Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Sister Janet's Juvenile Justice Initiative

NO MATTER HOW LOUD I SHOUT : A Year in the Life of Juvenile CourtToday's Los Angeles Times Column One feature is an article about Central Juvenile Hall's Sister Janet Harris and her crusade for a young man she took note of in the detention center's writing program. This should ring bells for our long-time readers who remember one of our favorite books, Edward Humes' No Matter How Loud I Shout. The article points up the legacy of Prop 21 (recall our candlelight vigil outside Juvenile Hall?) and cites Amnesty's recent report The Rest of Their Lives: Life Without Parole for Child Offenders in the United States. From the article:
An initiative passed in 2000 by 62% of California voters gave district attorneys the power to determine whether juveniles accused of certain serious crimes should face adult punishment.

The most severe sentence that can be imposed in Juvenile Court is detention until age 25. Had Rocha not been tried as an adult, his supporters say, he might have been freed by now.

Last year, the Los Angeles County district attorney's office filed 178 juvenile cases in adult court, and 119 juveniles were transferred to adult court after judicial hearings, according to the agency's statistics.

A report published Oct. 12 by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch found that 2,225 offenders are serving life without parole in U.S. prisons for crimes committed before they turned 18. For an estimated 59% of those inmates, it was their first conviction.

The U.S. is one of only a few countries that allow children to be imprisoned for life without parole. Elsewhere in the world, about 12 young offenders are currently serving such sentences, the study found.
By the way, Edward Humes has a website if you're curious what he's been up to lately.

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