Failings of youth incarceration

Failings of youth incarceration

The Sentencing Project held a webinar to discuss the problems of youth incarceration

In the face of increased pretrial detention in The District of Columbia, a D.C. based think tank and advocacy organization hosted a webinar focused on why youth incarceration fails both kids incarcerated and the community surrounding them. The Sentencing Project, as described by Josh Rovner,  director of youth justice, is an organization which “advocates for effective and humane responses to crime to, that minimize imprisonment and criminalization of youth and adults by promoting racial, ethnic and economic and gender justice.”

The speakers were Luis Ahmadi, from the Credible Messengers Mentoring Movement, as well as an employee of the D.C Department of Youth and Rehabilitative Services; Richard Mendel, the Senior Fellow of The Sentencing Project; Tawaina Reed, the Program Director of the Youth Advocate Programs (YAP), Inc; Karemma Williams, a YAP alumni, and life coach. It was moderated by Josh Rovner. 

The seminar began on a positive note with Rovner sharing news about a general decline in youth incarceration as well as a decline in youth tried as adults. He emphasized that efforts addressing the issue have created tangible positive results. 

Mendel highlighted the six essential failing of youth incarceration. 

  • Youth who are incarcerated are more likely to reoffend than youth who aren’t, proving that juvenile incarceration doesn’t reduce delinquent conduct.
  •  Youth incarceration damages the potential for future successes and the overall well being of the individuals that experience the process. 
  • Juvenile detention facilities are often dangerous and abusive. 
  • Unequal policing leads to disproportionate contact and incarceration of  youth of color.
  • Incarceration conflicts with healthy adolescent development. 
  • Youth incarceration exacerbates the trauma that led people into the system.

These failings and more reasons for the failures of the youth incarceration system are further elaborated in a paper published by the sentencing project on March 1, 2023.

The speakers shared their stories and experiences working with youth and what they found to be important. Kareema was part of a second chance program for juvenile offenders and Tawaina was assigned as her mentor. 

Kareema began the program exhibiting low self esteem, and she suffered from bullying and other issues. While in juvenile detention she felt unsafe and like she didn’t belong there. Her experiences had made her closed off and trust was hard to achieve. With Tawaina she found support outside of her family, someone who was there to guide her and show her a positive path. Even when she left the program she still kept in contact with Tawaina and referred to her as a mother figure. Kareema is grateful to have experienced this, and it led her down a more positive path. Their story shows an important point: that youth need support. The webinar said that support and opportunities for growth are more effective than punitive measures such as incarceration which debilitates youth’s abilities to be effective members of society.

You can watch the webinar Here


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Failings of youth incarceration

The Sentencing Project held a webinar to discuss the problems of youth incarceration In the face of increased pretrial detention in The District of Columbia,


A new investigation reveals gun seizures under Bowser’s police department broke the law

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Insights on Public Safety: Baltimore Police Leadership Change, Controversial D.C. Crime Bill, Officer Convicted of Child Assault, Youth Crisis Listening Session, Legislative Actions, Lawsuit & Support for Emergency Crime Measures

Justice From the Frontlines: July 16, 2023

Leadership Change In Baltimore Police Department

From left, former Police Commissioner Michael Harrison, Mayor Brandon Scott and Acting Commissioner Richard Worley sit down for an interview with The Baltimore Banner and its media partner, WJZ-TV at City Hall on July 12, 2023. (Kaitlin Newman/The Baltimore Banner)

In mid-May, Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison gave his 90-day notice as he resigned as the city’s head cop. Less than a month later, Harrison during a press conference announced that he would immediately be stepping down from the role. Deputy Richard Worley had already been chosen and then took charge in the span of 10-hours. Later in an interview with Baltimore Banner, Harrison confirmed that it was “totally his decision.” This is one of the several high-profile departures from City Hall, during Scott’s administration. The Baltimore Banner (July 13, 2023)

Controversial Crime Bill In D.C.

