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costs of confinement


It costs states anywhere from $128 to $966 a day to confine a juvenile

, The Washington Post
December 10, 2014
Confining a juvenile can cost a state anywhere from $128 a day in Louisiana to $966 a day in New York, according to a new 46-state survey.That range, shown below, reflects data gleaned from state juvenile corrections departments, agency reports or legislative documents and compiled in a Tuesday report by the Justice Policy Institute, a think tank. The daily cost to confine a young person out of his or her home is $408 per day or $148,767 a year, on average. In 33 states, that cost translates to more than $100,000 a year, on a prorated basis.The wide variation in cost reflects big differences in the state of juvenile confinement across the country, says Marc Schindler, executive director of JPI.“Every place is different. Some places you would see ‘secure confinement’ and you would think ‘Oh, this is basically like an adult prison, it’s no different.’” But in other places, like Missouri, you might find more-tailored system in place: “Missouri is sort of seen as the place in the country that across the state they’ve figured out how to provide out-of-home secure care for kids but do it in a decent humane, some would even say positive way,” he says.

The daily cost of juvenile confinement

The data below reflect the most expensive option available in each of 46 states, according to a Justice Policy Institute survey conducted in the summer and fall of 2014.

Daily Costs of confinement: Forty-six states and jurisdictions reporting
$127.84 Louisiana
$151.80 Florida
$159.00 Alabama
$207.43 South Dakota
$212.13 Indiana
$213.57 Idaho
$214.12 Utah
$244.30 Missouri
$249.66 Georgia
$250.50 Kansas
$261.00 Wyoming
$262.48 Washington
$263.00 Oregon
$276.00 Kentucky
$287.23 Minnesota
$287.63 Colorado
$290.68 Arizona
$291.00 Wisconsin
$301.29 Tennessee
$304.11 Illinois
$317.08 Arkansas
$342.58 North Dakota
$347.55 Nebraska
$366.88 Texas
$387.58 West Virginia
$420.00 Mississippi
$426.00 South Carolina
$437.67 North Carolina
$473.49 Massachusetts
$475.22 Michigan
$481.67 Montana
$487.87 New Mexico
$510.63 Rhode Island
$535.36 Nevada
$537.35 New Jersey
$546.08 Hawaii
$554.80 Ohio
$570.79 California
$588.00 New Hampshire
$607.41 Connecticut
$615.00 Vermont
$616.33 Maine
$712.38 Virginia
$761.00 District of Columbia
$809.00 Maryland
$966.20 New York

Costs don’t necessarily reflect the quality of a system. Take Washington, DC, for example. It costs the nation’s capital $761 a day to incarcerate a young person, placing it behind only Maryland and New York. Baked into that cost are related services including schooling, treatment, employment training and “life-building skills in its small-unit facilities,” according to the report. High costs can also reflect positive trends: a state that reduces its confined population but maintains its existing infrastructure will have a higher per-child cost. But high costs do sometimes reflect poorly run systems.

“Typically what happens is you’ve got large facilities with real high costs and they’re terrible places and they’re holding lots of nonviolent kids and they’re overcrowded,” Schindler says. “That’s more the norm. But it doesn’t necessarily mean there aren’t places that have a high cost for a decent reason.”

A low daily cost could be the result of savings stemming from states privatizing confinement, banning staff from unionizing or maintaining few, large facilities instead of many smaller ones.

Quality out-of-home confinement should include treatment, short stays, an “aftercare” plan, placement as close to home as possible and the ability for youths to have friends and family visit them as often as possible, according to the report. And the report says policymakers looking to reduce youth confinement rates should ask certain key questions, such as: what can be done to reduce the length of stays; is incarceration used as a last resort; and is the state wisely spending on early investments to divert future bad behavior.


Niraj Chokshi reports for GovBeat, The Washington Post’s state and local policy blog.


Groove of the Day

Listen to Pink Floyd performing “Money”




With Juveniles, the World Should Not Follow Our Lead

by Liz Ryan, The Chronicle of Social Change

The United States has the obscene distinction of being number one in the world for the worst policies on the treatment of youth in the justice system, and youth of color bear the brunt of our harsh and regressive policies.

No other country in the world routinely prosecutes youth in adult criminal court, an estimated 250,000 youth in the U.S. annually. No other country places youth in adult jails and prisons on a regular basis. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, nearly 100,000 youth are cycled through adult jails and prisons annually. No other country in the world comes close to the US’ dependence on incarceration in juvenile detention centers and youth prisons. More than 60,000 youth are placed in these facilities.

