FOSTER YOUTH EDUCATION PROGRAM’S GRADUATING CLASS OF 2013
LA County Supervisor Gloria Molina held a celebration before last week’s board meeting to honor the high school graduation of forty-eight foster youths participating in the Foster Youth Education Program. Educational outcomes for foster youth have traditionally been extremely grim, making programs like this one immensely important (as illustrated in this study).
Here’s a clip from Molina’s announcement:
“Being part of the educational journey of these amazing kids truly motivates all of us to continue to advocate on their behalf,” Molina said. “And the positive results speak volumes.”
Molina’s program – which went countywide last year – requires intensive collaboration particularly between school district staff and DCFS social workers, who check students’ grades weekly; secure tutoring sessions and transportation assistance; meet students’ summer school registration deadlines; schedule their SAT prep courses and exams well in advance; and plan college tours. They also ensure that any credits students earned at schools they previously attended are counted toward graduation. Social workers’ offices are located near the schools of the children they oversee – which helps them more effectively work with each student to craft an individualized case plan (in partnership with each child’s caregivers, biological parents, and school personnel).
AND WHILE WE’RE ON THE SUBJECT OF FOSTER CARE…
The LA County Supes will likely be voting today on whether to cut ties with the troubled foster care contractor known as Teens Happy Homes. They are expected to have the three votes necessary to pass the motion to end the contract. We’ll keep you updated.
SUPREME COURT SEZ HARSHER SENTENCING GUIDELINES NOT RETROACTIVE
In a 5-4 decision, SCOTUS ruled on Monday that it’s unconstitutional to use new sentencing guidelines on old cases if they call for harsher punishment than the guidelines that were in effect when the crimes were committed.
SCOTUSblog’s Amy Howe has the story. Here’s a clip:
In this case, petitioner Marvin Peugh was convicted in federal court in 2009 on five counts of bank fraud for conduct that occurred in 1999 and 2000. Based on the sentence recommended in the current version of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, the district court sentenced him to seventy months in prison – a sentence that was almost twice as long as the one recommended in the version of the Sentencing Guidelines that was in effect when Peugh committed his crimes. Peugh argued that the Ex Post Facto Clause, which (among other things) prohibits the passage of laws that impose a greater punishment than the punishment in effect when the crime was committed, required the court to sentence him using the earlier version of the Guidelines, but both the federal trial court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit rejected that argument.
This morning, in an opinion by Justice Sotomayor, the Court held that it does violate the Ex Post Facto Clause to sentence a defendant based on guidelines that were promulgated after he committed his crimes, when the new version provides a higher sentencing range than the version in place at the time of the offense.
THE ROAD TO RIGHTING INJUSTICES WITHIN THE US CORRECTIONS SYSTEM
Over the last month, the culture of abuse and neglect in correctional facilities in four states has been brought to public attention by lawyers, judges, and government investigators.
In a sharply-worded essay, the Atlantic’s Andrew Cohen asks why the DOJ won’t investigate the same major problems within the federal prison system.
Here’s a large opening clip:
It has been an extraordinary three weeks in the history of the American penal system, perhaps one of the darkest periods on record. In four states, from the Atlantic to the Mississippi, from the Gulf of Mexico to the Great Lakes, the systemic abuse and neglect of inmates, and especially mentally ill inmates, has been investigated, chronicled and disclosed in grim detail to the world by lawyers, government investigators and one federal judge. The conclusions are inescapable: In our zeal to dehumanize criminals we have allowed our prisons to become medieval places of unspeakable cruelty so far beyond constitutional norms that they are barely recognizable.
First, on May 22, the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department released a report highlighting the unconstitutional conditions of a county prison in Florida. Then, on May 30th, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a federal lawsuit alleging atrocious conditions at a state prison in Mississippi. One day later, the feds again sounded out on behalf of inmates, this time against profound abuse and neglect at a Pennsylvania prison. Finally, last week, a federal judge issued an order describing the unconstitutional “brutality” of the prison in Orleans Parish, Louisiana.
There were many common themes in the reports. In each instance, the mistreatment of mentally ill inmates was highlighted. Prison officials have failed to provide a constitutional level of care in virtually every respect, from providing medication and treatment to protecting the men from committing suicide. In the Louisiana court order, one prison expert is quoted by the judge as describing an “extraordinary and horrific” situation with the prison there. In the Florida investigation, federal investigators noted that local prison officials “have elected to ignore obvious and serious systemic deficiencies” in the jail’s mental health services.
Taken together, these developments shed welcome light on some of the worst government abuses of our time and demonstrate vividly the need for enlightened policies and more human decency and accountability from prison officials. But these lawsuits and investigations and court orders also beg a critical question: If the feds are so concerned with the constitutional rights of mentally ill prisoners in state and local prisons, why is the Justice Department so unwilling to undertake an equally thorough review of the similarly dubious practices and policies now being forced upon mentally ill federal prisoners by the Bureau of Prisons?