Detained Kids More Likely to Die Violently….Audit on Illegal Sterilizations of Female Prisoners….Criminalizing Truancy….and MoreJune 20th, 2014 by Taylor Walker
KIDS IN JUVENILE DETENTION HAVE MUCH HIGHER RISK OF VIOLENT DEATH THAN PEERS
Kids who are detained in juvenile facilities have a much higher likelihood of dying an early, violent death than kids who are not involved in the juvenile justice system, according to a new Northwestern University study.
The study looked at 1,829 kids, ages 10 to 18, who had been housed at a Juvenile Detention Center in Chicago between 1995 and 1998 and followed them until 2011. The detained girls tracked in the study were nearly five times more likely to die than their peers in the general population. Minorities also died at a rate much higher than the general population.
NPR’s Maanvi Singh has more on the study. Here’s a clip:
The researchers interviewed 1,829 people, ages 10 to 18, who were detained at the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center in Chicago between 1995 and 1998. The young people were arrested for a variety of reasons, but they weren’t necessarily convicted of a crime.
The researchers continued to follow up with them over the years. By 2011, 111 of them had died, and more than 90 percent of them were killed with guns. The findings were published Monday in the journal Pediatrics.
“I would have anticipated the death rate to be somewhat higher [than that of the general population], but not the figures that you see,” [lead author of the study, Linda Teplin,] tells Shots.
Young women in the study died at much higher rates than their peers in part because the rate of violent death among women in the general population is relatively low, the researchers say.
Delinquent youths from every demographic group died at significantly higher rates than their peers from the Chicago area. And their death rates were nearly twice those of combat troops in wartime Iraq and Afghanistan, the researchers say.
But minorities were at particular risk. African-American men in this study had the highest mortality rates, and they were 4 1/2 as likely as the white men to die of homicide. Latino men were five times as likely to die as the general population, and Latino women were nine times as likely to die early.
Lack of access to mental health care and other resources may be an important factor. The vast majority of these young delinquents come from poor communities, Teplin says. “Detention centers are where poor kids go. Wealthier kids have other options.”
The researchers never encountered a juvenile from the affluent suburbs of Chicago, she says. Even though young people from wealthy families may abuse and sell drugs, they generally have better support systems and access to treatments.
The kids who end up in juvenile detention often have mental health or substance abuse problems, Teplin notes, but they don’t get the care they need.
STATE AUDIT ON CALIFORNIA PRISONS’ UNAUTHORIZED STERILIZATIONS OF FEMALE INMATES
Last summer, Corey Johnson from the Center for Investigative Reporting uncovered evidence that, between 2006 and 2013, 144 women in California prisons were sterilized against state policy.
Now, a state audit has come back with some startling details on the sterilizations. For instance, 39 of the surgeries were performed without proper legal consent from the women, and that all 144 inmates had been incarcerated at least once before.
The Center for Investigative Reporting has more on the audit. Here are some of the other findings:
Inmates receiving tubal ligations typically were between 26 and 40 and had been pregnant five or more times before being sterilized. Fifty white women, 53 Latino women, 35 black women and six women classified as “other” received the procedure.
Most of the women tested at less than a high school level of reading proficiency, the report stated, with about one-third of the inmates who received the surgery reading below the sixth-grade level.
In 27 cases, the inmate’s physician – the person who would perform the procedure in a hospital or an alternate physician – did not sign the required consent form asserting that the patient appeared to be mentally competent and understood the lasting effects of the procedure and that the required waiting period had been satisfied.
DEBTOR’S PRISON FOR IMPOVERISHED PARENTS OF TRUANT KIDS
A Philadelphia mother serving a two-day sentence for her child’s truancy died in her jail cell on Saturday. Incarcerating impoverished parents for their inability to pay truancy fines is yet another example of America’s modern debtors’ prison. (Here is another example.)
In a story for the Chronicle of Social Change, Carla Benway (Vice-President, Employee and Program Development, Youth Advocate Programs) explains why criminalizing truancy is a harmful practice that does not actually reduce absenteeism, because it fails to address the underlying reasons why kids miss school. Here are some clips:
A stay-at-home mother of seven children died in a Berks County jail this week. The cause of Eileen DiNino’s death is unknown. The reason for her incarceration is.
Eileen DiNino was jailed because she was poor. She was serving a 48-hour sentence to erase about $2,000 in court costs and truancy fines for several of her children dating back to 1999 that she was unable to pay.
Incarcerating the poor for their inability to pay fines is a real and current issue in America highlighted in a series last month by NPR and in this short documentary by Brave New Films. Berks County, the economically depressed area of Pennsylvania where DiNino lived with her seven children, has jailed more than 1,600 parents since 2000. Two-thirds of them are women.
Maryland, California, Alabama, Texas, Virginia, Georgia, Michigan and North Carolina and other states have also used truancy laws to send parents to jail. Millions of dollars in fines are collected annually for truancy. Parents who end up in jail for truancy are those who can’t afford to pay the court-imposed fines or the risk of harsher sentences that may be imposed through trial.
In a recent example in Arizona, a mother “chose” to accept one day in jail as opposed to going to trial. “If she had gone to trial, it’s a trial by judge, not by a jury, the judge could have chosen whatever. She could have given her the full 15 days.”
Is that a choice, really? How many mothers can risk being away from their children for 15 days?
I am not clear on how the “blunt instrument” of parental incarceration is effective at fighting future truancy. Frankly, the research and my own experience suggest the opposite.
In our work at Youth Advocate Programs, Inc., we see many issues affecting school attendance. For some, the challenges are concrete: lack of winter clothing or inability to pay for a bus pass.
For others, it is more complex. The reasons include:
Older siblings taking care of younger siblings while their parent(s) work because they can’t afford child care
Youth working to help financially support the family
Youth with legitimate safety concerns, severe anxiety, or other emotional or learning challenges that find school a hostile or unsafe environment
Parents with severe mental health needs or addictions that impact their ability to provide the structure and support their children need; and parents who are simply overwhelmed with their various economic and life stressors.
If we fail to understand and address the reason a youth is truant, we will fail to reduce truancy.
Be sure to read the rest.
SCOTUS MOVES TO PROTECT PUBLIC EMPLOYEE WHISTLEBLOWERS
On Thursday, the US Supreme Court voted to protect public employees from being fired or disciplined for testifying in court about misconduct in the workplace. This decision could be vital for whistleblowers in law enforcement, where the code of silence is particularly pervasive. (WLA has already gotten emails from relieved LASD employees.)
The LA Times’ David Savage has the story. Here’s a clip:
The 9-0 decision bolsters the rights of tens of millions of government employees, but its reach is narrow. The ruling covered only those who are ordered to give “truthful testimony under oath.”
“Speech by citizens on matters of public concern lies at the heart of the 1st Amendment,” Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote for the court. “This remains true when speech concerns information related to or learned through public employment.”
The unanimous ruling revived a free-speech lawsuit by a former Alabama community college official who said he lost his job for telling the truth.
Edward Lane had been appointed to direct the college’s program for underprivileged youth and soon learned that an influential state representative was drawing a paycheck but doing no work. Lane told Rep. Suzanne Schmitz she had to report for work or be fired. His superiors warned him to be cautious, because she could cut funds for the college system.
Undaunted, Lane fired Schmitz, and the FBI later launched a corruption probe. Lane was ordered to testify, and the state representative was convicted and sentenced to prison.
When funding for the college was cut, Lane was dismissed. He sued several college officials, alleging he was a victim of illegal retaliation…