D.C. City Council passed an emergency bill that some critics are concerned will disproportionately affect residents and lead to mass incarceration. The bill was passed in light of the rising crime in D.C. This year, the homicide rate is at 17% with 129 people killed and 500 people shot. Its critics have said that it will unfairly target Black people and will keep juveniles and adults jailed before pre-trial if charged with a serious crime. Despite their concerns and lack of research to back it up, Mayor Murial Bowser and supporters believe that it will have an immediate and positive impact in D.C. DC News Now (July 11, 2023)

D.C. Police Officer Guilty Of Repeated Sexual Assault Of Child

Charles Johnson was convicted of numerous child sex abuse charges, including multiple counts of first degree child sexual abuse, multiple counts of first-degree sexual abuse, second-degree child sexual abuse, and attempted first-degree child sexual abuse and assault. Johnson will be sentenced in October and faces life in prison. He has since been suspended from his  position with the Metropolitan Police Department without pay and is in the process of being fired. If released, Johnson will be required to register as a sex offender for the remainder of his life. NBC Washington (July 12, 2023)

Listening Session For Youth Crisis

Members of one Montgomery County community gathered together to address the youth crisis. The listening session was hosted by the Wheaton Urban District Advisory Committee and had speakers who worked on the front-lines of the crisis. The purpose of the gathering was to listen and give community members to voice their fears. County agencies were on hand with information about mental health and substance abuse resources. Montgomery County leaders said that this is the first of the many meetings they will host to tackle the youth crisis. NBC Washington (July 11, 2023)

Multiple Bills Passed Addressing Crime In D.C

The D.C. Council passed multiple bills aimed at addressing crime and accountability in Washington, D.C. One bill allows judges to hold individuals in jail before trial if they are likely to have committed a violent crime, targeting repeat offenders. However, council member Janeese Lewis George voted against the bill, expressing concerns about potential unjust imprisonment. Another bill requires the 911 call center to publicly disclose data on mistakes and dropped calls, increasing transparency and accountability. The Council also approved a bill permitting high speed car chases by D.C. police officers, with strict limitations to ensure public safety. Lastly, the Council unanimously passed a bill mandating an independent investigation into sexual harassment allegations against the former chief of staff to Mayor Muriel Bowser: John Falcicchio. Wtopnews (July 11, 2023)

D.C Sued For Poor First Response Protocol For Mental Health Crisis

Nonprofit organization Bread for the City, alongside the D.C. ACLU and law firm Sheppard Mullin sued Washington, D.C., for dispatching armed police officers as the default first responders to mental health crises. The lawsuit argues that this violates the Americans with Disabilities Act by denying people with mental health disabilities equal access to emergency care. D.C.’s community response teams, staffed by mental health professionals are understaffed and underfunded, resulting in less than 1% of mental health emergency calls receiving a response from these teams. In contrast, police officers who aren’t equipped to handle mental health crises, are often the first to arrive. The lawsuit cites instances where police responses have led to excessive force and harm. WAMU 88.5 (July 11, 2023)

Chairman Of The D.C Police Union Voices Support Of Emergency Crime Legislation 

Gregg Pemberton, chairman of the D.C. Police Union, supports emergency crime legislation proposed by Councilmember Brooke Pinto but believes it is insufficient in addressing overall crime statistics. Pemberton blames progressive factions of the D.C. Council for a rise in violent crime and a decline in police recruitment. He criticizes bills he views as anti-police and pro-criminal and commends the council for finally discussing measures to hold criminals accountable. (July 11, 2023) Fox 5 Washington D.C

Wilson Family Lawsuit Against Fatal Shooting

The family of Lazarus Wilson, who was fatally shot by off-duty MPD Commander Jason Bagshaw at the Wharf in July 2022, has filed a $25 million lawsuit against the District, MPD and Bagshaw. The lawsuit claims that Bagshaw’s use of force was excessive and that his failure to identify himself as a police officer led to Wilson’s wrongful death. The family also accuses Bagshaw, the department, and the District of gross negligence. The suit seeks damages and requests the implementation of training protocols to prevent similar incidents. MPD declined to comment on the lawsuit. If not dismissed the case may take several years to go to trial. dcist  (July 13, 2023)