As an an outlier among nations on how we treat youth in the justice system, our policies violate major provisions of international human rights conventions such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), a treaty that we haven’t signed onto yet.

Our questionable numbers are spurred by our own outliers at the state level. Among the worst states is Florida. According to the US Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice & Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), Florida is an outlier among the states because it transfers more youth to adult court and places more youth in adult prisons than any other state in the nation.

Essentially, Florida is the worst among worst. Human Rights Watch’s report, “Branded for Life: Florida’s Prosecution of Children as Adults under its ‘Direct File’ Statute,” documents 1,500 cases of youth charged in adult court showing that youth are arbitrarily and unnecessarily sent to adult court and that racial bias affects who is transferred to adult criminal court.

As a country that seems to care about human rights violations and in fact, shames other countries publicly for abusing human rights—often threatening to or cutting off foreign aid assistance—US policymakers at the national and state level frequently ignore egregious and inequitable policies that place thousands of youth into the justice system every year in our own backyard.

Unfortunately some countries are adopting our model of juvenile justice. The most recent example is India, which approved an amendment to its current law allowing more young people to be sent to adult criminal court. The United Nations’ UNICEF representative in India, Louis-Georges Arsenault, issued a statement of concern about the new policy:

“Worldwide, evidence shows that the process of judicial waiver or transfer of juvenile cases to adult courts have not resulted in reduction of crime or recidivism. Instead, investments in a working system of treatment and rehabilitation of children have shown to lead to better results in reducing recidivism.”

Should the US cut off some of the nearly $100 million in annual federal foreign assistance to India because of its blatant violation of children’s human rights under this new law?Wouldn’t that would set a positive precedent for the US government to cut off some of the hundreds of millions in federal assistance to states for their inhumane treatment of children in the justice system?

“Don’t follow our lead on juvenile justice.” That will be my message at the upcoming World Congress on Juvenile Justice in Geneva, Switzerland in January, 2015. I’ll be urging my fellow participants from all over the world to join with me in calling on President Obama to focus on the human rights of children in the justice system here at home.

Instead of cutting off foreign assistance to other countries for human rights abuses, President Obama should halt federal assistance within the US to states that continue to try children as adults, place children in adult jails and prisons, and use incarceration as a first, rather than a last resort for children in the U.S. justice system.

Only then would we lose the disreputable distinction of being number one in inhumane treatment of children by the justice system.


Liz Ryan is the CEO of the Youth First! Initiative.


Groove of the Day

Listen to Alice In Chains performing “Don’t Follow”


birds of a feather


I have streamed enough popular TV and movies to know that what I am about to say is politically incorrect in the extreme. But I don’t care. I’m old and the product of another age. Anyway, old people are supposed to get away with saying stuff that younger people cannot.

Statistics show that 50% percent of first marriages, 67% of second, and 73% of third marriages end in divorce in the US. As a society, we seem to have lost sight of something very basic and extremely important to the resilience and perpetuation of human relationships, and this adversely effects any children involved.

Are others besides me alarmed by the great number of interracial romances and unions depicted as normative by Hollywood and others? The problem is not “race mixing” per se, but the fact that race is so often an indicator of differences in couples’ socioeconomic backgrounds. It is hard enough making a relationship work without adding the added problem of radically different zones of cultural familiarity and comfort.

Holly and I knew that our marriage was due to run its full course whenand this may sound materialist as hellwe discovered that her family furniture and mine went together. Furniture, of course, had nothing to do with it; the compatibility that mattered was that we came from similar family backgrounds. The furniture was merely proof.

As African-Americans achieve earning and social parity with Whites, this question will eventually fade into irrelevance. However, the road to this point has been long and torturous and is far from resolved. White supremacy has been an organizing principle in the US for hundreds of years, and a few movies from Hollywood aren’t going to change things overnight.

A few years ago I was invited to a party at the Chicagoland home of a childhood acquaintance who, during college, was one of the first white girls I’d known who dated a black guy. When I reminded her of this, she flatly denied it had ever happened. But I remember what I remember. She’d introduced me to the guy at a nightclub as her boyfriend.

Perhaps if we were farther along, she would remember herself as the pioneer that she was of a “new normal” in modern racial relations. But that day is probably still a long way off.


