even though Wertham was not the primary focus of my work, he is someone difficult to ignore when thinking about comics during these years. Anti-comics sentiment preceded Wertham’s interest in the topic by nearly a decade, but for the last few years of the 1940s and throughout the 1950s, he was the figurehead for the movement that sought to restrict the sale of comics to America’s youth.
Wertham was something of a packrat too, as there are more than two hundred boxes of his materials preserved at the Library of Congress (LOC). Although not all of these materials are related to his work on comics, many of them are. I was curious to learn about his correspondence with librarians, teachers, parents, and other folks who were interested in children’s reading and welfare. So, my initial reason for using the materials had little to do with Seduction of the Innocent (Rinehart, 1954), the book about comics for which Wertham is popularly and infamously remembered.
Although Wertham died in 1981 and his materials were transferred to the LOC soon afterwards, his papers have been open for research use since mid-2010. Before that time Wertham’s literary executor controlled access to those materials. Barty Beaty, professor of English at the University of Calgary, was the only person granted significant access to the materials. His book Fredric Wertham and the Critique of Mass Culture (U of Mississippi Press, 2005) makes use of the collection. James Gilbert, professor of History at the University of Maryland, also made use of Wertham’s papers for his book A Cycle of Outrage: America’s Reaction to the Juvenile Delinquent in the 1950s (Oxford, 1988). Gilbert had access to these materials while Wertham was still alive.
You mentioned in the article that many scholars were long suspicious about Wertham's methodology. What was your most surprising finding?
Wertham’s Seduction of the Innocent has hallmarks of suspicious social science. It lacks a bibliography, for instance, and contains assertions that are often grand. Take, for instance, his claim that teenage drug users were comics readers. Well, nearly all young people read comics at that time, so this claim is like stating today that teenage drug users use Facebook. One of Wertham’s contemporaries, Bertram Beck, a social worker who led the Special Juvenile Delinquency Project for the United States Children’s Bureau, wrote to the doctor a month after Seduction’s release, saying,
Your treatment of contrary evidence and, in fact, anyone who disagrees seems to me to be as unscientific as you demonstrate the defenders of the comic book have been. [April 16, 1954, Box 123, Folder 7, Wertham papers].
The comics creator and scholar Stephen Bissette more recently took issue with Wertham’s method and presentation. In Teen Angels & New Mutants: Rick Veitch’s Bratpack and the Art, Karma, and Commerce of Killing Sidekicks (Black Coat Press, 2011), Bissette points to Wertham’s “circularity of logic” (p. 67) along with the absence of context, “methods, footnotes, or attribution” (p. 68).
Despite these and other critiques, I was astounded to discover numerous instances where Wertham seemed to disregard an even more basic idea about presenting evidence—that you don’t ‘doctor’ it. Here’s a fairly typical example.
In Seduction, Wertham wrote about a girl (pp. 40-41), who according to her mother, read love comics all the time. The text in the book read,
“This girl I found to be an expert on love comics. She told me she bought some, ‘but mostly I trade them.’ I asked her about stealing in love comics. She laughed, ‘Oh, they do it often.’”
Wertham’s notes [Box 109, Folder 12] portrayed a somewhat different scenario. For instance, he learned from the mother that the girl doesn’t read as many comics as she once did because they now have a television. The notes also stated,
"Patient says she reads love comics, 'if I have any.' 'I buy one once in a while, but mostly I trade them.' Titles: True Story, Superman or something like that; sometimes I see Crime Does Not Pay; Love For Two, Romance, that is all. The story where somebody steals is in Crime Does Not Pay. In the Love Comics they sometimes steal...My mother says she does not want me to read comic books because they interfere with my school work and she just don't want me to read them."
In other examples, Wertham turned a single teenage boy into several different people, borrowed phrases and ideas from colleagues and acquaintances, and exaggerated or distorted evidence. For instance, Wertham recounted the experiences of one boy: “‘I read the comic books to learn how you can get money. I read about thirty a week. I read Crime Does Not Pay, Crime and Punishment, Penalty, Wanted. That is all I can think of” (p. 73). Yet, in the original case notes [Box 109, Folder 16], the boy told Wertham he read only five comics a week.
You state that Wertham "manipulated, overstated, compromised, and fabricated evidence" to support his contention that comic books contributed to maladjustment and deviant behavior among children. Further, you describe Wertham's conclusions as being driven by a rhetorical strategy to bolster support for his position. Yet, you acknowledge in the article that you are ultimately conflicted about Wertham. Can you tell us more about that?
My dilemma is simple: as abhorrent as I find Wertham’s representations of evidence, I believe he wanted to help people who he believed were vulnerable, whether because of their age, their race, their socioeconomic status, or something else. For instance, Wertham was an early advocate for racial integration, and his testimony provided support for the overturn of school segregation in Delaware. Wertham’s testimony as part of Delaware case helped effect a positive outcome in 1954’s Brown v. Board of Education. Does his goodness excuse his errors? Certainly some comics readers, creators, and fans will say ‘no.’