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A Nebraska woman pleaded guilty to two felonies and one misdemeanor, after helping her 17-year-old daughter get an abortion in 2022. Her now 18-year-old daughter was charged as an adult for removing, concealing or abandoning a dead body and took a plea deal. She faces up to two years in prison. ABC News (June 7, 2023)

A new law will give a formerly incarcerated man in Oakland the opportunity to serve others, by creating a support network for those looking for a fresh start. The law will allow ex-felons to seal their criminal records. CBS Bay Area (July 12, 2023)

Teenagers are reportedly purchasing ghost guns and parts online. Experts are concerned at the ease with which they can now require deadly weapons. This comes at a time when the Biden administration is trying to rein in the use of ghost guns in violent crimes. Washington Post (July 12, 2023)

Jessica Burgess, a Nebraska mother, pleaded guilty to providing her 17-year-old daughter with pills for an illegal abortion after 20 weeks of gestation. Burgess also admitted to false reporting and tampering with human skeletal remains. After the abortion, Burgess and her daughter burned and buried the remains in a field. The daughter pleaded guilty to removing, concealing, or abandoning a dead body. Both women face sentencing, with Burgess scheduled for September 22 and her daughter for July 20. abc News (July 7, 2023)

On July 3rd Jarrell Garris, a 37 year old Black man was shot by police in New Rochelle, New York. Garris was accused of stealing fruit from a grocery store and the police claimed Garris attempted to grab an officer’s gun, leading to the shooting. Garris died in the hospital a week later. His family has filed a lawsuit, alleging excessive use of force and racial bias. The incident highlights tensions between law enforcement and Black residents in Westchester County and reflects broader systemic issues surrounding mental health and policing. The New York Times (July 13, 2023)

The Supreme Court declined to hear the case of Tony Clark. A Black death row inmate from Mississippi, convicted of murdering a 13-year-old during a robbery. His lawyers claim prosecutors unlawfully removed Black jurors during his trial. The decision drew dissent from the liberal justices, who accused the conservative majority of backtracking on their previous stance against racial bias. The court’s refusal to intervene raised concerns about its commitment to addressing systemic racial bias in the criminal justice system. The decision marked a departure from the court’s previous ruling in a similar case, fueling criticism of its approach to equal protection. NBC News (July 5, 2023)

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DMV Tackles Gun Violence and Drug Trafficking in the Summer: Cities Announce Youth Curfew, Over 3,000 Gun Related Arrested and Seizures, Police Officers Make a Comeback to High Schools

Justice From The Frontlines: June 25, 2023

MD Police Chief Gets Life In Prison

David Crawford, a former police chief in Laurel, Maryland, was sentenced to eight life sentences plus 75 years for a series of twelve arson attacks. Crawford set fires at homes, cars, and garages of his victims. In some cases, Crawford set homes alight while families slept inside. Prosecutors reported that he sought revenge against a number of victims who he believed wronged him over petty grievances. In 2011, Crawford had developed a target list and began igniting fires with gasoline across six counties in Maryland. Crawford was arrested two years ago after authorities linked him to the fires. The Washington Post (June 27, 2023)

Cities Set Curfew For Youth

Baltimore Mayor Brandon M. Scott announced that the city will enforce a youth curfew, after the shooting of two teenagers this spring. At a press conference, he said that this strategy is “about saving lives in every single way.” Since the beginning of the year, dozens of other cities and counties announced similar curfews for youth safety despite research that shows that the strategy is ineffective. Criminal justice reform advocates push back, arguing that these policies do not prevent violence and are potentially harmful for young people. They raised concerns about curfews leading to more interactions with police for Black and Latino teenagers. The Baltimore Banner (June 29, 2023)