Groove of the Day

 Listen to The Rosenbergs performing “Birds of a Feather”


still waiting

Juvenile Lifers: Still Waiting for Freedom

by Hannah Garcia, The Crime Report

December 5, 2014

WrSmZWITwo full years have passed since the US Supreme Court issued an opinion in Miller v. Alabama, striking down all state statutes that impose mandatory life-without-parole sentences for minors.

And still, 48 Colorado inmates convicted of first-degree felonies as minors in the adult court system are caught in a legal purgatory, bookended by the years 1991 and 2006 and spanning the existence of a law that gave judges no discretion in their sentences.

On October 6, the High Court refused to hear an appeal to a February Nebraska Supreme Court ruling that made Miller retroactive,  and ordered new sentences for three men with life sentences for crimes committed when they were younger than 18. Nebraska is one of eight states, joined by Wyoming this month, that have done the same.

In stark contrast, four other state supreme courts have left past life-without-parole sentences intact.

Oral arguments commenced on June 3 in front of the Colorado Supreme Court in three Miller challenges involving defendants Tenarro Banks, Erik Jensen and Michael Quinn Tate.

And while Miller’s Gordian Knot grows more tangled, Colorado’s 48 are staring at two morbid possibilities: a guaranteed death behind bars or a bundle of legal questions that, at the moment, have no answer at all.

And justice for some?

Since 2005, the Supreme Court has issued forceful words for the rights of children in the adult court system; and yet, it has not clarified the rights as absolute.

The Miller ruling, issued on June 25, 2012, invalidated such sentences as a violation of the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment. In the 5-4 majority opinion, Justice Elena Kagan wrote that “a state’s most severe penalties on juvenile offenders cannot proceed as though they were not children.”

It extended the logic from previous opinions that placed emphasis on the nature of youth itself in criminal procedure. In 2005, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in Roper v. Simmons, which found imposing death penalties on minors to be a constitutional violation:

“When a juvenile offender commits a heinous crime, the state can exact forfeiture of some of the most basic liberties, but the state cannot extinguish his life and his potential to attain a mature understanding of his own humanity.”

In 2010, the court ruled in Graham v. Florida that sentencing a minor to life without parole was unconstitutional in non-homicide offenses. But since Miller, despite what seemed to be a pendulum swing toward universal second chances, the Supreme Court has failed to bridge a growing judicial divide by clarifying the ruling as substantive or procedural, which is important in its retroactivity.

The Miller court called for individualized sentencing, and based its finding on the fact that “children are constitutionally different from adults for purposes of sentencing,” citing impulsivity and a decreased capacity for moral responsibility.

The court ruled that such a sentence “disregards the possibility of rehabilitation even when the circumstances most suggest it.”

While the court struck down state statutes prescribing those mandatory life sentences for juveniles convicted of felonies, the result is an inconsistent application of the ruling across state lines, different punishments for the same crimes based on geography.

Outside of the issue of retroactivity, Robin Walker Sterling, a juvenile justice expert and criminal law professor at DU’s Sturm College of Law said there is a question of what a “meaningful review” looks like for youthful offenders resentenced under Miller.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if this issue wound up before the Court sooner rather than later,” Sterling said.

Jody Kent Lavy, director of the national Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth, also focused on what she said was the ability of juveniles to age out of criminal behavior, typically by their 20s.

“We don’t know what they’re going to be like decades later,” Lavy said. “Because of their unique capacity for change, a 40-year sentence in Colorado is the equivalent of a life sentence. It doesn’t allow a young person to demonstrate their [sic] ability to grow.”…

When Miller first came out, there were about 50 juvenile life-without-parole cases in Colorado at various stages in the court system, and there are still 48 in the system, according to criminal defense lawyer Ashley Ratliff, who runs her own firm and volunteers with the Colorado Juvenile Defender Coalition.

“Many haven’t filed anything,” Ratliff said. “They’re still all over the place. A third are in the trial courts in some fashion, based on different issues. Each case is just so unique.”

The fate of 48?

The geographic proximity of Nebraska and Wyoming may be encouraging, in some ways, but Ratliff and others don’t know what Colorado’s Supreme Court will eventually rule as they await opinions after the June 3 oral arguments. The U.S. Department of Justice has also taken the view that Miller is substantive and federal prisoners convicted before the age of 18 are getting second looks at life sentences.