Your article has received quite a bit of media attention. Were you surprised that your work would receive so much attention from the mainstream press?
I was indeed surprised! Seduction of the Innocent is nearly sixty years old and Wertham has been thoroughly lambasted in comics culture. At this point few people familiar with Wertham and his anti-comics work can feign shock that his research was troubled, but I’m pleased to offer some substantive evidence to support this long-standing assumption. Plus from a scholar’s perspective, it’s gratifying to know that not only are more than a handful of people reading your work, but that it’s getting discussed in places like the New York Times and io9.com
Can you tell us about any projects that you are currently working on? Should we look forward to more research from the Wertham archives from you?
Eventually you’ll see more from me that draws on the Wertham archives. I’ve got a chapter out soon on the use of comics in language arts classrooms during the 1940s and 1950s, a paper on early (1930s and 1940s) reading promotion efforts in National / DC comics, and a chapter forthcoming on how young comics readers responded to comics’ critics such as Wertham. My bigger ongoing project is writing a history of young people’s readership of comics from the 1930s through the 1950s. If you’re interested, you can keep up with my comics research via my webpage or via Twitter (@CarolGSLIS).
This is the second of our 5-part series appearing throughout 2013 focusing on the often game-changing discoveries that come out of archival work in the realm of police, courts, and corrections.
Today, the Center for Constitutional Rights and City University of New York (CUNY) faculty and students, including John Jay College's Center on Race, Crime and Justice, came together to call for police reform outside Federal District Court for the Southern District of New York where the trial Floyd, et. al. v City of New Yorkfeatured key testimony from criminologist Jeffrey Fagan. In Floyd, several New Yorkers and CCR are arguing that the city's stop-and-frisk policies include racial profiling and suspicion-less stops that violate constitutional protections.
Organizer and Founding Director of the Center on Race, Crime and Justice Dr. Delores Jones-Brown underscored that black and Latino residents have the same constitutional rights and right to safety as anyone else. "The commissioner and the mayor may say that these policies are effective, but their own data tell a different story," she said.
Activists held giant PowerPoint slides with NYPD data indicating that gun violence has not decreased as a result of aggressive use of stop and frisk, nor were more guns confiscated or shootings prevented. In 9 out of 10 NYPD stops, no arrests or summons are given -- and of those stops nearly 90 percent are non-whites. In 2012, over a half-million blacks and Latinos were stopped. Black and Latino young men between the ages of 14 and 24 are particularly plagued by unjustified stops, accounting for approximately 42% of stops when they are only 5% of the city's total population.
Several CUNY students spoke about their personal experiences with racial profiling and suspicion-less stops, putting faces to the statistics being debated about in the courtroom. One white student described an incident in which he should have received a summons for two potential violations, but instead was released politely by police, while a student of color described being the victim of police abuse of the stop and frisk policy while he was doing nothing illegal. Other activists linked the struggle for racial equality with similar struggles for police justice for LGBTQ people and the poor.
Queens College Professor Harry Levine explained that the sheer number of marijuana arrests in the city are largely the fruit of illegal frisks, saying that "The marijuana arrests are the cracker jack prize of the stop and frisks."
Crimcast sat in on expert witness Fagan's cross-examination in which sweeping questions about the normative methodological and theoretical mainstays of criminal justice were posed. The city's attorney appeared to want to discredit Fagan's social science because the conclusions to his prior studies point to racially disparate outcomes in stop and frisk police discretion. Rather than confront the lived reality of individuals who routinely endure suspicion-less stops, today's testimony instead had social science on the stand. As criminologists we were surprised to learn that the city attorney hoped our field had solved major methodological quandaries of our time in completely packaged and unanimous ways, such as how to handle outlier data or whether population is a legitimate benchmark among others for stop and frisk activities. Fagan dodged this baiting, and informed her of the true landscape of methodological variation in the field-- and in fact wise minds may take different approaches to monumentally complex datasets.
Crimcast predicts that this trial transcript may be of interest to criminologists regarding the application of their work to major policy issues of the day. Some may even be excited to learn that academic criminology is relevant. But we hope Floyd does not forget Floyd. He and many others encounter the police as obstacles in going about their legitimate daily lives. The chilling quality of these serious Constitutional violations and personal indignities are not fully captured by the numbers.
Frederic Wertham is most known for his scathing attacks on comic books, suggesting that they influence deviant behavior and juvenile delinquency.
In 1954 he published Seduction of the Innocent which contributed to public and political debates about the relationship between comic books and behavior, and was a contributing factor to the decline of the comic book industry. In 1954, Wertham testified at the Senate Subcommittee Hearings into Juvenile Delinquency arguing the deleterious effects of comic book consumption by youth. For more on Wertham, see Bart Beaty's Frederic Wertham and the Critique of Mass Culture.