Felony Disenfranchisement Laws

The American Civil Liberties Union sued Virginia and its Governor Glenn Youngkin to restore voting rights to felons. Virginia is one of the few states that automatically revoke voting rights for convicted felons unless the governor restores them individually. The lawsuit accuses Virginia of violating Reconstruction-era federal laws put in place after the Civil War. One plaintiff in the lawsuit was forced to apply to have his voting rights restored after spending 11 months in prison on a single 2018 felony drug possession charge. The plaintiff said, “I feel like I don’t have anybody to speak for me. I have no say on who represents me.” NBC Washington (June 26, 2023)

Incarceration And Homelessness

Formerly incarcerated Virginians are reported to be ten times more likely to face homelessness than their counterparts. Over 64,000 currently incarcerated Virginians will be vulnerable to housing insecurity once released. Shiri Yadine, the senior program manager for the Corporation for Supportive Housing, reported that race plays a significant role in this disparity. She said, “The system that has the most disparity is justice-involved youths. Black children in the commonwealth are eight times more likely to have justice involvement than anyone else.” She is advocating for more funding for supportive housing. Virginia Mercury (June 29, 2023)

D.C. Council Debates Controversial Crime Legislation

The D.C. Council held a hearing to discuss a proposed package of laws by Mayor Muriel Bowser aimed at addressing rising crime rates in the city. The legislation includes measures such as stricter penalties for gun related crimes, favoring pretrial detention and limiting early release for longer prison sentences. Over 160 people testified at the hearing. There was a divide between those advocating for tougher policies and longer sentences and those concerned about a return to failed “tough on crime” approaches. There was a consensus that the city’s violence levels had become unacceptable. The council will continue to debate and propose amendments to the bill in the coming weeks. DCist (June 27, 2023).

12 Arrested in Bust of Kennedy Street Crew

Twelve members of the alleged Kennedy Street Crew (KDY), an accused violent drug trafficking organization, have been arrested by federal law enforcement agencies and the D.C. police. The group said accused of being responsible for 19 shootings and seven murders along Kennedy Street NW in Washington, D.C. since 2021. Those indicted face federal charges related to drug and gun trafficking. There were significant amounts of fentanyl, cocaine, marijuana and firearms seized during the investigation. Additionally, the group is accused of using shell companies to launder money. The operation was conducted by the Violent Crime Impact Team. NBC Washington (June 27, 2023).

D.C Encouraging Public To Share Gun Tips

The Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) in Washington, D.C., confiscated over 3,100 illegal guns in 2022, sourced mainly from states along the southern 95 corridor. Ghost guns, which lack traceable serial numbers are becoming increasingly prevalent. In order to curb this increase D.C. has raised the cash reward for tips leading to gun seizures and arrests, with a minimum of $1,000 and a maximum of $2,500. Tips related to ghost guns will receive a $5,000 bonus. WUSA9 (June 23, 2023)

The Acting Baltimore Police Commissioner’s 25 Year Track Record

Richard Worley, is the acting Baltimore Police commissioner and a nominee for the permanent position. Supporters highlight his deep understanding of the department, while activists emphasize the need for close examination considering the police force’s documented history of unconstitutional policing. Disciplinary summaries obtained through a public records request reveal several complaints against Worley, including traffic accidents and a complaint by a woman whose home was raided by police. However, the summaries only offer a limited view, and a complete Internal Affairs file would provide more information. Worley’s disciplinary history shows incidents such as preventable collisions and closed cases involving workplace conduct and alleged discrimination. The Baltimore Sun (June 29, 2023)

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In response to greater concern over gun violence, Denver schools are bringing back police officers. Parents voiced the need for police officers for the sake of their student’s safety. Critics, however, are worried that this will disproportionately hurt students of color. There has been overwhelming data showing that Black students are far more likely to be arrested than their white counterparts. The New York Times (June 27, 2023)

