New York Falls Behind

New York is considered to be one of the most progressive states. With its great influence in culture, fashion, and even the law it comes as a surprise that it will soon stand alone as the only state to prosecute sixteen year old offenders as adults.  The New York Penal Law marks the age of criminal responsibility at age sixteen, therefore automatically processing these young offenders in the adult court system and tagging them with a criminal record for life.  Research has found that by doing so, these juveniles who are often only committing minor crimes end up re-offending faster and at higher rates than similar juveniles processed through the Family Court System in other jurisdictions.  New York became tough on crime in the late 1970s and believed that by prosecuting juveniles as adults it would scare them out of committing crimes…but the evidence goes against the intended goals.  With a system that is failing both the community and the juveniles, isn’t it time for New York to admit defeat? In December 2009, past Governor David Paterson created a Task Force on Transforming Juvenile Justice.  He laid out several recommendations and strategies that will better serve the juvenile while he is making up for his wrongful actions. The recommendations include keeping kids closer to home, ensuring successful re-entry into society, and providing the necessary skills and tools for success.  These strategies will rehabilitate the juvenile and put him on the proper track, thereby protecting the community in the long run.  With the plan set forth by Paterson, it is now up to the legislators and policy groups to initiate and enforce these changes so we can all live in  a better and safer New York.… <Read More>


Can a Court Sentence a Juvenile to Life in Prison without Chance of Parole?

A recent New York Times Article, titled “Juvenile Killers in Jail for Life Seek a Reprieve,” describes a recent Supreme Court decision to deny a now 25-year-old man parole for a murder committed when he was 14.    

The article describes the circumstances surrounding the crimes as a scuffle between step-brothers that escalated from goofing around with a blowgun to an angry threat with a bow and arrow to the fatal thrust of a hunting knife.

The young man is now in a maximum-security prison, serving a sentence of life without the possibility of parole.

In recent years, the Supreme Court has been methodically diminishing severe sentences. For example, it has banned the death penalty for juvenile offenders, the mentally disabled and those convicted of crimes other than murder. Also, as recent as 2010, the Supreme Court ruled that sentencing juvenile offenders to life without the possibility of parole violated the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment, but did not rule on whether or not this applies to cases involving a murder.

Interestingly, a dissenting judge argued that sentencing juveniles to life in prison is essentially allowing them to die there, which cannot be distinguished from the death penalty which as applied to juveniles has been declared unconstitutional.

For the full article click here<Read More>


Probation for a Rapist?

“I got 12 months for a falsified police report and he got probation for raping me and the others,” Ashley said on Friday. “It’s just ridiculous.”


Prosecutors and the judge agreed to a sentence of 10 years probation in exchange for Tony Simmons’, a counselor at Juvenile Justice Department, plea to rape against Ashley and other sexual counts for sexual conduct between 2005 and 2008. This plea offer agreement was later withdrawn by Judge Mullen, of New York County court, because Simmons had not shown any remorse for his actions. He made numerous comments that his victims inticed him or consented to his actions.
While Simmons was supposed to be helping these young female teens, he was instead taking advantage of their fragile states. He also entered into an agreement on behalf of Ashley which involved a 12 month sentence for a falsified police report while Simmons pled guilty to rape and was only given a probation sentence. This seems highly unbalanced justice that a juvenile offender would be so harshly punished for such a minor offense. This makes on wonder, whether this type of disproportionate justice frequently occurs in the juvenile justice system?
Finally on February 1st, 2011, Simmons was sentenced to a 4 year prison sentence for sexually abusing two girls.

This is Your Face. This is Your Face on Drugs.

A sheriff in Multnomah County, Oregon, is using before-and-after mugshots of young drug abusers in the prison system to scare children (and anyone) from using illegal drugs. Deputy Bret King compiled the contrasting mugshots from various substance abusers into a 48-minute documentary titled “From Drugs to Mugs” as a way to chronicle the shocking ways a young face can transform  as a result of using crystal meth, cocaine, and other harmful substances. The results are frightening, to say the least.

The goal is to appeal to young people’s “sense of vanity.”

Deputy King’s film echoes the same themes in the 1978 documentary “Scared Straight,” where baby-faced juvenile delinquents were forced to endure 3-hour sessions with real life death row inmates in prison.

Are these scare tactics effective or do they cross the line? Reports suggest mixed results. No doubt (most) parents try their very best to keep their kids on the straight path. But when families and households are broken, and children are surrounded by overwhelmingly negative influences instead of love and affection, should the state step into the role of a “nanny” and scare our kids from going astray?

One could argue Deputy King’s video is no different than the public service announcements we saw on TV back in the day–just not as innocent! But times have changed, haven’t they? Kids are facing greater dangers, and drastic times call for drastic measures.

What’s the best strategy to knocking some sense into our young people so they don’t end up in prison?… <Read More>


In Search For An Imaginary Safe Place

In today’s world of ever-growing vigilance on child abuse and child pornography, there is hardly a day that goes by without a headline in the news about children suffering at the hands of their parents or other trusted adults.  On Monday, February 28, 2011, a Michigan man pled guilty to six charges related to the sexual exploitation of children, and faces 15 years to life in prison when he is sentenced in June.   Yet, no matter how accustomed one has become to reading such horrific stories, this is one of those news stories that leaves you absolutely speechless, and not necessarily just about what this man has done himself, but who his accomplices were…… <Read More>