Professor Carol Tilley examined Wertham's notes, stored at the Library of Congress, and concluded that his methodology was flawed. In her interview with Dusty Rhodes, she states,
“Lots of people have suspected for years that Wertham fudged his so-called clinical evidence in arguing against comics, but there’s been no proof,” Tilley said. “My research is the first definitive indication that he misrepresented and altered children’s own words about comics.”
Her article titled Seducing the Innocent: Fredric Wertham and the Falsifications that Helped Condemn Comics can be found in Information and Culture: A Journal of History.
Psychiatrist Fredric Wertham and his 1954 book Seduction of the Innocent serve as historical and cultural touchstones of the anti-comics movement in the United States during the 1940s and 1950s. Although there have been persistent concerns about the clinical evidence Wertham used as the basis for Seduction, his sources were made widely available only in 2010. This paper documents specific examples of how Wertham manipulated, overstated, compromised, and fabricated evidence—especially that evidence he attributed to personal clinical research with young people—for rhetorical gain.
In this podcast Aubri McDonald, an adjunct lecturer in criminology at University of Illinois at Chicago, discusses the case of Jacqueline Montanez, a woman serving life without parole in Illinois for a crime she committed as a juvenile. Her clemency hearing is scheduled for April 11, 2012. McDonald and her mentor, Dr. John Hagedorn, also at the University of Illinois, are on the research side of Montanez's pro bono legal team from Northwestern University.
UPDATE: Jacqueline's clemency hearing was held April 11, 2012.
A Teach-In was held at University of Chicago, Illinois, April 2, 2012 discussing the ethical implications of sentencing juveniles to life without the possibility of parole.
All photos courtesy of Aubri McDonald.
For further information:
Addams, J., Nobel Peace Prize Winner and juvenile justice reformer, 1931 http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/laureates/1931/addams-bio.html
Amnesty International (2011, November 30). Locking up children for life in the U.S. Human Rights Now [blog]. http://blog.amnestyusa.org/tag/jacqueline-montanez/
Chesney-Lind, M. (2012). The Female Offender: Girls, Women, and Crime [3rd edition]. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publication.
Girls on the Wall [documentary] (2010). http://www.girlsonthewallmovie.com/trailer-video-extras/
Hagedorn, J. (2008). A World of Gangs: Armed Young Men and Gangsta Culture. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Totenberg, N. (2012, March 21). High Court Debates Life Without Parole for Juveniles. NPR. http://www.npr.org/2012/03/20/149020533/supreme-court-considers-life-sentences-for-juveniles
Violent Youth Predator Act of 1996 http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c104:H.R.3565:
Prof. Mary Louise Frampton of the Thelton E. Henderson Center for Social Justice at University of California, Berkeley, School of Law discusses an experimental restorative justice program in a West Oakland, California, middle school. Based on her and her colleagues' evaluation, the program was successful in reducing student suspensions and expulsions for bad behavior and transforming the school culture from punishment-based to problem-solving. As a result, The Oakland Unified School District has adopted restorative justice policies in many of its schools.
Restorative Justice for Oakland Youth
Sumner, M. D., C.J. Silverman & M.L. Frampton (2010). School-based restorative justice as an alternative to zero-tolerance policies: Lessons from West Oakland. Berkeley, CA: Thelton E. Henderson Center for Social Justice, University of California, Berkeley, School of Law. http://www.law.berkeley.edu/files/11-2010_School-based_Restorative_Justice_As_an_Alternative_to_Zero-Tolerance_Policies.pdf
Dr. Lee “Mike” Johnson is an Assistant Professor at the University of West Georgia specializing in juvenile justice, juvenile corrections, and victimology. His book, Experiencing Corrections: From Practitioner to Professor, an anthology of essays by former correctional professionals, will be published this year by Sage Publications. In this podcast he discusses his work on trends in juvenile gun ownership as well employee-on-youth misconduct in juvenile detention centers.
Johnson, L. M. (2009). Jail Wall Art and Public Criminology. Research and Practice in the Social Sciences 5(1): 1-21.
Johnson, L. M. (2008). A Place for Art in Prison: Art as a Tool for Rehabilitation and Management.” Southwest Journal of Criminal Justice 5(2): 100-120.
Johnson, L. M. (2007). Jail Wall Drawings and Jail Art Programs. International Journal of Criminal Justice Sciences 2(2): 66-84.
Johnson, L. M., R. L. Simons & R. D. Conger (2004). Criminal Justice System Involvement and Continuity of Youth Crime: A Longitudinal Analysis. Youth & Society 36(1): 3-29.
Johnson, L. M., R. Mullick & C. L. Mulford (2002). General vs. Specific Victim Blaming. Journal of Social Psychology 142(2): 249-263.
May, D.C. & Jarjoura, G.R. (2006). Illegal guns in the wrong hands: Patterns of gun acquisition and use among serious juvenile delinquents. Lanham, MD: University Press of America.
Sheley, J.F. & Wright, J.D. (1994). In the line of fire. Hawthorne,
NY: Aldine de Gruyter.
Juvenile Gun Ownership