Florida’s Governor Ron Desantis has spent over 13.5 million dollars to recruit officers in other states who are frustrated by Covid-19 vaccine mandates. His incentive scheme has resulted in a slew of recruited officers with a history of excessive violence or officers who have been arrested since being hired. The Guardian (May 22, 2023)

Three San Antonio police officers were charged with the murder of Melissa Perez after responding to a call outside her house. She was accused of having a “mental health crisis” before her death. All three officers have been released on $100,000 bonds, Bexar County jail records show. The New York Times (June 24, 2023)

The Supreme Court overturned the conviction of an online stalker from Colorado, stating that threats on social media must show subjective intent to be punishable. Supporters claim the decision bolsters free speech protections, while critics worry about the implications for protecting people from online threats. ABCNews (June 27, 2023)

A  report by the Department of Justice blamed the Federal Bureau of Prisons for the conditions that allowed sex offender Jeffrey Epstein to hang himself in his Manhattan jail cell in 2019. The report found that 13 employees within the Bureau of Prisons engaged in misconduct and negligence in their treatment of Epstein. The report also highlighted a pattern of troubling deaths in custody and systemic problems within the Bureau of Prisons. NBC News(June 27, 2023)

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Unclear Reasons for Baltimore Police Commissioner’s Resignation; Lee Family Seeks to Expand Victims’ Rights in Adnan Syed Case; Prince George’s County Jail Short-Staffed, Compromising Safety

Justice From The Frontlines: June 25, 2023

Resignation of Baltimore Police Commissioner

After 4 years leading the Baltimore police force, former Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison announced his resignation on June 8th. Harrison remains on the city payroll without disclosure of the terms of his separation, and Mayor Brandon Scott’s administration has not provided the resignation letter or its date. Harrison was set to serve until March 2024 under a five-year contract, and the reasons for his resignation and the circumstances surrounding it are unclear. Mayor Scott named Deputy Commissioner Richard Worley as Harrison’s replacement.  The Baltimore Banner (June 21, 2023)

Adnan Syed’s Lawyers Oppose Expansion of Victims’ Rights

Adnan Syed was convicted of the murder of his ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee in 2000 and sentenced to life in prison. Syed’s conviction was initially overturned in 2022 due to withheld evidence and information on alternative suspects. However, the Appellate Court of Maryland later reinstated the conviction and ordered a new hearing. Syed’s lawyers are now urging the Maryland Supreme Court to reject a petition from Lee’s brother seeking to expand victims’ rights in the case. The family is requesting that he be allowed as a victim representative to participate in hearings and potentially challenge evidence and cross-examine witnesses. The role Lee’s brother seeks is not recognized in any state or federal court system. Syed has consistently maintained his innocence and is currently free pending the appeals process.  The Baltimore Banner (June 22, 2023)  

D.C Council Considers New Bill

The D.C. Council is considering a bill that aims to strengthen penalties for domestic and sexual violence cases. Introduced by Councilmembers Brooke Pinto, Zachary Parker, and Anita Bonds, the bill includes provisions to give prosecutors more power in certain cases. The legislation addresses gaps in the legal system and responds to an increase in crimes such as murder and sex abuse. The bill aims to improve prosecution rates by providing prosecutors with increased power and leverage. While some advocates support the bill’s provisions, others object to sections that could violate victims’ privacy. Critics argue that making piecemeal changes to the outdated criminal code exacerbates existing problems and advocate for a comprehensive revision instead. Despite the need for a complete overhaul, Councilmember Pinto believes it is important to make changes in the meantime, as Congress has blocked previous attempts to revise the code. DCist (June 22, 2023)