Lisa Polansky, a criminal defense attorney who founded Boulder’s Center for Juvenile Justice and now practices in California, did not seem optimistic about the possible outcomes for the state.

When asked what the Colorado Supreme Court may say once a ruling is issued, Polansky said although she believes Miller very specifically calls for emphasis on the individual, she was not hopeful the justices would come to the same conclusion.

“I think that what they’re going to do is either say that, one, Miller doesn’t apply retroactively and leave it at that; or, two, they’re going to say it does apply retroactively and they can have a resentencing, but the choice is 40 to life,” Polansky said, referring to state statute.

Forty years comes close to an effective life sentence for many inmates, which begs the question of how the court can differentiate between a juvenile offender who will definitely die in prison and one who most likely will, according to Polansky.

She pointed to the Graham court, which ruled that juveniles sentenced to life must be provided “a meaningful opportunity for release.”

“They still die in prison, it’s just a matter of how,” Polansky said.


Hannah Garcia, a reporter for Law Week Colorado, is a 2014-2015 John Jay/Tow Juvenile Justice Reporting Fellow.  This is an abridged version of the first in a series of articles where Garcia will explore the cases of 48 juveniles whose life-in-prison sentences violate a US Supreme Court opinion.


Groove of the Day

 Listen to Nickelback performing “What Are You Waiting For?”


picking scabs


Since the stroke, when I turn my head too fast I can lose my balance and fall. Luckily it has happened only three times in two years and there have been no major injuries, but it is disconcerting to have devolved to the status of an unsteady toddler. My nurse urges me to wear my sturdy shoes and use a cane when I leave the house, but these precautions do nothing to solve the problem of losing balance. The only thing that helps is not turning my head to satisfy my curiosity at something that has happened behind me.

The last time I fell was a couple weeks before Alex’s departure. The scabs of skinned knee and wrist are now completely healed without any permanent scars, healed so completely it is as if I had never fallen. I attribute this to the fact that I removed the scabs that formed, and after that, the tough skin that followed.

Sorry if I have grossed you out, but it seems to me there are parallels between the care of wounds and our mission of influencing society to become more compassionate towards young people who commit parricide. The healing doesn’t happen all at once, but “one person at a time”sort of how the edges of an injury heal before the center does.

Yesterday Wolfgang shared some “interesting findings” which those of us who have been dedicated to the cause of youth justice have heard a hundred times before. Yet it is easy to lose sight of the fact that new people are being drawn to our cause every day, and they need to be introduced to these basic facts—so everyone will one day share the same foundational facts. Lest we forget, we old-timers need to periodically be reminded of the basics, too.

I have faith that over time most wounds become smaller and smaller before they disappear altogether. But some wounds are deeper and more resistant to healing than others. I have not been successful so far in getting any surviving members of victims’ families to forgivebut I haven’t given up, either.

I appreciate that picking at a scab unveils the old wound and can create the impression that it will never heal… but it can also reveal progress with healing or the reasons why the wound hasn’t healed. Some people say that the surface should be kept raw so that the wound will heal properly.

What are your thoughts?


Groove of the Day

Listen to Marina and the Diamonds performing “Scab and Plaster”


all criminals

An estimated 70 percent of Americans have committed a jail-worthy crime
by Bonnie Kristian, The Week
December 8, 2014

While Eric Garner’s death has instigated further conversation and protest over police misconduct and institutional racism, the circumstances surrounding his killing have brought another issue to light, too: We have a lot of laws.

According to legal scholar Douglas Husak, author of Overcriminalization: The Limits of the Criminal Law, an estimated 70 percent of American adults have committed a crime that could land them in jail. And thanks to the labyrinthine federal code, most have no idea they’ve run afoul of the law at all (in Alabama, for example, it’s a crime to “maim oneself for the purpose of gaining sympathy,” and be careful not to display any deformed animals in Florida, where that’s illegal). Husak quotes another law expert, William Stuntz, who argues that we are close to “a world in which the law on the books makes everyone a felon.”


Groove of the Day

Listen to UB 40 performing “Don’t Do The Crime”




Yesterday I was thinking about an idea that, in all honesty, I just didn’t have the energy to develop.

Yesterday’s anniversary of Pearl Harbor apparently just wasn’t compelling enough to overcome my natural resistance to hard work… and anyway, I could easily develop another lead-in later.