Short Staffing in Prince George

The I-Team uncovered that Prince George’s County jail has lost nearly one-third of its workforce since 2020. Correction officers report that short staffing is compromising safety within the jail for staff and inmates. One former officer spoke to News4 “It’s a runway machine, and we don’t have the wheels anymore.” Short staffed, the prison has forced officers to work overtime. In every local jurisdiction, corrections staffing is down.The significant number of those who left Prince George have gone to other different jurisdictions. In response, one corrections officer said “What does that say? It says it’s not the profession… It’s our county in particular.” Currently, the county is seeking to fill around 175 vacancies.  NBC Washington (June 21, 2023)

Firearm Experts No Longer Testify Bullet Techniques

The Supreme Court of Maryland ruled that firearm experts can no longer testify a bullet came from a specific gun. Chief Judge Matthew Fader wrote the ruling, after recognizing that firearms identification has been unreliable in linking a particular unknown bullet to a known firearm. Three justices dissented on the decision, claiming that ballistic experts can produce accurate, repeatable, and reproducible results. Others have called it “a step in the right direction.” The ruling was made after a man appealed his conviction of first-degree murder and handgun offenses in the killing of his roommate. The Baltimore Banner (June 22, 2023)

Win for Reform Prosecutor

In Arlington County, reform prosecutor Parisa Dehghani-Tafti wins second term while the county board race remains undecided. The Arlington Democrat received around 56% of the vote, according to the unofficial results of the Virginia Department of Elections. Over 98% of early and day-of votes have been counted as of Tuesday night. Dehgani-Tafti built her campaign around reforming the county’s criminal legal system. She pushed for diversion and treatment for people accused of crimes and ending the practice of cash bail and prosecuting for simple marijuana possession. In a statement to DCist/WAMY, Dehgani-Tafti said “Tonight’s victory showed the voter’s renewed trust in us to continue that work.”  DCist (June 20, 2023)

“It’s a Hate Crime”

The fatal shooting of Nicholas Mireles, his son Mario, and his friend Christian Segovia by a neighbor during a parking spot dispute has been labeled a hate crime by demonstrators. The shooter was a U.S. Army veteran who suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. Over 200 people marched the streets of Annopolis to mourn the death of three Latino men. Julian Segovia, who lost his brother in a mass shooting in downtown Annapolis, has said “This senseless act of violence was racially-motivated. And we want the world to know.” Other protestors voiced their fears for her children and community. The Baltimore Banner (June 18, 2023)

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The intersection of alcohol and guns poses significant dangers, as research indicates that alcohol misuse increases the risk of gun violence and suicide. Alcohol impairs judgment and lowers inhibitions, leading individuals to make impulsive and dangerous decisions involving firearms. Studies have also shown that individuals with alcohol-related offenses, such as DUI convictions, are more likely to be arrested for violent or gun-related crimes. Efforts to pass laws regulating alcohol and guns have gained momentum in recent years. There is public support for regulations, including a federal gun ban for alcohol abusers. The Trace (June 21, 2023)

Starting July 1, over 700,000 incarcerated individuals in the United States will become eligible for Pell Grants, making higher education more affordable for them. Pell Grants are need-based financial aid from the federal government that do not require repayment and can provide up to $7,395 per academic year for college costs. These grants can now be used by incarcerated individuals in prison education programs (PEPs) to pursue professional certificates, associate degrees, or bachelor’s degrees from partner universities. DCNewsNow  (June 19, 2023)

The New Hampshire judicial branch wants to provide mental health alternatives to incarceration. Commissioner Hanks has reported that up to 90% of incarcerated women in the state have a mental health diagnosis. They plan to implement training for judges and staff, hire a judicial health coordinator, and initiate sequential intercept mapping. WMUR (June 21, 2023) 

Philadelphia’s District Attorney’s Office has reported and analyzed 290,000 cases, concluding that Black Philadelphians were more likely to be charged with felonies and over-assessed for risks. City Councilmember Jamie Gauthier acknowledged past policies that have left majority Black neighborhoods in Philadelphia with disinvestment and “set neighborhoods on a downward trajectory.” The Philadelphia Inquirer (June 19, 2023)

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