This idea was, in fact, the source of one of the bitterest arguments I can recall having with one of my business partners in the ’80s. It was one of those dinner-table disagreements that one party (me) had taken for granted as self-evidently true, and the other party (my partner) saw as contrary to everything he had believed about the Second World War in the Pacific.

The idea was that the war was a bitter race war based on prevailing prejudices and popular beliefs of the era.

I had just read War Without Mercy: Race and Power in the Pacific War by John W. Dower, and Dower’s premise made sense to me: that pure racism fueled the continuation and intensification of hostilities in the Pacific theater during the final year of World War II, a period that saw as many casualties as in the first five years of the conflict combined. Dower, a professor of Japanese history at UC San Diego, traces the development of racism on both sides of the Pacific, including an analysis of wartime propaganda comparing American propaganda with that of the Japanese. The book leaves no room for doubt about the intensity of racial loathing among all adversaries in the war, and shows that its effects were virtually identical. louse

I had witnessed the afterglow of this racial antipathy myself as a young boy: the buck-toothed, simian stereotypes in the old propaganda films that still ran on ’50s and ’60s TV—and I was pretty sure that the Japanese media probably exploited negative stereotypes of Westerners in their films, news articles, military documents, and cartoons, as well.

I still remember the confusion felt by Westerners at the willingness of yellow and brown people to die first before surrendering (as with the self-immolation of the Kamikaze) or to mount suicidal mass attacks (as with the “yellow hoards” in the Korean and Vietnam wars). These were clearly people who valued human life less than we did. There was no thought that we were invading their countries and that they were responding the same way as “heroic” American kids are depicted as doing in the film Red Dawn.

During the war, the Japanese routinely referred to themselves as31537_f260 the leading race (shido minzoku) of the world. Japanese propaganda used the old concept of hakko ichiu to support the idea that the Yamato was a superior race, destined to rule Asia and the Pacific. Like their American and Commonwealth adversaries, they called on a variety of metaphors, images, code phrases, and concepts to affirm their superiority. Yet the Japanese were not the only people of the period who asserted their supremacy in a racial hierarchy. The Germans claimed to be Aryan and therefore representative of a racially superior group. And they were white.

In the years since the argument with my business partner I have observed the system of apartheid used by some Israeli racists to keep down the Palestinians. The religion of Talmudic Judaism claims that the Jews are a race “chosen” by God ahead of the rest of humanity, and therefore should rightfully have control over ………………………………………………………….non-Jews in all matters.

I have noted the efforts of the Mahatma Gandhi and others to dismantle the caste system which hobbles development in India. Discrimination against lower castes is illegal in India under Article 15 of its constitution, and since 1950, the country has enacted many laws and social initiatives to protect and improve the socioeconomic conditions of its lower caste population.

I’ve kept abreast (in an amateur sort of way) with the latest findings that at a DNA level, the differences between races are virtually nil. The diversity between humans ranges between only about 0.1% and 0.5%. Mitochondrial DNA indicates that all living humans descend from one maternal source—christened Mitochondrial Eve—who lived in Africa between 100,000 and 200,000 years ago. Similarly, the Y chromosome shows that all men have a common ancestor, Y-chromosome Adam, who lived at the same time.

So my practical conclusion is that race doesn’t matter. Race is literally only skin-deep. The claim that it matters is an artifact of pre-20th century ignorance. What does matter is the canard that any one group of people, however defined, is superior to another.

Supremacism is the view that a particular age, race, species, ethnic group, religion, gender, sexual orientation, class, belief system, or culture is superior to others and entitles those who identify with it to dominate, control, or rule all others.

social-hierarchy1I once had a young person tell me that I wasn’t smart enough for him to talk to, that I had no ideas worth his consideration. He was, incidentally, going about his life with his head up his ass… so the hubris of his assertion was to me at once astonishing and very amusing. He was living his life completely shut off from any possibility of learning and change. He was the personification of the old adage that the only source of certainty in this world is a closed mind.

I think that one of the greatest sources of error in this world is a blinding belief and faith in hierarchy, whether based on intelligence, race, or whatever. It is better, I think, that we maintain a healthy respect for uncertainty in all things, and avoid the trap of throwing out the baby with some particular bath water.

I have believed for a long time it is preferable to discover in every individual something that one can like and even admire. This can often be a real challenge, given the high number of idiots in the world. But every person—even an idiot—generally responds positively to the respect implied by genuine admiration.


Groove of the Day

Listen to Incubus performing “Admiration”


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